As I was developing the courses for the Academy, I found myself wondering….
When did the role of the Newborn Photographer change? Why did it change? And…Who did it change for?
A decade ago, when I began researching Newborn Photography as a genre’, I fell in love with it immediately! I fell in love with the prospect of being able to capture tiny little fingers and toes, sweet little noses and perfect heart shaped lips! I fell in love with being able to capture the pure, natural, raw beauty of the newborn baby and the miracle of a new life created. And most of all, I fell in love with being able to capture this extremely special and extremely short-lived time, for the parents; andfor the newborn themselves to look back on (in wonder!) in years to come.
This love only intensified when I had my own children and realised how valuable their newborn images were to me. Especially, as during the newborn period, I am sure I was not ‘mentally present’ the majority of the time! Like most new mothers, sleep deprivation, new routines and a very steep learning curve, meant that I was really just ‘making it through each day’. I did not have time (I had twins!), let alone the foresight, to realise how precious the newborn phase was or how quickly it would pass!
So as I embarked on my newborn photography career, I was inspired by photographers like Robin Long (http://www.robinlongphotography.com/), who had a very similar philosophy, about capturing the raw, natural, pure beauty of newborns. And timeless, priceless images for their families. I started off keeping things simple…lots of bean bag poses, a couple of simple set ups in bowls and of course mother, father and family portraits.
At the time, (around 2008) there were very few newborn photographers in Australia. US photographers were our teachers, mentors and our inspiration. There was little competition back then and we all liked to keep things pretty simple. There were no “Potato Sack” poses or digital backdrops. There were very few composites (there was no need for them!) other than for the ‘Froggy Pose’ and not many of us did this pose anyhow! We had macro lenses and loved to capture the tiny little details, like eye-lashes, lips and gorgeous hair curls!
There were very few prop vendors (especially in Australia!) and ‘props’ consisted of headbands, beanies, wraps and the occasional pant and bonnet set! There was facebook, but there wasn’t any instagram! There weren’t podcasts or online tutorials to buy. You could buy a handful of books and a few dvd’s!
Newborn Photography back then, was about simplicity and natural beauty. It was about gentleness and love. It was about safe handling and care.
Today however I feel as though newborn photography has shifted. I feel it has shifted to be more about creating an “award winning image” with a new and innovative set up or prop that no-one has created yet. I feel it is about creating and/or buying digital backdrops and endless composites to create these award winning images. I feel the focus is less on capturing timeless, natural images of the miracle of life and more on creating elaborate setups and poses.
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that safe handling and care is front of mind for the majority of newborn photographers. There are certainly a large number of workshops one can now attend and information is far more easily accessible regarding posing techniques and editing techniques! And this is certainly the positive of digital backdrops and composites!
But with far more easily accessible information (not always positive!) there has been an influx of newborn photographers to the market and this has created increased competition. The Newborn Photography market is oversaturated and this is now driving the need to ‘stand out from the crowd’ through the use of new props, setups and poses.
Over the last month, I have found myself being caught up in the craziness of it all. I bought some new props and I did some new poses – like the Potato Sack Pose – as a composite of course (which is the only way I believe it should be done).
But after each of these new setups or using these new props, I was left feeling disappointed. I wasn’t as happy with the final image as I thought I was going to be. But why?
And then I realised….It was because it wasn’t “real”. A newborn cannot (and should not!) sit in the Potato Sack Pose on it’s own, Moons and other such props were too staged and the Posing Pod just made the newborn look uncomfortable! (in my opinion).
So then why had I moved away from why I began newborn photography in the first place? Because, I (like everyone else) was feeling the pressure from an oversaturated market. And I thought I had to do what everyone else was doing, in order to continue to “keep up” with the industry and to attract new clients!
But then I realised something else…My clients have not been asking me for these new poses or complicated set ups. I have been extremely successful doing what I have been doing – focusing on the raw, natural, beauty of the newborn baby. My most popular images by far, are the bean bag poses
I started doing the new composite poses and setups to prove something to the industry. My clients did not care. They just wanted safe, uncomplicated, timeless images of their little miracle! They got far more joy out of simply seeing their little one safely lying on the bean bag or in a basket than a digital backdrop image that didn’t actually happen.
I realised that as an industry we are the ones who are in the “artistic driving seat”. Clients don’t sit at home (well most of them anyhow) thinking of new and innovative prop set ups or poses. Photographers do this!
Photographers have changed the role of the newborn photographer. Photographers have changed it in order to compete with other photographers. Photographers have changed the role of the newborn photographer to suit their own artistic needs.
Clients just want a talented photographer, with expertise and training on newborn’s. Clients want someone who take care of them and their newborn. Clients want someone who can capture all the precious details of their new baby, so they can hold them in their memory forever.