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Ray Lowe reported from the first Newborn Baby Show in 2014 and explained the Cherubs Portrait Programme benefits


sk any fledgling business what is going to be their biggest problem, and the number one answer is getting new customers, and preferably customers that will keep coming back for years to come. Photographers go into business for many different reasons, some because they think it’s easy, some because someone said their pictures are good, a few because they have a burning passion to do it and are actually good at it – but they will all have the same problem, getting and sustaining customers. That’s why the new Cherubs Portrait Programme is so brilliant, for a reasonable price (it’s a lot cheaper than setting up an exhibition in a shopping mall or store to gather data) you can buy the names of pregnant women at 26 weeks, you can offer that customer whatever you feel is right for your business at whatever price you decide. If you make the right offer (the MPA are here to offer advice) you then have a customer for life, IF you treat them like gold. Not every women wants a bump portrait, therefore you can write to them again (the MPA offer advice on templates to use) and offer them a Newborn portrait session. This is a massive growing market and recently we exhibited at the first ever Newborn Baby Show held at a wonderfully different venue at the beautiful tranquil Botanical Gardens in Edgbaston. Three brilliantly creative Newborn specialist portrait photographers – Melanie East, Tracy Willis and Sarah Wilkes

The Newborn Baby Show had a great venue, above, and live demonstrations of a real ‘bump’ shot with Damian McGillicuddy


– put their heads together and decided to put on this event. Congratulations to them for grabbing such a unique new opportunity! Next year’s show is already being advertised and will outstrip this year’s by a long way. The array of trade stands was selling everything from cameras and lighting to shawls and baskets for baby to lay in – in fact everything that the newborn baby photographer needs to succeed. There were even seminars on how to photograph a real newborn baby. The best of these was a totally free event given many times on each day by the unique Damian McGillicuddy FMPA on a small stage, where he expertly showed how to photograph a pregnant lady creatively and then later on some beautiful sensitive newborn portraits, all this while entertaining a crowd and showing the benefits of using the new Olympus cameras. He then stood aside and gave people from the audience an Olympus and let them do it. The whole experience was worth the visit to the show alone. It also showed how this new range of mirrorless cameras really could work in a social studio situation. The Newborn photography market is exploding into life, with the saying of ‘there is one born every minute’; there will never be a shortage of Newborns to photograph, which is why the Cherubs Programme has been going strong for 24 years. We as the MPA had a stand at the show under the banner of ‘the perfect portrait business on a plate’. We are in partnership with Bounty

Newborn demonstration with Damian McGillicuddy

UK and obtain exclusively 300,000 B2B leads per year to sell on to our Cherubs Portrait Partners, which puts them in the driving seat for the first information of a pregnant mum at 26 weeks, and then leading on to baby’s birth for Newborn Portraiture. You can then buy leads in your postcode area from the 600,000 leads that we buy from Bounty UK, which are exclusively your and only yours. We can then help and guide you on how to get the most from these leads, but you can charge what you see fit for your own business, these customers grow with you over the years and will be part of your future success and prosperity. We also believe that success comes from amongst

other things, training, being able to do the right thing from the start and this is where the help of the show came into its own. Too many newbies think its easy photographing a baby; in fact it’s a special art, not to be taken on lightly or without preparation. Our own Tobias Robins (example photo, below) has now run two webinars for us, to help Cherubs Partners understand the Newborn market and its pitfalls. You need the right props and lighting (both on display at the show, with our own Nicholas Frost from The Prop Shop, doing a roaring trade and also The Flash Centre explaining correct lighting set ups) but you need the right attitude and approach, this is what Newborn photography training is all about… and was in abundance at the show. The MPA found the show extremely successful with the right quality of attendee, all looking for that little bit extra help to be a success in their new ventures. – Ray Lowe HonFMPA MPA Cherubs Director


Graphistudio Cherubs Portrait pack Here is the new Graphistudio Cherubs Portrait pack of free goodies. It includes the MPA Cherubs parents’ photos in the Baby Young Book, one of our three print photo frames, samples of our Digital Matted Prints mounted and standard, a folder with the cover material, lining swatches and different paper options, plus of course one of the Pocket Book copies that can be ordered up for grandparents or even for your own publicity. All are FREE to Cherubs Portrait Partners. If for any reason you aren't registered with Graphistudio please urgently contact: MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM • 3



rom the Newborn Photography Show, to practical workshops for MPA, Melanie East AMPA has made a great impression on all who want to master the difficult responsibility of the newborn shoot. Such is the popularity of this that professionals, as well as family members and amateurs practicing to learn, often impose unnecessary strain on tiny babies and run serious risks. Melanie, one of the UK’s leading newborn photographers, always puts the well-being of the baby first and ensures she explains the Photoshopped nature of so many popular ‘newborn poses’ to mums and the public in general. They are

Qualified as an Associate in the very popular art of newborn photography, Melanie is bringing her message of best practice to a wide audience


sometimes so convincing that people think week-old bodies can really adopt these poses. But Melanie, more than most, understands the responsibility and the risks. “I left my ten year career as a lawyer”, she explains, “in order to fulfil my dream of professional photography. I started Melanie East Photography in 2005, and I also own babyME Photography and The Art of the Newborn” (babyME Photography® is a registered trade mark). Melanie East Photography is the wedding and general portraiture arm of my business – babyME Photography is the newborn side of my business, and The Art of the Newborn is my photographic training

In colour, Melanie styles the images carefully. Soft, muted pastel effects are not achieved by just using a ‘look’ or turning down the saturation, as this takes all the life out of the new skin tones. Soft lighting keeps contrast down for colour, while black and white (below and right) can use more directional light and offers a solution when colour is not kind. One the next spread, soft organic fabric shapes combine with colour co-ordination.



business. The vast majority of my work involves running a busy studio, but I also enjoy passing on the experience I have gained. “I am a highly motivated photographer and businesswoman and I thrive on producing beautiful newborn portraiture and excellent client service for my clients. I also love to teach newborn photography and when I see the progress photographers have made in their work after being taught by me, rightly or wrongly I feel a sense of pride. “My business is operated out of commercial high street premises on which I have a lease. These consist of a large reception and viewing area and a separate ‘shooting room’” where I carry out all of my newborn photography. My training MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM • 7

Safe poses for newborns can often be the most natural positions – but a parent or helper but always be just out of shot to watch baby every second of the time. On this page, ‘top of the head’ angles with the feet away from the camera need careful head positioning but give the photographer a little time to work. Facing page – raised props, platforms or surfaces call for fast and careful work as baby must never be left out of arm’s reach of a helper.

for fellow photographers is carried out either by way of workshops (limited to six photographers if a shooting workshop), or by way of one-to-one sessions with individual photographers, arranged at the photographer student’s request. I have also taught general photography to clients of the John Lewis Partnership (Bristol) by way


of evening workshops. “Recently I have been approached by a publishing house to write a book on newborn photography. I have already received my first advance and this is work in progress. The words and pictures are due to be submitted to my editor by November 2015 for publication in mid-2016 and

the book will be available in Waterstones and other main booksellers. Amazon will sell it in printed form and digitally and by way of download to Kindle.”

Showing the world Melanie, along with Sarah Wilkes and Tracy Willis, took the brave decision to run the first national exhibition in this field – The Newborn Photography Show, inaugurated in 2014. The choice of a unusual botanic garden setting may have helped this springtime event, but it’s moving on and in the third year (May 17th and 18th, 2016) it’s at the Windmill Village Hotel, Coventry. The venue remains highly accessible in the Midlands, and following the 2015 event the Master Photographers Association affiliated with the show, joining an illustrious list of photo trade supporters. “The show was set up to provide support and training to other newborn photographers, whether those just starting out or those who

are experienced. Through it we support photographic charities (Remember my Baby and The Butterfly Wishes Network). I am passionate about and promote the safe posing of babies during newborn photography sessions and this is something

I teach to my photographer delegates.” We chatted to Melanie about this – it’s by far the most important aspect. Be very cautious with advice found on internet sites, and do not even consider offering newborn photography

without direct training in all the aspects of this art and business. You need informed parents, assistance, special safe props, a warm studio and retouching skills!






oo many newborn shoots seem to concentrate on a warm studio and forget all about warm lighting – light with direction, glow, colour and life. We see so many photographers use soft, formless lighting and bland backgrounds for babies which almost lose outlines and merge into a magnolia marshmallow smudge. Well,


baby skin has to look soft and perfect, doesn’t it? And newborns are not immune to skin care problems? So, light flat? But newborns have wonderful cheeks and chins and eyes, little noses and perfect lips. Rounded,


dimensional, confident lighting can work! Kelly Brown, the undoubted star of Australia’s neonatal photography scene, has no hesitation using sidelighting and also a beautiful diffuse light

from ‘down under’. That’s not being theatrical and unnatural, because in real life babies are held up, lain down, seen from above, seen in cots where the light comes from a window or buggies and prams where it reflects into the shaded canopy. In Australia young skin is kept well out of direct rays but so often lit by the reflected sunshine of an outdoor lifestyle. And

A classic overhead shot, left, not too close and wide but still needing 35mm focal length on her zoom. On this page, two sibling and newborn studies which really caught our attention for their colour quality and the obvious appeal of this – a good way to make older children feel very much part of the new arrival’s life, and just as important in the family.


in the studio, Kelly Brown creates exactly that beautiful glow which sculpts baby faces in three dimensions. It’s a joyous light, as hopeful as a clear sunrise, optimistic and also flattering. It’s an approach to lighting which owes much to beauty and glamour techniques of the past and the recognition that diffuse light coming from below the chin, or from the side but absolutely not in the traditional Rembrandt overhead manner, has a wow factor. Since this is often a type of light which will reveal texture, Kelly does retouch her babies much as a beauty specialist would. She uses a Wacom Intuous Pro Medium pad, a self-calibrating EIZO ColorEdge CG247 24-inch monitor, and works carefully to ensure a natural result. Her favourite portable light is a Jinbei EFL-200 LED source, not often seen in the UK though available from one importer with a six-week order time. This looks like a large studio flash, but puts out an actual 200W of LED light which runs cool (from the subject side) despite matching a remarkable 2000W of 5600K daylight quality. It goes through a

Kelly Brown 50cm white perspex globe diffuser from the same Chinese maker. We are sure you will see the benefit of this highly controllable continuous light in the photographs we have selected from Kelly’s large and varied portfolio – she can do low key and muted equally well, but to inspire our UK newborn photographers and Cherubs studios it’s this great use of a well-defined directional light we want to show you. Kelly combines this with a free approach to camera angles and position, the reverse of the setup where a new baby is carefully posed and the camera remains on a tripod. She will move in as close to the baby as a mother


would, letting mum and studio ‘spotter’ assistant do the handling and support while watching constantly to ensure the baby is safe and happy. Most of her poses are natural and do not demand the supporting hand or retouched post production familiar from newborn ‘template’ approaches. This allows the lens close enough to catch the scent and warmth of the baby, and for the parent, the perspective and apparent eye position become their own. Of course the special prop support, wraps and knits can still be a purely photographic confection – a means to swaddle a very little body in a photogenic fashion, cocooned or floated in fabric, nested or cuddled. She uses her own Shoot Baby! posing bag. The settings are however all believable, with a simple laid-down blanket and coverlet for an overhead portrait which looks much better than any attempt to put baby in a vertical pose (see above). This natural repose flatters baby faces, gravity removing sag or squash, but it only works if the photographer is able to work from overhead. In this picture set you will see some poses which might look ‘sitting’, as with the

older brother and sister on the previous page. These are lying-down poses not sitting up and holding baby, it’s the sidelighting and the camera angle which combine to make them look right. “Knowing the best way to pose babies is definitely something which has developed over time,” Kelly says, “along with understanding babies and how they move. I’m still perfecting things with every session, but I think the key is to be patient and never force a baby into any pose just for the sake of a shot.” Study Kelly’s pictures carefully. She says that many entrants to the newborn field seem to have their focus all wrong. “I’ve noticed a lot of newcomers focusing more on the posing instead of the basics of photography, like lighting, composition, focus and learning about which lens is best for what situation.” On the facing page, two monochrome examples with that signature subtle wrap of directional light. One of the most important pieces of advice she offers is “never risk the safety of a baby for the sake of getting a shot”. She always uses a spotter while on a shoot (ensuring that the baby is



Light and colour – Kelly Brown choose her fabrics and props with great attention to the way that digital sensors (and her Canon in particular) render them. Warm shades, browns and pinks with never a hint of brilliant white, avoid highlight burn-out and harmonise with the skin tones she aims for. Small elements like moss green (lower left) are arranged so they do not cast green reflected light into these tones. On this page, a simple co-ordination of colour and two camera positions and angles from the same ‘sitting’. She does not try to put the baby’s face in an adult portrait orientation.


Black and white in a beautiful light – study the brilliant long-lashes angle above. If this was to be lit without skill, focused on the wrong point, taken at just one stop down and processed differently the baby’s very new skin with its fine dotting of lanolin not yet absorbed could look unattractive or even rough. This treatment ensures it looks beautiful yet the neonatal texture is still there. Below, the same goes for toes – for a set of pictures, such close-ups may be difficult but work so well together. On the facing page, a final example of that special below-the-lens level lighting which you can create using a diffuse light source or by bouncing a regular flash off a reflector. It’s almost like the glow of a fire or a night-light, even in subtle monochrome.


safe at all times and not likely to roll off onto the ground. “Practice on a fake baby with different posing techniques,” she suggests, “as well as how to wrap.” When it comes to the technical aspects, Brown stresses the importance of learning to read light – both artificial and natural, and knowing and understanding all the fundamentals of composition, because it’s only then that you can start to break the rules. Kelly launched her business Little Pieces of Photography in 2005. She has since travelled the world speaking at events and teaching newborn posing classes. In 2014 she photographed 139 newborn babies, mentored 23 photographers and held 19 newborn posing classes across 12 countries. She has won many awards, nationally and internationally, including

the AIPP Australian Family Photographer of the Year (2014). She is also a Master of Photography with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography and Wedding & Portrait Photographers Association (WPPI), where she was awarded eight first place titles. In her state, Queensland, she’s been AIPP Family Photographer of the Year every year since 2012 and their overall Professional Photographer of the Year 2013 and 2014. With the healthy birth rate and economy of Australia (compared to most of the UK) she’s been able to build a business centred just on newborn and baby photography, and considers herself lucky to avoid the problems of changing weather and venues faced by wedding specialists. Kelly has her own family to look after too – three

children. At the end of 2013, her husband decided to join her in the business after 20 years in the construction industry. Designed and conceived (no pun intended) by the couple, The Baby Summit has been launched as a threeday conference, on the gold Coast in early August. It’s the first of its kind: an event for photographers that specialise in the maternity, birth, newborn and baby genres, with presenters from all over the world. Brown also sells Photoshop actions, provides one-on-one mentoring and does video tutorials, having appeared a number of times on CreativeLive, the popular US online platform. And what is the secret, if there is one, behind all all this success? “In the beginning,” she says, “I believed it was all about taking amazing photos. Now I know that a

successful photography business is close to 70% business and only 30% taking photos – and the business aspect requires one to wear so many different hats.” As ever the one secret ingredient is hard work – “You have to work for what you want,” Kelly says. “Every year, we set goals, make plans and then go about making it happen. We do whatever it takes to achieve them, and I don’t allow fear to hold me back.” And for the camera gear of choice, she shoots on a Canon 5D Mark III with a 2470mm ƒ2.8 Mark II lens. “The lens is so incredibly versatile, it’s practically on my camera full-time,” she says. “It’s not only great for close ups, but wide angles as well when shooting large props from above.”





few weeks ago I attended the Kelly Brown seminar run for Cherubs Partners by the MPA, writes Cherubs Ambassador Nick Bayley. I finally got to meet and spend the whole day with one of my photography heroes. She has been an absolute inspiration to me since I first watched her on Creative Live doing a talk on newborn photography. I have admired her amazing award-winning images from afar and so naturally jumped at this exclusive chance to meet her in person and benefit from her expertise while she was briefly in the UK. The night before the seminar Kelly joined a group of us, stayed and chatted for a hour or more. I have never been in a group of photographers that listened without interruption to every word of one person. At the seminar the next day Kelly was an inspiration – not only was she extremely generous with her business knowledge gained over ten years as a newborn photographer, she also explained that it was important for her and her family to have some “me time”. We went through Baby Safety, posing and studio setups as well as running a profitable studio. So much information, and I know we could have spent many hours listening to her. After a very long day I came out feeling energised and will be implementing many of


Kelly Brown (left) with Ray Lowe (centre, though really referee…) and delegates at the seminar, as discussions went on into the night. Right: Cherubs Ambassador Nick Bayley who provided this report along with Ray, and Kelly. Below: everyone needs a nap after the gig! Photograph by Nick Bayley.


the ideas and practices I picked up during the day to make sure that ‘Rosiepics’ and my clients will see my photography evolve as a result of this awesome lady and what she has done for our industry. But most importantly I want to make sure I deliver amazing images and a unique service for my clients. I even took my first selfie. I know I look shattered but it had been a fantastic day and I can’t thank Ray Lowe, Paul Inskip and Claire Louise enough for organising this event. You may or may not know that I have been asked to be one of the Cherub Ambassadors. I am based in the South of England, Hampshire and want to help anyone who wants help with their Cherub business. We need to work together to bring the standard of Photography and the service we deliver above the average. We can only do this by putting our heads together and working to help each other. I have picked up many new ideas over the last few years and although I have only been in this industry for five years, I have run my own businesses since 1997 and I have to say this is the hardest industry I've worked in ( I used to run hotels and restaurants and then went into IT and Telecoms). It’s a tough nut to crack and one thing I know is it’s no good to copy or look at what some other

photographers are doing in your area, you have to be you. Sell you, and the service you offer, don’t cheapen you, by offering lower prices than the person down the road. “You have no idea what their business is, and it’s none of your business” – Kelly Brown quote. You have no idea what their costs are or their end goal, or their business plan. If they are doing everything on a disk for £20 let them they will get so busy that after a few months they will be knackered and broke. There is a wealth of knowledge in our group so let us share it to further all our businesses – share freely and be helpful. Its the only way forward.

Ray Lowe’s take Kelly Brown has contacted me on arriving back in Oz and said how much she enjoyed the Cherubs day, and how much she noticed how Cherub Partners shared with each other, something that does not happen amongst all photographers. How on earth do I sum up what a fantastic two days the Kelly Brown conference really was? It was everything I had hoped for when I started arranging it, and a hell of a lot more, mainly because of the Partners who attended, writes MPA Cherubs Director Ray Lowe. We were lucky enough to have a delightful meal the evening before the talk with Kelly because of the generosity of Ronan Ryle of 3XM – a huge thank you to him. As you can imagine the talk with her over dinner was stimulating to say the least. Around twenty five Cherub Partners who stayed at the hotel sat for many hours discussing Cherubs. What came out of that frank and deep discussion was very enlightening which WILL have consequences for the future of Cherubs. The thoughts and views from the discussion group were very strong and forthright. Kelly's all day talk was only in a small part about

newborn photography. She showed a few brilliant videos of her at work, actually shooting a newborn baby and she was doing the voice over live which was a great way of explaining. But her talk was so much more, Business, success, motivation, life, this excellent talk had absolutely everything. What was lovely to see at the end of the day, was so many partners staying behind and chatting away for ages. To be honest nobody wanted it to end. One of the things that came out of the evening meeting and was very strongly felt, was the standard of photography in Cherubs generally around the UK. This is the main reason that every Cherubs Partner must be qualified to Licentiateship level. Each and every one of us must be of the highest standard possible as the whole of the Cherub Brand rests on all of our Shoulders. The next Licentiateship panel judging takes place in Darlington on June 22nd. If you have been in Cherubs

advice to improve all aspects of our business. • A great day. Well worth making a space in my calendar for and a real help in term of continuing to develop my work. • This was by far the best seminar I have attended through out my photography journey. Kelly Brown is an amazing speaker she is inspirational and motivational. She is immensely generous with the information she shares. An amazing day! • Well-organised seminar with the amazingly talented but also very giving Kelly Brown. A major coup by our own Cherubs/MPA and it was a privilege to be there. • This is what Cherubs is all about… learning together to achieve a high standard. • This has to be without doubt a massive triumph for the MPA and Cherubs, to be able to provide a world-class speaker for members. The day with Kelly Briwn was awesome. • Wow – what a fantastic day and what an amazing

Photograph by Nick Bayley

MPA CREATED a feedback page where delegates at last month’s Kelly Brown newborn and baby seminar could leave their comments. And here’s what they said. • Kelly is a great speaker, warm and generous with information. Highly recommended. • Incredible seminar with a world class speaker. I have so many new ideas, tips and

photographer and speaker Kelly Brown is. I’m inspired to the max. Thank you Kelly. • Awesome: one of the best evenings and days I have spent so far in my photography career. If anything it was too short and went too quickly • Brilliant MPA Cherubs day with world class baby photographer Kelly Brown. A class act.

• Fantastic day, fantastic speaker, love being a part of Cherubs, I have learnt so much and my photography has improved so much, thanks to the MPA and Cherubs and all the ongoing learning and help that is on offer, I don’t know what I’d do without you. • Inspirational and useful full day seminar with Kelly Brown. Got lots to implement now. Thanks. • Always gets your brain turning, allowing me to grow and develop with every new client. • Excellent seminar. Look forward to attending the next one. • Good to be reminded why I love photographing babies, and to be inspired to keep moving forward. • A great opportunity to meet like minded professionals all wishing to make our baby businesses the best in the UK. • Wow! What an amazing lady, so talented and inspirational. I’m all geared up to push my newborn business to the next level, thank you for a fantastic seminar and an insight into your business and personal life. • What a fantastic day, so many ideas and new directions – thank you Ray Lowe, Paul Inskip and Clare Louise for organising one of the best Cherub days ever. If you missed this one you should be kicking yourself BIG TIME! • I knew it was going to be great! But never realised just how great! So glad I never passed on it, not only great value for money but a fab day away meeting everyone Thank you so much everyone involved. • After watching Kelly Brown on Creative Live, I jumped at the chance to see her speak in person and I wasn’t disappointed! A great value day packed with information and inspiration.



A PEACE OF THE ACTION You want to be one of the élite making a reputation with mums-to-be for the quality of your newborn photography experience – but where are you going to find the magic touch? Paul Wilkinson went to Melanie East’s seminar to find out.


have heard the many legends about Melanie East and her long-fabled ability to send any baby to sleep, so when the opportunity arose to go watch her soldout Cherubs seminar in Hinckley, well it was simply an opportunity too good to miss. So let’s just start by saying that Melanie's reputation is clearly well-founded at least based on today’s evidence: she seemingly can send any baby to sleep. That in itself, I would hazard a guess, would be sufficient talent on which to build a pretty solid business. There must be a million mums who’d kill to have someone gently and safely hypnotise their newfound sleep-depriver to sleep! However, that is clearly not the purpose of the seminar! So during one of the most tranquil days I have ever spent outside of a spa hotel, Melanie set about the subject of newborn photography. Even when baby quietly emptied her bladder over Melanie and the props, nothing could shake the sense of peace and calm in the room. Right from the morning coffee, this seminar was packed solid with both people (the room was both busy and very very warm!) and useful insight. This is what seminars should be like – honest, candid, realistic, inclusive – and the list could go on. I loved learning about Melanie’s approach and, guessing by the quiet concentration of the 25 Cherubs partners in the room, I am not the only one. Two newborns under three weeks old in a crowded room and yet still, Melanie quietly and calmly talked us through two complete newborn shoots – one using a beanbag and one using props, with each creating the most

won’t be the last. I have said the same thing over and over: it can never be a bad thing to go a seminar as you will most certainly learn something (even if it is that you are doing things well already!) One thing that has struck me is how many experienced photographers there are here – many of whom are at the top of their game – and yet still they’re here, soaking it all up and learning from Melanie’s experience. It was also a great opportunity to see Graphistudio’s new products and to Elinchrom’s D-Lite in action as both very

beautiful images straight out of camera. I can only guess how stunning they’ll look with just a little Lightroom! Ray Lowe and the Cherubs team have put together many seminars (I heard much about the pevious day’s Photoshop prequel with Michael Schilling, from the feedback just as inspiring) but this is the first one I have been lucky enough to attend – though it most certainly

20 • MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM With a magic touch with babies, Melanie set up a couple of classic poses including (below) one which followed closely this shot from her AMPA panel (above).

kindly supported the event! The day was full of useful information from top to bottom: backdrops, props, insights, business, sources, safety, bookings, even a trick using Puppy Pee Pads and an app that created an uneasy sense of needing the loo… If you get the chance to go to one, you really should make the most of it and invest a little time in yourself! If you’re looking for something more bespoke (but certainly just as warm) then Melanie also holds full day one-to-ones to cover any aspects you choose. Contact Sam at MPA head office to find out more about future events – just call 01325 952259.

Jamess Musselwhite FMPA works with the MicroFourThirds format Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the little 45mm ƒ1.8 lens is one of his favourites. Here’s a father and son taken by studio flash, at ƒ9 and ISO 100.


BUMPS to BUTTERFLIES Portraiture Licentiate Alex Fletcher


rawn to photography by the landscapes of New Zealand during a post-graduation trip, Alex Fletcher discovered the rewards of newborn and baby portraiture after becoming a mother herself in 2012. With a Master’s degree in Computer Science behind her, she wanted a business she could run as her own family grew and realised that newborn and baby photography is a great fit with school hours and home life. One day she would like to have a larger house with a purpose-built studio and from the very start her price list has reflected this. It was a four-year journey before officially opening the business in February this year in the Birmingham suburb of Perry Barr, and it was at the conveniently nearby Newborn Photography Show Alex met MPA and Ray Lowe. Initially, she combined online learning (Creative 22 • MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM

Live) with a range of seminars and tuition including business and newborn training from Melanie East AMPA in Bristol. During the three years of self-taught progress from the idea to the reality of a newborn practice, Alex grabbed every chance to take photographs and practice the skills. The response to this unpaid work made her realise that the results were worth so much more than the iPhone pictures many mums will be left with as the only record of those first days, weeks and months – “while they certainly have their place, they shouldn’t be the heirlooms that we pass down to our children to be admired and treasured in years to come”, she says. “I plan to market myself as high-end and encourage my clients to invest.” Initially, Alex plans to offer complimentary sittings – a better term to cover the

often-criticised policy of free sittings. To this she’ll add print credits, but the price will ensure this is a valued service. She will rely on the quality of the work to ensure the mothers (or fathers) want to buy the high-end prints on offer. The quality of the experience also counts heavily, with a stress-free session for mother and baby. “Clients remember how you make them feel”, she says. “I want them to look back on their portrait session and smile.” The business name came about during training with Melanie East, intended to cover the essential skills of posing newborns and feathering large soft lighting (she uses Elinchrom’s Rotalux 100cm Octa on a D-LiteOne flash head to combine this with apertures typically around ƒ4 on her Canon 24-70mm ƒ2.8 lens). The business’s distinctive logo emerged from the

Alex’s portfolio was not a Cherubs or newborn specific application, but a Licentiateship in Portraiture.

same chrysalis of corporate identity. In her Licentiate workbook, Alex looks forward to aiming for Associateship “if successful” and the record of her workshops and courses shows how dedicated she has been in the run up to her first level of qualification. This started with a Level 2 Photography NVQ and encompassed no fewer than eight Creative Live courses with tutors including Kelly Brown, Julia Kelleher, Ana Brandt, Sue Bryce, Sandy Puc, and Ben Willmore. She’s also learned from material by Erin Elizabeth and Robin Long, and many books on photography, editing, business and marketing. With her portfolio created using a single camera, lens and studio light in a relatively small space the quality and consistency of the prints stood out with only minor criticism from the judges. – David Kilpatrick





Many newborn portfolios contain only photographs of sleeping babies, but Alex has managed to catch some waking moments with attractive light in the eyes and no signs of distress – attentive expressions for such small subjects.


PROP UP YOUR SALES Invest in imaginative props – keep your newborn, baby and family studio photography fresh with furnishings and settings to stage and pose better sittings. We talked to Melanie East AMPA about props, and how specialist prop-maker Mark Bushkes of Magic Bean has ideas which can boost your business.


he tree stump and nest on the right will be familiar to many newborn photographers now, after Melanie East commissioned this versatile ‘Narniatheme’ setting from Magic Bean Studio. The tree base can be used on its own with a fleece, or with the full nest cocoon. With props playing an important rôle in studio brand identity and marketing, we asked Melanie about her use of high-end custom designs. MP: Should custom props be used mainly to produce showpiece photographs, the ones you use for advertising and promotion, or as a regular option for all your clients - or reserved for a premium package? ME: Custom props should be used to take photography to the next level. They should be used to define your style. You can then differentiate yourself and your products from your competitors, without needing to compete on price. So many photographers feel that price needs to be competitive. It really doesn’t. MP: Do you retire a distinctive newborn prop after one promotion, or a period, and have another one ordered ready to replace it? ME: I do not retire bespoke hand made props. Many props can be dressed up or down in order to create different images. Bespoke high end props can always be used – they aren’t one off wonders, they are designed to have multiple uses and to create high end images for clients, as opposed to the usual buckets and tubs that a lot of newborn photographers 26 • MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM

are using. Watch out for my collaboration with Magic Bean Studios on newborn creativity, which we will be demonstrating at the Meet the Masters Day on October 16th – extended use of props and scenery which will not only show you how bespoke props can be used, but will also show you how you can use the buckets, tubs and beds which most newborn photographers have in their studio, to create more creative and different imagery. MP: Do you eventually sell more expensive newborn props on to other photographers, the way that backgrounds and regular posing aids like blocks and chaise-longue furniture tend to change hands? ME: Bespoke high end props become assets to your business and your creativity. If you treat it like an asset, like a favourite lens, to create your look, it becomes indispensable. The prop which is more bespoke becomes a much higher value asset to your collection. MP: How much input to you have into the look of a prop when a specialist designer studio like Magic Bean makes one for you? ME: When I first spoke to Magic Bean about the creation of a nest I had in mind a ‘Narnia’ theme. I wanted a look of purity. I had a particular look in mind. Magic Bean created exactly what I wanted. However, the creative process is very much two way – it is the degree of enthusiasm and excitement for a particular idea which starts to take shape as the conversation continues. I was able to explain how babies are posed and Magic Bean were able then to create a prop with safety in mind. Depending on your genre of photography, you are the specialist in how the finer details of that prop will look. MP: Photographers who may spend £30 or £40 on a simple faux-antique prop may never

Facing page, above and left: how one prop can be used for different seasonal styles, and configurations.

MELANIE EAST AMPA is a specialist newborn photographer, MPA Judge, MPA mentor and as well as running her newborn studio, also teaches professional photographers the art and business of newborn photography. She will be speaking and shooting at Meet the Masters Day. For further information please contact Melanie at MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM • 27

Bean to reproduce it for other studios once I had received mine. If, however, you wish for complete exclusivity over the design and use of a prop then obviously the price point will be higher.

have commissioned a handmade prop. How much would be a reasonable budget for the kind of eye-catcher which could be the centre of a window display or an e-campaign? ME: A prop which costs £30 is marketed to the mass market which means they are mass produced. As they are mass produced the unique cost is lower so therefore the price point can be lower with a good enough margin to make it attractive for more people to buy. When you enter into bespoke props, it is the other way around – there is a significantly lower volume, as each individual unit cost to produce is higher, in terms of man hours, materials and research time. The point of bespoke high end props is to create unique imagery. I commissioned my bird’s nest for £695. I have used this again and again and my clients adore it. I made my money back in the first shoot using it. I then allowed Magic

MP: Many photographers buy props like distressed wooden boxes and baskets which were not designed for neonatal use. If they are not a purpose-made prop, there might be insurance issues should anything go wrong, but there’s no real control of standards even for purpose-sold items. How do you ensure your props and posing aids are safe?

JULES HUNTER’S BUMPCASTS: Jules, a Licentiate of MPA, is also a trained ‘bump caster’ making plastercasts of prenatal bulges which become a crib-like setting for the baby later on. She uses a Magic Bean woodland plinth for the example above.

ME: It is always a matter for the photographer to ensure that safety is paramount, that props are not too lightweight, and that babies are supported at all times. When I posed the baby in the birds nest, both the nest, and the baby were supported at all times, with parents hands removed in post production.

Want to do this too? Magic Bean Studio provide stunning themed props but also a complete Newborn business in a box package which enables you to set up easily and profit quickly. Image by Melanie East - 28 • MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM

The nest was also designed so that it was not a lightweight prop. When using lighter weight props such as tin buckets, there should be at least a 10lb weight in the bottom. Babies should never be left unsupported. MP: What types of fabric or throw do you recommend? Some small babies can react badly to different natural or man-made materials, and the difference between a high quality angora and cheap mohair or a fake-fur substitute could be important. We’re thinking here of whether it’s OK to buy something from The Range or B&M, and whether all the crafters who make knitted newborn photography ‘fashion’ are working with hypoallergenic wools. ME: I use 100% cotton jersey for my beanbag backdrop. I don’t use man made fabrics in my studio as babies can sweat and cheaper fabrics may be scratchy or irritate. With regard to the crafters who make my knitted props

tioner (fabric conditioner can irritate sensitive skins). If an item can not be cleaned then it is thrown away. This is why it is important to ensure that photographers charge enough for their work! I would not advise mothers to buy or make their own, because you have no idea what they may arrive with, and a photographer’s style is defined not only by their use of posing and lighting, but also by the fabrics, outfits, textures, tones and colours they use. Magic Bean’s lock-together studio baroque backdrop as seen at the 2015 Meet the Masters Open Day.

– I only use knitters who use the very highest quality and softest yarn. MP: This leads on to the tricky question of washing, or charging clients for props and knits which can not be cleaned. Even with really careful hand washing knits can lose their shape or felt up and we guess they would be best not washed at all – but how does this fit with client care? Should mums be encour-

aged to buy or make their own, or maybe the studio should use brand new items and sell them to each client? ME: I would never charge a client for props and knits which can not be cleaned. It is a risk of the job – babies relieve themselves on your props, on your knits, wraps and flokatis! All my fabrics are washed with Fairy Non Bio and without fabric condi-

MP: Every fashion season, Pantone Inc issue a colour guide which is endorsed by the garment industry. Would it help photographers if we published the coming season’s colour themes? ME: Timeless and beautiful is key. As soon as you enter into anything regarding fashion it can become a fad, it comes in and out of fashion – we want images which have longevity. That’s where the value is.



Sandra Ramp – Portrait Licentiateship

IN NOVEMBER last year Sandra Ramp gained her LMPA in Portrait Photography reflecting her business specialisation of newborn sessions. The MPA website shows her entire panel with full size image files – to see these go to this link: Warning: you’ll need to scroll round. These are superb, and very large, images.More pictures on page 30 • MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM

Newborn Photography is now a specialist field and MPA offers training, mentoring and qualifications to help mums and a dads find safe, top quality photography and an enjoyable experience. In future, a qualification in Newborn Photography is being offered which also involves health and safety compliance. See Melanie East’s article on Newborn Safety.


Photographs from the successful Portrait Licentiateship achieved by Sandra Ramp LMPA . Sandra is based in Coalville, Leicestershire, and her website is showing her dedicated specialisation in Newborn portraits.


GROW YOUR PATCH! It’s just the right time of year to stake out your own Cherubs Patch, cultivate it and plant the seeds of a fantastic future business. A perennial, evergreen, fruitful business in pre-natal, baby and family portraiture which you won’t even need to water. The babies will do that! And Cherubs will watch YOU grow.


here has never been a better time to belong to the best child portrait programme running in the UK, than now. The Cherubs Programme is flying, with new contracts issued on 1st March. These allow us to provide partners with lead data and emails for all babies born across the UK. We will still have the amazing opportunity to put a beautiful piece of marketing literature into a Mum’s hand but we will now also have the ability – both pre-& post-natal – to e-mail mums directly with your own message, images and offers in support of a postal mailing. What has changed with the new way that Cherubs is now run, apart from the data and emails? Most importantly, a complete CPD (Continuous Professional Development) package is included within the ‘Patch’ (group of postcodes) price you pay monthly. We believe in training and its importance in driving your businesses forward. As part of this we will be putting on over 40 webinars a year, at least 20 seminars and workshops and many other training opportunities. Cherub Partners belonging to this programme over the last three years under the directorship of Ray Lowe will know there has already been a programme of training, lectures and webinars; a monthly Image Competition; and even a two-day intensive conference. Now Training is at the top of the list. The success of every Cherub studio is about belonging to a programme that helps to improve you ever step of the way – whatever it takes.

The new CPD Cherubs partnership includes • Exclusive postcode patches • Direct e-mails to customers through a centrally managed system • Facebook audiences built every month • Fixed monthly fee • Monthly critiques • Regular national competitions with a cash


prize for mums • Cherub Photographer of the Year • Monthly Business of Cherubs special awards • Workshops • Seminars • Webinars • Studio visits • Marketing, sales and design services • Dedicated communications

platform • National accredited ambassador network • Business reviews • Half yearly catch-ups • Dedicated website, Facebook and Instagram aimed at mums • National advertising • Close partnership with Bounty • Exclusive training • Dedicated support • Sales & marketing resources • Recommended lowest guide prices • Discounted additional training & video • Exclusive Cherubs deals from key trade partners There are different size Patches available, depending upon where your studio is,

Look forward to a blooming good season this Spring and Summer with newborns and Cherubs! Thanks to Adam Hirons LMPA for these pictures to show that the world can indeed be a colourful and happy place to arrive in. For more see overleaf! Ray Lowe Hon.FMPA , while taking over as Chair of MPA, has handed the Cherubs Director role to Paul Inskip LMPA – Telephone 07736255666, email

based on the drive time from the addresses of the babies born. For as little as £200 a month inc. VAT you could have all the training and data needed to turnover an estimated £15,000 a year if you are willing to work at it (based on one photographer working a three-day week – even the previous and more limited Cherubs deal has added turnover of between £30,000 and over £100,000 for established studios). If you are at all interested in growing your businees, finding out more and seeing if the Patch for your studio area is available, please contact Amanda at Head Office 01325 356555.





dam Hirons, who kindly let us have some uplifting and colourful images for the Cherubs pages, is a second generation professional photographer now sharing the workload of their Plymouth studio with his father Stephen. “Both my dad and myself were formally trained at Plymouth College of Art and Design”, says Adam. “The only difference is that he was there 40 years before me! “The Stephen Charles Studio was set up by my dad nearly 30 years ago and we have been Cherub partners since the scheme started. Cherubs has always been an important part of our business. We’ve always run what we consider a very busy studio and we do approximately 20-25 Cherub sessions a week and on average about 25 new-


With trained and experienced eyes for colour and design from two generations, the Stephen Charles Studio creates settings which win loyal clients born sessions a month. So we do like to consider ourselves “baby” specialists and photographing babies is something I particularly enjoy, having a two year old and a five month old myself. “The studio is situated in the suburbs of Plymouth and accessibility for customers is good. “We pride ourselves on the quality and variety of our work, offering a friendly, professional service. We aim to show a variety of images to our customers, some of whom have been with us for many years – in fact we are now photographing their grandchildren! “To keep variety within the newborn sessions, we regularly try to create new props – especially as they can give our images a real feminine appeal. My dad MASTER PHOTOGRAPHY • WWW.ICONPUBLICATIONS.COM • 35

has an eye for creating and making new props. The floral props are quite bespoke and are made for customers with particular colours and designs in mind. “We can also tie the colours into seasons – for example we might use some of the more darker warmer colours in the winter and the lighter more vibrant colours in the summer. Our goal within any newborn session is to create a variety of set-ups for our clients so they have a real variety to choose from.” As for the necessities of working life, their equipment comes down to two Canon 5D MkII bodies in the studio and “our 50mm 1.2 lens pretty much never leaves the camera”, says Adam. “We shoot Cherub sessions using different lighting set-ups whilst the newborns are shot in a much simpler way – usually just one very large softbox and a reflector. We tend to shoot newborns at wide apertures, usually around ƒ2 or ƒ2.5. “When it comes to the viewing and ordering stage, at

The flowers, dyed wool skeins, natural wooden and painted props are combined with skilled lighting and colour management.

the moment the split between digital images and prints is about 50/50 – half of our clients buy digital images whilst


the other half buy wall art or mounted images.” (Editor’s note: this confirms feedback we are getting generally that digital

files have replaced small loose prints, but the market for high quality presentation in larger sizes remains strong). “We do some printing inhouse and we also use a local lab, Spectrum, which we’ve used for many years and with whom we have always had a very good rapport. Having that sort of trusting relationship is extremely vital”, Adam adds. “There’s certainly a nice sense of synergy within the studio, and while I’m taking photographs my dad is busy with clients and sales… as well as making props! Courtney, our assistant, is doing a variety of jobs including spotting (constantly observing the baby to ensure safety) throughout newborn sessions, dealing with client enquiries and marketing. Most of our newborn clients come back in for Cherubs so this is a great way of keeping our diary filled. You can find more of our work on our Facebook Page, just search: Adam Hirons – The Stephen Charles Studio. –DK




Trading as Mikaela Jade Photography, MPA’s latest Licentiate in Newborn photography plans to move from a home based business to a studio, offering weddings and family portrait photography.


ikaela Jade Photography was born in December 2012, and ever since then it’s been growing alongside the babies Mikaela loves to photograph. She has become one of the first Licentiates presenting a panel of newborn portraiture, and she is already an experienced and well trained specialist. It’s hard to see how a body of newborn work can be created safely without a steep learning curve. “I have always had a love for photography, since the age of 10”, says Mikaela. “I never thought I could actually do it as a job. My ambition was to teach art, so I completed an Art and Design course and in 2013 I graduated with a

BA(Hons) in Fine Art. After graduating I completed a postgraduate certificate in secondary education. “Both of my art courses incorporated photography, during the final year of my degree I started Mikaela Jade Photography. I was a mobile photographer for three and a half years, and now I have my own studio which I love! “I still teach as well, A level photography. I am able to use the darkroom (film photography) and experiment with lots of vintage techniques as well as keep up to date with current artists and photographers”. From her home studio in Woodbridge, Mikaela offers Newborn Sessions, Portraits (including pets), Families


Mikaela Jade LMPA


as well as Weddings and Location Sessions during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months. “I am passionate about keeping my images simple, elegant and timeless”, she says. “I like to create images that are as natural as possible whether that is on location or in studio. Especially in regard to my Newborn photography, I like the focus to be purely on the Newborn and all of their tiny features. I try to keep their poses as natural as possible and with minimal use of props. “My main inspiration for my Newborn photography has been Kelly Brown from Little Pieces Photography – I have followed her and watched her business grow. I also take inspiration from Kristina Mack from Tiny Posers who keeps her images clean and crisp. “I regularly set myself achievable goals but also long term goals, which will push and challenge me. Whether that may be to learn a new editing technique, try out a new software, give myself shorter deadlines, go to two exhibitions a month, attend

talks, and so on. They are always goals that will not only benefit my clients and business but also help develop myself. “In the future I would

like to move from my home studio into a studio elsewhere – or maybe create one in a barn or an outbuilding near my home. I would like to have two employees to help

with weddings, editing and admin. Preferably, I would like to specialise within Newborns and Portraits and move away from weddings… or hire someone to assist with weddings so I could focus purely on Newborns and Portraiture. “I would love to achieve my MPA Associate qualification by 2020 and plan to enter for awards too. I want to continue to learn and develop my skills and push to be the very best version of myself and create a lively business. This year I will be attending another workshop with Kristina Mack and hope to one day attend a workshop held by Kelly. I would like to continue to develop my own style, maybe adding something extra to make my brand and company unique and memorable. “One day I would like to pass on my skills, and I would also like to try to create my own Newborn Props as I do have an artistic background. Then I would be able to pass these on to other photographers.”



Master Photography Newborn Compendium  
Master Photography Newborn Compendium  

A collection of articles from Master Photography, March 2014 to June 2017, related to Newborn photography