A Year in the Life June- Documentary Photography at the Pet Store

Once again I completely forgot to post my A Year in the Life pictures from last month. As usual the littlest ones were the stars of the show! I must admit right around 1.5 is my favorite age. Learning to walk and talk, but not quite into the temper tantrum stage yet. Even with a new baby around Wally once again was the main subject of my camera lens this month.  DSC06481   DSC06493 DSC06496

The best shot of the month is this one of Wally with Hannah. Wally is absolutely IN LOVE with his sock monkey. He is also over the moon for his new baby sister. When Grandma sent Hannah a sock monkey outfit I knew I needed a picture of him holding the both of them. As you can see Hannah wasn’t too fond of the idea. Wally was unperturbed. He just shoved that paci in her mouth, positive that losing it was the only reason she was sad. Poor girl didn’t stop crying till mommy rescued her, after getting the picture first of course lol. DSC06491

The older kids managed to sneak into a few pictures by holding the very photogenic new baby. Maddy especially loves to help take care of Hannah. I have  feeling these two are going to be best buds.

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Ben likes to love on her too, but not quite as much as Maddy. He gets bored pretty fast adn is ready to pass her on.

One fun thing I did this month was take the camera with me when we went to the pet store. I’ve always been a little too self conscious to bust out the camera in an unusual spot like that before. This time I just went for it. I had a TON of fun. I love that I was able to capture so much of my kids personalities in an everyday situation. I even remembered to hand the camera off to the hubs and get in the pictures myself!

Would you like to preserve these types of memories as well? I can teach you how. Stay tuned for my workshop announcement, coming soon! If you’d like to hire me for a documentary session please contact me for more details and to schedule your date.

A Year in My Life May- Allowing Others to serve

Wow, with all the chaos having an eighth baby brings I completely forgot to share my photos from my “A Year in My Life” project for the month of May. My goal with this project is to get the real camera out every day and document something. I would say May was not the biggest success. With Hannah being born in the middle of the month I wasn’t exactly full of motivation to take photos. Exhausted moms don’t go for the camera very regularly.

39 week pregnant belly shot |smithsquad.com| exist in photos | lifestlye maternity photography
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

On Mother’s Day after a gloriously long nap we went to a friend’s house for dinner. The dads made dinner while the moms sat and chatted. It was a really fun time. I passed off my camera to their teen daughter for a while and got what is now my final pre-baby belly shot.

newborn baby number eight |smithsquad.com| Fresh 48 photography |Newborn hospital photography | large family
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

Miss Hannah arrived on May 14th after only 2 hours of labor, her birth story is here if you care to read it. For some reason the recovery from this birth was much harder than my previous births. I usually feel pretty good physically by 3-4 days post-partum. With Hannah I still didn’t want to get off the couch after a week and didn’t feel like I was really myself till about two weeks.

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer
Wally did a lot of sock monkey cuddling while mommy was baby cuddling.

They say that every birth is different, but honestly I never really expected for recovery to ever be all that different. I know that two weeks of recovery really isn’t that bad, but compared to my normal 3-4 days it was a real downer. I’ve also struggled a LOT more with the hormones this time around. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or because I’m just completely worn out, but boy have my mood swings been crazy! I’m pretty much over it now, but there were a few rough weeks there when I just couldn’t really function. It didn’t help at all that Cameron had to go back to work 2 days after Hannah was born.

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression
Spending time outside at the park helps me to ward off post-partum depression.

So what’s a mom to do when there are seven very little people to take care of, but she is dealing with the baby blues? Ask for help. Sounds pretty easy, but boy is it hard! Somewhere in our history large families have ceased to be the norm. As such there is a lot of judgement that can come upon those of us who choose to have one when we don’t have everything 100% under control. I’ve heard it said to me or others more than once that if we can’t handle it then we shouldn’t have so many. IF I admit I need help I know I am risking negative judgment from others about my choice to allow another little person to join our family. While I am confident in my choices and know that I can not possibly escape judgment no matter what I do, it is still hard to risk opening myself up to that criticism from people who just don’t understand. I am naturally pretty independent. It is difficult to be vulnerable and admit I need help caring for all these monkeys.

It's ok to ask for help |Smithsquad.com | post partum recovery | Large Family |documentary photographer | Lifestyle photography
A local homeschool teen came over and helped out. Wally had a blast making cornbread with her help.

Luckily for me my husband does not suffer from the same insecurities. He asked the church ladies for help  and thankfully some really amazing friends jumped at the chance to serve. A fellow homeschooling family sent their teen daughter over to keep kids entertained so I could get some rest. Another friend came over later that week and brought food for a few days as well as spent the morning helping me with kiddos and laundry. People also brought us meals big enough to give me leftovers for over a week. My husband of course did his best to pick up as much slack as he could in the evenings when he was here as well.

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Amongst all the chaos of our new baby our goat, Alice, also had a new baby. Flora arrived a few months before we were expecting her, which means Alice was likely pregnant when we brought her home and we just didn’t know it yet. Flora was the cutest thing. I love how baby goats prance around the yard. Sadly we lost her when she was only a few days old. We’re not sure why. One morning the was hopping around cute as a button and that afternoon I found her hidden behind a large rock no longer breathing. Poor Alice took it pretty hard and kept bleating for her baby for about two days.

A new baby goat| Smithsquad.com| homesteading | Large Family
Alice loved her new baby as much as I love mine! I’m so sad we lost her.

Overall it was a pretty awesome month, and with everything that was going on I’m glad I got as many photos as I did. A huge thank you to all those who helped us make it through the month.

What was your post-partum recovery like? Did you allow others to help you? What was the most helpful thing anyone did for you after baby arrived?

Motherhood is Beautiful- Loving My Mom Body

When I first saw this family photo it was a small thumbnail in our gallery of birth photography images, and I loved it. It was a lovely real life moment of our family. Something I’ve never had captured before. Even though the moment is so beautiful I almost didn’t share it with anyone.

birth photography | Smithsquad.com | meeting baby number eight | all natural hospital birth
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

When I made the image large the first thing I thought was “wow, I look fat! No makeup, messy hair, and I’m in my pajamas. I don’t think everyone needs to see me that way.” I even considered for a moment whether I could possibly liquefy myself a bit smaller in Photoshop. Then I stopped. “What on earth is wrong with me?!?! This is less than 24 hours after giving birth to my eighth child. I can’t believe that I am being so hard on myself! I’m Super Womb-an.”

I now believe that this image is even more beautiful because of my appearance. This is a body that has carried and fed eight little humans. This is a body that has given birth naturally eight times. This is a body that has been pregnant, nursing, or both for the last nine years. This is the body that allows me to read, play, and laugh with my children. This is the body that cooks, cleans, teaches, and so much more. This is the body that my husband loves. Most importantly my body is an amazing temple of God and I need to show it more respect.

I am beautiful. My body is amazing. I will share this image with pride knowing that it is a truly beautiful moment that my children and their children can treasure for generations.

motherhood is beautiful| smithsquad.com | love your mom body | Exist in photographs
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

Mom’s please love yourselves. Love your bodies for the amazing things that they do. Don’t hide from the camera or hide away the photos because you are ashamed. There is no shame in motherhood. You are beautiful even with 20 extra pounds, no make-up and messy hair. Motherhood is beautiful in every shape and size. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate it. Show your children the beauty that created them. Give them something to treasure for the rest of their lives. Exist in photographs, it is the best gift you can give after giving them life.

I would love to document these moments for you. Whether it’s a birth, newborn, or family life session I promise you we will walk away with a treasured memory. Contact me for more information.

Have you ever had a photo of yourself that you judged too harshly? What amazing things has your mom body done? I’d love to see your favorite documentary images of yourself! Share links in the comments so I can check them out. 

Why I Hired a Birth Photographer

When I had my first child the idea of photographing the occasion never even entered my mind. I don’t think I had ever heard of a birth photographer at that point. I didn’t own a camera and this was before the days of decent quality cell phone cameras. I do not have one single picture of him in the hospital. By the time baby number two made her appearance 5 years later Cameron at least managed to get a few cell phone photos. They are tiny and bad quality, but at least I have a few images of her sweet little face.

Each subsequent child has been the same. I few photos taken in the hospital after birth by Daddy. Maybe 1-2 of me holding the baby looking awful. All of them poor quality. As much as dad tries he just isn’t a photographer. His composition often leaves much to be desired, and the auto setting on the camera can’t capture the moment in the way that I want to see it.

Then with baby #6, and my first homebirth, we didn’t get one single picture on the day of his birth. After almost two hours of start and stop labor when he decided to come it was fast, and neither one of us even thought about picking up a camera! The first pictures I have of Jack are the next day when we were visiting with Grandpa and Grandma. I am so angry at myself!

I was determined not to let that happen with the next baby. When I was in labor with Wally I got out my camera, set all the settings where I wanted them, and placed it on the counter. We were not going to forget again! Cameron snapped a few pictures of me in labor and after he delivered the baby he grabbed the camera and snapped a few more. I LOVE those pictures. Seeing myself in those precious moments is such an amazing gift, but like The Little Mermaid “I want more!”

With my most recent birth I determined that I was going to have a birth photographer. I was incredibly fortunate to find Elsa Shaw, a wonderful photographer and person. We met before hand and really clicked. When I was in labor I called her up and she rushed right on over. Unfortunately Miss Hannah decided that she was quite eager to enter the world and arrived just a few minutes before Elsa did. Elsa still got some amazing photos of those precious moments right after birth. Since she wasn’t there very long that night she offered to come back the next day when the siblings came to meet baby. I have NEVER had any pictures with the entire family in them meeting the baby. There has always been a parent or older child missing from them because someone has to hold the camera.

These photographs are completely priceless to me. They show me my own strength. They tell Hannah the story of her amazing birth. They remind me of the nobility in motherhood. They tell a story to others about the value of motherhood. They will exist long after I am gone to remind Hannah and her children that they are part of a family that loves them dearly.

Thank you Elsa! You have given me the most amazing gift that I have ever received by documenting these moments for me.

Birth Story #8-Fastest Labor Yet

My labors always tend to be pretty fast and intense, but this birth story takes the cake for fastest one yet!

Hannah's Birth story- All natural hospital birth with baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | My fastest labor yet!

On Saturday night we went to a friends house for dinner. These were the friends that had volunteered to take our kids when we went to the hospital. I had been having contractions for about two days, but they were only 2-3 in an hour and not very intense. While at their house they got a bit stronger, but not any more often. At about 9 o’clock we packed the kids up and headed home. Cameron had met me there after work, so we each had our own car.

Not quite sure why, but getting in the car triggered something. Contractions immediately were strong and frequent. I pulled up my contraction timer app on my phone and they were timing at every 2.5-3.5 minutes. I got home before Cameron, he had to stop to get gas, and told the kids to go get dressed in their Sunday clothes. (Check out my post in Calming the Sunday Morning Chaos if that sounds totally weird to you) when Cam walked in the door I asked him to call our friends and tell them we were coming back with kids. “Now?” “Yes, NOW!”

We loaded the kids back in the car and drove over to drop them off. By this time contractions were getting hard to breathe through, especially while sitting buckled in the car! As Cameron unloaded kids I stood up and leaned over the front seat to make them a bit more manageable. I also retrieved my Serenity and Clary Sage essential oils from my bag which for some reason I thought should be placed in the very back of the van.

We got back in the car to drive the additional 20 minutes to the hospital. It was really killing me to not be able to use my typical pain management techniques of walking, rocking on the birth ball, and hot water. I was NOT handling the pain well at all and was even having a hard time reminding myself to breathe. You would think that being my eighth baby I’d be a pro, but it’s new each time and for some reason I just could not get myself into a good headspace this time.

We arrived at the hospital shortly before 11 and went to the desk. They immediately got me a wheelchair and printed up my forms. At this point I was hitting transition, they had Cameron sign the forms and quickly got me into labor and delivery. The nurses told me later that as I was rolled past their desk I looked calm so they thought I had a few hours. “Then we heard you and came running!”

As I was wheeled into the room I stood up to the edge of the bed and loudly said “Cameron she’s coming NOW!” Thankfully one thing I AM a pro at is letting my body take over when it comes to the point of pushing. I managed to get myself onto the bed for hands and knees, my favorite pushing position, as the nurses ran into the room. She was already crowning and I was still dressed! Cameron took care of the clothes as the nurses caught the head. Two good pushes and Hannah arrived at 11:07 pm.

At that point I mentally checked out. Everything had happened so fast and I hadn’t really been in control the way I had in the past. My brain just had to shut down for a few minutes. Within a few minutes of baby arriving the birth photographer got there. unfortunately she missed the big show, but she got some beautiful shots of the moments right after birth.

Natural birth story, baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | natural hospital birth | Fast labor | Mother and father bond over new baby
Yep, we made that! Photo courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

The on call doctor came in at that point, because my midwife was in the middle of delivering another baby, to deliver the placenta and check us all out. I found out later that the baby my midwife was delivering was also born at exactly 11:07. She said that had never happened to her before! One thing I absolutely LOVED about Athens Regional Hospital was that they have a policy of immediate skin to skin for a minimum of one hour. We ended up snuggling for over two hours before being separated for just a few moments so that I could clean up and be moved to the mother baby unit. They respected my wish for no first bath and took us both to the new room together, no nursery visit needed. The nursery nurse came to our room to do her assessments and Hannah never had to leave my side.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I do this every story is completely different. Birth is such an amazing and powerful experience. It literally just took me over this time. I am incredibly grateful that my experience allowed me to just fully surrender my body to the process and let nature do its job. No tearing, no trauma, and a beautiful perfect baby as a reward. What could possibly be better?

Peace baby | SmithSquad | natural hospital birth | Athens Regional Hospital | newborn baby gives peace sign
She’s already a cool cat. Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography.

If you’d like to read my other birth stories they are all on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7

Have you written out your birth stories? I’d love to read them. Drop a link in the comments!

What’s in my Hospital bag?

I can’t believe baby #8 is due in 4 weeks! Seems like the perfect time for a blog post about what’s in my hospital bag. With 5 hospital births under my belt I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I need and what I don’t. With my first kid we actually wheeled in a small suitcase lol. With this one I probably won’t even fill my backpack.

I usually wait to pack a hospital bag until I’m actually in labor. It gives me something to do to keep busy and not focus on obsessively timing contractions. I’m pretty good at it by now, so it is calming, not stressful. If you’re a first or second time mom you may want to at least make a list of what needs to be in your hospital bag even if you wait till the last moment to actually pack it.

What's in my Hospital Bag with baby #8 | smithSquad.com |Large Family | Birth | Natural Birth

Hospital Bag for Mom

Kindle- One of the best ways for me to relax in labor and stay entertained after baby is born is by reading a great book. I like having my Kindle Fire because it is small and can carry a ton of books. I can also use it to connect to hospital WiFi and give play by play updates of labor for the family and instantly post all the adorable brand new baby pictures I am sure to take. If reading isn’t your thing bring something that will give you a bit of entertainment/distraction like coloring supplies, music, playing cards, travel games, etc.

2-3 each comfy yoga/pajama pants and t-shirts- I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just trying to be comfortable! I really like the roll top waist yoga pants because they are great for adjusting to that post partum belly. If you get the ones with a little compression it can also help hold everything in when you’re feeling all jiggly and out of sorts. With my first I flattened right out in a few days, but my hips had spread and I never fit into my old jeans again. With each baby it’s taken longer to lose that pregnant look. You should just expect to look about 4 months pregnant when you get home and plan your clothing accordingly. If you want something nicer to wear for pictures or the ride home then bring a pair of your maternity pants. You won’t be putting on those pre-pregnancy clothes for a while. It’s also nice to have comfy flip flops/sandals or slip on shoes.

2 Nursing bras- I usually use only one in the few days I’m there, but it’s always great to have a back-up just in case you have any leaking, spit-up, or other mess. My favorite daytime bras are Bravado and for night a comfy nursing tank is great to have. I have also heard great things about the Cake brand nursing bras, though I haven’t tried them myself.

Travel size toiletries- Most hospitals will give you soap and shampoo for your first shower, but they aren’t the best quality and sometimes smell funny. I prefer to have my own favorite brands with me so I can really enjoy that first post-partum shower. It really does feel glorious to get clean in nice hot water after doing all that work of bringing a baby Earthside. Rather than find the small bottles of each of my favorite things I prefer to just get small travel bottles and fill them with the big bottles from my shower. And don’t forget the toothbrush, hairbrush, hair ties, chapstick, etc. that you use daily.

Snacks- The rules against eating in labor are a bunch of bologna and I always ignore them. I make sure to eat a good meal before I leave for the hospital and have a few snacks in my bag as well. Granola bars are my favorite. Carbs for instant energy and protein to get me through the marathon. If you aren’t a rebel and don’t want to eat in labor honey sticks are a great option for a little burst of energy if you start feeling drained. Plus they are really yummy! I also find that the three meals a day schedule of the hospitals doesn’t work for a breastfeeding mom. I am always STARVING before the next meal gets there. Having snacks to get me through from one meal to the next is crucial.

Essential Oils- I have a few oils that I really like to use in labor. I personally use DoTerra oils. Clary sage diluted in coconut oil is rubbed on my belly to help strengthen and regulate contractions, it is also very calming and helps a bit with pain relief. I then like to put Serenity oil on one wrist and Lemon oil on the other. The serenity oil helps me relax and breathe deep through contractions while the lemon is a refreshing pick me up.

Things you probably don’t need- Don’t bother with pads or underwear unless you are just super emotionally attached to your cute panties. The hospital will provide awesome huge pads and these cool comfy mesh underwear. They aren’t cute, but they work awesome! Some mom’s really want their own pillow, but I would recommend leaving it in the car when you go in. If you want it you can send your support person down to get it. I wouldn’t bring it into the delivery room at all because it’s likely to get messy! Don’t bring any clothes that you don’t want to ruin. Between baby blowouts, spit-up and your own blood chances are just about anything you wear in the hospital is going to come home with a stain on it.

Hospital Bag for Baby

New Baby Must Haves- Muslin Swaddle Blankets | SmithSquad.com | What things are absolutely necessary on a tight budget or in a tiny space?

Muslin swaddle blankets- These are #1 on my list of favorite baby products. The muslin blankets are so much easier to swaddle with than the hospital blankets, and way cuter too. You can use just one if it’s warm and layer then if it’s cold. They also make great spit up rags.

Going Home/Photo outfit- You don’t need a bunch of clothes for baby. While you are there it’s easiest for them to do all their routine checks if you just keep baby in the simple undershirt that they provide and swaddle them. The only clothes you will need is if you want something cute for photos and/or going home.

Things you probably don’t need- Yep, that’s really the end of my list for baby. The hospital provides a nose sucker, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, undershirts, etc. so you really don’t need much at all. They also let you take the extras from the opened packages with you, so you don’t even need diapers and wipes for the trip home. If you need a warm fuzzy you can always call and ask the hospital about what they provide and what brands in case you have any specific preferences.

Hospital bag for dad/support partner

He’s on his own- kidding….sort of. I don’t pack my husband’s bag, he really is on his own, but here are a few suggestions of things they may want to bring.

Camera- I can not believe how many times we have forgotten this! Thank goodness for cell phones with cameras! 8 years ago when Maddy was born they were pretty horrible quality. Now days a cell phone camera is perfectly adequate for basic shots to share with friends. Of course the better the camera the better the shots you will get. This time around I am finally getting a birth photographer to attend, but I will also be bringing my own camera for shots before she gets there and after she leaves. I personally shoot with and love my Sony A6000. Nice and compact, but great quality and every bit as much control as a full size DSLR.

Change of Clothes- Even if you have support people that are not planning to stay long after the birth it’s always good for them to have a change of clothes just in case. You never know how long a labor will last.

Toiletries- At a minimum they will probably want a toothbrush and hairbrush. If they are planning to stay with you the entire time then they will probably need their travel size soaps and shampoos as well.

Entertainment- While their primary role is to support you there may be moments where you just want everyone to leave you alone! It’s always good for your support person to bring a book, magazine, paperwork or something else to keep themselves busy if needed.

Miscellaneous items you may need

There are also a few things you should throw in the car for just in case scenarios. It’s great to have a small homebirth kit in case you don’t make it to the hospital in time. These small kits have gloves, a cord clamp, a pad to put under mom and a few other items to help out in an emergency birth situation. It’s also great to read up on what to do in a birth situation  in advance just in case. You will, of course, also need a carseat to bring baby home in, and depending on the weather may need warm blankets as well.

As you can see my list is rather minimalistic. I prefer to have a small bag and not much to worry about when I’m there. Is there anything you feel is a necessity that I forgot? What are your favorite bras, snacks, clothes, etc?

 

Custom Painted Portraits

I believe that photographs are the art that preserves our memories for generations to come. As such I put all of my creative efforts into creating the finest art I can for my clients. Usually this means capturing the raw reality of the day in a truly documentary style. These are your memories. These images represent you. I don’t direct. I creatively capture the intimate reality of your special moments.

custom painted portrait|digital painting|canvas portrait

Every now and then, however an image just screams at me that it wants more. I don’t just see your hum drum every day life. I see an amazing beauty in the moments. When the soul of the subject speaks to me I owe it to them to create something amazing.

girl window pastel

This drive to create one of a kind art from every day moments is what led me into learning to use Corel Painter and Photoshop to create custom portraits from my photographs. I create so you can feel the amazing intimate beauty that I see in your relationships. I create so that your future generations will know how amazing that moment in time truly was. I create because I can’t silence the voice in me that cries out for you to understand just how awe inspiring your life is.Aly and Eli

7 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Baby

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just have a professional photographer following you around all day documenting every little precious moment as your baby grows?

While I can help you freeze one special day in time forever I can’t be with you 24/7. With that in mind here are seven tips for taking better photos of your baby that will be treasured for generations.  If I am shooting a session for you please feel free to ask me to demonstrate any of these techniques and pick my brain for more tips. I want you to have the best photos possible of your family!

 

1- Catchlights

tips for tkaing better photographs of your baby, catchlights|EmilyJPhoto.com|Newborn photographer in Atlanta Georgia|Athens Birth Photography|In Home Family Photographer
I turned on the bathroom light behind me to get a nice catchlight without the harsh shadows that would have come if I turned on the overhead light in the room

Catchlights are the little sparkle you see in a person’s eyes. They can really bring a photo to life! When photographing your baby try to get a light reflection of some sort in their eyes. You can do this by turning on a light, moving baby into the light, or making sure that you are not standing in between your baby and the light source.

 

2- Move Back

tips for photographing baby, get back|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography
I moved back in this image to show the baby’s name on his nursery wall.

It is our natural tendency to want to fill the frame when taking a photo. Often, however, there are important details of the story that can be captured by moving back. The special blanket grandma crocheted or the artwork from Aunt Sue on the wall. Don’t forget to include these details that will tell your child the story of their infancy.

 

3- Get Close

tips for photographing baby, get close|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
For this image I chose to get in close to capture his chubby little baby feet that were filthy after the first time he experienced mud between his toes.

Sometimes the background details aren’t important and simply introduce clutter. Sometimes there is one special feature you want to focus on. Get in close and grab shots of their tiny toes, little hands, delicate lips and other features that change all to quickly as they grow.

 

4- Focus on Relationships 

tips for photographing baby, focus on relationships|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
When Wally was fussy his Daddy would sing and he would instantly calm. That moment was far more important than baby sleeping peacefully alone after Dad was done.

Often the most precious images are the real life unscripted moments that show the relationships between baby and others in their life. Get images of mom, grandma, siblings, etc. interacting with baby. Focus in on what makes their relationship special. Maybe it’s a special sway when they walk or a silly game. Make sure you capture those little moments that will make the best stories.

 

5- Use Different Angles

Documentary family photography|emilyjphoto.com|Bath time photography|Intimate family portraits|Daily life family photographer|In-Home Professional photography session
I moved around to shoot this scene from many angels and get a variety of fun images.

Get up high to show how small baby is. Get down low to show the world from their perspective. Move to the side to capture a profile image. Don’t take all your pictures of a scene from the same spot. Move your feet and try to capture the entire story from a variety of angles.

 

6- Shoot Through the Moment

tips for photographing baby, shoot through the moment|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
The original “perfect moment” that I captured and thought I could put my camera down.
tips for photographing baby, shoot through the moment|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
The even more perfect moment I caught next.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve put my camera down only to have baby do something adorable 10 seconds later. Yes this is my baby cat, but human babies do it too! If you are capturing a specific moment or interaction wait a few seconds after you think you have the shot and be prepared to take a few more images. Often my favorite shots are the ones I get AFTER I think I have the perfect image of the moment.

 

7- A Good Camera

tips for photographing baby, shoot through the moment|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
Yep, even us professionals take a million shots with our phones!

While a high quality DSLR camera is going to get you the most creative control and beautiful shots it doesn’t do any good if you never pull it out because it’s bulky and packed away in a bag to keep it safe. It is often said “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Don’t shy away from using your phone if that’s the camera that’s handy. There are tons of apps out there that allow you to have more control over your phone’s camera and get great images. I great compromise option is to get a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. I personally am using the Sony A6000 (affiliate link). It’s a great compact size that is easy to throw in my purse or leave out on a shelf for quick shots at home, and gives me all the same control as a more bulky DSLR. I have also heard great reviews on the Fuji and Olympus mirrorless cameras.

I firmly believe that it is in the every day moments that the most important adventures of life happen. It is these daily interactions that create the memories that will be treasured for a lifetime. Don’t forget to document them for your children and their generations to follow. If you would like to hire me to capture a day in your life please read my details page to learn more about what I offer and then contact me to schedule your birth, newborn, or family life session.

Birth Story #7|Cross Country Move at 37 Weeks

In July of 2014 I was VERY pregnant and planning a home birth with CPM Tiffanie Gonzales. I was super excited, comfortable, and ready to go. Then life went a little crazy.

My husband, Cameron, was once again out of work. He had to opportunity to make a trip to Georgia to check out the house we had been renting that the tenants had moved out of and do some handyman work for a friend. While there the pieces started falling into place and the idea was hatched that we should move back. Work was available, a rental home was found, and it just felt right. Only one problem, I was due August 17th!

I told my husband either we’re leaving within the week or we’re not going until a month after bubs arrives. Given he fact that he had no imminent job prospects there in Las Vegas we made the decision to leave ASAP. We packed our stuff into two trailers to be towed by our two vans and hit the road for a 2000 mile trip cross-country. We arrived in GA on July 28th and I don’t think I got off the couch for the next 5 days! Who knew sitting in a car all day could be so incredibly exhausting.

Cross country move at 37 weeks pregnant|emilyjphoto.com|iphone photography|birth photographer
Driving through the middle of somewhere USA

Now I had a problem. No home birth midwife would take me on at 37 weeks pregnant, neither would any doctor for that matter. My only options were unassisted home birth or Emergency room and doctor on call. After the beautiful experience of my home birth with #6 I was not anxious to head to the hospital. At the same time without a midwife on call I was VERY hesitant to give birth at home. I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t make a decision. However I felt when labor started and as it progressed was what I would do.

40 weeks came and went with not even the slightest sign of labor being imminent. 41 weeks cam end went and I was getting a bit impatient. At 41 weeks and 2 days after a day at church and relaxing with the family contractions finally begun late in the evening. We put the kids to bed and once again discussed the possibility of going to the hospital. We prayed together to be guided in our birth decisions. I told Cameron that I felt very peaceful and just wanted to labor at home for now. I told him that I was just in the early stages so he should get some sleep. He went downstairs to the couch so that I could roam freely through the bedroom and master bath as I felt the need. I dozed for a while until the contractions got too intense and then hopped in the bathtub around 3am. I called Cameron shortly after that to let him know it was time to come upstairs.

I honestly don’t remember much of the details at that point. I just remember an overwhelming sense of peace and calm that told me everything was ok. Around 5 am baby boy was delivered by his dad with only a few pushes. We weighed and measured him ourselves and daddy tied off the cord.

Birth Photography Atlanta|Winder|Georgia
Look at all that birthday frosting!

I had set the settings on my camera and placed it on the bathroom counter determined to prevent a repeat of my last birth, no pictures within the first 24 hours. My husband did not disappoint and snapped some pictures for me right before and in the few moments after delivery. These are the most treasured images I have of me as a mother. It was while I was looking at these images that the little spark in my mind grew to a full flame of desire. I HAD to be a birth photographer! Every mother needs to own these images so that they can own their birth stories. Having run the gamut from cell phone photos to no photos I knew just how priceless these images of me and my baby were. I can guarantee you I will never make the mistake of not having them ever again!

Birth Photography|emilyjphoto.com|Newborn baby photographer|Winder, Georgia|Atlanta Lifestyle and documentary Photographer

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 8

My First Home Birth|Birth Story Baby #6

When we moved to Las Vegas I met an amazing group of ladies at a place called Pink Peas.  It was a wonderful non-profit organization for moms. I am so sad they had to shut down last year due to lack of funds. Pink Peas was the home of 2 midwives who did home births. I decided to finally have the home birth I really wanted when pregnant with #6 in 2012/13.

Unfortunately a little over halfway through the pregnancy my husband lost his job and we no longer had the funds to pay for the midwifery services. Our insurance covered nearly 100% of the cost of a hospital birth, and I was very depressed thinking that I wasn’t going to have the home birth that I wanted. I was commiserating with my best friend at church, and tossing around the idea of an unassisted home birth, when she informed me that another woman at our church was a midwife.

I spoke to Tiffani about my thoughts on unassisted home birth the next Sunday and asked for her input. She was so incredibly supportive. She talked to me about the risks as well as about my previous births and told me she thought I was the perfect candidate for an unassisted home birth. She also told me, however, that if I needed her for any reason to please call as she only lived a 5 minute walk around the corner from me.

Jack final belly

A few days before baby arrived my other kids all went to my moms house in St. George, UT. It was so peaceful with just me, my husband, and my youngest daughter at home.

On April 3rd at about 9pm I felt a little pop and had a small gush of water. It was just a trickle, so I was a little confused, but still pretty positive it was my water breaking. I went to bed just knowing that I would be holding a baby in a few hours. But baby and my body had other plans.

For the next two days my labor would start and stop several times. I would be having contractions every 3 minutes then they would suddenly just stop. I walked, I slept, I sat on my birth ball, I read, I did stairs. I was emotionally completely drained. I called Tiffani at about 4:30 pm on April 4th and expressed my frustration. My previous labors were all fast and furious. This was a completely new experience and I didn’t know what to do! She verified that I didn’t have a fever, I was feeling healthy, and baby was moving as normal. She reassured me that baby and I were both perfectly fine at home with just a small leak. She explained to me about the two layers in the amniotic sac and about how you can have a leak from the outer bag rupturing while the inner bag is in tact. She told me that she was at her daughters softball game and that she would swing by on the way home to check on me. In the mean time she advised me to try out some different positions, including hands and knees, to try to get baby in a better position for birth.

After I got off the phone I jumped on the Spinning Babies website and did some reading about labors that start and stop. One thing it suggested was that baby may have gotten engaged in the pelvis with a less than optimal head position. One thing they suggested was to be on your knees with your chest to the floor through a few contractions to get baby to disengage, then sit on the birth ball and rotate hips to get them to re-engage in a better position.

Well it worked. After a few contractions on my knees I once again sat on my birth ball and felt as his head dropped into my hips. Contractions immediately started increasing again and I chose to move to the bathtub. I told my husband he could stay in the living room with our daughter watching Wreck it Ralph and I would cal for him if/when I needed anything. He told me I wouldn’t need to call. He could always tell when I needed him because I would say “OWIE OWIE OWIE!” like a three-year old every time I was about ready to push. I had never noticed that about myself before!

I had the lights off and just a few candles. As I sat there alone in the dim room in a tub of warm water I was so incredibly at peace. It was beautiful. I was able tot make time to truly breathe through each contraction and connect with my body and my baby. As my husband had predicted about an hour later, around 7pm, I hollered out “OWIE!” and he came in. He helped me move into a squatting position in the tub and delivered our perfect baby boy in 2 good pushes. Rachel, still watching Wreck it Ralph, was a prefect little angel and barely even noticed what was going on. When she came in the room a few minutes later she looked genuinely confused as to where on earth this yelling little creature had come from.

bright eyes low

As I sat back in the tub I was amazed by what we had just accomplished. The feeling of peace and intimacy between me and my husband was beautiful. Together we had brought this life that we had created into this world on our terms, in our home. It was truly the most empowering and amazing experience of my life at that point. After a few minutes of snuggling I told Cameron “Well better text Tiffani and let her know he’s here!” She said that if it was ok she still wanted to stop by and check us out. She did the weighing and measuring for us and checked me out for tearing. Everything was perfect and she left us alone to enjoy our time together.

Daddy and Jack low

I can not even begin to describe the emotions I felt. 46 hours of labor. Frustration, sadness, anxiety, were all so completely washed away when I gazed into that little face and into the eyes of my husband. This is what it means to be a woman. There is absolutely no other way for a new life to enter this world except through the sacrifice of a mother. Being a part of this process is something truly miraculous. I was amazed to discover a whole new level and depth of my womanhood as I went through this labor in a peaceful, natural setting rather than a sterile hospital. I felt so intimately connected to the generations of mothers who had done this before me. The connection to my baby without all the nurses and doctors poking and prodding the two of us was beautiful. I can’t say I will never have another hospital birth, I believe in making that decision with each individual pregnancy base don my needs and wants at the time, but I know there are certain things that I will do differently if I am ever giving birth in their world again.

Jackie Boy low

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 7

Baby 8