Behind the Lens | My Philosophy on Newborn Photography
Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be posting my first blog on the new website. In honour of the new site and new beginnings, I decided to start a new recurring series on the blog called Behind the Lens, where I will post my photography thoughts and tips and anything else that I feel inspired to write about. I hope this series will be helpful to both clients and photographers reading, and I encourage you to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if there's any particular topic you'd like me to address! Anyone who knows me knows I am a lover of writing and blogging on a personal level, so I'm excited about transferring that to my business and revamping the Raw Footage blog to make it more active and (hopefully) interesting!
Today I want to write about my philosophy on newborn photography. There are so many photographers out there doing newborn photography, and if you browse around the web a bit, you'll soon realize that there are lots of different approaches to the art of capturing those first few photos of a precious little bundle. When choosing a photographer to take your newborn's photos, you'll want to make sure that their style is one that you feel comfortable with and inspired by.
When I first started experimenting with newborn photography, I wasn't entirely sure what my style was. I was nervous about the baby potentially crying/peeing/spitting up and that I wouldn't be able to pose him or her properly. I worried that I didn't have enough hats and booties and baby costumes to give the family photos that were varied and creative enough. And I stared at endless photos from other photographers, completely baffled by the insane poses they managed to get these babies in. I'm sure you've seen them - the babies seemingly supporting their tiny, fragile little head in their hands, or dangling from a branch in what looks like a hamster hammock. I wondered how on earth they did it. And I am so glad I never attempted such poses before learning about composite images. Photographers who take these types of photos actually take a series of photos with supporting adult hands placed in different areas on the baby's body. In post processing, the "hands-free" parts of the photos are stitched together to make an image that looks as though no one was supporting baby. (if your photographer is attempting these poses without adult support for the newborn, abort mission. Safety first!)
I decided I was going to produce these mind blowing images. I bought a beanbag, my husband made me a backdrop stand and I bought some blankets and pieces of fabric I thought would make cute newborn backdrops. I ordered some adorable headbands and mini knit hats with matching booties. I bought a white noise machine. I did my homework. I was ready to take on the newborn photography world by storm. But here's the thing, every time I attempted to pose a squishy little bundle in an unnatural position with hats and booties and backdrop changes, it just felt, well, unnatural. I was happy with the results, clients were happy with the results, but I was unhappy with the process. This approach to newborn photography is such a contrast to my photography philosophy in general, which is to capture clients in their element, naturally, to let their personalities shine through. Real. Simple. Pure. Raw. I soon realized that it's just not for me.
Now let me clarify, there are some amazing photographers out there, and even here in London, who do beautiful posed work with newborns, who put safety first and provide parents with adorable images of their fresh babe. I look up to many of these photographers and follow their work. It's just not my style. And as I gain more experience and grow my business a bit more, I'm really discovering what my style is, and trying to embrace it. Because my best work happens when I am totally passionate and completely inspired.
When I became a mama, I had my headbands and baskets ready to go. I took a few hours and put my baby to sleep, posed her, carried out various wardrobe changes, and took cute photos of her that now hang on my wall and adorn the refrigerators of anyone who still has her birth announcement displayed.
I still love those photos. How could I not, they're of the cutest baby on the planet (don't mind my mama-goggles, hehe). But I soon realized that my mom instinct quickly teamed up with my photographer instinct, and the photos that I truly treasured more than anything, the grab these and run if there's a fire images, were photos of my husband holding our daughter close in the kitchen while I made dinner, or the one of me laying on the bed with her tucked under my arm. Or the one of her laying on a blanket, fully awake, making the sweetest faces.
I decided that, as a mom, if these are the photos I truly treasure, then I mustn't be alone. And while there is definitely a huge market for posed baby shots (and, as I said, amazing photographers to meet those demands), I'm sure there are mamas out there who want a different approach and who might embrace my newfound lifestyle approach to newborn photography.
So - I have a few rules now.
1. If the baby can't get into/stay that position on his/her own, not happening.
This seems self explanatory, right? No dangling babies. No poses that require extensive photoshop work to make it look real. I'm more interested in capturing what really is real. I am passionate about capturing moments that you will look back on and reminisce. I totally remember when little Mark always stretched his arms out as a newborn. Or, I remember how Maya always put her tiny little hand on her cheek while she slept. Here's the thing. I firmly believe that babies pose themselves. Sure we can place them on the bed on their bellies and try and coax their arm out of their face. But we are not going to spend 15 minutes propping their head up and crossing their legs just so and figuring out which headband matches the diaper cover the best, because while this is happening, we're missing out on moments.
During one of my baby-posing sessions, I really struggled with getting this sweet little boy to stay scrunched, for lack of a better term. He kept stretching his whole body out so that his feet stuck out beyond the crate we were using, and he'd wake up every time we tried to coax his little bum in the air so we could get that pose. You know, the classic scrunched-baby-with-cute-bum-in-the-air-and-feet-tucked-just-so-with-ridiculously-adorable-hat pose. This little guy was not having it. We eventually moved on to other ideas and ended up with some really cute photos, but most of them were of him on his back. Because that's just how he rolled. We wasted so much time trying to get this sweetie in a pose that was so unnatural and uncomfortable to him. What I really should have been shooting were the moments while he was in mama's arms being put back to sleep. But instead I was rearranging the next prop set-up.
2. If the baby is awake, it's okay.
We photographer's are so focused on getting newborns asleep. And I get it, they're always cute, but when they're asleep, the aww-factor sky-rockets. Not to mention, they are more easily posed. I have sleepy photos of my own daughter as a baby, and I worked hard to get them. Shhhh-ing, bouncing, nursing, rocking, white noise, more nursing, a lot of "come on baby, just sleep!" whispered under my breath. I've witnessed other mamas go through the same thing. No matter how relaxed an environment you provide, if mama wants sleepy photos and baby isn't staying asleep, the stress level is likely to increase a bit for both mom and baby, and in turn, for photographer. Here's my philosophy. If the baby is sleeping, awesome, let's take some amazing sleepy photos. If baby is awake, fantastic. Let's take some amazing awake photos of those shiny little newborn eyes.
3. Interactions and Emotions before Props and Staging.
I still have my hats and headbands. Not gonna lie, I still think they're crazy-cute. I photographed my little girl in them and I still oooohh and ahhhh when I see the new creations that some of my favourite newborn vendors make. If a client wants to put a bow on her sweet little girl's head, it's all good. If she wants her little man to wear an adorable little diaper cover and booty set, no worries. The point is, the number one thing I will be photographing will be the interactions and emotions that surge to the surface when parents and siblings love on their new little baby. The backdrop will be a client's home or backyard. The money-shot will not be baby scrunched into a basket with a frog costume on (not that there's anything wrong with that if that's your style), it will be of baby being cuddled in dad's arms while mama looks on proudly, a soft smile on her face. It will be of a protective sibling kissing baby's head and stroking her soft cheeks with his finger.
If you're reading this and you're looking for a talented photographer to pose your baby with cute props and costumes, email me. I have a few well-respected and uber-talented photographer friends I'd love to refer you to. But if you're wanting to capture those sweet, everyday moments with your new bundle and capture them as is, I'm your girl, and I'd love to help you make some memories!