Fiddle Leaf Photography by Kelly Marleau
Edmonton Family Photographer
While I was pregnant with our second daughter I had a crazy hair-brained idea that when she arrived I’d take her newborn photos. I had visions of having our 3 year old on a fluffy white duvet gently stroking the baby’s brand new head of hair, and couldn’t wait to execute my vision. Everyone would cooperate and be happy, and since I was going to have the perfect newborn, this would be a piece of cake. Clients hire me to take pictures of their babies, so of course I could do a few photos of my own baby. No problem. I had the required gear, the skills and the knowledge. Well, the best laid plans go out the window when you have a baby. Your baby is NOT the same as a client’s baby – it’s a totally different ball game. I am very happy with some of the shots I’ve managed to get over the weeks since my daughter’s birth, but there has been some serious struggles and lessons learned. In case you find yourself in the same boat, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…
It will not be a 2 hour photo shoot. When it’s your own baby, the ‘photo shoot’ will last over weeks and weeks and you will try and squeeze a ‘session’ in whenever you have 10 spare minutes. I found this incredibly frustrating as I like to tackle a task and then check it off my list. As much as I tried, in the first few weeks I couldn’t muster up the energy to dedicate more than 10 minutes a day to photography. I eventually gave myself a break and would sneak in a few frames here and there, and slowly but surely I was able to get images that I was happy with.
Harness the post-birth high. I am guessing that I’m not the only woman out there who feels a bit of a high after giving birth. You feel you can take on the world – you did just grow a human being after all! I was lucky enough to have a natural birth, so I was able to get up and walk around really quickly after giving birth. I had my camera and one lens with me at the hospital, so I took the opportunity to take a few shots in our hospital room within hours of the birth. The hospital shots that I got are some of my favourite so far. The connections are still new and the emotions are raw, and it’s hard to recreate that once you are home and reality settles in.
You’re going to be tired and emotional. I can honestly say that I’ve never broke into tears during a client session when I can’t get the shot I want. I just move on and try something else. When it’s your own kid though, you haven’t slept in a few days and your hormones are on a roller coaster ride, it’s a different story. I found myself crying because I just couldn’t get the shot I wanted – the shot I had in my head (remember that fluffy white duvet?). Sometimes though, in the midst of not getting the shot you envisioned, you get one that is even better (just different). Go with it.
Getting your toddler to cooperate is HARD! My 3 year old was used to having me shoot daily and was generally cooperative. I usually didn’t have to bribe her or convince her that taking photos was a good thing. If I promised to show her the photo on the LCD screen she was generally happy enough to give me 3 or 4 minutes of her attention. Then we had a baby and that all went out the window. This is the one picture of the 2 girls that I have which sort of matches my vision (and it was taken at the hospital during the post-birth high).
Most times I attempted to get both kids in the same frame it ended like this:
I even tried bribing her with ice cream, which didn’t work. I finally just gave up on my white duvet dream (for now) and embraced photos of our everyday that I hope the kids will still treasure when they are grown up.
Getting YOU in the shot is even harder than getting your toddler in the shot. Remember that you are tired, emotional, and have about 5 minutes to get the shot? Needless to say it’s not conducive to a well thought out selfie. I actually used to love setting up selfies as I found it very cathartic, but now it’s pretty much the last thing I want to do. Just the thought of setting up the tripod makes me tired. With that said though, I’ve forced myself a few times to get in the shot just so that my daughter knows she had a mother in those first few weeks. The shots aren’t perfect and there are a million things I’d change, but for now they serve the purpose that I intended – to prove that I was there too. I have faith that as I get some more sleep and have more energy that the joy of selfies will come back. See more here.
Even though there have been some challenges along the way, I am still happy with my decision to take my own photos. Each of my photos is special to me because I know what they took to get and they bring me back to that moment in time. Taking my own photos has also forced me to slow down and take some time each day to shoot. It would have been really easy to let photography slide for a bit and not pick up the camera for weeks, but I am so happy that I have these images to look back on. So, I am here to say that it can be done, as long as you are willing to let go of any preconceived notions and roll with the punches a bit – it’s actually a bit like motherhood that way.
You can also find more from Kelly on her Facebook Page.