Millie just past her six-month mark. Six months! Her baby year is flying. Yet I knew it would happen… Having done this whole baby thing before, I’ve come to learn that second-time parents are gifted with at least some preemptive wisdom about how things are about to go down.
First thing first. You absolutely feel that you’ve “got this”. These tiny little creatures are not that terrifying after all, right?! And nappies – pah, you can do them one handed with your eyes closed while simultaneously yelping instructions at your first child to wash their hands, stop throwing golf balls in the house, sit down while they’re eating etc, etc.
Second thing. And you’re well aware. Time. Will. Go. Fast.
It feels like Millie has barely been a baby in my arms, yet she is already trying to crawl! Her little personality (very cheeky) is blooming, and she enjoys nothing more than watching her brother play (oh, the actual joys of being able to grab his toys! “MILLIE IS ANNOYING ME, MAMA!!!”)
It’s wonderful watching each new little achievement develop. Yet I’m also acutely aware I’ll never get the tiny fragile newborn version of her back. I so often look at pictures of tiny Zachy and struggle to connect them with the huge boy before me!
Having lost many photos of him as a baby too (bad phone), I was pretty insistent that we get some professional snaps of Millie before she totally outgrew her tiny perfect newness. Oh yeah, and on account of basically having a house-like-temple-shine of Zachy photos, I also thought it best to balance the situation so to not give the poor second child a complex in years to come!
When it comes to choosing a family photographer in Dubai, the choice is rife. Incredibly so, in fact! I’m often blown away by friends’ photos of sprawling desert scenes and tranquil beach shoots. I could name many fantastic photographers to check out, with new names popping up all the time.
Yet when it comes to newborn shoots, there was one name topping my list – Sophia Mattia Photography.
Having met Sophia over 18 months ago for a family beach shoot, I had regularly ogled her Instagram account with the thought of baby no.2 in my mind. I was therefore delighted when, equipped with an actual baby no.2 some months later, the day came to welcome Sophia to our home. Millie was a mere dot of a three-week-old baby.
I wasn’t particularly sure what to expect of a newborn shoot, but I definitely didn’t expect what I saw! I had been showering upstairs when Sophia arrived. By the time I got downstairs, Sophia had not only had a good chit-chat with my parents, but had completely transformed the living room into a studio set-up, complete with an adjustable bed to take snaps of Millie, an absolute treasure-trove of tiny outfits, and an array of beautiful props and gorgeous accessories!
“Take your pick” she said, before explaining the process of newborn shoots.
I selected around three outfits and accessories, while Sophia also made some “Mummy pleasing” suggestions in the form of a gorgeous little lace leotard, followed by a swaddle blanket.
Aside from props and accessories then, what else do you need for a successful newborn shoot? Well, I would say, patience. By the bucket load! Yes, certainly newborn babies sleep a lot. Except when they decide they’d prefer to pee, poop and feed every 10 minutes instead.
Patience, I have to admit, is not a virtue I possess. I was therefore fathomably blown away by Sophia’s gentle ability to get Millie in and out of outfits, and into those special newborn poses without breaking a sweat. It’s not easy, particularly when each little outfit is promptly soiled and then removed for washing.
“I have learnt to take a change of clothes!” Sophia told me. “In fact I’ve been pooped on more times than I remember. I’ve had little boys wee in my face but it’s all part of the job I love!”
Indeed, her love and passion for what she was doing, along with her perseverance to get everything right resulted in some of the most beautiful shots of Millie. Shots I will absolutely treasure for a lifetime.
Get To Know Sophia…
How long have you been in Dubai for?
I have been in Dubai for six years, and have worked as a photographer for 15 years. I love meeting new people and really enjoy my sessions here, whether thats a 5am start at the beach for a family session or a day at someones home capturing their precious new baby, I also love the editing side of my job, I spend hours art working and retouching each image.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
Originally I studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins in London. During this time I spent a lot of time incorporating photography into my work. This was when we still used film and developed our images in dark rooms. It was very relaxing and almost therapeutic, and it quickly became obvious that this was my passion and so I went on to study photography and digital art.
What is it that you love about newborn shoots?
As a mother myself I know how precious these newborn memories are. It’s not long before your baby is up and running around. I adore capturing those tiny little features and making memories.
What is the process of conducting a newborn shoot?
It is so important first and foremost that the baby is safe. Because of this I regularly train in posed newborn photography and safety. My equipment is specifically designed to aid my newborn sessions and I source beautiful newborn props from all over the world!
Secondly, I will never rush a newborn session. I allow lots of time for feeding, cuddles and settling to make sure baby is comfortable, warm and safe. During the first few weeks parents can be tired, so I take everything to their homes, set up and give mum and dad time to relax and enjoy the session.
When is the best time to have a newborn shoot and why?
I like to capture the early days so I would normally book around 6/14 days after birth. Sometimes this isn’t possible and I have no problem posing up to 5 weeks if needed.
What is the most tricky part of conducting a newborn shoot and why?
Every baby is different and although I will go to my session with a workflow, I am always prepared to change things, re-set to a different pose and be flexible to ensure I use my time efficiently whilst keeping baby calm and settled.
What have been some of your most favourite shots and why?
When I’m asked which is my favourite shot, I have one little lady in particular that pops into my mind. She was 6 weeks old and had spent the first few weeks in hospital. The first day I went for the session she was cluster feeding and a little unsettled so we decided after a couple of hours to rearrange for the following day. This was when we did the most precious potato sack pose, she just looked angelic. I love this one!
I also photographed a family recently for a bump to baby session. We had a stunning early morning beach shoot capturing mum, dad, brother and bump. I love these sessions, capturing memories of the pregnancy and the family before the little one arrives and then meeting the new baby for special newborn photos and family/sibling pictures. This little guy posed beautifully and we had such a wonderful variety of colours, poses & outfits. It was so hard to pick a favourite from this session but I just love the one of his little tushi up!
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It’s so hard to pick a favourite as each session is beautiful and special in its own way – Dad holding his precious baby in his big protective hands, mum’s gentle kiss, baby’s tiny toes, I just love them all!
If you weren’t a photographer, what would your dream job be?
That’s easy, an art teacher! I love being creative, making and painting. I’m always doing arts and crafts with my little one!
Finally, what information would you like to give new parents looking for a newborn shoot?
Timing is vital. Allow for the day to achieve a good variety of images. Newborn sessions take time and patience, it’s not as easy as lying the baby down and getting all the shots in an hour.
Also, for anyone considering a posed newborn session, I would advise you find a trained photographer. The safety of your baby is of the utmost importance, and over the years I have seen babies put into props and positions that put their safety at risk. I really cannot stress this enough.