I was on Facebook the other day when a notification popped up that a couple of people had recommended me on a local mum forum where a poster had asked for a newborn photographer. Honestly I have the best clients! Anyway, I clicked through and scrolled down out of interest to see who else got recommended and I was quite surprised to see that people were recommending wedding photographers and horse photographers as well as being great for this new mum’s newborn requirements.
I’m not dissing those photographers as their work was lovely but I started to think about why newborn photography is such a specialist area.
I’m not going to on about how newborn photographers have trained in baby safety actually (although we have) because I’m presuming that most responsible people can fathom that out for themselves. There’s no reason why a wedding photographer would suddenly abandon their human nature and start winging a new life around the room with no care for safety.
Actually I started as a wedding photographer which, when I think of it now, was absolutely crazy as it is so difficult. You have literally zero control on the day, the conditions and the people and zero chance for a ‘take two’. Plus I was painfully shy back then and I literally used to have nightmares about organising people for group photos. Still, I trained for it, I practiced and practiced, I learned the tricks and got good at it. It’s the same with every photography area. My husband had to just relearn a load of stuff to launch commercial photography. Just because you can do one type, doesn’t mean it translates. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 18 years of doing this job is that the camera settings are the least of your concerns.
Having said that I wouldn’t go on about safety, I am going to mention that some shots do need to be composites in order to achieve them safely. The one in the fireman’s helmet for example, you can’t just chuck a baby in it and expect them to balance. You may laugh that people wouldn’t figure that out but I’ve seen it on YouTube and so it must be true. Or the one with the twins – that requires a supporting hand as well. It’s kind of a cross between safety and a trick of the trade – I’ve also seen fun Pinterest ‘Nailed It’ photos where people have tried to recreate stuff at home and it just looks rubbish. Newborn babies are small and squishy and there’s an art to not making them look like a deflated balloon – usually it needs a fair amount of little cushions strategically stuff around.
A general understanding of how newborns work is helpful and also why they behave the way they do is helpful. I have spent a lot of time and planning in creating the right environment for them in the studio, plus safe props that will be comfortable for them to pose on. That of course doesn’t mean that they turn up and automatically fall asleep – what a tender world that would be – but I know I’m giving them the best possible chance. I learned more about newborns doing this job than I did when I had one of my own to take care of though I will admit that it’s easier to cycle through soothing techniques when you haven’t spent the last week with sleepless nights.
Props and posing equipment is another area – why would you have a giant beanbag or a miniature bed if you weren’t a newborn photographer? Yes, you can improvise with some cushions but the results are better with the right tools for the job. A good stack of wraps, blankets, fuzzy fluffers and generally pretty tiny things are something that you just don’t have unless it’s your job. So you get more choice when you go with someone who specialises.
Patience. This is the key ingredient to being a newborn photographer. And probably regular yoga to iron out the kinks you get in your back. But mainly patience. A lot of photography is quite fast moving and you get instant gratification but newborns are different. They are the long game. They are more settling then photography in a lot of cases. They are gentle movements, slow transitions and the confidence to know that you will get there even if you are currently getting screamed at by a tiny red-faced person. So I guess, that’s why it is specialist.