Hello from Denver! The Downey Family At Home

After a short hiatus to move our life across the Rocky Mountains, I'm finally back at it, shooting family sessions in Denver! I'm learning that the weather can be crazy unpredictable compared to California, but am embracing the chance to use new lighting equipment indoors on a whim, where it's cozy while 20 degrees outside. :) We did exactly that during a snowy day with the Downey family. How cute are they!? And kitty got a family photo, too. Cute little tiger. 🐅

What's in my photography bag? How to create light and airy photos in any home for newborn portraits

Happy summer, friends! I've been enjoying some Q&A in photography mentoring sessions, and though every photographer has their own style, I thought I'd share what's in MY bag to illuminate any home, whether they have beautiful natural light or not. I travel light and carry all of this on my back (not including newborn props, etc). To perfectly illustrate an example of all of these items used, I'm featuring beautiful baby K and her amazing parents, Ramsey and Laura. Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments. I'm all about helping and contributing to the village! 

  1. Find the windows. Windows are your best friend. They provide the most natural light for beautiful photos, and it is best to position your client’s faces evenly toward this natural light. 
     
  2. Bring your diffuser and reflector. Sometimes window light can be harsh, especially if the sun is out in full force. Some diffusers are sheer white curtains if the client already has them, or you can use the diffuser that comes with your 5-in-1 reflector. Alternatively, shoot just outside of the sunshine line and use a white or silver reflector behind baby. 
     
  3. Bring a speed light flash, especially if you have not assessed a home prior to the shoot. Sometimes windows can be covered by foliage and you’ll need to rely on more than high ISO and can't compensate with lowering shutter speed with toddler siblings around. 😃 When using your strong speedlight in a poorly lit but essential room (i.e. nursery), always use bounce light on the walls behind you or on a standard height ceiling; never blow direct flash into your subject’s eyeballs. Bounce light will light your subject & rooms beautifully, and will fill in harsh shadows in rooms that have a single small window.
     
  4. Soft umbrella light with a 5500K CFL bulb (or similar. 5500K is the correct temperature for proper color). If you’ll need to shoot in an iconic place such as the nursery or mom & dad’s bed, the scene must be softly lit. For close-ups of baby (or baby solos), setting up a quick umbrella light with a CFL bulb will do the trick. Sometimes you’ll need to use bounce flash for lighting the whole family, but try to use as little flash on an alert baby’s eyes as possible. 
     
  5. Don’t forget extra batteries for both your camera and your speedlight flash! 
     
  6. Bedroom decor. Encourage white, cream or neutral colored sheets for beds. It adds to the light & airy look, bringing more focus to the people, and brings light back up to the under-eye area for the faux well-rested look (everyone is tired when babies are involved!).

Additional tips: 

  • Keep your subjects from looking into direct sun (especially baby, who lays down looking up) unless you’re using a diffuser or putting together a backlit shot.
  • For family scenes, you’ll need a larger space. The more people in the photo = the more light you will need for proper focus. This is a case for using your flash and bouncing off walls for softer lighting, or simply have the family face the window with a clean background.
  • Not sure of the right position for flash? Set up and test shoot while baby is being fed or changed. Use stuffed animals if you really need subject. 😃 

How do newborn photoshoots change as baby grows? Meet 7 Week Old Baby Parker

A common question I hear when talking to new parents who wish to have family photos with their newborn is: "Is it too late? Have I missed the window for newborn photos?" Often times, mommies and babies need extra time to settle in and recover (dads and siblings, too!). It's a huge life event to have a new person rock your world, so taking some extra time for yourself is really reasonable.

In short, the answer is it's never "too late" to have photos of your little one. Though sessions are designed for younger newborns (somewhere between 1 week and 1 month old), I work with newborns over a month old all the time. Simply put, we adjust the styling and pacing of the photo shoot to match baby's growth, and his/her wants/needs/opinions (yes, these babes have strong opinions!). 

Here are some key shifts between an older newborn shoot (over a month old) vs. a super-fresh newborn shoot (under 2 weeks). We will see with older newborns:

  • More more wake time!
    We will see more of those beautiful bright eyes in an older newborn.
  • A wider range of emotions.
    Because they're getting used to being in the outside world, and learning how adults will react if they cry or coo, we'll see more emotions that range from happy and silly to downright hungry and mad. And their mad faces are pretty cute, too.
  • A growing physique including weight and flexibility changes.
    This one is important to consider. A fresh baby is used to being swaddled up tight with their knees up (hey, mom's belly was pretty snug), and it's really calming for them to be wrapped up. Thus, younger newborns will often receive the photography tiny swaddle treatment. Older newborns past 1 month old may still enjoy being wrapped up tight and being styled as so, but more often than not, they'll want to stretch out their growing muscles and may prefer a different kind of wrap (looser, blanket overlays, etc). Newborns who have matured over several weeks will find it comforting to be in mom & dad's arms, so we will see more of that as they grow. This is really beautiful, considering that they are still so tiny and will not always be this small in your hands. :)

    If you have a preemie baby who has grown toward their original due date, their adjusted age will reflect a varied amount of muscle strength, emotions/wake time, and comfort in styling. We will let baby and mom provide feedback on what's comfortable in terms of posing and wrapping. Above all, I make sure baby is safe and takes breaks for eating, changing, and cuddles.

With that said, meet 7 week old newborn, Parker! He is so handsome; a perfect blend of his mom, Elizabeth and dad, Peter. We used props and scenes from his very first home -- all very unique to his family. Check out his solo pics in his beautiful crib and his incredible bassinet! White on white could be my new favorite. 

Thanks, Elizabeth and Peter for inviting me into your home to spend time with you and Parker! xo

How to Choose Your Wardrobe For a Family Photo Shoot

Have you ever heard of Awkward Family Photos? As much as I love the laughs, let's not land in volume 2.0, ok? :)  

When looking through your family's closets or shopping, keep these 5 tips in mind:

1) Choose a family of colors and textures, not a single shade or pattern
I absolutely looooove this family's style (see gallery below). We went for pink, but you'll see a variety of shades and brightness. We've got blush, coral, patterns and neutrals mixed together, showcasing unity between unique individuals. Some tops have patterns, some are solids, and some have texture. 

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2) Add contrast with your background
My easy little formula -- if we have neutral backgrounds, we're adding great color to the wardrobe. If we're working with busy or very colorful backgrounds, we're going for neutral colored clothing. Contrast is the key... unless you're Zach Braff in Garden State. Then it's awesome. 

3) Don't be matchy matchy
I know it must be tempting to buy 4 matching sailor shirts for your kids -- my siblings have THAT photo! It might be cute, but it's not timeless. In a few decades from now, your kids will be happy to see their unique personalities early on in life. Gravitate toward relationships instead of duplicates. 

4) When in doubt, dress UP
It's easy to go casual, because everyone has tshirts and jeans, but when you're doing a family photo shoot, you will never regret wearing the dress or the button up shirt. Wear something that moves well in the wind and gives you confidence, because these photos are special and will last a lifetime. Wardrobe should reflect that as best as you can. Wear the nice watch. Put on the good shoes. And dazzle in the special occasion earrings.

5) Above all else, the clothes must fit the body
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. When I was young, I used to hide under sweatshirts and baggy pants (don't ask for pictures, because I burned them all). Not matter what size you are, put something on your body that feels comfortable and fits well. Try to get the right waist and length for pants. 

I had an amazing time capturing the laughter and clear abundance of love in this family in their new home. The children have grown before my own eyes, and their moms have done an incredible job raising vibrant, happy kiddos. Luckily, the extended family was in town and it was definitely a party in front of my camera. :) Here are a few of my favorite shots.