One of my goals for 2016 is to keep my work simple and classic. I want my clients to walk away from their session with heirloom portraits that will be cherished for generations. The best way to illustrate my goal is to think about the difference between the words “trendy” and “classic”. Let’s think about some trendy/classic combos shall we:
- Leisure Suit/Black Tux
- Chia Pet/Tinkertoy
- Wood Paneling/Wainscoting
- Space Invaders/The Empire Strikes Back
- Doughnut Burgers/Hamburgers and Fries
So how does this translate to baby photography? There’s been a huge upswing of popularity in baby photography, specifically newborns within the last 6-7 years. Taking a cue from Anne Geddes, the trend of placing babies in buckets, plates, baskets, boxes, etc. quickly became the industry standard. I certainly shot my fair share of babies in baskets, sleeping soundly in slightly unnatural positions. Those shots are precious; I mean it’s a sleeping baby who’s posed peacefully with a featured prop. As my business grew, so did the popularity of these types of newborn portraits. I’ve shushed, precisely posed, and sweated under a space heater just to get these shots.
In 2012, I gave birth to my first child and immediately planned to take some newborn portraits of him. 2 weeks after he was born, I spent 2 hours setting up different shots of Walt with elaborate props and hats. When I sat down to edit his images, I didn’t feel excited or satisfied. They didn’t show who this little 9 day old baby was… who we had gotten to know in that short time… there was something missing. It took some time for me to figure out, but the key for how I would like to approach baby photography is natural and simple. I was doing some reading the other day and came across this quote, “Now I’ve come to understand that when I was doing what I thought I should, I was not being my real, genuine, authentic self.” – Mae Burke
That quote perfectly describes what I had been struggling with when I felt boxed in creatively. When I started sharing more images that spoke to me and that were genuine, my confidence flourished. And I started to attract like-minded clients who desired more than what was currently trendy. So what exactly is the problem with being trendy? I believe that when we look back at family portraits from decades ago, the ones that stand the test of time are ones that focus on the subject and their story. There are quite a few photos of me and my husband as children looking VERY 80’s and holding a few unfortunate props! But, there are some treasures in our photo collection that I’ll cherish forever. Let’s have a look at 2 images from our childhood that I believe are classic storytelling photography:
My husband, Kent, around age 3 asleep on his mother’s lap at a football game
My dad holding me as I sleep
Those 2 images speak volumes to me. One shows the struggle of toddler staying awake at a busy football game. Kent’s mother is perfectly contented to hold her middle child as he sleeps soundly away. The other image is very typical of those first weeks of having a newborn at home. Holding and pacifying while trying to maintain some sort of routine. Sitting on the couch watching TV while holding your newborn is one of the simplest, yet sweetest details in the 4th trimester.
And now here I am, telling the stories of the first moments of babies lives and the world around them. There’s no highly stylized version of your newborn baby, no elaborate setup. Just the story of your pregnancy, your baby’s day of birth, and their first moments home. Those moments will be the ones that catch your grandchildren’s eyes as they flip through your albums and prints, and they will no doubt want to hear the story behind those images.