Fast Food vs Fine Dining. Wait, Isn't This a Photography Blog?

Fast Food vs Fine Dining

When I was starting out as a newborn and maternity photographer, my mentor Ana Brandt taught me that photography is like a dining experience. Sometimes you are in a rush and need to grab a bite quickly, so you go to a fast food restaurant. You don't expect a five star service nor outstanding quality of your meal, but you get your necessity covered, which is eating something without investing too much time on it.

Other times you are celebrating something. There's a special occasion and you plan for a nice dinner. You go to an elegant restaurant, where you'll have waiters giving you great service and a fancy menu created by a chef that studied culinary art and that is a master in his profession.

These two options don't cost the same, but you accept that because they are different. When you go to a fine restaurant, you are paying a lot more. But it is worth it, because the reason of your celebration is worth it. But doing fine dining every night would be tiring for both your palate and your wallet, that's why you save it for special occasions. There are situations where fast food is good enough and there are occasions that deserve fine dining. The same goes with your photography sessions.

Your Newborn is a Celebration

Some times you just need some pictures taken to remember your trip to Europe or your backyard dinner party. A friend with a nice camera or an iPhone and a selfie stick would do (although I'm openly not a fan of those stick things!). But on special occasions, on unrepeatable moments, you want the whole service experience, the fine dining pampering where professionals will make sure you get quality over quantity. And what is more worthy of a celebration than the arrival of your newborn baby? Documenting your pregnancy and his or her arrival will be an investment, yes, but you know it's worth it. You won't do this every day as you would going to a fast food place. This is a fine dining occasion. You are celebrating new life, your family growing, and that asks for the best of the best.

Why is Newborn Photography Expensive

Yes, I know it is expensive. It's like going to a three Michelin star restaurant. But like everything, there's a reason to it, and like everything, you get what you pay for. You don't want anyone with a camera handling your newborn baby. There's a lot to consider regarding newborn physiology and safety. We professionals take courses and invest a good amount of time learning everything we need to know to make sure your baby is safe at all times. Good education costs money.

If you are going to hang these images on your walls, you want them to look stunning. For an image to look beautiful, we need to have an extensive variety of props. These include blankets, wraps, outfits, headbands, bonnets, furs, baskets, wreaths, bowls and the list goes on and on. These props are expensive, and since everything has to be washed between sessions, they get worn down quickly, so we need to restock constantly. And quality products are pricy too. I chose my labs carefully, making sure I'm giving you prints, canvases and photo books that will last for years. There were cheaper options, but then again, this is a fine dining experience.

Photo credit: Mayra Bracamontes

Photo credit: Mayra Bracamontes

Your baby is the boss during the session. This means, we can't tell him or her what to do nor to fall asleep whenever I'm ready to take his or her photo. Babies sleep, eat and poop whenever they need to and want to. Newborn sessions have to last a long time to leave room for these events to happen without messing with the outcome. There's a lot of patience involved. That's why I only book one newborn per day, and by doing so, the number of sessions I can take are very limited. 

Newborn babies are all beautiful, but birth is a tough process and sometimes it leaves some marks on your baby's skin. These have to be edited after the session in professional software like Lightroom or Photoshop. These programs cost a lot of money to own and to learn. It is very easy to over-edit an image. Knowing the sweet spot between smooth skin and doll-like skin takes time and practice.

Owning a business is not cheap. Being a registered business, paying taxes, having insurance and becoming a member in different photographer's associations is not cheap. There are many costs involved in operating a business and it all comes from the costs of sessions. Just as with the analogy my mentor told me, if you want cheap, you go to your hobbyist friend. If you want a good service and a good product, it will cost you more. 

You won't hire a high-end photographer for an everyday occasion. But this is your baby's story. Your path to parenthood. Making sure you get the best quality images and the best experience throughout the process is worth every penny. When searching for a photographer to document this stage of your life, keep this in mind: do you want a fast food or a fine dining experience?

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Marice & Wayne

A few months ago, Marice contacted me to ask me if I could document her pregnancy and the arrival of her little baby boy. She wanted to make sure no memory was spared, so she and her husband, Wayne, decided to book a Bump to Baby Package. I had the pleasure and honor of capturing their path to parenthood, and here's their story.

The Maternity Session

For their maternity session, they chose Hap Magee Dog Park, a cute little park in Danville. Since they wanted to bring their dog Bella along, we needed a dog friendly park and this one was the perfect match. We had a beautiful sunny day. Marice and Wayne danced and had fun while I grabbed my camera and captured their awesome relationship and their excitement for this little boy that was about to join their family. Marice's bump looked perfect in all three gowns! 

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When I showed them their maternity pictures, they were very excited about them. They chose their favorites but decided to wait on ordering products until they had the newborn pictures too. 

The Newborn Session

A few weeks after their maternity session, I got the call that baby Dominic had arrived! We scheduled the session and I headed to their beautiful house in Danville to photograph their handsome little boy. Dominic was so good! Although he didn't sleep much, we managed to take tons of pictures in different sets and backgrounds. I loved his session! Editing his photos was such a pleasure, it made me ask myself: "Really? Is this my job?" I'm so blessed to have the cutest clients in the world!

When Marice and Wayne saw their images, they were very excited with the results! They told me Dominic was growing so fast, he didn't even look like the baby in the pictures anymore! They loved their photos, and since the Bump to Baby packages include print credit, they were thrilled to order some products. Products are the best way to start enjoying your images right away. I can't wait to see how that canvas looks in Dominic's nursery!

The Magic of the Bump to Baby Package

If you're thinking of doing both maternity and newborn pictures, Bump to Baby packages are a great option to consider. This way you'll have a storyteller capturing every part of the story, the story of your little one. By choosing a Bump to Baby package, you'll be saving a little money and getting perks not found in any of the other of my digital packages. I can assure you'll love the experience every step of the way!

Check out my available Bump to Baby packages here!

Five Important Things to Consider for a Successful Maternity Session

Many of my clients have confessed that besides their wedding or engagement pictures, their maternity session is their first professional photography experience. Obviously they're nervous and feel like they don't know what to expect, how to pose and what to wear. Although feeling that way is completely normal, there's no need for it! The fear can go away by simply having a little bit of information. So without further ado, here are five things you must consider for a successful and fun maternity session!

How to prepare

No matter if this is your first pregnancy or the fifth, it is a very special time for you and your growing family. Being pregnant is a miracle that lasts for a short period of time and doing something to remember it forever is always a good idea. You've already started with the right foot by booking your session, but how to be ready for the big day?

Well, these photos will be part of your still unborn child's legacy and story. They will last for generations to come, so you might want to consider making an appointment with your hair stylist and makeup artist. It's also a good idea to consider having a manicure done, since some shoots can include closeups of your hands on your belly.

Make sure to leave that day clear and open so you're not stressed out thinking about other things you have to do. Think of it as a day for you and your significant other. I always suggest to make some dinner reservations for after the session, that way they can finish a magical day on a high note.

Choosing a location

Although the center of attention will be you and your belly, the surroundings are very important to get wonderful photos. We are very lucky that in the Bay Area, we have amazing spots that make for truly unique backgrounds for your photos. From Baker Beach and Fort Point to the Legion of Honor and the Palace of Fine Arts, each location has its magic and enchantment. Golden Gate Park offers tons of shaded green areas with flowers, trees and bodies of water. Looking for an urban look? Walking around the mission murals could be a good idea. There are many different parks in and out of San Francisco. Some of them make for very suburban looks, even though they're just minutes away from the city. If you're more into a private setting, your backyard or your own home are good options too. Keep in mind that some photographers are natural light photographers only, so if you're planning to use your own house as a location, make sure you have a room with a big window that allows for beautiful light.

From top left: Palace of Fine Arts. Hap Magee Park, Baker Beach, Fort Point, Legion of Honor

From top left: Palace of Fine Arts. Hap Magee Park, Baker Beach, Fort Point, Legion of Honor

What to wear

The pregnant body is beautiful. I'm aware that most women don't feel that way when they are expecting, because they only focus in the pounds they have gained, how their clothes don't fit anymore, they're conscious of their stretch marks and swollen feet and just feel overall not photographic material. But the truth is, you look stunning and you glow. We photographers are here to bring out that beauty and show you how stunning you look with your big round belly. Some clothes are more flattering than others. Wearing maternity gowns that were designed to show your curves while pregnant are the best option, since they will contour your body to show the big star of the day: your belly. I have about 17 maternity gowns (and counting) designed specially for maternity photography. They range from sheer to full coverage, from tight to loose, so you can choose one that goes with your style and personality.

Some of the maternity gowns you can use during your session with lemonshoots

Some of the maternity gowns you can use during your session with lemonshoots

If your husband or little ones are joining the session, you can tell them to wear something casual and timeless that reflects their personality. Jeans and a solid, buttoned shirt are always great options. Little boys can wear shorts and buttoned shirts or solid polo shirts, while little girls can wear light colored dresses or jeans with a cute top. Choose colors that go well with the colors of the gowns you chose. Avoid very bright colors or very heavy patterns, since they can cast weird colors on your skin and overpower the pictures.

What to bring

The session is about you and your future baby. Make it unique! You're more than welcome to bring anything that adds a personal touch to your photos. It could be as simple as your ultrasound picture. Maybe the grandparents are already busy at work knitting cute little things for their grandchild, or maybe you told your husband he was going to be a dad by buying the baby's first teddy bear! All these things are what make your session yours and I encourage you to bring them. Your pets are also welcome!

There are also fun items that can give a special something to your images, like balloons, flowers, glitter or body paint.

Ultrasounds, teddy bears, booties and pets, if it is special for you, it is welcome!

Ultrasounds, teddy bears, booties and pets, if it is special for you, it is welcome!

What to expect

Since the moment you decided you wanted maternity photos, you might have been practicing poses in front of the mirror to see what's your best angle. The thing is, you're hiring a professional photographer because we know how to get the best out of each pose. Don't think that you have to know how to stand and where to put your hands, that's why we're there! We know how to capture the best 'you'. At lemonshoots, maternity sessions last between 90 minutes and 2 hours. You might change outfit about 3 times so you can have different looks. We will walk around during the session so we can have variety in your photos, stopping here and there for a few shots and then moving on.

From perfectly posed photos to candid moments, your maternity photos will sure be something that will bring a smile to you and your loved ones

From perfectly posed photos to candid moments, your maternity photos will sure be something that will bring a smile to you and your loved ones

This is a time to have fun and be present. Remember that pictures are little windows that allow us to revive the past, and we want those to be happy memories. This session is all about you and your family, it's a time to be together and enjoy each other's company while creating lifetime memories. Just let go of your worries that day, focus on the here and now and prepare for a fun evening while we chase the sun to the horizon and surround yourself in dreamy golden light.

Ready to book your maternity session? Contact me to schedule it! =)

 

 

 

 

 

Always Keep Learning

When I began focusing in newborn and maternity photography, it was very hard not to spend all my earnings in the perfect vintage bucket, the cutest mohair bonnet or the most gorgeous maternity dress. Ask any photographer: prop shopping is a serious addiction we live with! But when you take your business seriously, you can't just go and buy every cute little thing you find online or at trunk shows. You have to make budgets and stick to them. I tried to cheat and set aside a big chunk for prop shopping, but then I had to cut back on very important things like Marketing and Education.

At the Paloma Schell workshop. Hands-on learning newborn posing and safety. Photo Credit: Nane Newton

At the Paloma Schell workshop. Hands-on learning newborn posing and safety. Photo Credit: Nane Newton

Did I spend all my money on props?

Luckily I was taking a Business 101 class that made me think about it twice. At that time, I heard one established photographer say something that stuck in my mind and has never left me. She said: "If I could start all over again, I would spend less in props and invest more in education". She was so right. No matter how big your prop collection is and how awesome that backdrop is, if you don't know the proper techniques to pose a baby, the photos won't be good enough. Needless to say I went back to my budgets and fixed them accordingly. And I'm so happy I did! Since that day I always think twice when buying props, but I'm more determinant when it comes to courses and workshops. 

Last year I was lucky enough to learn from two of the best photographers in the industry (Ana Brandt and Paloma Schell) at their in-person workshops, with very small groups of students. This was awesome, because it was like having the photographer all to yourself; an open book of knowledge and experience. These two workshops changed my techniques for the best. They have been the best investment from 2016. I want 2017 to be no different. It began with the right foot. Last week I attended Ana Brandt's workshop in San Francisco. This time not as a student, but as an assistant. Even though the info refresher was a good thing, I learnt most from optimizing and streamlining a session, how to have everything planned and ready for when you need it. I consider myself a very organized person, but there's also room for improvement! Also, working alongside Ana was a very unique experience.

Assisting Ana Brandt during her workshop in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Mishelle Villegas

Assisting Ana Brandt during her workshop in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Mishelle Villegas

Making sure baby was safe and adorable for the student photographers. Photo Credit: Ana Brandt

Making sure baby was safe and adorable for the student photographers. Photo Credit: Ana Brandt

What's next

To continue with my learning path, I'll be attending a Baby and Maternity Conference next May in Newport Beach. I'm so excited to learn from all the talented speakers that will be there! Some of them I've been following since my early days as a photographer. Some other names are new to me but their classes look so interesting! I'm also on the watch for a newborn safety workshop coming in the Fall.

I love taking photos of newborn babies and pregnant women. In order to continue doing so, I'll always keep learning and improving, making sure you find in me the best photography services for you and your loved ones.

"The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice." — Brian Herbert

Is My Baby Too Old for Newborn Pictures?

First things first! 

We photographers always tell our clients that newborn sessions must take place between day 5 and day 14 after birth. But why do we do that? There's a reason for it. When babies are that young, they are still very familiar with the womb environment. This means they are very flexible, which leads to easier to pose babies. Their sleep cycles are also more predictable, thus allowing for better manipulation of the baby during the NREM phase (deep sleep). This all starts to change around the second week of age making having a sleepy baby (and keeping him that way) more of a challenge. If baby is awake, some cute poses you might want are not possible due to safety reasons, and that's why we always suggest that you book for the earlier days of life.

That said, every baby is different and every situation is different. Sometimes older babies have better sessions than younger babies. Sometimes they don't, but you never know for sure how a session will be, really. 

A mom with an older baby

I was on a two week long trip during the holidays when I got an email from Kalpita, telling me that she had delivered her firstborn two weeks prior and that she wanted to book a session. Oh my, I would have loved to, but I was several thousand miles away! By the time I would have returned, he would already be five weeks old. I haven't had a session with a five week old baby before, but even though I encourage to book for the first 14 days, I also believe that older newborns sessions are completely doable, and that every mother should have the opportunity to have pictures of their newborn babies. I felt honored when Kalpita and her husband Nimish said they would wait for me to come back, so we scheduled the session for as soon as I returned to the Bay Area.

Tiny sleepy Kiaan

Baby Kiaan was a small little fellow. At five weeks, he looked like a ten day old newborn. He was such a good baby! At first he was awake for a bit, giving us analytical glances. He eventually got tired and fell asleep. He was such a sweetheart to pose! He was still very flexible and was comfortable in most poses and he didn't wake up from them while posing him.

After a feeding break, he decided he no longer wanted to sleep. We had to skip the props and go straight to family pictures. By the end he was getting a bit fussy, but the pictures came out great and both parents loved them!

So, it is possible!

Now that you know the whys, you know that yes, of course it is! Some poses may change if baby is awake, and other might be skipped altogether, but you can still have a newborn session. At five weeks old, baby Kiaan was a sweetheart to work with. So if for some reason you couldn't book your session right away after birth, if you have an older newborn and are on the edge thinking that you just lost the time window or if you have been told by other photographers that it's too late, don't despair! As an emotion photographer, a moment freezer, I will capture your baby's smallness and delicacy, no matter if he's ten days old or six weeks old. The session might flow a little different. We might encounter more challenges, yes, but aren't challenges what makes us grow?

 

Time for a Change

Happy New Year! ... is it still ok to say?

Hi everyone! The holiday season is gone and 2017 has kicked in at full speed. I hope you had a chance to relax and enjoy time with family. I went back to Mexico for a few weeks and enjoyed every second of it. Nonetheless, I was eager to come back to the Bay Area and meet the beautiful babies that were ready to have their photos taken. I think you can be sure that you really love what you do when you're looking forward to coming back to it! ;)

Ok, let's try again...

In other matters, exactly a year ago I wrote my first blogpost. I would have loved to say that since that day I made it a habit and that you could find tons of baby related content in here, but... well, let's just say that my time has been consumed in sessions rather than in blogposts... (and that's not a complaint, I'm so thankful!). But this year I want to change that. This year I want to share with you my sessions and my experiences with clients. Last year I learnt so much from all my clients. Without knowing, they are constantly helping me to become a better photographer, offer better products and services and understand what's going on on the other side of our business. And I feel some of these experiences can help you too. I'll try to blog at least one of my sessions per month, so you can see how a session flows and what to expect for yours.

Some of my clients from 2016

Some of my clients from 2016

What's New!

At some point last year I told you that there were exciting changes coming to lemonshoots. I've been working in these changes for months, and it is finally time to share with you a couple of news that make me very happy. First, you might have noticed my most recent website redesign along with the new color palette for my brand. This better reflects lemonshoots' approach to maternity and newborn photography. Sweeter, more delicate. I also added new packages to choose from and thanks to the new design, they are better organized and easier to compare and decide. I really hope you enjoy all these new things! =)

Lastly, last year I purchased a SIB (Stand In Baby) and I named her Jessie. This is a big deal, since this doll was designed by newborn photographers with the purpose of helping other photographers practice poses in a safe way. I've only played with her a couple of times and I can already see the impact she will have on all my sessions! She will help me plan and practice my newborn sessions before they take place, so I make sure everything looks perfect. It is also a commitment to safety, since it imitates the newborn physiology and movement like no other doll does.

This is Jessie, helping me plan one of my latest newborn sessions.

This is Jessie, helping me plan one of my latest newborn sessions.

And talking about safety... last year I was certified as a Safe Posing Photographer! What does this means? It means I won't risk your baby just to get a cool shot. It means I know your baby's body limitations and how to handle him so he doesn't get hurt. It also means I know how to mix photos in post production so it might look like baby was posing alone, but in reality there was always a hand holding him.

So here's to 2017, 🍾 a year of change and growth, good things and love! I look forward to many round bellies and cute sleepy babies!

 

 

All About Bellies and Babies

This weekend I'm heading to Orange County, California to improve my technique on how to pose newborns and pregnant women from one of the best photographers in the country, Ana Brandt. I've been photographing bellies and babies for some time now and I want to perfect my style. This workshop will make me a better photographer to capture your emotions.

In the past weeks I've also increased my prop collection and I'm really excited to start using all the new items! Once I return from the workshop, I'll make some newborn model calls to put everything I'll learn to practice. If you are in your last stage of pregnancy or know someone who is, stay tuned!

 

2016 - A Year to Reinvent Myself

One of my 2016 resolutions was to reinvent myself as a photographer. This past month I've been working on the core of my business. Basically, I'm tearing it down and building it up again. This year will be filled with new and exciting things for you, and tons of workshops and practices for me. I've spent the whole month of January learning, thinking and planning for a successful 2016. I hope you become part of it.

I heard your feedback and I'll be making a lot of changes in lemonshoots. I'll be offering lots of new and exciting products. My packages and prices will be modified too. I'm still working on them but I can assure you, you'll have more options to choose from and you'll be getting what you want. I'll be doing some model calls in the coming weeks to add more content to my portfolio, so stay tuned.

And let me tell you, I'm not stopping here. I'm taking more courses and workshops during February so you can rest assured you are working with the best photographer to capture your precious moments. I guarantee you'll love your images, your products and overall the complete experience of immortalizing your emotions.

Join me for a successful 2016!

Marcela