I've been receiving a lot of questions lately regarding newborn photography. Specifically, what is the difference between a "lifestyle" session and a "traditional" or "posed" session. Allow me to clear this up, and provide you with some pros and cons to each session.


Traditional or Posed Session

A traditional or posed newborn session is the most common form of newborn photography, which has been around for decades. Sure, styles have changed - drastically in the past decade, in fact - but the concept of the session has stayed the same.


At the heart of the session is the baby. Parents bring their new babe to a photographer's studio - or sometimes, a photographer will bring their portable studio to the parents' home - and the photographer creates posed fine art images of baby. These sessions are done early in baby's life, often within the first two weeks of birth, before baby develops their startling reflex, and while baby can still curl up in positions similar to those in the womb. This is also usually when babe is still very sleepy, which is crucial to the shoot.


The majority of the photos will feature baby sleeping, wrapped in high-quality swaddles, posed in baskets and buckets, or sleeping soundly on posing tables or beanbags. The photographer will do all of the handling of baby, ensuring the babe is warm, comfortable, and safely supported and positioned. True newborn photographers will have studied and taken many courses and workshops on newborn safety to ensure that the babe's airway is not jeopardized in any position. Newborn safety is of the utmost importance.


Traditional sessions will also include photos of the baby's parents as well as sibling photos. These photos will also be posed, captured against backdrops.


With traditional sessions, you only get posed images. You won't receive candid captures between setups. Perhaps a cute moment happens behind the scene with your new babe and their brother - this unfortunately won't be captured because your photographer won't be set up for this. You may not get to see the full personality of baby or his or her sibling since you're limited to a studio space.


The other thing to consider with a traditional session, is that you will most likely have to travel to your photographer's studio. And this can be extremely daunting and scary for new parents. This may be the first time you leave your house with baby since you've come home from the hospital. Thankfully, most newborn photographers understand this, and will go above and beyond to equip their studio with everything you might need to make that first outing relaxing (for example, I even have nipple shields and a breast pump on hand in case you need them!).


Lifestyle Session

A lifestyle session is a much more recent, modern concept in photography.


Lifestyle sessions are meant to be relaxed and are done in the home of the parents. Unlike traditional sessions, lifestyle sessions are family-centric. They are meant to capture the family unit in their home.


Timing isn't as crucial for a lifestyle shoot. They can be done when baby is young and sleepy, or when they are older. But, lighting can be crucial. Some photographers will only use natural light to capture these images, limiting the rooms they can photograph in your home. Photographers will be drawn to big, lofty windows. For myself, I always bring studio lighting with me, so we can make due with any room.


Lifestyle sessions don't feature posed photos. Instead, they put an emphasis on candid images. The photographer will come into your home for 60-90 minutes and follow your routine with baby. The photos capture your day-to-day activities: snuggling on the couch or bed, feeding baby, changing baby, and baby laying in a crib or bassinet. Many lifestyle photographers will refuse to touch your baby, forcing the parents to be the ones to manipulate how baby is positioned and swaddled in photos. You will definitely want to brush up on your swaddling techniques!


If there are siblings, this is usually when lifestyle sessions are optimal. You will get to see the older child in their natural habitat - playing with toys, jumping on beds. They can be their true self and won't be forced to stay in the bounds of a small backdrop to capture images. They can be kids. And if the older sibling is jealous of the new babe, a photographer will be able to diffuse and hide this with fun activities around the house. For example, mom can be sitting on the bed holding baby, while older brother and dad are reading a story beside them.


One thing to consider with these sessions is that your home is at the forefront of every photo. While photographers are understanding that you are a new parent, they will not be going out of their way to tidy rooms to make them look presentable for photos. Mounds of laundry, unwashed bottles, diapers, unmade beds - all common findings in the home of new parents - can make for unsightly photos. In order to have the best possible outcome with a lifestyle shoot, you will need to put in the time to clean and declutter the rooms you want photographed. You want your home to be magazine ready. And this can be a lot for new parents. Trust me.


My Personal Preference?

I personally prefer traditional newborn photography, and this is why I primarily shoot only traditional newborn photos.


As a mom myself, I cannot imagine having my home photographed after having my own son, Everett. We were in the NICU with him for almost three weeks. We came home to a messy house, almost 100 boxes of goodies to unpack from my baby shower that was only days before delivering Everett. Plus, I was recovering from a Caesarian section that had opened up, struggling with breastfeeding, and was swollen beyond measure. I wasn't overly excited about being in photos. However, I made sure to get a few family photos captured of my husband, Everett, and I to look back on, with our newborn photographer.


I also wanted to really focus on Everett in pictures. I wanted to capture how small he was (even though he was over nine pounds and a premie!), and all of the little details that went with him. I didn't want photos of Jason and I fumbling through parenthood. Struggling to hold him, our dogs getting jealous of our new human, and just stressing that my house wouldn't photograph well.


But, no matter what, get the photos taken - be it a traditional or a lifestyle shoot. When they say the newborn phase goes quickly, they mean it. If you don't get photos taken, I promise you, you will regret it. You will quickly forget how tiny baby is in your arms, their sweet lashes, their little wisps of hair, and how they hold your finger in their hands. Book the session.








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Today, I'm smiling a little brighter because I am celebrating five years in business! Five whole years of Meaghan Kent Photography!


For any entrepreneur, five years in business is a big milestone. The odds are always stacked against entrepreneurs and small brick and mortar businesses. Did you know that on average, 45 per cent of businesses fail in their first five years. And that's during good, economic stability. The pandemic is a whole other ball game. But let's not digress...


When I started my photography business in July of 2016, I never actually had ambitions to be a photographer. It kind of just happened.


After marrying my husband in 2015, I forced myself to find a hobby (though Jason will boast that it was actually him that told me to take up a hobby). I took up blogging about tourism, specifically tourism in Northern Ontario. My humble blog, The North Junction (I still love that name), gave me an outlet to write about what I cared most about - exploring the great outdoors in my own backyard. It was well received and I was offered a few sponsored opportunities with outposts and outfitters in the north.


As my readership grew, however, I knew I had to improve my photography skills. At the time, I was using a point and shoot handheld camera, the Olympus Tough, which acts like a GoPro in its durability, but has more capabilities as a camera. The camera was good in that it was compact and lightweight so I could pack it in my backpack and go. I didn't need to worry about batteries, lenses, tripods, and all of the other fun gear that comes with a larger DSLR. Even though it was a great camera, it came with a lot of limitations.


I decided to splurge on the Canon Rebel T5i when it went on sale for Boxing Day. I taught myself how to shoot in manual mode, about white balance, and metering all via YouTube. 95 per cent of what I know today is from YouTube.


Unfortunately, after only three months with this camera, my other job as a writer at a local post-secondary institution was put at risk due to rounds of layoffs. I told myself I needed a back-up and secondary income in case I lost my job. I told myself there weren't many opportunities for me career-wise with a Master of Arts in History, so I had to find ways to make income on my own. I turned to photography on a whim.


Was I ready to be a paid photographer? Absolutely not. Did I know what I was doing? Not really. But I took the leap into entrepreneurship in July 2016 (the same week we decided to get a puppy - talk about bad timing) with absolutely no business knowledge and experience. And I'm so glad I did.


I've never once regretted the decision of becoming a photographer. For the first two years, I navigated the field on a part-time basis, learning more about my camera and my capabilities. I took on weddings, events, family reunions, and more. I didn't say no to an opportunity because every opportunity provided me with the ability to learn something new and meet new clients. I used those first two years to build my brand and my clientele. And I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for a naïve entrepreneur in the small town of Sault Ste. Marie.


Fast forward to five years later and I'd like to think some things have changed. I have some business knowledge. I still don't understand anything about taxes, and I've come a long way in my technical skills behind the camera and in editing software. I've found my niche in the industry in newborn and maternity photography in particular, thanks in part to becoming a mom to the most amazingly zany two-year-old, Everett. The biggest change since my humble beginnings: I am now a full-time photographer. I was able to quit my other full-time job to pursue this love I never knew I had in photography. I made the plunge this past December. And even though the industry was at a complete stand-still when I made that decision due to the lockdown and ongoing pandemic, I don't regret my decision in the slightest.


I've held many jobs in my 32 years. And in those various jobs, I've seen people at their worst: frustrated, mad, angry, crying, bitter. But that's not the case with photography. Instead, I'm seeing people at their best: grinning ear to ear, shedding happy tears, and laughing. For the first time in my life, I love going to work. I am welcomed with open arms into people's homes and lives and get to be alongside them for their most important days: when they get engaged; when they get married; when they become new parents; when they adopt a new child; and more. And that's pretty amazing. Plus, I get to go to so many great places (like Jamaica)!


Today, I pride myself as being the "friendly, neighbourhood photographer". I am not afraid to laugh at myself, admit my wrongdoings or when I'm over my head. I'm also not afraid to get out on the dance floor with you on your wedding day - I may even request a song or too (Backstreets Back, alright!)! I do my best to make you feel at home in my presence and that we're the best of friends, even if we're complete strangers. I try my best to support you and your photographic dreams - no matter how bizarre or wild they may be. That's how I run my business. I have fun with it. And I know if I continue to run it this way, I'll still be happy to go to work everyday 20 years from now. How many of you can say that?


So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to capture moments and be a part of your lives for the past five years. It's been incredible to see the growth in my business, but also the growth in your lives. Some families have been with me since my very first month in business and I am still very much a part of their lives. I am forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support and for helping me achieve a dream I never knew I had. I am forever grateful for everyone who has helped me find my true passion in life, and most importantly, my happiness


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It wasn't until I became a small business owner myself, that I learned what supporting a small business really means. It's not just buying local. Sure that's part of it, but supporting a small business goes far beyond buying a good or service. And if you can't afford a good or service, there are many other free ways to support local. Now, more than ever, we need to be putting all of our efforts into supporting the small brick and mortar shops in our community. Small businesses are at the heart of every community- they employ your friends and family, and bring new innovation to your neighbourhood. They're also usually the first to step up and help support you in your own fundraising endeavors.


Purchase Goods or Services

This is obvious. The easiest way to support any small business is to purchase the goods and services they offer. Many businesses, such as your local photography studio, are closed because they have been deemed inessential by the government. However, just because their shop is physically closed, doesn't mean they're not still selling products. Purchasing a gift certificate that can be used on a later date goes a long way in supporting a business and putting food on the table for a business owner and their family.


If you have a membership, keep paying that membership. Gyms are closed right now, for example. Many are locally owned and run. Don't cancel your membership for the duration of a one-month lockdown. Instead, keep paying and show your support for their service. Their facility may be closed, but they will still have to pay bills. And government support only covers so much.


Ask the business also how they're re-tooling during the pandemic. They may be offering new services to help cover some of the losses. For example, I am offering digital Valentine's Day cards since I cannot actively take Valentine's Day photos. While the income I am generating from these digitals is significantly less than a mini photography day, income is still coming in and helping lessen the margin.


Try to support new businesses and bring them into your new-normal. Maybe you used to eat lunches out with your co-workers before the pandemic but can't do that anymore. Instead, consider getting a take-out lunch once a week from a different business. And hey, why not connect with your co-workers virtually over lunch - it'll be like old times!


Leave a Tip

If you have the financial means to do so, leave a tip. People are accustomed to tipping in the restaurant industry, but often don't recognize that tipping in the service industry is perfectly acceptable. You can tip your hair dresser, your make up artist, masseuse, manicurist, courier, and even your photographer, to name a few. Tipping shows your appreciation and gratitude toward a job well done and also helps cover essential costs. Those in the service industry have been hit the hardest by provincial closures and changes to operations due to the pandemic. When allowed to open, those in the industry aren't allowed to welcome back as many clients for safety reasons, and therefore, are still operating at a lost. A tip helps cover some of those losses.


Engage on Social Media

We're a technology-first community and the majority of people are on at least one social media platform, businesses included. Liking and following a page, commenting on a post, or sharing a post or page, helps raise awareness of a specific brand or product available. You're also helping to build the audience of that business. What's better than liking, sharing, and commenting? Leaving a review. Many people rely on customers' honest reviews before committing to a product or service. Your recommendation will help strengthen a business's authenticity and encourage others to buy. Plus, it also helps boost the business's search engine optimization (SEO).


Engage with the Business on a Personal Level

Get to know the person(s) behind the brand. Check-in with the owner and the people who work for the company. Simply asking how someone is doing shows sincerity and that you're thinking of them and understand they're going through difficult times. For me personally, I have people - many who are complete strangers - check in with me on my Instagram page daily, asking how they can help, how they can support, or just to show they are thinking of me. These sentiments help keep my mental health balanced, and make me feel essential, even though I've been deemed inessential.


Bring Them Into Your Everyday Life


Don't Ask for a Discount or the Friends & Family Rate

This is a big one. Please, please, don't ask for a discount. Remember, many businesses have actually closed due to the financial constraints of the pandemic, and many are on the verge of being shuttered. Business owners are placed in an uncomfortable situation having to say "no" to a discount. Businesses know their worth and have set prices to match what they think is fair and covers their cost of doing business. Know a business's worth. Show your appreciation for their craft and skills. Don't undercut them. Instead, let the business come to you about a discount. I will always offer a discount or promotion to a client who has continuously supported me throughout the years.


Volunteer

It's easy. And you'll feel great afterward. Contact the business you want to support and ask them if you can volunteer in anyway to help them out. You could help tap trees for your favourite maple syrup producer; if you're a financial analyst, you can offer financial advise. Your investing in a business.


Be Kind

This is the most important of all. Be kind. It's the simplest thing you can do and it is free. Emotions are extremely high right now. Everyone is experiencing Covid-fatigue. People have lost loved ones. People are sick of wearing masks and cancelling events. We are all in this together and we all are sharing these sentiments. Being angry, frustrated, or mad at an essential worker will not help. Instead, be kind. Smile with your eyes. Say thank you.

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