My best friend of 20 years texted me one night a couple weeks ago and asked if we could FaceTime. Kathy said she had to show me something and get my opinion. So I had to install FaceTime on my phone and figure out how to use it...but I never thought twice. I got her and her husband, Greg, on the line and she asked me to get my husband because we are both creative and she needed our opinion on framing a photo. She swiveled the camera to the coffee table and there on the screen was a sonogram picture! I instantly had tears in my eyes and asked her if she was kidding. Which was a dumb question to ask (insert face-palm here).
She asked me if I would help them with announcement photos...which was also a dumb question. Like she had to ask! To be honest, I had never done pregnancy announcement photos, but that was certainly not going to stop me!
The soon-to-be parents wanted the photos to feature their fur babies, so I did some research (aka pinterest) and sent Kathy some ideas. Her husband plays guitar and she is a book nerd like me, so we wanted to incorporate those things into the session. I ordered a "How to Be a Big Brother" prop book for their ten year old Bernese Mountain Dog, Tama, to read. I also found a cute book of lullabies for guitar so their newest addition, Chilly, could study up. Kathy found some baby sized Converse All-Stars that were perfect because they wore Converse at their wedding. I packed up various chalkboards and Kathy stocked up on dog treats and invited her neighbor over to help (Greg was at work). We were ready...or so we thought.
We started the session with the big chalkboard sign and tried to get the two dogs to sit nicely on either side. Tama was cool with it since we weren't asking much. He just laid down in the grass and looked around. Chilly was far too excited. I quickly realized it was better to get her sitting and then move everything else instead of the other way around. I ended up having to combine three images, edit out leashes and shorten the flower bed in the background. They didn't need all those red flowers anyway, right?
I wasn't sure how we were going to get the books to stand up, but the grass was just long enough to keep them upright. Again, Tama was cooperative. We didn't even make him move from the spot he claimed for the first shot. He looked at the book and perked up his ears. Click! Done.
We grabbed one of Greg's guitars from the house for Chilly's turn. The breeze was blowing the pages of the book and she was still way too excited to sit. I think it took around six tries and lots of treats to get the shot I wanted. In the process we got one of her leaping over the guitar, which ended up being Greg's favorite.
We moved up to the deck for the shots with the baby shoes. Tama plunked down where we asked him, but we had to convince him to sit instead of getting comfy. Again...Chilly...excited. There was a lot of positioning and frustrated commands that weren't obeyed. But I managed to get a pretty good one of them all lined up. Tama was kinda over it at that point, but he didn't complain when I put the shoes in between his furry paws for one more shot.
Greg had asked Kathy to try to get one of the dogs with their paws up on the railing. That is how they greet visitors. Kathy's neighbor, Val, had been helping us but we thought maybe if she went around the side of the house and then came back, they would jump up to say hi. Nope. They were not fooled. Tama laid down in a shady spot on the deck and looked at us like we were crazy. We tried all kinds of things to get them up there...commands, calls, treats. Chilly was doing it for treats at first but Tama wouldn't budge. So Kathy literally dragged him over and picked him up to put his paws on the railing. In case you can't tell, Tama is a very heavy dog. She finally got him up there and then Chilly wouldn't join him. UGH!
So I knew this was going to have to be a composite. On Kathy's third try picking Tama up, I got a shot that I could use. Part one done. We got Chilly to jump back up using a ridiculous amount of treats. Part two. Then I put the shoes on the railing and got part three. You'd think the shot of the shoes would have been the easiest part but it took almost as long as the ones with the dogs because the sun went behind a cloud so I had to sit there and wait for the lighting to change back.
At this point, we were all sweating. The health of Kathy's back muscles was in serious question, and our treat supply was dwindling. I asked Kathy if there was anything else she wanted. And she says, "Can we get one with Peanut?"
To say that their cat, Peanut, has an attitude is the understatement of the century. All you have to do is be within five feet of her and she will hiss and growl at you. She hates everyone except for Greg. When they have company, they have to put her in a room and shut the door so she doesn't hurt anyone. She once cornered one of their friends in the bathroom and made the poor girl cry. So needless to say, I was skeptical about trying to get a photo of her.
Kathy wanted to use a sign that said, "I'm not mad", which, of course, fits Peanut perfectly. I thought it would be funny to use the baby Converse and make it look like she attacked them. As Val and I were untying shoelaces and carefully messing up the shoes, Kathy was getting Peanut high as a kite with catnip. Genius!
Kathy carried the loopy (and yet still growling) cat on to the deck and set her down. I put the shoes in front of her (quickly so I wouldn't get swatted) and started shooting. She just sat there. She sniffed the shoes and rubbed up on the chalkboard and just looked right at the camera. It was amazing! I was blown away. I actually asked Kathy to try to make her mad and it didn't work. Kathy couldn't wait to tell Greg that Peanut was the best model of the day.
I met Miss C's mom several years ago when we worked together. When she contacted me for newborn portraits I was beyond excited. I always thought she would be a wonderful mother and I was so happy that she was having a baby girl...and even happier that she wanted me to capture her first year of life.
It was too late to do maternity photos by the time Mom contacted me, so we altered the Baby's First Year Plan. Instead of a maternity mini session, we added an extra session in to the year and decided to schedule the sessions for every three months.
I adored Miss C from the first moment I met her. We captured some of my all time favorite newborn images.
Her three month session was the hardest. She was in a mood that day and not quite pushing up on her tummy yet. We joked the whole session that she was stone-faced the entire time. At the very end she finally cracked a smile when we were out in the snow. I was shocked when I imported the images later and found several little smiles I didn't even know I captured.
Miss C's six month session is definitely one of my all time favorite sessions. She was sitting up perfectly and much more free with the smiles. Mom wanted to do something with pearls so I bought a lace romper and a long strand of fake pearls. I absolutely love the result! I also found a new use for the nest prop that had been sitting in the corner for a year.
For Miss C's nine month session, I was happy to finally have good weather so we could shoot outside. We went to a tiny out-of-the-way park in Syracuse where the flower garden had been let to go a little wild. She was so excited and proud to show me how well she could stand!
The one year session was a blast. The first half we did one year portraits outside before we moved in to the studio for a cake smash. She was so funny with the props. She kept picking them up and she just would not stop trying to run around! I couldn't help but laugh even as I chased her.
Miss C's birthday party was watermelon theme, but Mom decided she wanted something a little more timeless for her cake smash. She asked for a pink and gold theme and gave me creative license with the set. I found these gorgeous paper decorations from a company that makes wedding decor and knew right away they were perfect. We did a few shots in the set before we brought out the cake. Once we set the cake down, Miss C was in heaven! She demolished that cake and it was a messy beautiful disaster! Once she decided she was done, she took off crawling into the other room, leaving a trail of icing behind her.
The end of a Baby's First Year Plan is always so bittersweet. One year sessions and cake smashes are my favorite, but I'm always so sad when it's over. I am going to miss seeing Miss C and her mom every three months. I feel so honored to have been able to watch Miss C grow up and capture those memories for her family.
Cassandra Zingaro - photographer, mom, wife, owner of HeartStrings Photography and first time blogger