Lisa Tolmie is a Lady on Fire

For Ottawa-based photographer Lisa Tolmie, there has always been photography. Despite being a busy wife, mother and career woman, what began as a hobby chronicling her life with family and friends grew into a passion and her heart’s work. Her evolution as a photographer took the route of a degree in Fine Arts, cabinet making and floral design. Through these varying creative pursuits, she began to realize that photography was a language she understood and one which she enjoyed expressing herself.

When I first discovered Lisa’s work on social media, I immediately fell in love with her unique style. Her images really stood out for me and she seemed like the kind of gal who liked to colour outside of the lines. I was intrigued, so I dug a little deeper & I’m thrilled to share the following Q&A interview with Lisa about her work and business, Lady on Fire Photography.

When did you first think of becoming a photographer? How did you get started?

I’ve always had a camera in my hand but taking the Basic Photography night class at Algonquin in 2014 changed my path in photography to a more professional direction. As part of an extensive final project I had to take 15 portraits of one model. My cousin, Tammy, eagerly volunteered. She wanted portraits depicting a horror movie theme, some as a rock star and a few with Day of the Dead make-up. Her friend Tina, an accomplished make-up artist, brought her themes to life. Together we jumped in with both feet and took portraits like nothing I have ever done before. Unsure of what my professor would think, I handed in my assignment. He loved everything about them! His remarks gave me the confidence to start Lady on Fire Photography, and with both Tammy and Tina by my side we set forth on a path of unique and unusually themed portraits.

Who are some of you favorite photographers past or present that you found inspiring?

My professor at Algonquin, Harry Turner, is definitely someone who inspired me. In his lessons, he always included photos that he had taken and used these as examples to teach a new technique. One particular photo intrigued me, a “photo painting” where you move the camera on a slower shutter speed and create these gorgeous swirls of colour. His work has inspired a part of my landscape photography. He evokes movement and light in a magical way.

Brit Bentine from Locked Illusions Photography takes controversial and shocking portraits usually of young children in fantasy art pieces. Each is unique and not for everyone. Her style definitely evokes a gut reaction and although it can be over the top at times I can’t help but smile when a new piece comes out!

Alexander Khokhlov does amazing 2D face paintings involving a mix of face-art and different textures which inspired some of my own photographs. His love of lines and contrast appeal to me greatly.

Recently I have come to love the work of Melanie Mathieu Photography. She captures “moments” in life so beautifully. Her photos leave me breathless at times, her vision and use of angles are especially inspiring. It is a style I wish I had half her talent in. We are very different in our approach to photography, but she inspires me daily!

What kinds of assignments do you like the most?

The weirder the better! We don’t take “typical” photos. We don’t photograph weddings, babies, or traditional family portraits. I like a client who comes to us with their own vision, preferably one that makes me a little uncomfortable. Then the challenge is to make their imagination come to life! I also love the challenge of my “Phlogs” (photo blog). I ask my Facebook group to suggest themes and I try and make them happen in an original and fun way. These Phlogs often inspire some of my best work and they also provide the opportunity to push myself outside my comfort zone. Run of the mill is not what I am about. There is a bit of an electric undercurrent in my work, as there is with me. After all, I am the Lady on Fire…

Why do you create the photographs you do and what do they mean to you?

Unusual face painting photography brings out a different personality in people. I like that the make-up gives them an excuse to hide their shyness and makes them less uncomfortable. It allows the portrait to come to life. I’ve seen older, married men who were dragged in by their wives turn into the best models as soon as the make-up and the character develops on their faces. In front of the camera the make-up gives the model permission to be weird and to try things they never would have tried. When they see the final results they are usually pleasantly shocked with the outcome. Everything outside of the face painting portraits is created out of simple things that I find beauty in. I like pulling out the things people don’t normally see or take for granted. I enjoy creating a mood and starting a conversation with the everyday made extra-ordinary just by zooming in a little closer or looking at it from a different perspective.

What images or series are you most proud of and why?

My favorite series was the Sesame Street Phlog. This was a Facebook suggestion that I would not have considered otherwise, but it turned out to be something I am very proud of. It was a challenge for me as it was the first time I had left the studio and did location shooting. I enjoyed sourcing the costumes, scouting locations and developing the background stories for how each childhood character had grown up. At the time it was the largest series I’ve put together and is still one of my favorites. Many thanks have to go out to all involved in making that session happen!

One of my favorite single images is “stranger on the rocks” it was a very quick split second shot of a gentleman on the rocks at Britannia beach. I loved his vintage swimsuit look and the clouds. It doesn’t always have to be a large set- up. Sometimes the best pictures are one-offs that just happen!

Day of the Dead- Tammy. This was one of the 15 portraits for my assignment at Algonquin College. This set the path to the creation of Lady on Fire Photography.

Image: Day of the Dead - Tammy. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.
Day of the Dead – Tammy. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.

Stranger on the Rocks. One of my favorite fluke pictures! I literally turned the camera and with very little thought I snapped the photo. (private collection). Lady on Fire Photography.

Image: Stranger on the Rocks. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.
Stranger on the Rocks. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.

Painted Forest.  Inspired by my professor, I love making these photo paintings. It’s a lovely marriage between my Fine Art Degree with photography. Lady on Fire Photography.

Image: Painted Forest. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.
Painted Forest. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.

Creepy Clown.  From my last Phlog. I am terrified of clowns and yet I felt compelled to face my fear and do an epic clown photo-shoot. This picture captures my worst nightmare! Lady on Fire Photography.

Image: Creepy Clown. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.
Creepy Clown. Photographer: Lisa Tolmie of Lady on Fire Photography.


If you could go back ten years, what advice would you give yourself and to other aspiring photographers?

Starting a business was not on my radar ten years ago. I was at home with my daughters who would have been 3 and 6 years old. Being immersed in my family and motherhood felt isolating at times. Taking pictures of my children was an outlet for me, a way to be creative. Finally taking the leap into a more professional photography business has led to stronger bonds with my family and friends and opened up a confidence I didn’t know I had. I am blessed with a husband, daughters, family and friends who are ready, (though occasionally unwilling), models who inspire me daily and allow me the freedom to experiment. I’d tell myself, GO FOR IT and never second guess a shot, just take it!

What are your main goals now as an artist?

I want to be as original as possible and break rules. Through my work I want to continue creating a conversation in a positive and inclusive manner.

Can you tell us where you feature your work?

Many of my pieces are in private collections in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. I have recently put my photography out on various forms of Social Media. I began with a Facebook page that allowed an interaction with people that I really enjoy. Their suggestions end up being some of my best creations. I love the feedback and creativity they invoke. I’ve recently started showing my photographs on Instagram. I feel very new age and hip being on there! It’s been a fascinating adventure to see how each photograph is received. I have a website this is where you will find the famous Phlogs and a sampling of my landscapes, oddments and portrait work. Pixieset is where you will find the body of my work as well as a way to purchase Fine Art prints. In its infancy I have ventured into the world of RedBubble. It seems my more eclectic photography makes for fun leggings and I-pod covers! Things will be removed and added over the coming weeks but feel free to check it out!

About the Author
Deanna White is owner and publicist for storylinePR, exclusive PR firm & marketing agent to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. If you would like to be featured on our blog, connect with us!


Passion creates purpose.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought it would be perfect timing for a blog post on passion and business and when that all comes together.

How it all started.

I fell in love for the first time when I was just 13yrs old. It was a 35mm Nikon FG20. I still have it (and sometimes shoot with it) today. Photography quickly become a passion. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but when I get behind the lens of a camera, there’s this invisible connection for me. No matter what’s going on in that moment, nothing else exists.

Several years later I found myself at college, learning all I could about marketing, PR and dreaming about owning my own company one day. I had fallen in love for a second time and I considered myself lucky to have had fallen so deeply – not once, but twice. I continued taking photography classes while studying at school, working for the school newspaper as, you guessed it, photographer and then photo editor.

I would spend the next 10 years or so strategizing and executing marketing plans for big brand companies, thankful for the opportunity to glean knowledge and practical skills from the very best in business, while continuing with my love for photography.

When your heart is in it.

If there’s something I’ve learned about passion and purpose over the years, it’s that your heart needs to be in it. You need to be personally connected to be fully committed. The work you churn out is quite different when you are vs. ‘enjoying’ what you do. Sometimes that means choosing passion over money, (at least in the very beginning). Here’s quote that comes to mind by Howard Thurman;

“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I tell my little one all the time… ‘Don’t just find something you like, find something you love.’ It’s important. Everybody should have a deep passion for those things that make an invisible connection for them to a place that has meaning. #PassionCreatesPurpose

I so look forward to sharing the next phase of my business that combines both these passions in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you’ve incorporated your own passion into what you do everyday. Please share!


About the Author Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.

Business guts, signs & opportunities.



Fearlessly moving forward

I’ve been working hard behind the scenes for a few months now on a new focus that essentially requires rewiring and a reboot of my business. While I am very excited and have a target date set as the goal, my rate of momentum has slowed a tiny bit.

My fellow entrepreneurial friends will understand the moments of trepidation and self doubt that comes with high risk and ambitious plans.

That is until I was contacted by a VERY influential and high profile person, (from what will be my new target audience), who asked me for the very same thing I’ve been working on. How synchronous is that?

As I mentioned, I have been working behind the scenes. I’ve told no one of my plans (except for my financial advisor). This request was out of the blue.

If that wasn’t a sign to fire with all engines, I don’t know what is.

The takeaway

As entrepreneurs, we have to stop shrugging off signs and opportunities as coincidences. We have to believe in ourselves, our business and our abilities, (even if you’re as crazy as me in endeavoring to build a whole new business model). We have to embrace the fear of the unknown with open arms and with child-like wonder and innocence. In the words of Deepak, “Coincidences are not accidents but signals from the universe which can guide us toward our path.”

So, you know, that thing you’ve been seriously thinking about? Go for it! You never know what opportunities will present themselves along the way.

About the Author Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.

Forced to unplug and re-connect

Image of cracked iPhone screenToday marks day number three without my iPhone. I’ve read about others who have unplugged by choice and remember thinking to myself that was something I doubt I could adapt to easily.

I’m first to admit I have an unhealthy relationship with my phone. I’m constantly checking email, reading news stories and dabbling in my social media accounts.  My out-of-office message even says that although I’m on vacation, I’m still available. That’s telling. But when you have an accident like I did, cracking the face of my iPhone that renders it unusable, you have no choice but to unplug… and you know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, I would go as far to say it was freeing.

My connection to the world had collapsed

Sure, it helped that I was in holiday mode and my days were action packed. Had I not been on vacation in a remote town with no access to solutions, I’m sure I would have handled the situation quite differently. I know for a fact I would not have been as calm, thinking my connection to the world had collapsed and I assure you, I would not have been going on a fourth day without my phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely panicked at the sight of my phone – now shards of a glass held only together by its’ sturdy  protective cover. I started exploring options right away from a land line, but after the initial shock, I was forced to accept this unfortunate mishap and I had to remind myself I was on vacation after all – which by definition is: relaxing, enjoying, and kicking back. I decided I was going to take it in stride and enjoy  what was left of it.

So, I guess THIS is what being unplugged is all about

From this experience I was forced to slow down. I convinced to myself, (and possibly out loud), ‘So, I guess THIS is what being unplugged is all about’.  I’ve made a pact to myself; and that is to check my phone less frequently – and more so off hours; to not be slave to every ding or ring I hear and each push notification I see. I am going to focus on the things that are most important to me beyond my electronic world – and just turn the damn thing off. Other than self-admitting my addiction, here are a few things I’ve come to realize as a result of being forced to unplug:

1. Pen to paper.
I started writing this blog post by hand. With a pen and paper  – remember those things? I actually got writing cramps and finger calluses (also known as writers bumps).  I started itemizing the balance of my vacation plans on said paper and making to-do lists. I actually connected my random (and sometimes convoluted) thoughts, instantly feeling more organized. I documented action items to cross off, instead of relying on the ding of my auto reminders – like a microwave announcing dinner is ready. These things are in a paper book that I now carry with me and add to frequently, by writing them down – things I can’t so easily dismiss. It also inspired me to start a personal journal again.

2. Me-time.
Being without my phone, I was a lot more relaxed. It had me reading complete novels in a matter of days, something that would have taken me weeks with the constant distraction of my phone. I realized how much I missed reading. I broke in a new pair of running shoes and went for brisk walks (sans phone) and stopped thinking of where I was going to get my next Wi-Fi connection along the way. More me-time is definitely on the top of my to do list!

3. Real connections.
Most importantly, this experience has me wanting to connect in person; to have face to face meetings and lunches with cherished colleagues and friends. Something I mistakenly confused with a ‘like’ or ‘comment’ to a post as a sufficient way of staying connected. Wrong on so many levels!

When I came home to the city, I wasn’t as frantic to get in touch with the repair shop like I initially wanted to. I’m told that when I do finally take my phone in to be fixed,  it could be another few days before I get it back, and you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.


About the Author
Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.

how technology has changed how we tell brand stories

Who remembers this? It was similar to our first home PC, bulky equipment that required you to dial into a modem number and attach the phone receiver to a coupling device.

Image of old home PC technologyI also remember our first home PC game, it was a text based treasure hunt where you mapped out the adventure in your mind.

My, how times have changed.

My daughter now uses skype to show her friends her latest craft project and connects with her grandparents 8 hours away to help her with her homework. She uses her laptop to find answers to questions and as a science lover, discovers new and exciting creatures that live half way across the globe through Google images.

I remember watching this commercial and thinking this was sci-fi stuff and how I would never see these things happen in my life time.

That was about 20 years ago. If you think back to vintage commercials, you will find companies like this one ahead of their time in creative storytelling. Funny how advertising has gone full circle to storytelling through content marketing.

Are you telling your brand story?

With social media, we now have so many options to tell our brand stories. Video is great for doing so and up until now, it has been price prohibitive for small business to get in the game. I stumbled across this article that provides a few options for affordable, online video-production services. There are many others – but the key is in the concept and delivery.  Perhaps it’s time to get out a pen and paper and start drafting an old-fashioned story board to get the creative juices flowing.

What’s your favourite storytelling video of today or yesterday? There’s no shortage of inspiration out there!

About the Author
Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.


Social media in daily business life

We’re oftenNew to social media asked by our clients  who are new to social media to define the various channels for them in terms that they can understand. We stumbled across a post on LinkedIn that we particularly liked that described a few channels in context of daily business life and we added a few more channels of our own. We’ve been using this analogy ever since.

Facebook Pages is your ad agency.
It’s where you display your best television, print, or radio ad, direct mail piece and news release with strong call to action. It’s also place to connect with your audience and is a direct line to your customer service department.

Twitter is your neighbourhood coffee shop.
It’s where you stop to grab a quick java, see the same people, exchange comments and get caught up on current events while standing in line. (We can’t take credit for this one – source: LinkedIn – but we loved it).

LinkedIn is Tuesday’s networking luncheon event.
This is where you connect, find synergies, business opportunities and a place to share and learn from others.

Google+ is the client appreciation office party.
This is where you let your company culture shine through. It’s where you share company milestones, employee recognition and community events you’re involved in with colleagues, customers and prospects.

YouTube is your personal news channel.
It broadcasts for you morning, noon and night. It’s where you get to pick the channels to tune into – and sometimes just for pure entertainment.  When you manage a YouTube channel yourself, you become the news anchor.

Pinterest is the workday weekend.
It’s the weekend get-a-way with friends where you can be yourself and express your creativity and personality by sharing photos.

Blogging is writing an email to a friend.
By providing a daily, weekly, or monthly snapshot of your personal and professional profile, you inevitably make some friends along the way. Your online followers are the ones you are writing to. They are the ones you’ve made a connection with by sharing your expertise and passion.

Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.

How to create an effective Twitter contest – quick case study

Image of twitter contest promotionWe’ve seen a lot of twitter contests as of late and stumbled across this one that gets our ‘two thumbs up’. Scotiabank has teamed up with Amex to create a social media campaign called
The Tweet Escape. Intriguing, right?

They are asking their followers to tweet this messages (with their own preferences in the parenthesis) between October 15th and October 26th.

“With $10K, I’d go to [destination] with @[Twitter friend]. #ScotiaAmex @scotiabank”

Why We Like This One
First of all – they’re giving away money, who doesn’t want some of that? Not everyone has $10,000 to throw into the pot for a promotion, but you don’t need to in order to run an effective twitter campaign. Here’s what makes this one great.

It’s Simple
People have short attention spans and even less time. You have only seconds to get your message across – especially on social media.

Twitter contests that need more than a few short lines to explain how to enter can seem convoluted to most and won’t grab the attention deserved. This messaging is succinct and effective with tweetable content (less than 140 characters) to promote it.  In 44 characters, they managed to explain the what and how with…  “Tweet your way to a trip for two worth $10,000”.

It has a Short Window
The contest time period is less than two weeks, an appropriate time to run a campaign like this. Anything longer would lose its appeal and momentum.

They Made it Fun
Who doesn’t dream of packing a suitcase and just taking off. It’s fun to dream of faraway destinations and what you would do with found money.

It’s Well Thought Out.
Scotiabank has integrated this contest ‘front and centre’ on all their online properties including their website and Facebook.

They used their own twitter handle AND a hashtag in the re-tweetable message. Smart. Not only a great way to track campaign success, but their own twitter account is re-tweeted every time – greater brand awareness. We’ve seen too many contests on twitter where the host forgets to add their own twitter handle in the message – a missed opportunity.

The intended message to tweet is under 50 characters, leaving more than enough room for followers to enter their content and still have plenty of room for even more.

It has Instant Viral Potential
Here’s the best part. One of the variables they are asking their followers to do is to complete the message with the handle of the twitter friend they would most likely take with them. Instant viral potential. This message will spread twice as fast.

According to the contest rules, you have to be following to win plus agree to video and other multi-media promotion as the winner-another smart move. Sounds like the PR mileage they will get from the follow-up will be well executed too.

The only thing that we can think of that could make this campaign better, is if they ran it in the February – March time frame, when everyone has the ‘winter blahs’ and is really thinking about getting away from it all.  Perhaps the viral potential would be increased just that little bit more.  (But that didn’t stop us from entering :))

The ritual of reflection this Thanksgiving

As this Thanksgiving reminds us, once again to consider our gifts, we feel grateful for many…

We are grateful to our clients for their loyalty. Our fans, followers and friends from our social networks, from which we feel fortunate to
have developed lasting personal and business relationships.

image of fall wreath with green apples We are grateful for the opportunities to share adventures with friends, celebrate achievements with colleagues and enjoy a loving relationship with family.

The ritual of reflection seems to be a blessing in itself that we sincerely hope results in the recognition of the many gifts for you and yours.

       Happy Thanksgiving!

10 tips for building your online newsroom

In a recent issue of ePRnews, we featured some key benefits and quick tips for building an online newsroom on your website. Since then, we’ve received calls & emails from our readers asking to learn more, so we thought we would post those checklist items with a little more detail here to benefit all.  

Image of news headline

Here are a few facts to you should know up front 

  • Social PR communications tools are vital in today’s digital media landscape.  As journalists have converged into the digital realm, creating a content rich and up-to-date online newsroom is key.
  • Online newsrooms provide journalists and editors with background information that’s needed to develop accurate and timely news stories.
  • Statistics tell us that journalists and editors are searching the web for information on companies, just like yours, more and more everyday. If that isn’t motivation enough to get your online newsroom up to snuff,we don’t know what is!

We hope you find a couple of good nuggets of information on what to include in order to build an effective online newsroom.

Read more

top 5 things we love about working and playing in Ottawa, Canada’s Capital

1. Quality of life.

Ottawa ranked 14th on the overall quality of living ranking, (2nd in North America). Mercer Human Resources Consulting 2010 worldwide survey.

2. We can breathe in and out.

Forbes Magazine rated Otawa as the 4th cleanest city out of 300 major cities of the world.

3. Becoming one with nature.

Ottawa is one of the greenest capitals in the world with Gatineau Park, (361 square kilometres of awesome green space), practically in our
back yard.

4. We feel like tourists every day!

Ottawa hosts more than 35 major festivals per year and has the highest concentration of museums of any region in Canada.

5. Ohm…..

There’s nothing more relaxing than a drive or stroll along the Rideau Canal to wind down after a long day-  which transforms into the world’s largest skating rink each year.

The -40° temperature in winter? (Not so much!) 
Happy Canada Day!