10 Questions for Kelly Brown: Newborn and Baby Photographer, Educator and WPPI Award-Winner
February 7, 2020
One of the most prolific newborn and baby portrait photographers in the world, Kelly Brown has shared her expertise in this delicate field to hundreds, if not thousands, in nearly 26 countries. In a few weeks, she’ll find herself at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, where WPPI is hosting The Baby Summit on Feb. 23 (10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.), an all-day workshop that covers everything baby portraiture.
Between teaching at SWPP in the UK to a workshop in Amsterdam, we got the Australian photographer to sit down with us for 10 questions about her role in the industry.
1. You’ve been in newborn and baby photography for 15 years, which seems like a long time for that genre. How have you seen it evolve over the years?
After my first baby was born in 2003, I became obsessed with documenting every day with her, but baby photography back then wasn’t a thing. It was a couple of years later that it really started to take off, when photographers began sharing photos of newborns on Flickr and this new trend started to spread quickly all over the world.
Looking back, you can see Anne Geddes was a huge influence on new mums finding their passion for photography. And it wasn’t long before many of us were labeled as “a mum with a camera” because there weren’t many male photographers doing this style of work, and more and more female photographers were popping up in the early days of social media. I wasn’t particularly fond of this term because I had studied photography and trained with some of the best in the business. I had photographed many weddings and family portraits for years but didn’t love them. But when my brides started having babies, it was like I had found my true calling.
There was something about working with a newborn that was very calming, and new parents are so happy and in love. This is what has made photographing newborns for me so rewarding, knowing that these family’s will look back at their photos with complete joy remembering how precious their babies were.
I’ll never forget being told 13 years ago by a well-known wedding photographer that baby photography was a fad and it wouldn’t last. Funnily enough, he sent his staff to me a couple of years later to be trained, realizing that if he didn’t jump on board with this so-called “latest fad,” he would lose his clients to someone like me.
2. You’re also a longtime educator for newborn photography. What would you say is the biggest struggle students encounter?
Understanding that every baby is different, just like you and me. And you can’t tell them what to do or make them go to sleep. They have their own agenda and can be very unpredictable.
When you understand them and their needs, and learn about the environment they come from, you will be able to achieve beautiful, timeless results safely and confidently.
3. What’s the biggest mistake photographers make when it comes to posing newborns?
Definitely not knowing how to achieve some poses and setups safely. There are many photographers that haven’t worked with newborns before that don’t realize when looking at a photo how it’s achieved, and unfortunately they put the safety of the baby at risk. This is why I’m so passionate about education.
4. What’s the weirdest thing about your job?
Probably having to deal with poop and pee daily [laughs]. Never would I have dreamed it would become a work hazard!
5. What’s something few people know about you?
That I still get nervous before every session.
6. What’s the most ambitious or challenging photo you’ve ever taken?
Oh, there have been many! I actually love the challenge of photographing newborns. There’s never a dull moment. Which is why I love entering the newborn category at WPPI The Annual.
Being a single-capture category, it pushes me to create something that’s unique and storytelling in camera, taking into consideration all safety aspects.
7. If you could remove any aspect of the photo industry today, what would it be?
The urge to follow the latest trends. With social media being a big part of our daily lives, it’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing instead of focusing on what our clients’ needs and wants are.
As photographers we are creatives, but we are also service providers. We accept payment in exchange for a product and service. So it is our responsibility to deliver to our clients’ expectations. We need to remember why our clients are hiring us.
8. Do you see the style of newborn photography changing from country to country as it seems to in wedding photography?
When it comes to photographing babies, there’s the very styled and posed look to the more documentary, lifestyle way of capturing them. While I’ve noticed a small difference in terms of colors and props, the photographers I’ve met and taught all have their own personal taste and style, which I encourage. Social media plays a big part in this as we are all so much more connected today.
9. What was your motivation behind starting The Baby Summit?
I wanted to create a community, a place where maternity, birth, newborn and family photographers could connect to learn from the best in the industry and increase the industry standards. There are many other conferences out there, but there was nothing that was genre-specific for baby photographers before the summit.
10. What’s one of your goals for 2020?
This year, one of my main focuses is to bring more awareness to the importance of printing photographs for our future generations so they can look back at their family history like we currently do.