Buckle up, y’all. This one is personal, and admittedly a bit long.
Once upon a time, I was a new mom of a tiny, precious baby that I was bringing home to add to my family. With each of my three children –who are all SO different – it felt like I was a new parent all over again. Being a very young parent with my first, my newborn photos were taken with a point-and-shoot, on a dog bed, by my sister. There was no professional editing, and the camera couldn’t have been more than 8 or so megapixels at the time. When I had my boys years later, I knew that newborn photos were something that were really, really important to me to invest in.
With my son Colin, now five, I opted for a newborn lifestyle session. The photographer sent me an extensive prep guide and came to our home to photograph him. She didn’t care if he was asleep or awake – she was simply there to capture him as he was. I remember she walked around our house and took time to find the best pockets of light, which happened to be in my daughter’s room. There was no expectation for Colin to perform. Good thing, too, because I remember him being very fussy. It was so nice not to have to pack him up and be somewhere on time. When you’re a new mom, getting out of the house to grab a latte from the Starbucks drive-thru seems to be a monumental task, let alone getting to a session in a timely manner. As you can see, the end result of this session was organic and emotive, with minimal posing.
Fast forward about 2.5 years to my last baby, Graham. I admit it, y’all – I was totally in love with the “baby in a basket” concept and had my heart set on a posed studio photographer for our newborn session. I researched many photographers and fell in LOVE with this one girl’s work. I remember being anxious because she was totally out of my budget, but I scrimped and saved (along with her allowing us to have a payment plan!) to be able to get the shots we wanted.
Our photographer was really fun and down to Earth. The experience itself, though, was night and day from that of Colin. Her studio was about a 30 minute drive from our home. At the time I booked her, I thought it would be easy. Remember how I said above that leaving the house with an infant can be a monumental task? Clearly, I wasn’t thinking properly and let pregnancy hormones cloud my judgement. Add in a toddler, dog, a tween, and two adults, one of whom was raging with postpartum hormones…and I think you can imagine the chaos that ensued. None of us were very happy on our way to the studio that day.
Colin threw up approximately two times that morning due to being carsick. Thankfully, we hadn’t yet changed him into his outfit. When we arrived, Graham was a fussy mess and refused to calm down. In fact, the photographer was getting increasingly frustrated and stressed out with Graham because he would not sleep. She kept asking me to nurse him more. Then she’d ask me to give him bottles. Two bottles and many boobs later, when he STILL was not getting deep enough for her to pose and manipulate for more than a couple minutes, I could tell that her patience was wearing thin. We left the session after 4.5 hours, and I was a ball of emotions. I was so stressed out, and I was frustrated with my poor, sweet baby. Why had he not slept for our session? Were our photos going to be horrible after spending all that money?
We then got our photos back. I was in approximately one of them, and my hair looked horrible. We were all posed super unnaturally, too, with Graham right next to my face. I remember how my arms were literally shaking from holding Graham up for so long in that specific position.
Graham, of course, looked totally delicious.
There is no doubt that these photos are absolutely beautiful. But the hours and stress behind them were vast, and at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I received a full gallery that represented US and who we were at this point in time. There was no emotion behind it, and there were no great family photos that I wanted to hang on the walls. I admittedly got swayed by the beautiful baskets and chose a session that didn’t align with my philosophies and what I hoped to capture during that season of my family’s life.
Fast forward to when I became a photographer, myself. When I first started diving into the family niche, I was asked to photograph newborns. At first, I declined all newborn sessions because I felt like they had to be posed. As a former OB/GYN Nurse Educator, safety is of utmost importance to me. That’s why I would never attempt to wrap or pose a baby without proper training, which I did not possess.
I found myself starting to think about purchasing a class on posing. The more I thought about it, though, the more I had this gnawing in my gut that was dissuading me from doing so. I wanted to photograph newborns, but the propped, posed style of newborn photography just didn’t align with me, my philosophies, and my brand. That’s when I had my AHA! moment and realized plain and simply that it didn’t have to. I could own my passion of newborn lifestyle photography – as a Nurse Educator, a mom, and as a photographer.
I believe that babies belong in their parents’ arms – and whether they are asleep or awake, or desire to breastfeed throughout the entire session – we should let them.
I believe that newborn babies are beautiful just as they are, and without a lot of props, baskets, wraps, or busy backgrounds.
I believe that we shouldn’t have to separate mom and baby in order to achieve beautiful images.
I believe that baby led posing, which is the art of letting baby be the boss of the session and placing him or her in safe, gentle positions that baby would be in naturally, is both beneficial to baby and a true art form in and of itself.
I believe that newborn sessions should be stress-free and conducted in the comfort of your own space.
I believe in capturing moments that come together to tell a story – your baby’s perfect lashes, the way she fits into her big sister’s arms, and her teeny, tiny toes. I’m all inclusive and give a large gallery of images, because you truly deserve every chapter of your story. I don’t want you to just receive a single family image where your hair looks like a wet toupee. Don’t worry, though, because if there’s something funky happening with those locks – I will totally fix them for you.