When longtime clients and friends Bob and Teresa Bernstein were expecting the birth of their third child, Bode, Teresa contacted me to set up a newborn portrait session. Teresa has long been a cheerleader for my photography business, always willing to provide helpful feedback and heartfelt encouragement. But when it came time for her newborn portrait session, she wanted to be sure that the shoot would capture the real essence of her family’s life – a special request that I was sure I could deliver.
As far as models are concerned, newborns can be a blessing to photographers or they can put us through our paces. Without the verbal input and mobility, they – quite literally – bend to the will of whomever is positioning them. Many newborn photographers rely heavily on by-the-book poses and theater props that would look more at home in a Hallmark store than in any family’s actual livingroom. I too swoon at the sight of a bare baby’s bottom nestled among a patch of cabbages, but I still can’t help but roll my eyes at such a bizarre juxtaposition? And unless the family truly has an affinity for gardening, the portrait winds up feeling like a magazine spread rather than an authentic family portrait.
At the end of the day I believe my clients prefer portraits that are both swoon-worthy and provide a snapshot of real life. That is why I conduct more natural, lifestyle newborn photo sessions – and leave the Hallmark props to my competitors. After sharing my newborn portrait philosophy with Teresa, it became clear that we were very much on the same page. So, we picked a date and I arrived on her doorstep with my camera equipment in hand.
Little baby Bode was just a few weeks old, though he sported a wonderfully full head of hair, and his siblings, Arabella and Walt, were at his side. Because Bode had joined their family just days before, big brother and big sister were still just beginning to adjust to this recent arrival. However, once Bode was safe in his mama’s arms and my role as a photographer faded into the background, it was easier for the two little ones to step back into their usual family rhythm and join in on the fun.
The mid-morning light was ideal for the indoor shoot, illuminating the Bernstein home without too much direct sunlight. I particularly loved that Teresa had dressed the family in cool tones of blue and gray, which were offset beautifully by her bright orange throw pillows. Throughout the newborn portrait session, we meandered through the bottom floor of their home, fluffing pillows and carefully posing Bode so as not to disturb his slumber. And as we went along, we added and subtracted family members so that the resulting images could be a hodgepodge of combinations – parents with baby Bode, the three siblings together, baby Bode sleeping soundly etc.
As I sat at my computer to edit the images, I quickly stumbled upon my favorite: the whole family on the couch, a child nestled into every corner, and dad looking into mom’s eyes with a half-cocked grin that can only mean “honey, I love you, but what have we gotten ourselves into?!”
Since Bode’s momentous arrival, Teresa and I have been hard at work turning these images into heirloom artwork that the Bernstein family can enjoy on a daily basis. In addition to my signature luxury coffee table album, we also created some modern pieces with multiple photos matted together in simple white frames that will compliment the colorful decor of their family home.
**Before I sign off, I also want to send out a Happy Birthday shout-out to little Arabella who just turned 4 years old on May 2. Cheers, Arabella!
About the Photographer and Author:
Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!