The Woman Behind the Camera

 

 

One of the first goals I had after taking on Mommy Connections Orleans, was finding an AMAZING photographer. We work closely with a photographer, as each session’s registration includes a mini photo session. I wanted to find someone who was excellent, but also someone who shared a passion for kids, moms and building community. I was so happy that our family photos were “due” (we had decided to get them in the Fall after our baby was born) and I found Hiba. Our family photos turned out beautifully, but the process both leading up to and during our day with Hiba was inspiring. Her passion comes through in both the way she interacts with her clients, and the quality of her work. She is an excellent professional to work alongside, and has become a friend along the way. It was impossible not to want to get to know this intelligant, beautiful and humbIe woman. I thought it only made sense to give everyone an opportunity to get to know the Woman behind the Camera, so I interviewed her..

 

How has photography most changed for you since becoming a mom?

Photography to me is about capturing the love the exists between the subjects in front of my camera. Before I became a mom, all of what I knew about love was either that love one would have towards his/her parents, or that romantic love that you share with your partner. So I had immersed my self in capturing that romantic love through wedding photography, because that was all I knew before having my own child. Since becoming a mom, I now understand that kind of love you would have towards your child; that love that has no boundaries, and that connection between a mom and her child.  So having experienced that, two things changed for me. First, I was able to let go of some of my fear surrounding photographing children, and the relationships between children and their parents. Having loved children all my life but essentially having no experience with them lead to a lot of fear of failure with respect to my photography, so I never really ventured into family photography. Fear seems to be the biggest thing that holds entrepreneurs and creatives back and I was no exception to that rule for sure. After becoming a mom, and “working the ropes” so to speak with how to handle little babies and toddlers, that fear started to slowly dissipate and I could finally take my understanding of love for a child and translate it into my photography.  Second, as a mom you learn to see the beauty in little moments and expressions. Before becoming a mom, my understanding of the kind of photography my clients valued was more generic; I thought that I had to nail a perfect smile in every photograph, that all the clothing had to sit just right, the composition and color had to be perfect, or else the client would not appreciate the photo. And don’t get me wrong, that type of photo is essential in every portrait session, and most certainly holds a lot of value. However, after becoming a mom, I could see that there are so many expressions that equally hold a lot of value to a mom too – not just that perfect smile. I started to see the beauty in things that babies and children might do that don’t necessarily fit that generic “perfect photograph” description. To me (and I’m sure a lot of moms too) there is beauty in the inquisitive look a toddler might have looking at a totally random object, or in the pensive stare of a baby, or how a little baby loves to eat their hands. So being able to see that has given my photography a bit more variety as I can spot those things now and appreciate them like a parent would.

 

What is the most challenging aspect of photographing small children?

The most challenging aspect of photographing young children would have to be the ability to make a connection in a short period of time so that I can gain their trust and pull out genuine emotion and expressions from them. Children have built in stranger-danger meters, and I try to spend the first little bit of the session letting them get to know me so that I can mitigate that fear. Another equally challenging aspect of photographic small children is their unpredictable mood because lets be honest, if your baby or toddler or child is just not down to having their picture taken, using a bribe might work for one photo but then they’re off doing what they want and nothing any of us can say or do would change that. And that’s OK!! Giving your photographer plenty of time to work with your child and sticking to that same photographer over the long run really helps in that regard. I always find it best to take a more laid back approach to photographing children and to capture them in their element rather than ask them to pose in different ways for the entire duration of our session. I really feel that there is value in both traditional portraits and photojournalistic portraits.

Why is it important to have professional photos/portraits captured of our children in the age of the smart phone?

It is important to have professional photos captured of our children because your professional photographer is able to capture beautiful images through their experience with photographic composition, posing, lighting, directing, and having high quality equipment. Also, leaving it to a professional to document your child’s growth means you can live in moments (and also sometimes be in the frame!) rather than miss them because you were trying to take a photo. Did you know that psychologists have shown you are less likely to remember a moment if you took a picture of it?! As a photographer, I would love for every moment to be captured on camera and preserved, but I also just want to live in the moment. I also believe that we should display our child’s and family portraits. Not only is it a beautiful art form, but it also helps children develop high self esteem and a strong sense of the family unit. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place and time for impromptu cell phone shots for sure; however, you are more likely to print, preserve and display professional portraits of your children and family than an image captured by a smart phone. So at the end of the day I feel that it is important to strike a balance between living in the moment, capturing some moments with our smartphone, and creating memories that are captured and preserved by a professional.

As a photographer and mom, do you have many portraits of your own son? Describe your favourite picture of him

I try to take a few professional portraits of him myself every couple of months, but I have also had his portraits taken by a fellow professional every 6 months since birth. I love to look back at those, and see how much he has changed and grown. I’m currently working on a gallery wall in my home that will have professional images of our family starting from our wedding day all the way to portraits of my son on his first birthday (kind of telling our family story in a chronological order). So my favourite portrait of James will definitely be there and it’s one where he was 7 months old, he had only recently learned to stand so he wanted to stand, and I’m sitting down behind him holding his hands to support him, but I’m out of focus because he is the focus of the image. He is standing looking directly at the camera, and he is beaming with joy – I can’t even describe the happiness on his face, he has a smile from ear to ear! It perfectly sums up our relationship and his personality…He is always a happy baby that smiles with his eyes, and he’s always on the move to the next thing, but he loves mommy’s support and reassurance. My heart fills up with so much joy looking at that image – it’s irreplaceable.

What are some tips for my family when we are  going to a photo shoot?

Here are some of my best tips when preparing for a photoshoot:

  1. Talk to your photographer about having your session in a location that could interest and engage your children, so that you can pull out some genuine emotion from your session.
  2. Talk to your children about your planned session, get them familiar with the idea, and tell them we’re going to have fun but don’t ask them to be ready to smile or add any pressure on them to behave their best – let your photographer handle that aspect, they know what they are doing.
  3. Plan your outfits, coordinate but do not match, and consider whether the colors will go with your décor if you plan to display your photos (ask your photographer for a “getting ready guide” for help with wardrobe).
  4. Don’t schedule a session too close to a nap or mealtime, and bring lots of snacks and bribes for the littles!
  5. If you can, show up a little early and let your children get to know the photographer before he/she starts the session – this will help build trust and in turn result in more natural expressions.
  6. Manage your expectations! This one is a little harder on us parents to execute as we soooo desperately want everything to be perfect… but we all know that it can’t always be perfect with toddlers and babies. Sometimes, they just don’t want to participate, and that’s OK! Notice the signs, stay cool, and trust your photographer to do their thing. Often parents think it’s going way worse than it really is, but then they see their images and are completely surprised.

What does it take to edit an image?

I think a photographer has to be able to look at a set of images and visualize first how he/she would like them to look, then execute that vision to produce the final product. The images my clients receive did not look like that in camera. Editing is half the art of digital photography. From the technical side, to edit an image I need both Adobe Light room and Photoshop, and a computer powerful enough to handle the editing software and the large image files. From the artistic side, once the raw image is downloaded from my camera, it gets imported into my editing software where I will first correct the lens distortion, then adjust white balance to make it just the right tone. Then I would fix the exposure, contrast, and play with the shadows and highlights to get just the right brightness or mood for the image. I then go on to adjusting the different color channels…sometimes I want to play up the blues, or yellows, or sometimes I want to mute the reds and greens. I may add or remove grain depending on the look I’m going for. After the overall exposure and color is just how I want, I go on to removing distracting objects from the backgrounds (for ex. an annoying lamppost etc); this part can take some time. Once that is done I move on to the retouching aspect of editing a photo. I would remove specs on clothing, soften skin, remove imperfections that wouldn’t normally be there (ex. a pimple would go, but a freckle stays), enhance the iris, and any general requests that a client would make. I would then apply the right amount of sharpening and detail enhancement and convert my image to a format that my client can use such as JPEG. Editing images is definitely an underappreciated aspect of a photographer’s final product.

What is the best part of photographing young children and families?

The best part about photographing young children and families is being able to watch and learn from the dynamics of other families. I end up spending a significant amount of time with my clients and learn a lot about them during our session, and so I often go home inspired to apply some of the things I’ve seen into my own life. I’ve also always loved children, and I find their enthusiasm, curiosity and innocence so refreshing and endearing. Being around kids makes me feel youthful and reminds me that life is beautiful. When I’m editing children’s portraits and I’m looking at their expressions, I instantly mirror their emotion! If they’re laughing, I start laughing..If they’re giddy, I get all giddy just looking at the portrait..It’s quite a beautiful roller coaster of emotion for me.

Thanks so much, Hiba, for all that you do and who you are…

About alexmcdonald

Being a mom is first for me these days. I love my kids and my community. Truly believe in women supporting each other on this journey.

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