I took plenty of cell phone pictures and videos of my preemies during their NICU stays but it never occurred to me to have professional photography done. In the moment, I was still a little embarrassed of my situation. Daily trips to the hospital, scrubbing up with soap and putting on a sticky name tag before I was allowed to visit my own child in a gloomy, sterile, dimly lit room was my private time with my girls—not something I was proud to share. Not to mention all the cords and monitors—wouldn’t pictures of miniature babies frighten people or make them feel sorry for us?
After seeing the work of Ree Barnes for Brittanie Flores—I realized I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Ree’s photos showed the reality—cord and monitors. But she also captured a loving mom, an adoring father, a family. She made the NICU look beautiful. It might not be a fit for your first week in NICU—or even your first month. But I’ll be suggesting NICU photographey to more preemie moms now that I’ve see the beauty that can be found in the NICU experience.
We got to see your beautiful NICU photo shoot in the first Preemie Mom Story with Brittanie Flores. Had you done a NICU photo shoot before?
That was my first NICU experience! They have very strict guidelines on who they let in, so it limits accessibility. NICU sessions are VERY special!
Why don’t you think more preemie moms are interested in NICU photo shoots?
I think it might be one of the last things they think about, unfortunately. They are very overwhelmed and recovering from a traumatic birth. However, with so many inspiring photography resources out there, NICU sessions are on the rise. It’s a nice way for parents to show that it isn’t all about wires and alarms going off. It’s a beautiful experience and it should be professionally documented. They will be eternally grateful they chose to do so.
How are NICU photo shoots different than labor and delivery shoots?
Access is very limited to only a few family members in most NICU settings. While I’ve found that during a birth—it’s the more the merrier! Moms and dads are becoming more open to the idea of such a personal experience being shared with close family. Mainly because of what an amazing experience it is to welcome your baby into the world for the first time! It’s incredible and very moving to be invited to that setting.
What are some of the challenges of shooting in a NICU room? How do you overcome them?
The space is normally quite small and not much room to move around. It requires a special lens for this type of setting.
Did you need any special assistance from the NICU nurse on call?
I didn’t need special assistance from the nurse on call at the NICU, however, it was amazing to watch her tube feed and assist the parents. The “normal” activities made for very special photos.
What are some things for preemie moms to consider before scheduling a NICU photo shoot?
Be sure and ask your NICU staff who you might need permission from to allow a photographer in with you. Depending on the time of year or specific NICU guidelines you may be limited to the number of guests allowed.
Definitely do your homework regarding the photographer! Hire a professional who is used to working in various conditions, light and spaces—and has lens options to adapt. Ask other moms that have had birth or NICU portraits done and see if you like their results. There are many photographers with different styles so it’s important to find one that suites your needs.
In your opinion, what makes a NICU photo shoot so special?
Real NICU moments. You will forget the little things like holding your preemie for the first time, tube feeds, diaper changes and just getting to touch your baby. So authenticity is the only way to go!
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