A little advice to anyone thinking about becoming a newborn photographer: the skills required are totally different to those needed in wedding or family portraiture. Babies are so delicate and you are solely responsible for their safety at all times, so it takes patience and a certain confidence.
Babies can have poor circulation in the first few weeks. They can’t control their body temperature and they can’t easily inform you if they are uncomfortable, but with the correct training you will be able to pick up the relevant skills to keep them warm and read their behaviour. Without proper training, you are likely to put baby at risk.
Patience. It is so important to have an abundance of it in this job. At a rough guess, I would say that my camera is in my hand for about 20 minutes maximum during a four-hour newborn session. The rest of the time is spent soothing, cuddling, posing and feeding baby – yes, I sometimes feed the babies even with their parents there, because we all need a little cuddling fix from time-to-time – in order to achieve good shots.
Until now, Emer McCubbin Photography has photographed over 100 newborns and every time someone mentions newborn photography to me, I just light up. It’s my passion, my absolute love – next to my two fabulous kids, Jack and Molly, and my amazing and supportive (some would say ‘long suffering’) husband Iain, of course.
Before I became a photographer, I was a driving instructor for around ten years, based in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. It was after I had my second child, Molly, that I asked a friend who was doing a photography course to pop out to my house and take a few photos of my kids. Whilst she was there, I asked if I could have a go using her camera and was instantly hooked.
I went onto eBay that evening and purchased my first DSLR camera, a Canon EOS 500D. I read the manual (the bits I thought I needed to, anyway) and practiced like mad on my kids, whilst still working as a driving instructor.
Just before Molly’s second birthday, she became quite ill. My husband was working in London due to the recession, therefore I ended up missing a lot of work. As a result, my driving students starting leaving me. One Monday morning, one of my students rang to cancel their driving lesson the next day, and immediately after hanging up, I rang a local car dealer and asked if he would sell my driving school car for me, which he agreed to. And so my new career had begun.
I started off doing a few shoots for family and friends and within six months I was starting to get paid work. I thought I was the bee’s knees! I did a few one day courses with Nigel Fleming, the ‘master of light’, now based in Dungannon, but at that stage I still didn’t know what type of photography I wanted to do, so, like many new photographers, I just did a bit of everything.
Around 12 months ago, I started to photograph newborns. At first I found them a little tricky, but as I continued to do more, I fell in love with it. The best thing about being a newborn photographer is newborn cuddles. But being my own boss, and a full-time mother while working in a profession that I love, are also highlights.
My most rewarding days are when I nail a new pose. Recently I nailed the Potato Sack (top image), for example. I absolutely love this pose and babies do too, as they’re swaddled really tight as if they’re in the womb.
The poses that I can get newborns into absolutely astound their parents when they see the finished products (some of the results still astound me!). I love to see the parents’ reactions when I show them their gorgeous little bundles of joy photographed. More often than not, there are a few tears.
The most challenging part of my job has to be when baby just won’t sleep. If the parents follow my advice before the shoot, however, there isn’t usually a problem. Every parent without fails tells me ‘our little one is the best sleeper ever’, but once they are inside the studio their eyes open (curiosity gets the better of them) so we have to work to their schedule. That is why a newborn session can last up to four hours. I wouldn’t want any parent to feel rushed.
Having said all of the above, I wouldn’t change any of it, even babies peeing and pooing on me from time to time. It is all part of the job and I love it.