I visited the Old Bakery for another studio session, and this week we looked at baby and toddler photographing and to be honest I did not take many photos, I found it a bit overwhelming in the attitude of some of the photographers who attended. It is hard posting that online but I really felt them some of them forgot the most important part of the evening.
We were not photographing an object we were photographing something that was the most precious thing in the world. it as only four days old!
Earlier in the week a friend sent me this…
“I was half naked.
I felt vulnerable.
I felt on show.
I felt close to tears at times.
All I was doing was being photographed. When my little baby was just 7 weeks old, I agreed to take part in a workshop where some photographers were learning how to shoot newborns. I was excited to take part and knew that we’d hopefully get some lovely shots at the end of it.
Everyone was very nice and the instructor was great, I enjoyed the shots where I was clothed and my little one was asleep. But then she woke up, cried for milk and I was breastfeeding.
I had a dress on that slipped over my head which of course was entirely inappropriate for breast feeding, so I kept having to nip to the toilets to hitch up my dress and feed her and then come back out for shots.
I began to feel stressed and anxious. I was aware my baby was naked and may pee on me at any moment! She might get cold, be uncomfortable and start crying. My anxiety was rising.
The photographers gathered round as one person showed them some ideas for posing and then they were invited to take shots themselves. Not one single person introduced themselves to me or my baby. They didn’t say hi, ask us how we were, if I was ok, or comfortable. Nothing … others just clicked and clicked and moved around us,…
They were so busy changing settings, moving around looking for a good shot, stressing over getting portfolio images, they forgot there were real people in front of them. I felt uncomfortable and ill at ease, tears began to sting in my eyes.
…. The images I received afterwards were of course lovely, but it’s so true what they say, I remember how they made me FEEL and if I’m honest it wasn’t a great experience.”
My heart went out to the amazing mum who came to the studio today. Her precious bundle was just four days new. The studio was warm but one photographer took the lead, posed the shoots and the photographers scrambled over who could turns, I don’t think anyone realised that the toddler was bored, his new sister was getting all the attention and they were cuing for the sync lead. No one was asking mum what she wanted from the experience and I was not brave enough to speak up – I wish I had. If the baby murmured they offered mum the chance to feed her, what she needed most was for her mum to feel comfort, relaxed and valued and I don’t think that happened. I chatted to mum briefly – but you could see her concern was on her family, and making sure they stayed safe!
I managed one photo – before the baby was unsettled and I mum was encouraged to take her for a cuddle. On the white background and nestled into the knitted prop I provided she was beautiful – but this time as a photographer I did not relate, and I don’t think the photo did her justice….
I did take some more photos – only a couple and then I quickly passed the sync lead on, and I chatted to mum, she was concerned her baby was messing the baby nest and I was delighted to be able to reassure her that it was fine – it was a prop I had brought along and left out and the photographer had chosen to use it. They are not perfect photos, I was working quickly, aware of mum’s stress levels, and my priority was to share the experience – I noticed two other regular attendees stepped back too from the session… but the baby was perfect.
I am amazed at the difference my cream through makes compared to the white one, I think I prefer the warmer colours, but I like the lack of texture in the other blanket but that is down to personal choice … but I feel left with no connection…. I do not know anything about the little girl, I don’t know her birth weight, I don’t know how she was born, I don’t know her story and that is something I enjoy finding out about when I do take baby photos. I also felt that the photos don’t belong to the parent – there is no sense of scale or belonging, no ownership from the photos from the family… and that is what I want to include in my images.
I then got to meet the toddler – he was a little nervous of all the people, 15 plus photographers, some teenage models and a few other adults – but he was lovely when he had the attention, it was just a shame that so few people focused on him. I was not always looking through the shutter, I was chatting and trying to make him laugh – he needed to feel special and important as after all he has just become a “Big Brother” and that really is a big deal!
What inspired me most during the shot was the quiet moment I captured – we also had three teen models – I was share that on post 299… not got time to edit till then …. but while the focus was on one of them, and mum was busy with the baby I got to see this … The photographers were chatting, learning sharing experiences and the models just being ignored – without them photo shoots would not be possible – yet they should be the most important people in the room!
Sorry for the long post …. this experience has made me so much more aware of people’s feelings, of standing up for what you believe in and has made me realise that I should have spoken up for the mum – my future shoots will reflect on this, about personalizing the photos for the family and for valuing their input – I know what i feels like to be “just a mum” – but in reality this mum who brought her baby and toddler along was the most important person there.
The best thing about the evening – one of the photographers had made an amazing cake for our coffee break – the mum thought it was a gift for her and took it home!
They say “You can’t have your cake and eat it (too)”. This is a popular English idiomatic proverb. It literally means “you cannot both possess your cake and eat it”. Once the cake is eaten, it is gone. It can be used to say that one cannot or should not have or want more than one deserves or can handle … I just wish the mum knew that today she got the upper hand, she hopefully got to eat the cake and I would say she deserved it all!