Doting parents are eager to commemorate the birth of their children and New Jersey-based photographer Alicia Gould is right there with them, capturing heartwarming photos of their newborn babies. The photographer's precious subjects, anywhere from three days to two weeks old, are adorably serene in her growing collection of portraits. Each image features the tiny models, often fast asleep, in aww-worthy poses.
As one could imagine, the process for taking a newborn's photograph can be extremely nerve-racking, though you'd never guess from Gould's seemingly effortless shots. There's the matter of getting the loving parents comfortable, seeing as they're often quite nervous and protective within the first two weeks of their little bundle of joy's life, not to mention handling the newborn(s) and patiently allowing them to take their needed feeding and diaper changing breaks.
We were lucky enough to get in contact with Alicia and ask her a few questions that she so kindly answers in the interview, below.
How did you get started in taking portraits of newborns?
When I started my business over 5 years ago, I asked friends if they knew anyone who was expecting who would be willing to let me practice on their baby! I hear over and over again from other aspiring newborn photographers how it only takes a few times to fall in love with newborns and it is so true. I gravitated towards these sessions so my portfolio became very newborn heavy. After awhile, parents sought me out months in advance to capture their newborns and now they comprise close to 80% of my business.
Can you please explain your process for a typical shoot?
All of my sessions are done in the clients home so I bring all of the same equipment with me to each session. That includes a bean bag to pose the baby on, blankets, hats and a space heater and noise machine. One of the things I learned quickly is that you never know what you're walking into. Every baby and each parent is different. Some sessions go quickly; the baby is asleep when I arrive and stays asleep through 45 minutes of posing and sometimes it takes a bit of time to soothe the baby to sleep, s/he may have to eat several times during a session that lasts 3 hours. When I arrive at my client's home I do a walk through to look at the light. I'm looking for a place to set up the bean bag, as well as good spots for family pictures.
They say that children and pets are the most difficult subjects. How do newborns compare?
It's such a different mindset! Sessions with children and pets are so high energy. It's constant movement… running, playing, giggling, tickling, singing. You don't always get the chance to set up the perfect composition. But it's real and that's why I still love capturing families too. All the movement usually results in such genuine emotions from the children. With newborns, it's all about patience and attention to detail. You get to set up each and every frame, what colors to work with (blankets and wraps), you carefully place each finger and toe. Having a child results in overwhleming love, your heart feels like it could burst out of your chest with pride and those emotions are evident on the parent's faces and I get to capture that. It's pretty amazing.
What, would you say, is the most challenging aspect of photographing babies that are no more than 2 weeks old?
Having a baby is a huge adjustment in life, both physically and emotionally. I'm asking the family to allow me in their home shortly after they get home from the hospital. I know it's a lot to ask. There is such a short window to guarantee those curled up sleepy images. There is also a ton of trust involved. Unfortunately over my career I have seen some photographers capture some very unsafe set ups. The baby's safety always comes first.
What's the most rewarding part?
Working with my clients, espcially the mothers. As a mom myself, I love hearing about their experiences and vice versa. Sometimes I can give them tips to help get their baby to sleep, who doesn't want that! I get to watch my families grow. I see a child I captured as a newborn get to become an older sibling.
Do you have any story of a shoot that sticks out in your mind that you'd like to share?
I volunteered for an organization that helps families remember their time with their stillborn or sick newborn. I don't think anything prepares you for capturing a baby's last breath while her mother gets to hold her for the very first time because for her short lifespan she was connected to machines. It's moments like those that put life into perspective. There are an amazing group of photographers out there who give back with their time and talent. It's not much, but hopefully those images help the family remember how beautiful their little girl was forever.