Newborn Shoot: Posing with Parents Part 1
We have our first couple here with their little baby, and she is sound asleep, so we're going to get started pretty quickly. I have actually spoken to mom and dad in the break to find out what they're comfortable with doing and what they're not comfortable with doing, so they've pretty much given me free range, so you're in for a treat. (laughing) We've got an hour and a half, and what I'm going to do is I'm going to try and get a shot of mom on her own with the baby, a shot of dad on his own with the baby, and shot of the parents together with the baby, and if we've got a little bit of time, we might actually try and do a nice hand shot, of dad's hands, holding the baby, nice close up one, with a black background, which will look really, really good. So I'm going to show you that in my studio, you've seen how small it is, and what I do for space, and the backdrops that I actually use. I have a great wall that's painted in a really neutral stone color, so it's perfect as a backdrop for...
a light shot. For a dark shot, I use a piece of black fabric, and it's just a stretchy piece of fabric that I raise my backdrop stand and I clamp to the sides. So, I'm going to use that today, and I also wanna use a nice light colored background. And because I don't have my beautiful wall, and we've got some pictures hanging on the walls here, I'm just going to use one of my lighter colored wraps, I'm sorry, throws, and that'll be just a nice, firm, even background that'll be blurry in the background, anyway, but it'll be a great color to work with. So I'm going to set my backdrop up first with the black, and then when we do the shot of them together, I'll put the lighter color on there. So, apparently yesterday, quite a few people went to Dragon Image to find out where to get this backdrop stand, which is great. But my piece of fabric is just from a fabric store, and it's stretchy, so it can be clamped. And if you're having to travel to people's homes, this is a really great option, because you can't always have a seamless roll to lug around with you, and they do get damaged quite easily, and this is a really economical way to have a backdrop. And if it gets soiled or anything like that, you can just throw it in the washing machine. So this backdrop stand actually goes up quite high, and I think dad's quite tall, aren't you? I'm tall. It's good, actually, being tall, because when I sort of have to lift this up in my studio, I always put it to a height that's just above me, and that way I'm gonna be safe, I've got enough background around everyone. This particular stand also comes with two extra bars, so you can make it double the width as well, if you had to do a large family shoot with it, or something like that. But, I've had to clamp pieces of fabric to people's window frames and doorways, and anything to try and get a backdrop for the shot.
Kelly, can you tell everyone online again what kind of material that's made of, that stretchy black fabric?
It's like a stretchy, I don't know what you call it.
Is it like a cotton, is it,
It's not a cotton, it's more like a synthetic. Actually, my shirt is made of something very similar, so it's just like a t-shirt material, and it's low sheen, as well, so it's not going to give off any shine as well, but yeah, what I did was, in Australia we have a store called Spotlight, which is full of fabric. And I just went in and I wandered through all the blacks in the different fabrics and I just found something that was nice and stretchy so that when I pull it, it's going to be seamless, and it's not gonna have any creases or anything in it as well. Because you don't have time to iron. Can I actually, can I grab, can you come and give me a hand, just to help pull the other side up? That way it'll make it quicker. Yeah, there we go. Thank you. Okay, I'll come over and clamp it up for you. Dear oh dear. Okay, so it's just the cheapest, easiest option. I actually had the option to use a beautiful seamless backdrop here, but I wanted to show you what I do in my studio, because it's so easy, and it's easy to transport if you have to go and photograph in someone's home. So, our light direction is this way, so I'm going to bring our parents in front of the backdrop stand here, so that they're in the light, and the light is also going to bounce in behind, and if I need to, I'll bring in a reflector as well. Just lift this side a bit more. Is that about right? Okay, so I'm going to shoot dad first, and the reason that I shoot the dad first is because when I do the shot of them together, it's usually when the mom is holding the baby, especially when there's a height difference, because I'll get the dad in nicely around the mom and make that beautiful, nice, close connection between the two of them. If the dad was holding the baby and there's quite a big height difference, I would have the baby here and bring the mom in that way, so they were facing each other, and the baby was between them, but I love it when the dad is a lot taller than the mom, because he can really get in behind her and give her a great cuddle. So I'm going to do you first, if you can just pass your baby to your wife. She's beautiful. And how much did she weigh again?
10 pounds, she's gorgeous. Okay, come on over. All righty-o, so we're going to get dad to take his button shirt off first. Do you want to go behind the screen?
I'm okay. (laughing)
Cool, it's only women watching, anyway. (laughing) you're going to make their day. Okay, let me take that for you. So, are you comfortable with taking your shirt off?
I never, like, when it comes to the mom and dad shots, I will never tell the dad to take his shirt off. I will always ask them, and usually they've seen images of the dad holding the baby against the skin. I don't want to show his whole body, but I really want to show that connection and that skin to skin touch. And it's just all about them then, not about a shirt, and the background, or anything, everything is about them in the image, which is beautiful. Okay, so get that one off. What's her name again?
Annie, she is adorable. Right, come on over. So when it comes to telling the dad how to hold their baby, I like to make it as comfortable as possible for them, and I also have to show them, because I'm going to say, right, I want you to hold the baby, they don't know how. They can't visualize what I'm trying to do or the best way to have the baby's face visible or anything like that. So it's really important to give them clear instruction and show them where to have their hands. So let's just go over to our backdrop a little bit more, careful there, just come forward to me just a bit and turn towards the light. And she's, like, a big baby, so I actually wouldn't put her in a position where she could potentially fall or anything like that. She needs to be supported, because I can feel how heavy she is, like, we had six pound babies in here yesterday, and this, God, look at her, she's adorable. So we just really really want the dad to hold his baby up towards his face, to show that bond and that connection. So what I'm going to do, I've brought his hands up, I'm directing him, I'm touching him, hope you don't mind. I'm actually going to put her head and her arms up in this hand, and her bottom in this hand. And then once she's in his hands I'm going to make some final fine tune adjustments with hands and feet and things like that. Oh God, isn't she divine? So I'm going to bring her hands up again. So while I'm placing her in your hands, I want you to keep your hands roughly where I've put them. I've had the dads bring their hands forward to me and try to take their baby off them, but it's very hard once they do that, it's like they're picking them up and it's hard to position the baby in their hands without me placing the baby in their hands. So I'm just folding this bottom leg up, can I get you to come and grab that for me, thank you so much.
Just a little mess.
That's all right. Oh, sweetheart. Okay, so bring your hand back up. And you need to direct them. Okay, so your bottom hand is all right? (baby crying)
Oh, that is beautiful.
She's peeing on me.
Oh, is she peeing? She is. That's actually a little bit of poo. (laughing) so I'm going to get ready to take the shot, and I'm gonna grab my camera, just in case there's a special little moment that I'm not going to miss because I've got my camera on me and not on the ground. I'm going to bring her head just forward there, so we can see her face. Okay, that's it. She has the most divine cheeks, I'm going to position her cheeks on your thumb, because I don't want to cover those. And I actually really love this arm hanging down, so, I'm going to get a shot with that. I'm going to get a shot of the arm hanging down, and then we might position it back up underneath her little face there. So what I want you to do is take a deep breath in, close your eyes, and relax. Okay, now look down at your baby, and just bring her up towards your face. You can give her a little kiss, you can smell her. Isn't that beautiful? Okay, so what I'm going to do now is position her little hand, so I want you to bring this arm out so it's nice and flat. She's having a stretch, and while she's doing that, we're going to bring that hand in underneath her face. Oh, a big stretch. That's a girl. (baby fussing) I didn't need to do anything, this dad's awesome. If I actually did have a dad that was a little bit nervous doing this, and wasn't as confident, I would probably just grab his hand, and I'd start bouncing with him, to settle the baby back down. But I didn't need to do anything, I'm just holding her hands in place while the dad shushes her to sleep, which is beautiful. I am actually going to take the weight of the top half of her, and I want you to slide your hand back towards you, just so your fingers aren't in front of her face. Pull back, perfect. (baby fussing) We can bring this back arm down. Give her a little cuddle. Give her a little cuddle in towards you, yeah, that's nice.
Shh, it's okay. (baby crying)
Oh, she's looking for food on dad's chest. So, I'm going to take her, and I'm going to settle her down, because I don't have a shirt off, and you can go and wipe that off. So, in a session at home, I would definitely take the baby at that point, because they're starting to look when they wake, and they're starting to look for food like that, I don't have anything they want, I'm not going to hold them in a position that's anywhere, that's got anything close to their mouth, so I can just gently rock them, (baby crying) gently rock them back to sleep. So I've slowly turned her towards the light, because that's going to make her close her eyes. And she's going back off to sleep.
That's an amazing tip, for those of us who are not moms, turn the eyes towards the light. I was just going to ask you another question from Missy in London, who is also not a parent, and it says, can you share any tips as to when you know the babies are in deep enough sleep to work with? Are there any particular cues that you get from the baby?
They tend to breathe a little bit more deeply when they're in a sound sleep, like, their breathing is a little bit slower. And just when you move them, if you're just gently touching their wrist or anything like that, if they don't pull against you or sort of react too much, you can pretty much tell that they're in a sound sleep. So, it's all about that touch, when you touch a baby and you feel its muscles tense in that area and it will pull against you, you just gently, gently wait, they'll eventually relax. Okay, come back over. So, I might go back to that, because I want to show you how I position the baby in the hands, up near the dad's face, so she needs to be supported underneath. So we'll place her back, the bottom first into that hand. So, as I'm rocking her, I'm just gently moving my hand. Now what I'm going to do is bring that hand around underneath mine, perfect. And just give her a little rock. There we go. We'll get her settled, and then we'll gradually just tuck her legs back up into dad's hands. Crossing her legs. That's beautiful. So the only thing I want to do now is bring this hand in underneath dad's fingers. So keep gently rocking. See, she's pulling against my hand, so she's not in a deep sleep there. And just when I lift her head, flatten your fingers out and I'll slide her hand in underneath. Perfect. There we go. And that's perfect. Just gently bring her towards you, do you feel secure enough, you feel good? It's really important that the dad feels comfortable holding their baby. If you've got them in a position and they're uncomfortable, it's not safe for the baby and it's not good for the dad, he's going to feel really unsure of himself. So, again, just breathe in, relax your shoulders, and look down and little Annie. Can you just take a step that way for me? Thank you. Only because my backdrop is not that wide, being a black backdrop, I can actually create more black in an image, so I'm not too concerned about my composition here, I'm just really focused on nailing that connection between the dad and the baby. Now, can you bring her face gently up towards yours, and just, yeah, look at me. Beautiful. Oh, she's strong. Here we go. And just bring her face up gently toward his, that's it. Now I'm going to come in at a bit of an angle and just lean into her, rest your face on hers, that's it, I'm going to come in nice and close. How beautiful is that? All right, so now we're going to bring mom in and get a beautiful photo of her. And then, we might actually have to bypass the white blanket, I think, because we're going out of time, but we're going to shoot them together on the black. So, yeah, is that all right?
Dad has quite a fan club online.
Okay, so when I'm positioning the baby into mom's hands, like, she's asleep, so I'm going to leave Annie there for a minute while I show mom how I want her to have her hands. And I wouldn't have the mom hold the baby looking down like that unless it was a more intimate type of photo that we're going for, but we're going for a portrait where you can see both of their faces, and can still get the baby nice and close and get that connection as well. So what I'm going to do is, we have our light to my left, so we want this hand, the hand that's closest to the light, to come up and rest on mom's collarbone, and we're gonna put Annie's little face up in here, so it's gonna be facing the light, which is going to be beautiful. And then this hand, it's going to hold Annie's bottom. (laughing) So when I place her in your hands, I'm going to put her head here and her bottom here. I'm just gonna bring your hair back, is that all right? So that it doesn't tickle Annie's face or any other part as well. So, just put this hand, push back into my hand, beautiful. She's arching her back, hang on a minute. Because she's so strong, I'm actually gonna support her, I'm not just going to dump her in her mom's arms. (baby crying) Okay, I'm going to take her back. (baby crying) You know what you want, Miss Annie. The minute they smell their mom, and if they're slightly awake or just, you know, started fussing, the first thing they're gonna want to do is feed. (laughing) Is she a good feeder? (baby crying) Oh, you are boisterous! She's so strong, I can't believe the muscles in her back and everything. Look at her stretching. See, as I rock her and settle her, I'm actually using my hand just to keep her arms sort of in, nice and close, because I don't want her arms to sort of go flying out and to startle her. And I'm just holding her on her back because this is going to be the easiest position to transition her from my hands onto the mom. Okay, Miss Annie, let's go. Okay, bring that hand nice and high up onto your collarbone. See if we can trick her. And keep bouncing. Can I get a wet wipe, or a tissue or something? Oh great, thank you. So, I don't want to wake her up, but her bottom is a little bit wet under there, and I don't want mom's hand to slip, so I'm just gonna do a little bit of dabbing here, and try not to wake her up. These are all important when you're holding a baby, because you don't want to feel like she's slipping, and being a heavy baby, you know, we want mom to feel secure as well. And Annie will sense if she's not, does your watch come off easy, or does it slip over?
It slips over.
Oh, okay. Because we don't have time, and I know that if I pull mom's hand out Annie may just wake up and unsettle, I'm going to leave her watch on, but I would normally take it off. Okay, so what I want to do is bring Annie's head up a little bit higher, I'm gonna help mom, that's it, so she's beautifully in close up in here. And my hands, just while she's settling into that position, are just stopping her arms and legs from flying out, that's all I'm doing. I'm not holding her, they're just there as a guide so that she feels secure while mom rocks her to sleep. And the only thing I'm going to do to change this before I take a picture is just move mom's thumb back in line with her fingers so it's not covering her ear, and then the rest is up to you. Okay, so this little leg can come flying out if it likes. Okay, I'm gonna grab my camera. So what I'm gonna do, is ask mom to turn a little bit towards the light, just keep gently swaying, that's it, because she's not sound asleep. Turn a little bit more back towards me. And what I want you to do is just bring her, pull her in nice and tight to you, that's it. I'm gonna get an exposure shot. So I could possibly bring in a reflector here, but it's not too bad. Not so bad that I'm absolutely desperate for one. So when you're ready, just get comfortable, that's it, pull her in nice and close, take a deep breath in, you can stop swaying, and breathe out and just relax. That is beautiful. So I'm gonna come up in nice and close to get that beautiful angle. Just turn into Annie just a little bit more. Now, I am shooting at around, and stop rocking. (chuckling) They do that without even knowing. (laughing) And just lift your chin forward just a little bit more towards me, and look up at me. Bring your chin forward just a little bit more, and rest into Annie, beautiful. They're gorgeous. Now I'm gonna ask you to try as hard as you can to imagine you're in a little bit more of a quiet setting, without lots of people watching you, and I want you to turn into her and just smell her, because there is nothing better to a mother than the smell of her own baby. That was beautiful. And that's how I would do that. So I have an image of the mom looking at the camera, I have an image of the mom looking down at the camera, I have her smelling, I've got some great options there. I also got some images of the dad smelling, kissing, touching his baby with his face, and also looking at the camera, so I've got a really good variety there without having to do too much except for making sure Annie was comfortable in their arms. So, come on in. This is where I would bring the dad into a nice shot together. Okay, so instead of having dad directly behind, I kind of want them to turn slightly in towards each other, but still have your arms around her, giving her that massive hug. That's it. And being side on and turned into each other, you know, they can lean on each other, and I can get that beautiful connection together, and you can get their faces all in line, which is lovely. If he was behind, he's gonna look further away from the camera and not really in it. I want him in the picture, this is their family, so it's really important to get that connection. So, she's leaning into you, I want you to lean back into her, perfect. And how adorable is Annie there? Okay, so just bring your chin forward to me a little bit and rest in, that's it, nice. Now take a deep breath in and relax. I know it's hard. That is beautiful. Okay, now what I want you to do is just turn towards each other, you can look at each other, just come, that's it, leaning, have a little bit of a cuddle. This is pretty important subject right here, but the connection right there between the two of them, that's where my focal point was, on the mom and dad's eyes. But I'm shooting at around f.4, so I'm still going to have a baby that's nice and sharp in the image. But the connection between the two of them was more important than anything. All right, we're done. Thank you so much, that was absolutely beautiful.
I loved every second of it. Are you okay, let me help you. I love the feisty babies.
She's a feisty one.
Oh, she's beautiful.
Kelly, while we transition to the next baby, we have a couple questions for you, if that's all right. Chris M. wants to know, do you always shoot the dad with the baby first, or sometimes do you switch mom first, and is there a reason?
It always depends on the couple at the time. There are some dads that don't want to be in the photos, and there are actually some times when the mom just comes to the session without the dad. So it always depends on them, but, in this circumstance, like I was explaining before, with there being quite a big height difference, I really wanted the dad in holding his family, I thought that was beautiful. So that's why I shot him first, then I could put the baby into the mother's hands, and it's all about that flow in the session. So by then, photographing the mom holding the baby, I didn't have to readjust the baby, I just had to bring the dad in behind, so it was all about that final image and finding the best flow with minimal movements to get to that final image.
Really smart. Another question is from April at HWTH. What do you do if the dad doesn't want to take his shirt off? What shirts do you recommend, button ups, t-shirts, what are the other things?
Tina, again, it's entirely up to the dad. Like, I get a lot of businessmen in my studio, and they will come with a button up shirt, and they don't want to take their shirt off, that's fine. The images are going to hang on their walls, not mine. But I do tell them to stay away from large patterns and large logos on shirts. So that's probably why they come with a button up shirt, but the majority of the time, they'll come with usually a dark, sort of very plain shirt, which is great for photos. I just loved that set up. That was so beautiful.
That was beautiful, absolutely. And another question that's related with mothers, after giving birth, how do you allay their concerns if they're a little bit uncomfortable in their bodies, being photographed, they're not very confident, how do you work with them?
Oh, definitely, not every mom wants to be in the photos. I try to encourage it with every parent that comes in to the studio to at least have one photo with their baby, because, even though at the time they may not feel like it, years later, down the track, they're going to cherish those moments with their child that stays this big for a very short amount of time. They're going to cherish those images forever. So, I tell them that. I say, look, you don't have to buy this image, but please, just let me take a picture of you with your baby, and because the mom is so conscious, she's just given birth, she has a range of hormones going through her body, she's adjusting to sleepless nights and all those things that are going on, so she doesn't feel great. But I reassure how beautiful she is at the moment, she has just given birth to a baby, and that I'm only going to be shooting from here up, so that it's all about the connection, and I tell them that. And all the photos of mine that they see on my website, which is really important when clients come to you, because they know what to expect, all those photos are nice, tightly cropped images of the parents together, so they're not, like, full body shots or anything like that, where they do have that need to feel self-conscious. Occasionally I will do a full body one, but that is entirely up to whoever's in the photo and if they're confident enough with that.
Would you shoot the mom in all black as well?
Yeah, definitely. By bringing them, by angling my black backdrop and bringing them slightly forward, the light is actually going to hit the backdrop, and there will be a difference in shade of black, from the mom's shirt, to the dad's shirt. And if you light it properly, if she was in black, I would definitely throw a reflector in there to throw some more light on her shirt so I don't lose detail in it, because sometimes when the parents are in black and I'm shooting on a black background, it kind of looks like floating arms and legs, because you can't see any detail in their clothing, so it's really important to light it properly, and if they are wearing black, use a reflector to throw more light on their clothing.