Some parents are scheduling a photo shoot before the baby is born
Laura Krisiewicz stood in the photo studio near her husband, Matt, cradling their 6-day-old daughter, Juliet, in her arms. Juliet began to stir and photographer Megan Drane rubbed the newborn's feet while quietly murmuring, "Shh ..."
The thermostat was set at 82 degrees. In the corner of the studio, a yellow space heater produced white noise to mimic the sounds of a mother's womb. Drane gently took Juliet and placed her on a bean bag draped with a blanket. She put a flower headband on her and began to pose the sleeping infant.
Matt and Laura had only one regret as they watched their newborn daughter being photographed. The Naperville couple wished they had professional newborn photographs taken of their firstborn, Andrew, who died last May when he was 7 months old from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
"You have to capture that moment in time," Matt said, while sitting on a couch at the Firefly Nights Photography studio in Naperville. "Because once it's gone, it's gone."
Drane said newborn photography is not a new phenomenon, but the art of molding sleeping newborns into different, sometimes unexpected positions is a popular trend that started about five years ago.
Newborns grow quickly so most photographers like to capture the sleeping babies before they are 2 weeks old. Some photographers believe that parents should have their newborns professionally photographed, because sleep deprivation can cause parents to forget or just not fully appreciate how tiny their babies were for such a short period of time.
As the photographer and owner of Dragonfly Studios in Rolling Meadows, and a mother of four, Amy Lantz notices the little details of newborns from the wrinkles around their wrists to how they curl up like they are still inside their mothers' wombs. Lantz said she ultimately regrets not getting newborn pictures taken of her first three children.
"It's easy to say, 'We'll just get it done later when things settle down.' There's always a reason to put it off," Lantz said. "But when they're littlest and tiniest you can never get it back. You can never go backward. The 'momnesia' you have right after delivery, when all the factors of fatigue and adjustment make everything so foggy, that when you look back months later, then all of a sudden your baby is crawling under furniture."
Michelle McMullen-Tack of Buffalo Grove is glad that she had newborn photos taken of her children, Logan, 1, and Hayden, 3. Framed photos from the newborn sessions are displayed in her office and home, and are even the backgrounds on her computer and cellphone.
"I am absolutely happy I captured images when they were born, because they develop so quickly," McMullen-Tack said. "They are only these folded little squishy babies for about two weeks and then unfold and become more active."
Andrea Brogle, who photographed McMullen-Tack's children, is the photographer and owner of Andrea Brogle Photography in Glen Ellyn. She said parents that decide to get their newborns photographed should expect to sweat during the two- to four-hour session. Photographers turn the thermostat up to 80 degrees or more so that newborns won't get cold while they are posed naked. Brogle said parents shouldn't be surprised or embarrassed if their newborns poop or pee on blankets during a session -- it's a pretty common occurrence.
Lantz said the "baby's the boss." During a session, there are breaks for changing diapers, feedings, soothing, etc. Newborn photographers want to create beautiful images of sleeping newborns, but most won't compromise the safety or comfort of the newborn to achieve an aesthetically pleasing photograph.
Lantz makes sure that infants can easily breathe and are getting enough circulation to their hands and feet when she poses them. If she ever senses that a baby is uncomfortable, she moves on to another position.
For Drane, safety is more important than making a unique photograph.
"Safety matters more than taking a picture that nobody's ever had," Drane said. "These are human lives and safety matters so much more. Some photographers get too caught up in the creativity aspect."
Brogle said there are some images that may appear unsafe for the baby, but were actually recreated using Photoshop. One example Brogle gave is the pose of a newborn hanging from a branch, or sling. To make the final image, two separate images are composited together. The baby is actually only held three inches above the beanbag, and a parent is right next to the baby, Brogle said.
Lantz said it's important not to incorporate too many props when photographing newborns. If she utilizes a prop in an image, it is usually a headband, beanie or hat.
"Too many props will take the focus off of the baby," she said.
As Laura Krisiewicz stood in the Firefly Nights Photography studio, she started to smile. Juliet was sound asleep on a bean bag, and the sound of the clicking camera could be heard faintly in the background.
"Years from now, I am going to look back at these pictures and just remember how tiny she was and how far she's come," Laura said. She looked over at Drane who had set down her camera and was meticulously posing Juliet. Laura paused for a moment. "A lot of parents try to replace what the professionals do by taking pictures of their newborns, but it just doesn't even come close."