2 Alarm Blaze in Scarborough

As a photographer, I always think about those memes where it says “What people think I do vs. What I actually do.” I have conversations with my friends and they think what I do is fun and glamorous and I’m surrounded by models all day and night but in actuality, most of my time is spent by myself in my room editing work or learning how I could get better.
Yes, there are times where I have taken pictures of good looking people and celebrities, but my passion photography-wise is imperfection and unpredictability.

Yesterday I was about to run some errands before I started some work and I saw smoke in the sky above my house. I knew there was a fire somewhere nearby. As I got in my car and got to the main street, the smoke was wild. So I drove back home, ran inside and got my camera.

The police blocked Passmore Ave, so I parked at a nearby plaza and walked across the street. I made sure to wear my mask because I wasn’t sure if anything hazardous could’ve been in that smoke. Not that my 100 Miles mask was going to protect me from smoke, but better safe than sorry.

The smoke was so dark and thick. It was such a contrast to the blue sky. Several fire trucks were on the scene. There was a firefighter on a ladder fighting the fire but the way the land was laid out, it was hard to see him and all I could see was water shooting from the fire hose. I was thinking to myself, “How could I get higher so I can get a vantage point to see the fireman in action?” I saw some newspaper boxes and one was knocked over. At first, I was wondering if I can stand on it or will I be too heavy? It took my weight and I got some shots that I wanted.

The Fire department brought a second truck and I saw a ladder go up into the sky with this black smoke in the background. Myself as a photographer, I was hoping for them to send a firefighter up the ladder to fight the fire with the smoke in front of him but at the same time, I didn’t want him to be unsafe for the sake of me “getting the shot”. A few minutes later, not only did they send up one fireman but two.

Shooting glamorous Instagram models and upscale parties are cool but photographing things where you don’t know what’s going to happen next is what excites me. The challenge of getting the shot and telling a story through pictures is what keeps the spark in me.

Thanks to the Toronto Fire Services and all the first responders keeping us safe. Check out CP24 for more about this incident.

Eye in the Sky

Winter Engagement Photo Shoot

One thing I could never figure out in photography is photographing snow. I’ve always been fascinated by photos taken in the winter with fresh snow falling almost giving a snow globe-like effect.

Recently, I had a young lady inquire about taking engagement photos of her and her fiancé. But I was thinking that she was talking about doing photos soon but, she wanted to do them in July. We had a brief conversation via email and bounced some ideas with each other. To my surprise and excitement, she thought that she wanted to try doing a winter-themed shoot.

Man sitting on bench with his fiancee leaning over him with her arms wrapped around him
Once you Found Love, Hold Onto It

I’ve never done a winter shoot before of people. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try but for one reason or another, it’s never happened. Another exciting thing for me was, there was snow in the forecast on the day of the scheduled shoot. When I woke up in the morning the snow was falling. Big, fluffy flakes falling ever so gently. It looked perfect for the afternoon. However as the day went on, the snow started to ease up and by the time of our shoot, there was no more snow falling. I also forgot my light modifier for my Godox ADB2 which was unfortunate but the show must go on. I did get some unintended lens flares that came out pretty neat in some of the photos.

Being that it was below zero degrees outside, we agreed to keep the shoot short. We were done in about 30 minutes which was a pretty decent time limit. My nose was starting to run and despite having gloves on, my hands were starting to feel cold. But I like to thank the lovely couple for their time and braving it out in the cold weather.

Photoshoot with Author Mathis Bailey

A lot of people say that technology and particularly social media is the decline of social interaction and society as a whole.

This post is about the exception to this rule. I opened my Instagram page and I saw that I had a DM Notification but it wasn’t from my regular contacts but the general messages. So after fumbling around to find the message, a gentleman asked me about my rates and told me that he was an author and wanted some shots to help promote his latest book. I replied and he said that he would get back to me. There have been many times where that is the end of the communication with a potential client but he actually messaged me and with a confirmed date and time.

Mathis Bailey, the client and I agreed to meet at Rosalinda Restaurant. At the time I never heard of it so I asked my foodie expert Ryan Hinkson of Eat Famous and he told me that it was a Mexican Vegan Restuarant on Richmond Street in downtown Toronto. We only had an hour to get these shots in because the restaurant was expecting customers but granted us a slot in the morning before they opened.

Usually, when I do photoshoots, the client and I have a gameplan or what we’re going to do but this time, I didn’t know what to expect, what I was supposed to be shooting, what the venue looked like or even how this guy found me. Luckily, I brought my 2 Godox AD200‘s and my AD-B2 Bracket as there weren’t any plug outlets to plug my Monolights into the wall. This set up is also beneficial because it allows me to be more portable.

Man holding a glass of wine and a tray of croissants
Oh La La

Author mathis Bailey sits at a table with a glass of wine looking towards a window
Looking Towards the Future.

We pretty much got all the shots done with time to spare but I used every bit of those 60 minutes to make sure nothing was missed. As I was packing up, Mathis asked, “Do you want to know how I found you?” and that was something that I meant to ask but I was going to wait until we were leaving but he told me that a DJ named Ameer B tagged me on a photo on Instagram and they went to York University together and he liked the photo. So it goes to show that social media can work for good sometimes and I thank Ameer for crediting me on that photo or else I would’ve never had this opportunity.

Author Mathis Bailey reads his latest novel over a glass of wine
Quality Read

Check out Mathis Bailey’s latest novel Brown Sugar & Spice wherever you buy your books.

Brown Sugar & Spice novel by Mathis Bailey
In Stores Now


Happy Lohri

This new year I’ve realized that there has been a slight increase in potential client inquiries. I’m very thankful for new people contacting me via google and social media, I just wish I knew how exactly they find me online so I can further develop engagement.

With that being said, I received a call from a gentleman that wanted me to cover an event for his grandson. The event was called a Lohri. I wasn’t aware of Lohri celebrations at the time so I asked him for the spelling so I can do some research. Thankfully for me, the gentleman sent me some links on YouTube to give me an idea of what to expect. A couple of the videos that I saw involved guests dancing around a fire. This event was taking place in a restaurant so I was pretty certain that the fire was inapplicable to this event although it would’ve created spectacular photos.

Another thing that I’ve been noticing the last couple of months is the increase in requests for videos as well as still photography. This client wanted photos as well as video. Video is not my speciality, but I think I’m going to have to practice.Toronto-Lohri-Degrey Photography-6Toronto-Lohri-Degrey Photography-7Toronto-Lohri-Degrey PhotographyToronto-Lohri-Degrey Photography-3

When I was on the phone and the gentleman mentioned Lohri and I had to ask him to spell it so I could look it up on Google. I found out that Lohri is a Punjabi winter festival primarily celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus. They celebrate with song and dance as well as a bonfire. But factoring in our climate and the venue being indoors, the bonfire wasn’t feasible for safety reasons.

The celebration took place at Tandoori Flame in Brampton, ON which is an Indian buffet-style restaurant. The open-air kitchen is a great feature. You could see the chefs cooking the food in front of you.

As people were finishing their meals, there were some amazing traditional dancers. For myself personally, I was intrigued by the mix of traditional Indian music with western hip hop music. Some songs that they danced to had a fusion of Indian songs with hip hop beats.

Two men in blue and white traditional Punjabi costume
Dance Routine

Toronto-Lohri-Degrey Photography-5

Considering that I had to travel across the city in a snowstorm, it was a pretty good experience and something to add to the resume.

4 adults and baby pose for a family photo
Parents and Grandparents

Cooks Who Feed

My last photoshoot of 2019 was kind of unexpected and last minute. I received an email from a woman that needed some photos for her marketing and promotion of her website. I’m always curious to know how new clients managed to find me but this one was surprising as she is related to my friend and colleague Deepak.

Deepak is also a photographer and the co-founder of Pledgeshots, a company that I have worked with a couple of times myself. Pledgeshots is a company that does headshots and donates 25% of the proceeds to either, Sick Kids Hospital, Covenant House or WWF Canada.

My initial thoughts to this email were, “Why didn’t she just call Deepak? He’s a photographer and he’s in your family.” But, he was out of town on a business trip and she was pressed for time and he referred me. So I am humbled that he would trust me to get the job done.

Cooks Who Feed is a not for profit organization dedicated to supporting women in India that live in poverty by giving them employment and the opportunity to feed their families. The purchase of one apron provides 100 meals. It’s such a great initiative. Please check out the Cooks Who Feed website for more information and support the cause.

Woman in yellow apron cutting bread
Breaking Bread

Woman in apron sprinking flour to make pizza
Sprinkle Sprinkle

Woman in Cooks who feed apron poses in kitchen
Job Well Done

The day of our shoot, it was snowing pretty heavily and to make matters worse, I live on the opposite side of town. Seema, who was the main subject of the shoot had a meeting to attend so I knew that time was limited and she had kids that she had to get ready for school.  She told me some of her ideas and concepts and we did everything in about 45 minutes. I think what made it more impressive was maintaining composure while her husband was getting the kids ready for school. They got an A+ in Parenting 101 class.

First Weekend of a New Decade

Happy New Year everyone!!

The last 3 years, I’ve started off my year shooting on behalf of RyMedia, a party called Elite at The Vue with DJ’s Marxman and Fresh Cut De Mayor. I always have a great time and cherish their hospitality.

Celebration, DJ's raising arms
Happy New Year

The first weekend of the year was going to be really busy for me. It was busy despite having an unfortunate cancellation, but you have to be able to adapt to different situations.

So, with the cancellation of the shoot scheduled for Saturday, I ended up setting up a studio session at Shvrk Studio with my friend Tarik. I met him at his surprise birthday party in which I was the photographer and we’ve kept in contact ever since. He’s a Kinesiology student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, ON. He’s also an aspiring model so we met up and did a photoshoot and I’m hoping to get him into the annual Men at Large competition which is taking place in a few weeks. This was my 3rd time shooting at Shvrk Studio and they always take care of me, so I have no problem endorsing their space so fellow photographers and creatives, please check them out. I also had my friend Azi come along and she helped me set up my equipment and record some behind the scenes video footage.

Man dribbling basketball in black suit
Hesitation Dribble

Man with no shirt holding basketball
Ball is Life

Man laying on rung

Since I had Saturday free, I uploaded the footage into Adobe Premiere for future video content. It’s my first time using Premiere as I used to use Final Cut Pro X for my video content. So at the time of me writing this, I don’t know what I’m doing with Premier but I am learning slowly but surely. Stay tuned to my Instagram page for some new IGTV content.

Just before Christmas, a friend of mine contacted me about doing a family photo shoot with her father and extended family for the new year. I was more than happy to do the photos, the only problem was there was going to be about 17 people to shoot. I usually do family shoots in my basement studio but I didn’t have space to shoot that many people at once so I suggested that we went to Shvrk and it was the best location because it was close to her dad’s home.

This was definitely a challenge for me. One, to shoot 17 people at once and two, to do it all within the hour allocated at the studio. As I was setting up, I noticed that the plug to one of my lights was missing. I intended on having a two light set up but that wasn’t possible without a plug so, like I said before, I had to adapt. I used one light and an umbrella to spread the light out. Being that I was on a time crunch, I started with the big group shot first. I wanted to make sure that they had the family photo done, just in case I ran out of time in the end. The beginning of the session was probably the time where I’d have the little ones attention the most as young children’s attention fades quickly for photographs. Fortunately, I got through all the pictures that they wanted with time to clean up. I also had my friend Cedric come and help me with some more behind the scenes footage.

Family Portrait dressed in black and white
Family Ties

Grandma, Grandpa and Grandchildren portrait

parents tickling daughters
Tickle Tickle

Overall, it was quite a productive weekend to start the year and hopefully, this is the start of a trend of new clients and new opportunities.

The Begining and End

This past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind personally and professionally. My family lost my uncle who was the glue of our family. He had a very long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

A few months ago, my Aunt asked me to compile a slideshow using the photos that she had over their past 46 years of marriage. She gave me their wedding album and 2 family albums. There was so much history in those photographs. I saw pictures that I’ve never seen before including photos of me when I was a baby. I’ve always been fascinated by old photos, especially from Jamaica in the ’70s. The fashion, the colours and the colour of the film are just mesmerizing to me.IMG_20191118_0001IMG_20191118_0015

While I was working on a video about my Uncle, I received a phone call from a number that I didn’t recognize. When I answered, it was a woman inquiring about doing maternity photos. To make matters more interesting, this was a Friday afternoon and she was due on Sunday. After speaking with her husband, she decided to come to the studio on Friday evening.DSC_6930DSC_6936

She brought her family consisting of her daughter and her husband and she also invited her sister, his husband and their infant son. I had an almost instant connection with their daughter. She was always smiling and laughing so much so that I asked if I could take a photo with her. I think she’s going to be a great big sister.

Degrey Photography Maternity
Happy Family of 3, Number 4 on the way.

My New Assistant

After the shoot, I thought to myself, “Wow, this woman is having a baby on Sunday and I have Uncle Lloyd’s funeral on Saturday”. I attended the funeral and I saw a slideshow that I compiled playing on the projection screen and they even had some images that I had taken during his final years of life and less than 12 hours prior, I took images of a life that hasn’t started yet. It was a full-circle moment.

The beginning and end.

Pro Fusion 2019

A few weeks ago was a big week for me. It was the 10th annual ProFusion Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. For me, this is like my personal Super Bowl with all the major photo companies and other vendors in attendance. As well as the top photographers in their respective fields providing free lectures and Live Photoshoots.

Before I start with my experience, I have to shout out Jeannine from And Action media for asking why I stopped blogging. I honestly didn’t know that people paid attention to my posts so thank you, Jeannine, and to anyone else that takes the time to read posts.

I attended both days of the event and watched lectures from Mark Blinch on sports photography. I wish I could just sit with him and pick his brain. His images are incredible and he photographed the infamous Kawhi Leonard game 7 buzzer-beater shot vs the Philadelphia 76ers.

Every year that I go to the ProFusion expo, I try to plan my day around Miguel Jacob. The first time I went to one of his lectures, I was blown away and wanted to shoot right away. I always learn something new watching his lectures. I went to say hi and shake his hand and he gave me an unexpected hug. His positive energy is inspiring and I try to adapt that to my work.

I think the headliner of the whole event was Lindsay Adler. I think if you’re into photography, you’ve heard of Ms Adler. She was speaking at the Canon booth. She drew such a crowd that you could hardly see her. She’s not very tall. I got to see her speak on day 2 on a stage and I took a lot of notes. Not only did she give some photography tips, but some of the things that she was saying, you could apply it to life in general. Things like to “craft the career that you want ” and being persistent.

Of course, I picked up a couple of items on sale. In the earlier part of the year, I was hoping to get a new camera but some unexpected expenses threw a fork in that idea. Nonetheless, I purchased a Godox PL90 parabolic softbox. I was inspired by my friend and mentor Derrel Ho-Shing who has one and used a similar softbox on a photoshoot that I assisted him with. I also purchased a Zoom H4n Handy Recorder for my video projects. With these new purchases, I’ll be occupied for the new year.

Birthday Photoshoot

Friday mornings, I usually drive to Pickering to get my haircut at All My Sons barbershop. This week, I wasn’t able to go because I was doing newborn photos of my cousin’s son. Most barbershops are busy on Saturdays but I didn’t really have a choice.

Just as I was about to get on the highway, I received a phone call from a number that I didn’t recognize. The gentleman on the other end of the line wanted to do photos for his birthday. It was 11:30am at the time and I took him to come to my studio at 2:00pm.

My client arrived a bit late, but I didn’t mind because it gave me a few minutes to eat. I texted him my address and he replied about 10 minutes later that he had arrived. I opened my door and didn’t see anyone. I stepped outside and I saw 3 young men next door waiting for someone to open the door. He informed me that the text said house number 158 instead of 156. The auto-fill feature on my iPhone was set to the wrong address for some odd reason, but the client arrived and it was time to go to work.

At first glance, I was surprised at how young my client was. I was expecting an older gentleman in a shirt and tie prepared for a business shoot. This was a much more casual shoot to celebrate his 19th birthday.

Before Paul arrived, I had switched my backdrop from black to white, again because I was under the impression that we were going to do something much more formal. His first outfit, he came out with a white shirt and white jeans and white and orange Chanel sneakers. I had to laugh to myself because I thought that I should’ve kept the black backdrop to make the white contrast more and “pop”.

All White Forever 21 Outfit Orange Chanel Sneakers
It’s about that Time

All White Outfit Orange Chanel Sneakers Bending



The second outfit Paul brought out was a checkered jacket with matching pants courtesy of Forever 21. As a photographer, this definitely caught my eye and I was thinking how could I get some creative shots incorporating his outfit with the equipment that I have at my disposal. I used a Red gel filter from Rogue to add some colour to the image. It was pretty exciting considering that I haven’t used these effects since my photography class at George Brown.

Checkered Suit Sunglasses Fila Shoes
Thinking Of A Master Plan

Checkered Jacket Sunglasses Finger Gloves

The final outfit was the original outfit that he walked into my house with. With this outfit, he wanted to include his friend and unofficial fashion stylist Bilbo.

Nike Air Force Hi All Black Du Rag Red Hat White Shirt Red Nike Air Force Hi
These guys have been friends since high school in Nigeria.

Red Hat White Shirt Red Pants Gold Chain
Final Outfit

Gold Chain Long Sleeve White Shirt Red Track Pants

Thanks to Paul for calling me and coming to my studio to take pictures to commemorate his birthday and once again to Google for appearing in their “photographers near me”  search query. Happy Birthday.

Women at Large 2018

The other day my friend Lisa invited me to photograph an event called Women at Large. The event was an annual pageant competition where 12 women and an alternate were selected to participate in a calendar photo shoot which is to be held at the world-famous Hedonism resort in Negril, Jamaica.

That day I left my house with no expectations, which is probably the best way when taking pictures at an event. The even was held at the Montecassino Hotel and Event Centre . The building was teeming with energy as there was a DJ, a bar and some vendors selling various goods and services. Most importantly, family and friends came out to show their support for the contestants. They brought their signs and their louse cheers. Someone even brought an air horn.

The first round of the pageant was the introduction of the contestants. I don’t know how many women entered but the organization narrowed it down to approximately 35 women from all walks of life and of all shapes and sizes. The one thing about Canada and specifically Toronto, is our diversity. It was great to see that Women at Large was really trying to challenge the notion of what beauty should look like. It can be anyone under the sun.

First round women in white T-shirts and blue jeans
Round 1

Reina Rose walking down the catwalk
Showing her stuff down the catwalk

Woman at Large in all white
Strike a pose

Women at Large round 1 women in white shirts and blue jeans
This is just the intro.

The second round of the pageant was the evening gown segment and Lisa did not disappoint. She looked regal in her blue sequins dress. I have known Lisa for approximately a year and a half and I’ve seen tremendous growth in her personally and professionally. I think her blue dress is emblematic of her future. Lisa is destined for greatness.

Reina Rose in blue sequin dress and tiara
She’s Royal

Blue Sequin dress

Due to time constraints, the talent competition was shortened to a few contestants but they definitely brought the house down with their singing, dancing, poetry, fashion and a young lady that painted a portrait of Snoop Dogg upside down. I’m still baffled by how she did that.

There was a brief intermission and I managed to speak to Lisa briefly and she asked me if I’m having a good time to which I said “Yes” and she said, “Yeah right you’re just saying that”. But I was taking in the sights and sounds. She expressed to me how nervous she was and frankly, I couldn’t  blame her but she was doing so well for someone that’s never participated in anything like that before. I told her that I was proud of her but I think the nerves made my comment go in one ear and out of the next. Which I understood when you are so focused on doing everything correctly and you just want to get it over with.

Next was the much-anticipated swimsuit competition.  All of the ladies looked amazing. During the intermission, Lisa told me to look out for her and wanted me to take pictures of her swimsuit. I thought to myself, ” I’ll just move into the aisle so that way I won’t  have the back of someone’s head in my pictures.” What I didn’t anticipate however was her family coming to the aisle, holding signs to block my vantage point. Luckily, I was able to manoeuvre to the sides and got some images for her.

The next round was the final walk through to show all the contestants before it was time for the big vote. It went very quickly, but the crowd was in full force showing their support for their favourite contestant. As a photographer, catching those rare candid moments is what I love best. Unfortunately at the pageant I was unable to catch the final moments of when the winners were announced. That was the only part that I did not like. When they announced the winners, the contestants were backstage and not on the stage where everyone could see. I suppose it was an issue with space, but as a photographer, I would have loved to have seen their genuine reactions to hearing their names being called. Some winners were clear to me and some were a surprise. Not in the sense that they didn’t deserve to win, but I was surprised that some ladies did not win.

Coincidentally, I was sitting beside a man named Sven Frenzel who is a Still Photographer for film and television. He had me laughing the whole night. Sven told me that he liked how I approached people to take photos and said that he could tell that it came naturally to me. That was a huge compliment to me coming from someone who is an established professional photographer with 20 years of experience.

All and all, it was a fantastic experience. The stage lighting did present some challenges as there were some dark areas that created shadows but I would definitely go back next year if given the chance. I would like to thank my friend Lisa for having me there. I’m so proud of her.  The world is yours.

Past winners of the Men at Large and Women at Large. Red tuxedo jacket and lady in lady in a blue dress and tiara
King and Queen

Reina with family and friends holding signs
Family Support

winners of the Women at Large competition. 13 ladies holding trophies and swag bags
Congratulations to the women selected.