by Jon Jenkins Published 01/01/2009
You sit in the studio waiting for your next customer. In walks mum, 20 minutes late, from the pouring rain, pushing a plasticcovered pram. You look inside, hoping that there is a sevenmonth old, just sitting up and not crawling away, full of smiles and laughter, beaming eyes, lovely mop of hair and it's their first photo of the little one and the first grandchild on both sides! The perfect baby! The perfect customer! If the little one is in the right mood, I could retire on this one. Wrong!
After 10 minutes of uncovering the pram, mum pulls back the hood to reveal the 'rugby ball', our in-house term for the dreaded two-week-old newborn. All wrinkled up, purple in colour, eyes only half open, limbs tightly curled up, arms like E.T. and a face that's a cross between Frank Bruno and Winston Churchill. Mum has even gone to the effort to dress this baby in 14 layers of clothing that after two wriggles rides up over his face because, 'Grandma bought it and we want to show it off for the photos'. This bizarre type of human sends women everywhere into a turmoil of broodiness, wanting just to hold it in their arms and feel those maternal urges race through their bodies. The same being that can turn the most masculine male into something as soppy as a wet flannel.
But for the photographer in his or her trendy, high-street, hi-key, funky, up-to-the-minute studio, it can be a nightmare. This isn't in your portfolio. This isn't what you wanted to achieve after all those years playing with your camera in the hope that one day you would have the guts to jack it all in and turn professional and get your own studio. You want the fun families, the ones that are capable of at least having the maturity to hold their own heads up and control their bowels. Your walls are full of young trendy families jumping around, faces filled with laughter and emotion.
What do you do? As for me in my old studio it meant placing them on a furry rug, pointing two lights at them and shooting away. Encouraging mum to try to get their eyes open, hoping and praying the little fella has a bit of wind and gives me one of those grimacing, false smiles that can double the income of the shoot.
Wandering around looking for the best angle to compose, to try and get the perfect portrait of this 'rugby ball' in clothing. Ten minutes have gone buy, you've shot 20 frames that are the same, apart from the slight change of angle, suggesting now a change of outfit so you can spread the time of this mundane shoot out a bit. After a change of clothes, baby is sick down his shirt and is now crying for a feed. As you contemplate how to tell mum that you have some nice shots already and think that should be enough, the bombshell gets dropped...'my husband will be along in a minute with our other son, he's two years old and we want one of the two of them together'. Please earth swallow me up. Do they know how hard it is to get a photo of a newborn and toddler together? Which is then followed by 'How big is the free one we get with the voucher?' Please God, what have I done to deserve this? I just want to make an honest, simple living from photography. This to me was always the worst scenario. Anything to do
with newborns, throw a toddler into the mix and...
Please don't misinterpret my feelings towards babies, I love them, I have had four of them. It's just I didn't like photographing them in the studio when they were less than four months old, I like some interaction with my subject.
Since closing the studio, I've moved away from families and set-up 'LittlePix Photography', a business run from home, photographing babies in their own home using natural light where possible. I've concentrated my business on photographing babies up to the age of about nine months. For me nine months is enough, when they can crawl away from you it makes the job 20 times as hard.
I also try to encourage parents to leave it until they are at least four months so we can get some interaction and smiles. But when mum rings you up and wants their newborn little bundle put on a 20x30 canvas, what do you do? Ask them to wait four months? No way, if mum wants a newborn photo you have to give them one!
Otherwise someone else is going to have the business and probably the next set of photos at four months too. This made me look towards putting together a newborn 'package', something to offer the 'rugby balls' mum. When I talk of a 'package' I don't mean just a set of certain size photos. I mean a product in itself. From the initial marketing of the product, right through to the final prints - the whole process needs to have a brand. I needed something that not many people offer. I needed something that would work efficiently whatever mood the baby was in, unless of course little 'Johnny' was really having a day off. An extra product to my normal 'LittlePix' package. After several books and numerous websites I started to design the package, from the ground up. My first question was, what photos will I take?
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