As a newborn lifestyle photographer, it is a grand privilege to be invited into the most intimate moments of tenderness and newness in a family.
That being said, there are great challenges in walking into a new environment brimming with emotion and vulnerability. It takes courage to calm my own nerves and steady my eye while shooting in an honest and sensitive fashion.
Through the years, I’ve developed my strategies to doing so using both technical and artistic techniques to help make sure that I am prepared and effective regardless of the scenery or dynamics.
When I first arrive, I ask the family to show me around and talk to me about any thoughts they have for where they would like to shoot. I use this time to look for where the light is falling and any areas of the home that lend themselves to the telling of their story. Here, the family wanted to commemorate their son’s December birthday and the Christmas season. Starting in this open main area was a nice way to ease into the session.
As we transitioned into the bedrooms, I was aware of the number one strategy of lifestyle photography. Being aware and ready allowed me to capture this natural moment of interest between the older fur baby and the newest addition. I am constantly adjusting my settings as we move into various lighting situations so that I can shoot at a moment’s notice. Especially with pets, it is often impossible to recreate specific interactions but this was the perfect instance of love between the two.
When I ask clients to cozy up on their bed, I always encourage them to start with sitting close together. This allows them to get more comfortable with me before I ask them to lay together or move further outside their comfort zone. I also start with my 85mm f/1.2 lens if I can so that I can be further away from them to begin.
When I ask clients to lay together in a more intimate fashion, I use my 35mm f/1.4 lens. Because it is so much faster than my 85mm f/1.2, I can take multiple shots refocusing quickly. I toggle my focal points to where I know they are and will even raise it over my head to shoot higher and more directly down on them for unique angles and perspectives. I keep my aperture wide open while I do this, however, as I want any distracting elements, even the background, to be blurred.
Utilizing a variety of perspectives is one of my favorite strategies to “story-telling”. Every angle will create a slightly different mood and tone and contribute something to the overall vision. I frame my shot in as many different ways possible. I experiment shooting up at and then down towards your subject. Then, I step back and explore any possible negative space. I consider my environment for any reflections that would lend themselves to creative captures.
After I’ve explored a variety of perspectives, I then make sure to get close and fill the frame entirely with my subject. I want the emotion to fill the image as well as want to provide the family with a variety of both timeless and creative images.
As we move through the home, I am sure to make note of the nursery and if the mother has spent extra time preparing it for her little bundle. This is typically an area near and dear to her heart and I always make sure to honor the vision she’s worked to communicate. It’s a favorite strategy of mine to bring the father into the space with his baby and step back with my 35mm f/1.4 lens to capture the entire scene. Something about allowing them to be small in the frame speaks to me of the great life ahead of them together and communicates the appreciation I have for a father tending to the next generation.
Capturing the mother with her baby is something I make sure to spend plenty of time doing. I love to photograph the baby alone swaddled up or loosely bundled and then ask the mother to come swoop up her little love to capture the inevitable swooning along the way. Seeing her tenderly scoop up the baby she has worked for evokes an emotion that is impossible to create otherwise.
I am constantly observing areas that are unique to the family. I want to make sure I represent their interests, passions and history together. Here, I had noticed a wedding canvas displayed prominently in their home. Because it is the beginning of their love story, I worked to create an image where it is in the background, almost as if their beginning is looking over them, smiling at where they have been brought to.
As we moved into the final portion of our session together, I had asked the family about doing something together to honor the newness of their son. We decided to document the first bath. Although I knew I would be switching to my 35mm 1.4 lens due to it’s speed and versatility, I kept my 85mm f1.2 lens on to begin as I wanted to highlight their newest addition with a shallow depth of field.
That decision allowed me to capture this image. I love his awkward little stretch, his tender features completely crisp while his surroundings are more dreamlike.
As I story-tell, (one of my greatest loves in photography) I am constantly switching between lenses, hoping to take one shot up close while repeating the same idea with a wider lens to yield a more voyeuristic perspective for the viewer.
And, as I’ve grown in my confidence in the variety of perspectives, I’ve allowed myself to look not only for the brightest, cleanest areas of light, but for the shadows also. Attending a workshop from Joy Prouty, I heard an amazing quote that has helped me grow in this skill as a photographer…
I used to be drawn to the brightest light I could stand to look at. Now, I prefer to step back and watch the luminance rise from the shadows.
Doing so has given me fresh eyes for how to use light no matter the situation.
Whether a home is walled completely with windows or whether I have to carefully observe the pockets of light, either one is a practice of observation which in turn births wonder.
In fact, it’s usually when I’m stretched the most, that I find I’m creating the most. Taking in the beauty of what is happening in front of me, photography doesn’t look ahead for more or to the past in bittersweet longing.
Rather, it chooses pause and engagement in the present. It brings appreciation of the now. It invites one to savor the simple, cherish the details, breathe the lovely, embrace the ordinary and live fully thankful.