Well, that title alone should warrant some head turns and eye rolls, am I right?
Since photographers weren’t considered “essential” we couldn’t shoot any sessions during the early phases of a COVID quarantine, much less a NEWBORN session! So, now, I guess I’ve got you scratching your head wondering “just how did she pull this off?”
The minute I heard my nephew Mark and his wife Brittany were expecting their second child, I promised them the gift of a newborn session, but now here we were at the peak of COVID -19 in Western New York, and I couldn’t deliver on my promise. Insert the saddest face you can imagine. Oh, and truth be told, I’d sat around long enough twiddling my thumbs, just dying to shoot a session. I just had to find a way around this, without violating CDC rules and regulations, but HOW?
The Answer ⎯ “Let’s Do a FaceTime Newborn Session!”
“Wait, what?” I wish I could’ve taken credit for this idea, but in all honesty, I can’t. See, I read a blogpost featured on Shoot Proof’s site “Facetime Photos are a Thing We’re Not Mad About” sparked my interest, while at the same time had me thinking “You’ve got to be kidding!” and “What about the quality of those images?” Not to mention, “How on earth could I do that?”
“I couldn’t possibly!” And yet, I did, or should I say, WE did ⎯together.
Once I explained the process, Mark and Brittany were totally on board and let me tell you, they rocked this bizarre newborn session! We danced a new session dance and laughed a lot throughout the whole process. Though a bit awkward at first, especially when it came to my directives, together we created and captured some sweet tender moments and some that really highlighted what real life with a newborn looked like!
Those moments with cheeky little 2 ½ year old Hayden who’s trying to make sense of this major overnight change in her life.
Preparing for a FaceTime Newborn Session
I prepped Mark and Brittany a day or two before their session, with a pretty detailed step by step email that outlined how this session um, would/should/might unfold?
Some suggestions were:
- Locate the best natural light areas within your home
- Tidy up around those places (or don’t) it all depends on how honest you want your images to look. “To leave or not to leave the breast pump in the background⎯THAT is the question!”
- Turn off all artificial light
- Change your camera angles ⎯by moving around your subject
- Don’t be afraid to ‘get in’ close
- Use the phone’s exterior lens (not the selfie screen side lens) because the exterior lens is much better. Now that makes things pretty tricky.
- Turn ON FaceTime live photos in your settings
- And most importantly⎯there’s no need to rush
FaceTime Newborn Session
And so, during our FaceTime call, with only iPhone 8 cameras in hand, I gently directed Mark and Brittany while I took screen shots on my end of what they saw. At one point Mark actually used duct tape to stick his phone to a dresser in order to achieve a shot of the whole family! (I’m not sure we ever got Jersey, their frisky golden doodle, fully in the frame!)
An Opportunity to Learn & Take Risks
Talk about learning something new, getting outside of your comfort zone and giving up some control of your session! This exercise did all those things for me as a creative. I learned how to take a pretty big risk. I’m sure some photographers out there may frown on this and that’s perfectly okay. I was certainly skeptical at the start. It felt super risky to even post these images, I mean, I’m breaking some major blogpost and social media rules here! We’re supposed to only post our best work, right? We’re all about curating that perfect Instagram feed that truly represents out brand. Yeah, right. Sorry, not how I roll. Certainly, these images don’t reflect my best work. They don’t even come close⎯ yet here they are for all to see! They’re moodier and obviously softer than my typical style of shooting and editing, even after post production in Lightroom.
BUT these images do show a very genuine effort to help this beautiful family document a special event during a very strange time⎯and that brought us joy and made me proud to share them publicly.
You might ask, “Do I fear that FaceTime or virtual sessions may someday replace professional cameras and traditional photography sessions?” Nope, not one bit. Although using this novel approach can be a great tool during these uncertain times, it still lends itself to far too many limitations. And heck yes, I’d do again, if the COVID cases spike up and we return to a quarantined state. Who wouldn’t want to spread a little joy and happiness during times like these? As for right now, in WNY, I’m back to shooting sessions since our Phase 3 re-opening. And I’m taking it slowly, keeping my newborn sessions outdoors for a bit.
A HUGE “thank you” goes out to Mark, Brittany, Hayden and little Hudson for taking Aunt Reen up on this strange creative adventure⎯I had a blast!
Would love to hear from other photographers – and happy to answer questions about this experience.
Stay Healthy and above all, Stay Happy!