The black and white image Cheeky earned an international award.

The black and white image Cheeky earned an international award.

Nicola Toon is the first to admit she has no formal training when it comes to photography.

Then again, as proven with her recent international image award announced by the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, there are some things you just can’t teach.

Thanks to the affordability and availability of simple point-and-shoot cameras – which can snap high-quality photos – anyone can take a good photo. But when it comes to a keepsake, it’s the heart and not the eye that makes all the difference. For Toon, it’s a natural instinct, a passion and a desire to capture more than just an image.

She’s zooming in on making memories, and not the kind most would expect.

She’s not a fan of the traditional family photo on the couch.

“It’s not about everybody dressing up in their best.”

When she takes family lifestyle portraits she is after the unexpected moments, capturing the real-life connections between family members.

“It’s a moment. It’s a moment between a mother and a child. It’s a moment between a brother and a sister.”

Although she only launched her photography business, Hulahoop Photography, a year-and-a-half ago, Toon has already worked with more than 100 families.

She takes an untraditional approach, only taking photos in natural light and in the evening hours to take advantage of the softer lighting.

Toon’s keen eye for family life photography earned her an award for a black and white image of two local toddlers getting ready for a bath.

The photo, entitled Cheeky, was submitted in the Siblings division and received high marks in the technical, creativity, composition and impact categories. She outranked thousands of more experienced and prestigious photographers.

Like many in her field, she got her start by photographing her three children. That passion soon eclipsed other career interests.

“From the moment I did it, I was in love with it.”

Many of her works can be viewed on her website at .