My former business partner and friend, Autumn Nowey, offered to come with me to the Bak home and help with Abigail's newborn session. It was wonderful to have an extra pair of hands. Autumn brought along her camera and set it up on a tripod to get some behind the scenes shots. I thought it might be interesting for people to see how the images are set up.
We constructed the mini studio next to the Bak's sliding glass doors and hung sheer white drapes to filter the light. I had the space heater close to keep little Abigail warm, a sound machine with white noise, and my props within easy reach. Mom and Dad hung out in the next room and took a much needed break. The first few images were set up using a newborn bean bag poser with a white blanket. Small pillows and towels were placed under the blanket where needed.
Abigail's parents requested that part of the session convey the idea of her being a rainbow baby, "a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better (definition via google)." I wanted to do this in a way that was meaningful, but not too bright and busy.
The majority of time during a newborn session is not actually spent photographing the subject. Every baby is different, but all of them require some TLC. I do a lot of shushing, patting, holding, rocking, and wiping...in between setting up shots and handing baby over to Mom or Dad for feeding. It's a long process that requires quite a bit of patience, but a big reason I love newborn photography is the times when I don't have a camera in my hand. I get to snuggle and hold these precious tiny babies. I get to give a new mom and dad a break where they can do whatever they want for a few hours. I get to create beautiful portraits that they will cherish and share and hand down to their grandchildren.
I love being able to include something special in each newborn session. Abigail was photographed with a rainbow blanket that was made for her. She was doing so well with all the poses that I decided to wrap her up in the blanket and let her be nice and comfy for a few minutes. I took some extra time with this pose and did a few creative shots, playing with where I chose to focus. I even got a little smile.
Whenever Abigail wasn't being photographed, I kept her wrapped up. It's very important for babies her age to stay warm. Not only because they can't regulate their body temperatures well, but also to keep them sleepy and pose-able. It's sometimes a struggle to transfer a baby from wrap to wrap, getting all tangled up while trying to be as gentle as possible.
Abigail decided to be awake for this portion of the session. I don't blame her. No matter how I pad that nest, it just can't be very comfortable. I like getting some shots of awake babies, but it has it's own challenges. Awake babies are going to put their hands and feet where they want to, no matter what you do! That's where wraps and sacks come in handy. Abigail was pretty chill, so I let her stay semi-unwrapped. She surprised me with the level of eye contact she made with the camera. She was so aware!
She kept sticking her little feet out, so I went with it. You have to be able to go with the flow in a job like this!
Another thing about photographing newborns is that you are on their timeline. Abigail let me know when she was hungry, very loudly. She knew what she wanted and she wanted it now. The memory of her yelling at me still brings a smile to my face.
I usually wait until the end of the session to do family portraits. Modeling is hard work for a week old baby and after about two hours of it, they need some mommy and daddy time. I am super careful not to cause their little bodies any strain during posing, but the movement keeps them from sleeping as deeply as they are used to, so after a while, they've had quite enough. Abigail had definitely had enough! She let Dad know that she wasn't very happy about more photos. We had to take a break before I even got a shot off, but once she had a rest and a full belly, she drifted off again.
I love seeing the expressions that Dads get on their faces when I ask them to look at their babies. Andrew gazed and smiled at Abigail with such love as he held his little rainbow baby in his arms. Even the awkwardness of the pose and the camera clicking away could't hide how much he adores her. During the whole session he was so willing to help, whether it was us or his wife. He and Bethany seemed like they were a team, and that is a very hard thing to accomplish as new parents, especially at such an early stage.
Bethany had a chance to take a nap before the family portion of the session. I felt bad waking her up! She is a very down to earth person and I expected her to be no frills for her part of the session. I love that she chose just to be her natural self. There is an indescribable beauty that radiates from a new mom that they're too tired and overwhelmed to see themselves. Bethany definitely had that beauty. I was so impressed by how in control she seemed. I certainly didn't feel that way when I had a newborn!
Abigail was a joy to photograph. I couldn't help but fall in love with her. She already had a no-nonsense personality at only a few days old! I can't wait to see what kind of toddler she grows into. I know she will be amazing!
Cassandra Zingaro - photographer, mom, wife, owner of HeartStrings Photography and first time blogger