Babies are the boss, infant photographer discovers
Written by: Carl Hnatyshyn
Originally Published by: Sarnia This Week on December 31, 2018
A Petrolia-based newborn and maternity photographer has received recognition as well as some highly sought-after accreditation from an international photography group.
Full-time paramedic Kelly Lumley – who spends much of her spare time taking pictures of ‘babies and bellies’, as she jokingly refers to, in and around her home-based Petrolia studio – has been given the certification of official newborn and maternity photographer by the Accredited Professional Newborn Photographers International (APNPI).
With the honours, Lumley becomes one of a handful of photographers in Southwestern Ontario to have received such accreditation.
“It’s a hard thing to obtain,” she said. “Sometimes it takes three or four times to get accredited for either newborn or maternity, so I was pretty happy to pass my newborns but when I got my maternity passed as well I was over the moon.”
The newborn photographers association is hoping to professionalize and standardize the increasingly lucrative world of infant and maternity photography as well as promote safety by vetting and judging photographers around the world, Lumley said.
“They’re trying to promote quality in the newborn industry for parents,” she said. “So it’s a place where we as photographers can go and build our skills and promote ourselves and for parents it’s a place to find out who is reputable and who is around.”
A self-taught photographer whose well-kept basement studio is a cornucopia of adorable props, tiny infant headdress, colourful newborn clothing as well as vivid, vibrant and flowing maternity gowns, Lumley first got bit by the newborn photography bug by chance, over eight years ago, when her then-infant son had a serious brush with illness soon after he was born.
“Our son, Scott, got very sick and we almost lost him,” she said. “We were in the hospital in London and after we knew he was going to be okay, I looked around (the ward) and said to myself ‘there are a lot of babies here who might not be coming home’.”
“For some of these people, all they had left was the baby’s blanket when their baby went into surgery, so I realized then that there were a lot of parents out there who needed pictures. This is how you make memories,” Lumley added. “I’d always been a creative person, but never quite found the right outlet. Then I got a good camera and learned how to use it. So that’s what got me started on this path.”
Initially Lumley did several newborn shoots a year – generally focusing on infants aged two to six weeks old – the whole time honing her photography skills through online courses, poring over training books and attending seminars when possible. As the years rolled by, interest in her side-business grew exponentially to the point where she was holding 50 to 60 newborn photo shoots in a year.
In 2018 alone, Lumley photographed 80 babies.
With experience comes wisdom, Lumley said, as she became much more knowledgeable about how to deal with the often-finicky and fidgety newborns.
“It’s funny – the babies are the boss,” she said, smiling. “You can’t make them do something if they don’t want to do it. So you need a lot of time and patience. It’s been a lot of learning over the past several years. And over the course of the years, you find out what works and what doesn’t. The babies will let you know.”
Sometimes parents bring cherished items or outfits to the newborn photo shoots but more often than not Lumley has to create things from scratch, which involves quite a lot of preparatory work.
“Sometimes parents will have a sentimental object like a blanket that somebody’s created for them or a teddy bear, and I’ll get to see it first and I’ll create a set-up around that,” she said. “Otherwise it’s stuff that I have here in my studio. And there are also trends in the industry – you’ll see certain ideas trending. Right now we’re into the pastel colours, neutral stuff. Clean and classic – that’s kind of the way it is.”
When asked if a newborn baby shoot is a quick pop-in, snap a few pictures and pop-out again type event, Lumley laughed.
“No, no, no,” she said, laughing. “The parents come here and they feed the baby. Then I get them wrapped up in a little outfit, bundle them up and then we get props, parent shots. A typical session is about three-and-a-half hours.”
And how does she keep the focus of a newborn during one of these sessions?
“It’s just little things you learn over the years,” Lumley said. “White noise, keeping it very warm for the infants, wrapping them up. And just being calm – if you’re feeling stressed they’ll feel it too.”
A few years ago, Lumley decided to expand her photography business to encompass another emerging market – maternity photography. It was a decision of which she has no regrets.
“A lot of women don’t feel comfortable when they’re pregnant because they gain a lot of weight and they’re exhausted,” she said. “So I actually have a collection of gowns and it’s so funny to watch the women to come in. Once they put the gowns on, it’s almost like they become a peacock. It’s showing them that they’re beautiful, which they are both on the outside and the inside.
“It’s actually quite inspiring to see,” she added.
Although busy with a full-time job as well as her photography business, Lumley said she wouldn’t want it any other way. The now officially certified photographer finds joy in the fact she can provide parents and parents-to-be with cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
“Just creating those memories for the parents is probably the most rewarding part of all this,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had emails from moms telling me ‘I’m sitting here at the computer in tears looking at these beautiful pictures of my baby’. Seeing the joy you give to those parents is something so special.”
For more information about Kelly Lumley Photography, visit her website at www.kellylumleyphotography.com or her Facebook page.