Nothing is quite as life-changing as having your first baby. No matter how prepared you think you are, nothing can fully prepare you for the moment you hold your new baby and feel like you hold the whole world in your arms. Your life suddenly has a new focus, and it's like a part of your heart is walking around outside of your body.
So much of what you read about preparing for a new baby is focused on the practical side of things, and on all the things you "need" to buy. Those can be pretty fun to plan for and shop for, but to me, they barely even scrape the surface of the things that really matter.
This is what I wish I'd been told about what to expect, and how to cope with and get the most enjoyment from the crazy, precious, exhausting, challenging, rewarding, frustrating and completely amazing experience of becoming a parent.
What a year 2017 has been! I've met so many wonderful people, seen so many new parents created, had the privilege of capturing so many fleeting newborn moments, and laughed with, chased, played with and photographed so many fun-filled, full of life families.
Here are a few of my favourite moments from the year.
This fairytale photo shoot was a dream of mine. I fell in love with this beautiful frothy frock from Dollcake Oh So Girly, and could picture how stunning and dreamy it would look backlit with the light shimmering through it. My vision started out with this dress, and grew into a magical, mystical fairytale.
It all started with a shirt. A button down shirt covered in stegosauruses, to be precise. It wasn’t something I would normally choose for my dirt-loving, messy little boys, because it would be grubby within a few minutes and never look quite the same again. But it sure was cute! The idea flitted through my mind that it would look great on the beach for some photos, and it grew from there.
I spend my career photographing other people’s children and other families. I had a very strong opinion about what I wanted and didn’t want. Here are my tips on how to choose the perfect photographer for your family.
“Play is not frivolous. It is not a luxury. It is not something to fit in after completing all the important stuff. Play is the important stuff.”
Breathtaking setting. Check.
Stunning spring evening. Check.
Gorgeous family with perfectly coordinating clothing. Check.
Dreamy golden light. Check.
Dogs, lambs, daffodils and guitars. Check, check, check and check.
“I just fall in love with him even more every time I see them together.” Kyrie’s mum told me during our planning consultation about the incredible bond between Kyrie and her dad. It was obvious from the moment the three of them walked into my studio that their whole family is filled with so much love, laughter and happiness. Each of her parent’s faces would light up every time they looked at Kyrie – and at each other. There was a matching delight on Kyrie’s face when she caught their eyes.
Life happens. Remember when you thought that you’d have hours to spend gazing at your baby, playing peekaboo and gurgling to each other, while your house gleamed with cleanliness and your dinner roasted in the oven? How did that work out for you?!
It is easy to let the moments slip away while you are busy just getting by. You realise a couple of weeks have gone by and you haven’t taken a single photo. Then you try to make up for it, and take 50 photos of her in the same spot, doing the same thing.
A photo a day project can be just the push you need to get you out of playing catch up, and into taking the photos that will mean the most to you in twenty years' time.
What little girl doesn't dream of being a princess? This completely custom fairy tale story was created for this beautiful little princess and her themed princess photo shoot.
This family won their newborn photo shoot in my New Year Newborn competition. They wrote such a heartfelt entry themselves, and also had so many of their friends and family submit an entry on their behalf. This entry from one of their close friends sums up why they were chosen and what a wonderful family they are better than I could say myself!
There are lots of things to not love about winter. The icy winds, short days, fog that doesn’t lift, and endless dreary rain. One thing to love about winter, though, is beautiful light. Summer daylight tends to be harsh and unflattering if you are outdoors during the day. In winter, whether the days are overcast or bluebird days, the light is usually perfect for taking stunning portraits.
I first met Jake when he was a young baby and I was still wrapping my head around being a mum to my own little baby. Our boys were Space buddies, and his mum and I got to know each other during our weekly Space catch ups while bumbling our way along this parenting journey together.
Jake has grown up into a happy, cheeky little boy, and a loving big brother to his little bro. It was so much fun getting to work with the whole family together and seeing the love and laughs that they share.
Eyes tell you so much about a person. The cheeky glint, the intense stare, or the kind, gentle look. Curiosity, amusement, mischief, intelligence. There is a world of stories in every gaze.
Do you ever see photos where the eyes are so sparkling that the photo seems alive?
What is it that makes eyes pop like that in a photo?
Like most families waiting for their first child, Bailey’s parents were incredibly excited but also a little scared! One of the highlights of newborn photography for me is talking to people during their pregnancy and hearing about their hopes and dreams, and then watching them slot into the role of parents as if they had always known how. There are so many little ways the bond between them is visible, and for me, Bailey’s tiny fingers clinging on to her dad’s hard working, capable hands sums it up in one photo.
It turns out that a plug is a fairly crucial part of a maternity milk bath photo shoot. Who would have thought? Our session narrowly avoided being a complete washout when we realised that ours was missing!
This was the first time I had tried a milk bath photo shoot, so I’d done plenty of research online to get tips and tricks and make sure I was fully prepared. Milk powder, scissors for the flowers, a bowl for mixing milk powder in, cornflour for extra whitening – I had it all. It never even crossed my mind to check the plug! Living in a house with two children under 3 who love to squirrel things away to random places, I really should have known better!
We almost didn't take this photo. It looks like everybody just jumped into position and smiled happily for the camera, right? If that's how you think most perfect family photos are created, you couldn't be further from the truth! Sure, that might happen with teenagers or older children, but with toddlers and a brand new baby in the mix? Not a chance!
Shekinah's parents knew from when they first met and fell in love that they wanted to build a family. Then came a long stretch of getting their hopes up, only to have them crashing down again with one negative pregnancy test after another. Month after month brought frustration, hopelessness and despair. They wondered if their dreams would ever come true – and then, finally, the test showed what they had been hoping and praying for! They wanted to have these photos of Shekinah as a newborn to remind them how much she was worth the wait.
A first birthday is a big milestone. Your little person has grown from a tiny dependent baby into a toddler with very definite opinions and interests, bursting with personality and fun.
Just as importantly, YOU have survived a full year of parenting. You've got through sleepless zombie land (or if you're like me, you're still struggling in the grips of that one!); you've managed feeding and nappy changes and several new sizes of clothes; you've nurtured your little one through rolling and crawling and bumped heads and jammed fingers, all the way to this day. There were times when you wondered how you could possibly get through the day; times you sat down beside them and sobbed along with their tears; times when you reminisced about how simple and easy life used to be.
Sometimes children show you that what you thought you wanted wasn't really what you wanted at all.
I had this shoot with my 22-month-old son all planned out. The timing was perfect, since my Te Awamutu photography studio would already be set up with a crisp white backdrop from a session the day before, and we had a full day at home with no other pressing commitments. I pictured lots of energy and cheeky grins, chasing after bubbles, bouncing, dancing and having fun.
Then the day rocked around. We just weren't feeling it.
Sometimes parenting is like that. Brief moments of laughter, fun and complete happiness in between the chaos and craziness. People who tell you to “enjoy every moment” because it will be over so quickly clearly have forgotten the reality of parenting! But the good moments, the ones filled with unrestrained giggles or sleepy cuddles or first smiles, those really are priceless. I love that photographs help you to focus on the happy times and to freeze those memories forever.