Deidre Sorensen is a London UK based photographer. She specialises in maternity, newborn, and baby photography in her Kensington & Chelsea portrait studio.
Why can’t we shoot newborns with their eyes open?
April 23, 2014
Another question I get asked all the time!
I often feel bad when a parent asks this, as I really want to be able to achieve the shots they imagine in their heads. Unfortunately, there’s a very good reason we shoot newborns with their eyes closed. In fact, there are several:
First, newborns don’t see very well and their eyes don’t easily focus on anything. So when we look at them as we hold them, we see their beautiful moving eyes. But when we photograph them, the eyes don’t look focused, and it’s disconcerting. It’s the same as looking at a photo of an adult who’s looking through the camera not at the camera. It is unsettling, because you expect to make eye contact. Even if the newborn is looking away, the eyes often don’t align and the final image is therefore nowhere near as beautiful as seeing the baby in reality or seeing the peaceful sleeping portrait.
Second, when newborns are awake, they’re busy little things: feeding, filling their diapers, crying, squirming. They’re not still much at all. This adds another layer of complexity and randomness to a photo shoot, which often doesn’t translate well into portraits.
Finally, they don’t yet make any expressions really or respond to social stimuli, so their beautiful faces, frozen in an image, look uninterested, bored or unhappy – even though they are happy little newborns, wriggling around and getting used to being in the world. We’re conditioned to look for social expressions that they just don’t make yet.
So, with eyes that don’t focus much, random squirminess, and little expression, it’s not the right time for an awake portrait shoot. That’s why we keep them asleep, eyes closed in those early days. Sometimes, over the course of a newborn shoot, I’ll snap a few with the eyes open, but it’s not the focus of the shoot – the curled up, nestled sleeping newborn is! And this is the shot that is the most beautiful at that age, the pose that allows us to capture the minute details of those early days that disappear so quickly: the tiny fingers and toes, the way they hold their lips as they breathe in their sleep, the way they curl up as in the womb, the perfect little fingernails, the gorgeous tiny eyelashes, and the peace that they exude as they lie in sleep, so trusting and comfortable with the world around them.
On those occasions when parents have really requested we do a portion of the shoot with eyes open, mum or dad inevitably says part way through the shoot “now I understand what you mean!” I’m happy to try, if you understand the challenges, but I really advise to do sleeping shots at that age. They are gorgeous little people, and their little movements, their eyes looking around, their early exploration of the world are all amazing and wondrous to see in person … but those moments don’t make for a great photographic experience.
That said, when they’re 8-12 weeks, they are much more aware of the world around them, with more focussed eyes, and with expressions that are beginning to result from social interaction. That’s when we normally do the first eyes-open shoot … big wide eyes, toothless happy grins, and natural innocence. Fabulous portraits!
For those clients that opt for the first-year-of-life package, we normally do multiple shoots throughout the year, including the sleeping newborn (1-2 weeks), the early baby shoot with open eyes (2-3 months), the later baby shoot (6 months), the sitting, playing and maybe supported standing baby shoot (9 months) and the cusp of toddlerhood shoot (12 months). It’s a great way of tracing their first year with the same photographic and creative style, and getting a full range of expressions and moments, including sleeping, laughing, pouting and everything in between! Quite magical, really.
at four weeks…
April 19, 2014
From our archives: originally published 13 July 2012
Some gorgeous images from a shoot a few months ago. This little one came to the studio a few weeks older than the standard newborn. It’s always a risk, as at 4 weeks, you never know if they’ll sleep soundly enough and still curl up enough to get the sweet sleeping shots that you can get when they’re in their first 10 days of life. It took many hours and loads of patience, but we finally managed it — much to the delight of me and the parents!
Studio Deidre … in Vogue!
April 14, 2014
From our archives. Post first published on 17 October 2011
Studio Deidre was selected for inclusion in Vogue’s 2011 Hot Shots feature — in the November issue of UK Vogue (out now). They feature 12 photographers as part of their “definitive guide to the most exclusive Photographers for all occasions!”. Thanks, Vogue!
Quote of the day
April 9, 2014
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
- Ansel Adams
April 4, 2014
From our archives: originally published 23 June 2012
Another set of photos from a lovely newborn shoot a few weeks ago. New hats and blankets feature …
This little girl was absolutely gorgeous (so were her parents), with a perfect little angel face. She was also a real pleasure to photograph … very relaxed and happy. A fabulous shoot, with pictures I’m sure her family will treasure for years.
March 24, 2014
I always love taking the “baby in dad’s hands” shots … there’s just something about a black and white photograph of a tiny newborn in dad’s strong hands.
Baby Photography Tip #3: How to take a great family shot
March 20, 2014
When I take portraits of a newborn, a pregnant mother, a toddler, my pictures are about that person. Add another person to the mix, and the pictures become portraits of their relationship with each other. Created well, they capture golden moments that families cherish. But pinpointing that moment isn’t always easy – especially when several small children are involved – and I thought I’d write a post and share some of my tips and tricks for taking a great family shot.
March 14, 2014
Love this little girl. I’m not one for adding lots of props and embellishments — I prefer the most natural photos. But somehow, these pearls that her mum brought really work in this image. Only 6 months old, and such a beautiful little girl!
High key photographs
March 8, 2014
I love shooting with my back-lit pure white studio set, particularly for babies and toddlers where there the simple modern tones really make for crisp beautiful images.
Quote of the day
March 5, 2014
The reward of our work is not what we get, but what we become.
- Paulo Coelho