Newborn photography is an area of photography that has attracted more and more attention in the last few years. It certainly has been around for quite some time, but with the increasing popularization of digital cameras and social media, it seems that having babies and photographing them is a growing trend (or maybe it is just because I am in Alberta, where it is a bit too cold for any other activities).
Meet miss Lily Ann Rajani
This type of photography may present many specific challenges, for example: babies don’t take directions really well (you are lucky if they look at the camera), they simply cry when not happy (which can happen for a number of reasons), and they also need constant support and encouragement, as well as plenty of food and diaper changes every so often. Also, mom and dad are usually exhausted, having to cope with restless nights and crazy schedules, while adapting to the arrival of this new person in their lives. But photographing newborns also has many benefits: they are super malleable, and when sleeping (which they do often), will stay put after you pose them, allowing for some really interesting shots. These little bundles of joy look great independent of makeup or wardrobe, so it’s easy to dress them with whatever you want (or not). Another very rewarding point is that you are recording moments that pass by so quickly that sometimes parents forget or are too busy to document properly and later wish they’d stopped and saved for posterity.
When photographing babies, you have to be concerned first and foremost with the safety of your subject, because they can’t tell you if they are losing their balance, if a limb is getting numb, or if they are too hot or too cold. You have to be attentive to any signs of discomfort. In some cases, the parents will leave their child completely in the hands of the photographer and that’s a lot of responsibility. Some experienced professional photographers avoid working with newborns altogether because of that.
Another aspect you have to consider is the type of image you want to create. Australian photographer Anne Geddes is famous for producing some very interesting images and poses, but sometimes all the family want is some simple portraits and not very intricate or heavily photoshopped images. Be sure to discuss your ideas with the parents and to consider their ideas before the shoot.
When studying for this new experience, I saw that some photographers prefer not to use flash, because the light can startle the baby. However I came to the conclusion that when kept at a safe distance and used in low settings, flash used as fill would actually contribute to the final quality of the images, even more so when used in conjunction with reflectors and lots of natural light. Using family props is always a good idea, since it evokes a more personalized feel. In my case I was lucky to have some very cool props to use, like clothing, fabrics and even an old family suitcase!
As I read more about it, I thought this would be a great challenge, that would improve my skills, and thus I started looking for potential subjects among my friends. As the birth of little miss Lily approached, I got more and more excited with the possibility of photographing the Rajanis. I have known Vishaal and his wife Jessica for about five years now. Their wedding in 2011 was indeed something to remember! :) Having known the family (they also have a dog with a strong personality) for quite some time definitely helped all of us to be a little more at ease and contributed to the final results.
Rollie the guardian dog.
Lily was photographed as she reached 3 weeks of life and by this time she was starting to get better adjusted to a circadian lifestyle, spending more and more time awake during the day. She also would look towards me (sometimes), which I definitely did not expect. In some pictures, we used saris as backdrops as Vishaal’s family has South-Asian origins. In others, we used some books as he is concluding his PhD in Neuroscience and she is a Medical Doctor. Roland, the family dog, also participated in the fun, as he should. Throughout the shoot, Lily behaved wonderfully. She pretty much did not need directions and only “asked” for one diaper change. We had plenty of sunlight that day and a huge window in their living room, so flash was used only as fill. Mom and dad were both very patient with my adjustments, especially when I needed to take the same shot repeatedly, until I got it right.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the final results. I came into this experience with some ideas and managed to execute most of them. Vishaal and Jess also had plenty of ideas of their own, which turned the whole thing into an afternoon of fun!
Such a beautiful family.
I would like to leave a big thanks to Vishaal and Jessica for allowing me to post some of their pictures here on my website.
Hopefully we get to do more shoots as Lily grows up!