The trend of traditional photographs of children on the walls of homes is changing in Northern Ireland.
And it’s taking on an American twist according to one local portrait photographer.
“The first year of a baby’s life is their most transformative as they go from depending on their parents for their every need to exploring their environment with tentative steps” said Amie McAllister, adding: “From the first few weeks when parents marvel at their tiny form the mammoth journey begins with the first smile, rolling over, sitting up, starting to crawl, pulling themselves up on the furniture before taking those first unsteady steps to celebrating their 1st birthday.”
Many parents are keen to capture these moments and traditionally would have done so with a basic photoshoot of the child or family.
However, there are a number of trends now being embraced by families across the country including “cake smashing”.
“This is where the child is given the freedom to do whatever they want with the cake. Parents love this because it’s allowing them to capture their child’s emerging personality” Amie explained.
If you’re considering a professional shoot for your baby or toddler here are the stages you might want to capture in that all-important first year:
“Taking photographs of a brand-new baby in their first two weeks offers an opportunity to capture some breath-taking images and a chance to get creative” said Amie.
Photography is an art form and it’s more than just placing a baby in a prop. Your photographer should discuss exactly what you’re hoping to achieve and the style of image you’re want to capture.
Amie added: “Safety should be number one priority on any shoot and ensuring your photographer is fully trained is critical and also ensure they have experience is working with newborns. Those cute photographs are not often captured by chance; it takes preparation and patience to soothe and pose the baby. Having the right ambience in the studio and being mindful of noise, light and heat all help the shoot run smoothly.”
Amie said: “Once a baby is comfortable being on their tummy and can hold their head up confidently it offers a fabulous opportunity to capture beautiful smiles, tufty hair growth and their fascination with their newly discovered feet.
“A baby at this age will be able to take interest in what the photographer is doing so it also allows for shots capturing great eye contact.
“Again, safety is paramount – especially as babies can roll over without warning at this age – and they will also object loudly if they become unimpressed with the process, so make sure you schedule a shoot when they are well rested and fed.”
This age is a great opportunity to incorporate parents or older children into the photo too and means a grumpy baby can be soothed by being held.
“This session at around 6-7 months is a great age to make the shoot lots of fun and capture a wide range of cute expressions” said Amie.
While the baby will be able to sit up, they are probably not very mobile but your photographer should check with you to see if they are crawling or bum-shuffling. For safety purposes your photographer will need someone – whether you or an assistant – to be on hand to prevent any accidents in case the baby loses their balance or topples over.
“Between the ages of 7 and 12 months most little ones start to explore their world and capturing their amazement and delight as they pull themselves up and wobble to their destination makes for fantastic photographs” said Amie.
The opportunity to incorporate some imaginative props and costumes and again, safety comes first, and your photographer will need you or an assistant on hand to prevent accidents.
Happy Birthday Cake Smash
The first birthday is a momentous milestone for you and your baby and celebrating it with a photo shoot is a great opportunity for parents and older children to be included.
Amie said: “A trend which originated in America and is increasing in popularity is having a cake smash shoot to commemorate your baby’s first birthday. In a studio, your baby is given their very own cake and the mess that unfolds is snapped for posterity.
“These sessions are popular because they are child-led and show true emotion as each subject reacts differently. Some will tentatively scoop up a little icing, others will grab the whole cake with both hands and dive in face first.”
Sometimes a photographer might also photograph the clean up with some bath time photos compete with splashes and bubbles.
Whatever the stage in your baby’s development, the key things on a photo shoot are that your baby is safe at all times, that your photographer knows what you’re hoping to achieve, and that creativity is injected in to each session to get stunning photos that will keep those memories preserved for life.
For professional Photographer Amie McAllister, working with babies is a rewarding part of her job. “Newborn to 1st birthday photos are so special,” she said. “They are a great way to document the first year of your little one’s life. Huge changes are made in the first year and with these sessions you can see just how much changes in such a short amount of time. It is such a lovely job for me to capture this for the parents.”