Maybe you've wondered what goes into a mobile newborn session, whether you've thought of booking one for yourself or have heard of them but weren't sure what it means. In theory it's simple - instead of having a newborn session in the studio, I travel to your home with all I need to take the photos there. How lovely - you don't have to go out with the baby. I love that idea too! During those first couple of weeks things are overwhelming at best, and not everyone feels up for a trek to my place out in the sticks, or is able to get here (and here is where I truly feel such gratitude for all the parents that do travel to me - often an hour or more drive - you guys are amazing!).
So what's the reality of an at-home newborn photo shoot? Well, once you've decided to book it I send you some prep info about they type of space I'll need and what you can do to prepare - for example getting the room we'll be using nice and warm, etc. We'll consult via email or on the phone about what sort of things you have in mind, if anything. Most people are happy for me to just come and do my thing. I'll ask more about the space and available natural light, and it's even better if you send me a couple of photos so I can get an idea. The more information I can get the better I can feel prepared.
You see in reality these scenarios kind of freak me out. I'm confident I can get the photos but these sessions are a step out of my comfort zone. In my studio I have all my props, blankets, wraps, backdrops etc nearby. I know the light, I know the space, I have a routine for setting up, getting the house ready, preparing everything for you. I've got my humungous beanbag for the natural blanket shots. I know where it best catches the natural light and I can faff up to the last minute when you arrive, and change my mind on what props, blankets to set up. I'm barefoot, comfy, it's my domain.
So when I do mobile sessions it's completely different. I cannot possibly bring all the things I have to your home, so I have to decide what to take. Setting up for a studio newborn shoot takes many hours and days of thinking and planning. The night before I am typically in my studio space surrounded by chaos - so much is pulled out as I try out different combinations and ideas. I love to come up with something a bit different for each shoot. I am constantly investing in new props and fluffy things, and also use my intuition from what I already know about you and your baby. That's a whole other post right there!
It's no different for a mobile shoot, but I have to think of everything. I won't have my beanbag so need to take a backdrop stand to clip blankets onto. Don't forget the clips! I'm worrying about the wrinkles and edges without my custom made round blanket frame that only works with the beanbag. I need to take at least 5 blankets to get it looking nice and smooth. I try to take ones I'll be able to use during the session, though some are purely for layering purposes. Is that one too girly? Is this one too dark? Suddenly they all seem too thin and I need to buy more blankets! But there's no time!! What wrap? Or naked? Or wrap then naked? But if they mess on that one I can't clean it. Take the other one too just in case. Wrapped in nappy then to start. Right. Pack extra cloths and wipes in case. Oh and my laundry bag.
Props: I like to have one woodsy set up - browns, beiges, a round wooden bowl maybe - and a more colourful one, more white/grey based. Need layers and blankets, fluff, furs, wrap options, hats and tie backs that will go together. I try loads of different combinations before it starts to feel right. Lots of test shots. Lots of standing there scratching my head, thinking and looking. Agonising. Backdrop - faux wood floor. Ooh should I try that other one I have but never use? Take it out and clear a space in the chaos, roll it out and put the wood bowl on it. Hmm it might look better with the other fluff, I'll try that. Ok maybe not the wood bowl, let me go and find my crate. Fill it, stuff it, layer it. Put the fake doll baby in and take some shots. Argh it's missing something! Something dark blue maybe to go underneath it. Something I don't have. Another thing I need to buy for next time. Scrap that idea. Start again.
And on... and on....
Until I eventually have the following packed neatly in a pile, ready to go into the car the next day:
1 x box with practical things (reflector, clips, thermometer, wipes, posing pillows, layering blankets, masking tape, cheesecloth for the windows in case of harsh or direct light, muslins, backdrop stand);
1 x box with blankets, a selection of extra hats, wraps, outfits, hairbands that would match all the props and blankets so that we have some options during the session;
2 x backdrops - one brown/woody, one light and neutral to double up as a wall for parent shots if needed;
2 x props (basket/bowl/crate etc) all ready layered, stuffed and prepped, ready to go, with the intended wrap/outfit/hat/hairband options within;
1 x Camera bag with lenses, cleared memory card, spare batteries charged.
By now you probably think my process is ridiculously long-winded and I am extremely indecisive and disorganised. It's pretty painful. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and for me, this work is all about the details. And really it's the only way I know how to create the look that feels exactly right, using what I have. That was the creative part. Next comes the action part. Packing it all into the car, checking my route, driving to your house. Nerves kick in. I don't know this area, SatNav is being stupid and I don't know where it wants me to turn. I don't know you! Suddenly I feel silly. Anxious. Insecure. I find your house, knock on the door. You seem really friendly - great! I go and get my first load from the car and take it in. We chat while I set up. I'm trying to figure out where is best, how I'm going to translate all my visions for the session into the reality of your house. Panic! It's smaller than I thought. The window's smaller. The sun's streaming right in and it's too harsh. Or the light's amazing, your lounge is fantastic. Or your bedroom is tiny but there's nowhere else and I'm sweating from carrying everything up and have no idea where to start making this work, and you're sitting downstairs while I'm here in your home, in this intimate time and space, suddenly feeling like a novice, clueless without my stuff and my space. I can't faff around like at home - I need to figure it out fast.
At the end of the day, each session has magic in it. Some might start off uncomfortably for me but once I get the camera in my hand I start to relax. I discover things about you and your baby that touch me in some way. There's a point where I realise you need me to know what I'm doing and I pull myself together. I do know what I'm doing. And later, when I'm home, looking at the images on my computer screen, I love them and I know you are going to love them too, and I feel so happy and grateful that you trusted a twit like me with these precious moments.
If you're still reading (oh my, I praise you!), I have now added a £50 surcharge for doing the above-described type of set up session. This covers the extra time travelling, setting up, and all the wine I need later that night! There is the option for more natural, lifestyle home sessions where I don't bring all the frou frou - just you and your baby at home. You'd be amazed by how much scope there is for some beautiful newborn photos just using your home as the backdrop. I'll bring my favourite go-to blanket, wrap and one prop to use if things are going well. These are still very creative sessions and possibly a little more relaxed. See my session pricing page for info on my newborn photography sessions in Cornwall.
Here are some images from my most recent home session in Truro, Cornwall. Matthew - 10 days old and just beautiful. He stayed alert and awake through most of the session, so we got more awake shots than sleepy ones, which I don't mind at all. The session lasted 3 hours which is quite long but totally normal when a baby doesn't settle early on (and taking into account setting up and packing away time). I got lots of cuddles and he was pretty content most of the time. I loved his big beautiful eyes and funny expressions. And then when he slept he really looked adorable. We got lots of smiles and I was thrilled when he gave his biggest grin in his mama's arms!!
For information about newborn baby photography sessions in Cornwall please get in touch with Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org