We just love a cheesy quote or three… “If you’re going to do something, do it right”… “Less is more”… “Quality over quantity”… the list is endless. However over used and cliched they are, we genuinely subscribe and aspire to the concept that great portrait photography doesn’t need all the extra bells and whistles. When it comes to the use of props, especially in our newborn photography, we’re very stripped back and minimal in our approach. The following post discusses why we’re so adverse to the use of props, as after all, it does buck the current industry trend.
(The images below demonstrate the range of images we capture at a typical newborn photoshoot. Please click on an image to see larger.)
Knowing what we’re good at and where our true strengths lie is how we achieve consistent and instantly recognisable results. Our artistic style has developed around this with the newborn baby intentionally being the sole focus of each image. This purity is deliberate as over the years we’ve seen many images where newborns have been overshadowed by elaborate props, such as headbands with flowers the size of saucers or bizarre set ups where the baby is almost an afterthought amongst a spectacular array of props.
That said, there’s considerable artistry and talent involving prop based newborn photography and there’s some beautiful newborn work out there, indeed our newborn posing training was with a UK leading industry specialist. However, our wholehearted belief is there’s nothing cuter than the natural beauty of a new baby, and your images should celebrate this.
We love to create a few abstract images too; pure, unadulterated close ups highlighting baby’s unique unfurling features. The image shown shown here highlights the minute newborn details we marvel at each time, and parents want these details documented for posterity; tiny eyelashes, downy hair and dinky noses. These abstract captures cannot easily be replicated at home on camera phones either, as after all, clients commission us to enjoy professional photography, results they’re not able to achieve themselves.
We continue this pared back approach right through to the final editing of our images in our digital darkroom. The common industry practice is to apply (or paint) a preset Photoshop ‘action’ which creates that super creamy skin tone (similar to a phone app filter). We’re not so keen. Why go to all the effort of capturing that gorgeous fine detail just to destroy it all again with a heavy handed retouch? I guess it’s just a matter of preference, this approach does indeed create a lot of extra work behind the scenes but again, we think it’s completely reasonable to expect this level of detail from the skill-set of a professional photographer.
Of course, the flip side of all this minimalism means there’s nowhere to hide in our images. A prop free approach means there’s no elaborate set to distract from any technical issues, each and every image must be crisp, detailed, beautifully lit and technically sound in order to create the all important wow factor. Without the addition of props such as buckets, baskets and flowerpots, tiny arms and legs tend to flail everywhere, cute to observe but less pleasing aesthetically so we have to work fast and skilfully.
Placing and posing a newborn in a prop also has the bonus of helping to soothe a restless infant during a shoot as babies love their bodies to feel safe and contained, so we have to use different tactics as we work to achieve our more natural style. When a sleepy baby arrives, the process is made to look easy, but most photographers will agree that an alert newborn will challenge even the most experienced of hands.
One massive benefit to our clients of this “quality over quantity” approach is that we only show them the very best images from their baby’s photoshoot, saving them from the anguish of having to choose from too many, as it’s hard enough to choose from the edit anyhow. We encourage clients to pick a selection of their absolute must have’s – with the hope that these will actually make it off the hard drive and become a feature piece on their wall. Why go to the trouble of professional photography if your images just sit on a disk in a drawer or stay forever on your hard drive?
To conclude, we’re certainly not suggesting for one minute that our prop free approach to newborn photography is better than the current trend towards heavily styled work, it’s truly a matter of personal taste. However, this is what we do and will continue to do for many years to come, because we love it, irrespective of fashions that will no doubt come and go.
Thanks for reading.