interview with Kaihla Tonai

I’m so excited about this interview! It’s the perfect mix of serious, fun, I learned something new about her, heartfelt and funny! I first met Kaihla in our shoot and share group on Facebook. I was instantly inspired by her vision and how she stays true to her vision, this girl does not waiver about how she wants her photography to look and I respect that! Kaihla is a self proclaimed introvert but carries herself with confidence and quite grace that you can see in every photo she takes. I hope you love this interview as much as I do!

You can find Kaihla Tonai on her website here, Facebook and Twitter.


Where are you from in the world? Calgary, Alberta

Tell me about yourself   I am an intimate wedding + elopement photographer, who believes in creating images to act as a dwelling place, where you can go to whenever you need to be reminded of who you are and what you believe in.

Do you have a family/wife/husband/kids/crazy parents?   I have a boyfriend of four years!
And I also have an amaaaazing family! I am someone who is super close with their family, and my favourite place to be in surrounded by each and every one of them (& their significant others). We can get a bit crazy, loud, and overwhelming, but I wouldn’t change any of that for the world!

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How do you find balance between life and photography?     I think that right now, since I am not married, or do not have a family of my own, that finding the balance is a bit easier than it would be otherwise. Right now, I have my weekdays that are dedicated to whatever needs to be done business wise (in regards to office work, blogging, and editing), and then once Mark (my boyfriend) gets home from work, that’s when I’ll make an effort to end my “office time” for the day. More frequently, I’ve been trying to limit my social media time, as to not continually miss out on “regular life”, as well as time with family and friends!

What equipment do you use most?    I use my Nikon D800 and either my 35mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.8 the most!

What equipment do you dream about?   24-70 2.8 tilt shift!

Any advise for up and coming photographers out there?  Always try and remember that you don’t have to do ANYTHING a certain way in your business just because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s YOUR business, design it, and run it, however YOU would like to! There are no rules!!

What is your pet peeve about a session?   MOSQUITOS….!

Cookies or cake?   Usually cookies, UNLESS it’s ice cream cake OR cheesecake.


Who are your role models in photography/life and why?   In life, my family will always be my role models. Mark is also somebody that I look up to–he has such amazing and admirable qualities. In photography, I don’t have any role models. I have mentors who are AWESOME, but when it comes to role models, the only person that I want to compare myself to is the photographer that I was yesterday.

Who would be your dream photographer for your own family session?   Brittany Esther would be my most recent “must shoot my wedding!” photographer. This changes almost monthly haha

What are your strengths and weaknesses with photography?   Strengths: I’d like to say that my turn around time (this has to do with editing rather than photography per say) would be my biggest strength. I pride myself on getting my couple’s images back to them ASAP! I also think that I’m slowly getting better at capturing moments that feel and look raw, natural & honest. Weakness wise, I would say that I’m still working on making my introverted personality work to my advantage. It’s really hard for me to put myself out there and be outgoing with new couples, but must like everything else in this business, it’s a work in progress 🙂

Most annoying chore to do?   Backing up images/organizing hard drive space…:(

What do you like more color or B&W images?   Usually colour, but the odd black and white that just WORKS is my crypt tonight 😉

Nikon or Canon or Other?   NIKON WOO


Who is the smartest person you know?   My parents! (I can’t wait to have parental super knowledge) I call them both ALL the time with questions. My mom is the best for life questions/house hold/cooking stuff (especially laundry labels!! Who actually knows what those symbols mean) and my dad is sooo smart when it comes to anything technological!

Lightroom or Photoshop or both?   90% lightroom 10% photoshop

Props or no props?   Nope!

What is your spirit animal?   I’d like to say wolf because that sounds much cooler, but I’ve had a WEIRD connection with little birds lately….I’m not even kidding.

RAW or JPEG?   RAW almost always, JPEG for personal photos sometimes.

Favorite location for sessions or events?   Hmmm. In a dark Vancouver forest on an overcast day.

What would a talking cat say about your photography?   Sooo much forehead touching…

What is the worse thing a client can do to ruin a session?   I think that the only thing anyone can do to put a damper on things would be to not trust me, and what I’m doing. I put everything I have into a session and would never put anyone in an unflattering situation or position 🙂

What can make a session great?   Couples who are up for anything & who trust my vision! I also love working with super snuggly couples, that makes shooting great!


What would you call your style of photography?   Free spirited, honest, kindred.


Can you share how far you’ve come in your own photography career, meaning an early photo?

Oooh this is embarrassing, but yes I’ll share! I have three photos, all of the same couple (session, engagement, wedding). The first image is from my VERY FIRST ever couple session. Not only is the photo pretty bad, but the editing just takes things to a whole new level. In between the first photo and their engagement image was about a year, and then 7 months in between their engagement and their wedding image.




Have you ever had a public meltdown?   I don’t think so! I’ve come VERY close though–I’ve cried my eyes out in my car, on the phone with my family, in the middle of my very first second shooter job.

If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?   I would probably be a blog columnist of some kind! Is that a thing? Either that, or just a blogger!

Do you have a favorite session? Why is it your favorite?   I have TOO MANY favourites! Recently I’ve been working with some AMAZING people & couples, so there’s no way I could choose just one!

What is the most embarrassing moment during a session?   Whenever I try and describe a pose to a couple and I start stuttering because I can’t get my ideas out haha luckily nothing tooo embarrassing has happened yet!

Is time travel real, why or why not?  I would say no, because if it is, I would have used it to go back and spend more time with my grandpas before they passed away.

Do you have future carrer goals for your photography, or how would you define your own success?   I always have goals! They’re continually changing whenever I complete them or modify them. I have a whole list, but I’d love to share one: my biggest goal for 2015 is to photograph an elopement or SUPER small wedding in the rockies!


Do you have a charity you volunteer for? Can you share information about them?   Unfortunately I don’t–I’d love to look into one though!

Are you apart of any photography forums or associations?   Not anymore nope! While I was still in school I was a part of PPOC, but since graduation I decided that that was definitely not for me!


Do you steel pens from the bank?   Heck ya!

Can you dance?   Ummm nope. But I pretend to.

can you bake cake or cupcakes?   Both! I’m actually pretty savvy when it comes to baking!


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On a scale from 1 to 10 rate me as an interviewer?   10! These questions are the perfect mix of serious, thorough, and hilarious!

Thank you for sharing your life, talent and images with us today Kaihla! You really are a free spirit sweet young lady and I’m grateful to call you my friend. xoxox <3

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