I grew up with babies, toddlers and young kids running around the house and becoming part of our family. Just after my younger sister was born, Mum became a childminder and opened up our house to new faces and lots of little lives. From newborn to school age, I got to enjoy being a big sister to all of the children that came to be minded by Mum.
Having that experience and learning how to look after children in a family environment has been a huge help when photographing babies and toddlers today. I haven’t met a kid yet who couldn’t spot a faker straight away. If you don’t really like kids, if you can’t stand acting a little silly or talking about the relative merits of watching either Mr Tumble, Thomas or Peppa Pig then any little kid will know that you’re pretending. That is why I’ve always been upfront about hating Big Cook, Little Cook. But if your little one loves the Wonder Pets, we’ll be firm friends. It’s good to be honest.
Knowing how to engage children and keep their attention has been a great tool in capturing beautiful portraits of them. Because I enjoy playing like a little kid, despite being the right side of 30 (and 29 is the wrong side by the way), I’ll always find a way to connect with the person I’m photographing. The shy ones, the quiet ones, the “I-really-don’t-want-to-be-here-having-my-picture-taken-Mum” ones. Even the ones who love the camera, who have rehearsed a smile that is big and brash but not really them – those are the kids who I love to work with because I know, given time, I can wear them out playing, get them to trust me and create that perfect portrait that is so exactly them right now, that you’ll remember that stage in their life forever. Next month, they’ll be different. Hate Dora, love Lazy Town instead.
When families are looking for a photographer, they can find me in lots of ways. They can google, or maybe chat to a friend who sends them my way (thank you if you do!), or sometimes they come across a competition on facebook and decide to enter. I am so glad that this family did. They won a mini session with me, a complimentary 7×5 print and I got to spend time with their adorable baby girl.
She was given her name before she arrived. But on a trip to Italy, they found a new spelling that means she will always be a part of the story – the story where daddy took mummy on a wonderful holiday, planned it all perfectly and kept the ring hidden until the moment he proposed.
During their session I discovered that if your baby is blue-eyed and gorgeous, always smiling, unbearably cute and learning to (almost) sit up, despite being just 5 months old, the session will be full of fun.
When she is finished in her little denim number it’s time for a quick change. She is squeezable. So yummy in fact, that she likes to chew on her own hand. What sensible baby doesn’t? If the mouth is open, it won’t be long before the little chubby hand follows. Or she’ll give the perfect “O” of surprise when mummy pops up behind the photographer, rattling something, and telling her number one just how gorgeous she is.
And she is. Totally gorgeous.
Don’t you find it useful when the fates collide and the colours in the room decide to blend perfectly with her butterfly dress and incredible blue eyes. When she’s had enough of sitting up or standing (with help, but her little legs are already so strong) it’s time for a rest. So you call her name, hope for the very best, and she gives it to you when she sees herself reflected back in the black camera lens.
She gets the hang of it very quickly, this posing business. Here she is, working the camera when daddy picks her up for another change of outfit and scenery.
I love it when somebody special makes something beautiful that we can use during the session. What better way to show off baby then next to a pretty pink quilt, handmade by her godmother. Baby decides this is a perfect time to pull out some more of her gorgeous expressions. We get a re-working of the classic chewing fist pose, quickly followed by the thoughtful look with arms crossed position, rounded off perfectly with the look that makes me laugh so much I have to stop for a bit – her adorable full on giggle.
That quilt, so beautifully made, is also reversible (I want one!) so we head out into the garden and use the little flower side. She shows her delight by kicking those baby legs and gurgling away.
We get towards the end of our mini-session and the light is so soft and pretty outside. We all stand round, mummy, daddy and me looking at a hint of a smile, the softest little head of fair hair and blue eyes that you could dive into. The perfect little baby girl.
I delivered the prints today. It is a thinly veiled excuse to get back round for a cuddle if I’m honest. She greeted me with a gurgle. It amazes me how quickly they grow and develop – she’s reaching out now, loves to kick and play in her baby gym on the floor. But she is getting even stronger too – she loves to stand up, look you straight in the eye and smile. Her hair is growing longer, but it’s still so soft, and she can still chew on her hand with the best of them. And her adorable baby smell – there’s nothing like it really.