Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

The Decisive Moment on a Newborn Photo Shoot


Channeling the spirit of Cartier-Bresson

I’m photographing more and more newborn babies this year and I’m loving it. There seems to be a move away from the fashion for babies posed in props, and a move towards natural pictures that truly capture memories of this amazing time. I’m so pleased to see this change as I’ve always felt it’s important that the pictures we create of children will look as good when they are adults as they do when they are taken. Stylish pictures of natural moments shot in monochrome work so well for this.

It was a pleasure to travel to West London recently for a newborn session and we had an amazing time together. I always love photographing newborns as there’s such a wonderful feeling of excitement to the shoot. Parents are in love with their tiny baby and in love with each other, a team and a family united in this feeling of joy. It’s amazing to behold and always such a privilege to photograph.

I work hard in my newborn photography sessions to repay the trust placed in me to photograph the family at this special time. I’m looking to take the very best possible pictures and to create images that will stand the test of time. I’m looking to be creative in the space I’m working – the family home or a nearby park to ensure the images look amazing.

It’s such good fun and I always love the moment of coming home, downloading the cards and seeing the results.

It’s been so hard to choose a favourite from this session which has so many stand-out images from family pictures taken out in the park to wonderful quiet moments indoors. This one won though as it’s such a perfect moment, something that can never be repeated and worked so well, also it’s funny which is always a plus point for me.

This image, for me, is the ‘decisive moment’ as made famous by Henri Cartier Bresson, a split-second capture where everything comes together to create something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

We had been taking pictures by the pond in a London park close to my clients home, it was lovely and I got a great picture but, I really wanted a flock of birds flying by and the birds had quite unfairly refused to co-operate, happily ignoring us as they swam in the sunshine. So, we had moved on and I was taking some pictures using the majestic trees as a framing device when I saw these ducks waddling towards me in a line.

Scooting backwards so as not to frighten them by being too close I dropped to my knees and using the articulating screen on the EOS R dropped my camera down low to get the ducks in the frame. It was over in a moment, I fired off a couple of frames and this one the ducks are perfect, all in a line, all in profile and the duck second from the left with their head exactly inside the shape of the coat, if it had been fractionally over that line it wouldn’t have been such a strong image.

I love the fact that the family are oblivious, caught in a quiet moment together, unaware of this avian photobomb.

Sometimes luck favours the prepared and being ready to change your angle or utilise a different area of your equipment at a moment’s notice can be the difference between getting and missing a shot like this one. I’m so pleased I got it and hope you like it as much as I do.