Keeping it natural
If you haven’t experienced a professional newborn photography shoot, you may be curious to know what goes on behind the scenes.
So I thought I’d share over the coming weeks, some of what happens.
For this first chapter, let’s talk about skin from my perspective as a photographer and to what degree I edit the final pictures.
Firstly, all new parents, hope that their new baby will have the smoothest of complexions, without blemishes, dry patches, milk spots, puffiness, scratches or baby acne.
The truth is, almost all new babies will have at the very least, a few milk spots, and at the other end of the scale all the above at the time of their photo shoot, and that is perfectly normal. It is something I am used to, and it is no reason to delay your baby’s portrait session.
This beautiful little girl is a perfect example, and look at how adorable she is. The first image is straight out of camera and beneath is the edited version.
Skin Tone And Jaundice
Babies skin varies in colour tone from jaundiced yellow, to bright red and umpteen shades in between.
So let’s look at this in more detail. How do I respond to this when I am taking photographs and how do I edit these?
I speak with the parents, and if they wish I will adjust the colour palette to avoid emphasising certain skin tones. In theory, I can work with any combination of colour palette and make corrections when I edit, however, there is a fine line to strike between delivering natural images, and over editing. There are editing actions available that can be painted onto baby’s skin, with the aim that baby should have an even, bright, creamy coloured skin tone. I don’t use these, I don't like the effect and it is not my style. The reality is that a new baby’s skin is rarely an even creamy tone. This little boy is both jaundiced and red, which you can clearly see in this image taken straight out of camera. Without any editing, you can see him how he actually was. Below is the edited image where skin blemishes have been removed with the harsh red tones reduced and yellow levels minimised. Never the less, you can still see that baby's skin is not a uniform colour and you can also see that he was jaundiced. As a parent, I understand how special it is to look back at images taken in these early days and to be reminded of these new baby traits.
Some babies when they visit me, particularly if they were in no rush to arrive earth side of the womb can have extremely scaley and flaky skin, with the beanbag looking like a snowstorm has descended where baby has been. Don’t worry, we have a little chuckle and just accept that is how it is. With careful positioning of wraps, camera angles and maybe a choice of popping baby in a romper we can work around the worst of this.
As you can see from this image straight out of camera, baby has very dry skin.
Below is the edited image. Although not easy to see on this low resolution image, I have left in some tell tale signs of dry skin for Mum & Dad.
Sometimes I might suggest moisturising baby’s skin before the session, IF this is something you would do anyway, but I don’t recommend what to use and would never ever insist on it.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend lathering your baby in oil before the session as handling a slippery baby and getting oil on my camera are not to be recommended!
Sticky Eyes And Snotty Noses
If baby has weepy, sticky eyes, keep them nice and clean by wiping with breast milk or cooled boiled water. Sometimes new babies do get very sticky eyes and it can feel like no sooner have they been wiped then they are oozing up again; don’t worry, between us we will make sure baby is comfortable and we’ll keep them as clear as we can. It is easier to keep wiping, than to remove eye gunk from between tiny eye lashes in post-production editing. This little girl was only 5 days old when I took this photograph and you can see how weepy her eye was. This is very normal.
Below the same little girl, before and after.
Fortunately, I don’t see crusty noses in new babies, that tends to be the forte of toddlers who can present with the most amazing candle stick drips! If your new baby does have a cold then your baby shouldn’t be attending a photography session until he or she has recovered and in that situation I would always happily reschedule your session.
The next pointer is a more sensitive one and is particularly applicable when baby is being photographed naked. What I am about to say is being said without any wish to cause offence. Babies, by their very nature can be very messy in the poo department and once you have experienced a poonami there will be little to phase you! An explosive poop can literally extend from head to toes, so please, please, if your baby has had a poonami before coming to the studio, I ask that your clean up is done in good bright light so that nothing gets missed. If you’ve had a night time poonami to deal with, you might in your sleepy haze of new parent sleep deprivation not been as thorough as you thought. Under the bright studio lights, I have lost count of the number of times I and my assistant have had to surreptitiously attempt to remove bright yellow poop stains from toes to shoulders. You would be amazed at how often this has happened; the studio lights and camera see everything! We get to see it all, but please don’t worry, we are experts at discretion, so you won’t even know but it will save disturbing baby whilst we clean and believe me editing poop isn't nice!
Ok, so assuming the talk of snot, eye goo and poo stains hasn’t put you off, I hope that this has shed a little light on what is normal, and reassured you that none of the above should be reason alone to delay having your baby photographed.
All the photographs I have used in this post are of babies I have personally photographed and show you the image both straight out of camera and also after editing.
What To Expect
When a client books a newborn session with Little Bean Baby Photography, we get together before baby is born to discuss colour and styling preferences and pose options. My clients book me for my style so they already know that their images won’t be over worked and edited to look like plastic dolls.
I have an editing conversation with parents to determine what they would like to have removed, what they would like to remain and what they would like to stay but reduce.
Almost without exception, my parents opt to leave in birth related marks, reduce dry skin patches and remove little angry spots and scratch’s. Most want milk spots and the heel prick left in and all want baby acne to be reduced as much as possible whilst retaining some realism in the skin texture.
I do reduce angry red patches, and I reduce yellow tones in jaundice although I don’t aim to remove either completely. My editing aim is to strike a happy balance so that baby looks natural to their parents and not a conveyor belt consumer perfected edit.
Why Photograph Baby So Young If Their Skin Isn't Clear ?
I think at this point it is worth asking yourself why you want to have your new baby photographed. This may seem an odd question. Is it because everyone else is having their new baby photographed and you feel it is expected, or is it because you want to preserve the memory of this brief milestone in your life and baby's life? This transient time of new babyness. The squidgyness. The curliness. The goofy expressions. The uncoordinated clumsiness; in other words, the new baby look. The new baby look encompasses all these traits including the birth trauma swellings and bruises, the sucking blister, the scaley skin, the odd skin tones, the stork mark, the heal prick dot, the milk spots and the baby acne.
If these are not your reasons, perhaps you might prefer to wait until your baby is older. At Little Beans we are happy to talk to you about your options, and love to photograph babies no matter what their age. Every age only happens once, and every age in these early months brings new milestones.
In this un edited photograph, this little lad was already one month old (although born early) and to me it encompasses his early personality perfectly. He was wide awake throughout most of his session and because I personally know this little chap, I also know that when Mum & Dad look at this image, they will instantly be transported back to their time in the studio and be reminded how alert and wide awake he was through those early weeks. Sleep was for other babies, not for him!
If there is one thing that can turn back the hands of time, if only figuratively, it is in the power of an image.
As a parent of three grown up sons, I still marvel at the photographs I have of my boys. None of them are professional images. None of them have been edited, but all of them show my babies as real babies and I love those photographs for that. The images instantly take me back to when I was a new Mum with a fresh and gorgeous baby. I am reminded of the time my eldest spent in NICU by the bruises on his little hands, and I’m ever grateful for the time he spent there. His yellow skin tones a reminder of the jaundice he had because he was born early. This in turn reminds me that I was advised to keep feeding him as much as possible to flush the jaundice out. The photographs jog my memory, and that is the power of an image.
So don't fret the small stuff. Your baby will be/is perfect in every way. Being born is a miracle. Giving birth is a miracle. All those little imperfections are perfect little reminders of your baby's journey into the world and adapting to life on the outside.
Embrace it, celebrate it and capture it forever . . . blemishes and all, for this time will never come again.
If this post resonates with you and you'd like to know how I can create a catalogue of beautiful memories with heirloom quality wall art, I would love to hear from you. To begin the conversation of your new baby's story you can find me here:
01722 398822/07950 544307
Longford Barn, Bodenham, Salisbury, Wiltshire. SP5 4EJ