baby looking in window

Becoming a parent for the first time

As some of you would have seen I’ve recently begun a partnership with Josie Taylor (Positive Parenting with Josie),  I thought I’d elaborate a little bit on why we want to work together.

Like many parents, my confidence has grown over the years.  In my case I have been winging it for 5 years now but I do have a lot more moments of clarity and confidence than I probably did at the beginning.

That first year obviously flew by as everyone says it does.  I was overwhelmed at times with lack of sleep, decisions about bottles / breastfeeding / was the colour of his poo ok!/ sleeping/ what should they wear/ are they too hot are they too cold/ when should I wean/ should they be left to cry or cuddled to sleep etc etc.  But ultimately we survived!

At around 9 months to 18 months my gorgeous son, was not (in my eyes at that point) a baby any more.  He wanted to touch everything, he would hit me , he wanted to run everywhere and climb on everything, he could meltdown with frustration at most things.

And where as before with the feeding / sleeping etc, I had trusted my gut after some research and I felt I had some element of control over the outcomes (apart from sleep – someone please figure that one out and share the magic secret with me!) with some of the new ‘behaviours’  and emotions I felt quite confused.

When ‘babies’ start to act more like toddlers, there are so many possible ways that you can deal with things.  And when you are an over thinker, like I am, it’s hard to make a decision as to which way you should act in the spur of the moment, because ultimately, anything could work.

For example:

He’d cry when I left him at nursery, like scream the place down.  Or if I left him at a grandparents.

-Was I meant to run out the door, or stay to comfort him?  Did I prepare him before hand or would that build it up so that he was anticipating the separation?

He might push others over at soft play and it genuinely felt at times like no other kids did this!

– was I meant to say gentle and show him gentle hands? Was I meant to remove him from there? Was I meant to ignore it and not give it attention? Did he even know he was doing it?

He’d have a tantrums, which could be about anything…

– did I hug him? did I ignore and not give the tantrum attention? did I give in and do what he wanted?  Was I being too soft or too strict?

Sharing

-If he took a toy did I make him give it back (that goes down so well), did I tell him ‘no’ firmly, did I softly say sweetheart ‘we share don’t we’, did I let him have it and give the other child something else (because let’s face it it’s rarely about the toy itself!), was it better to take turns?

At times It felt like all I ever said was NO!

This new stage as a new parent really threw me, if i’m honest.   What happened to that baby stage! I’d obsessively watched supernanny and three day nanny and all of those types of programmes for a long time pre parenthood, smugly thinking I would have it all nailed at the point it was my time,  but here I was, I had an extremely active, inquisitive boy and just trying to keep up with him was exhausting enough, never mind all these things that were going around in my head on a daily/ hourly basis!  My gut told me this was all normal and I didn’t have to tell him off but I also felt a lot of pressure to act on it when around others.  I found the line of discipline very ambiguous at this age, was he a baby still or did he understand?  I never thought I’d feel ‘played’ by a one year old but at times he seemed so clever!

I’d give each thing some thought and think, this is how I’m going to handle it, only to change my mind very quickly after seeing how someone else does it, or getting advice from well meaning friends or family.

Or, a new challenge would rear it’s ugly head when I was least expecting it (and always infront of a bloody  audience) and I’d have to think on my feet!

I often felt the pressure to ‘nip it in the bud’, ‘teach him so he knows right and wrong’ etc whilst also wanting to make sure he was ok and not upset him when I knew he couldn’t help a lot of what was going on. Whilst some people are great at just trusting their instincts and going with it, I think I would want to ‘fix’ a lot of problems there and then and would almost panic at times if things didn’t work.  I never knew if I was making something worse, or ‘fixing’ it slowly, so I’d change to something else before I could find out.

I think (with hindsight) what happened, is the poor boy didn’t know whether he was coming or going!  I have to be honest, I don’t think I had the most consistent parenting approach in my first two years.  I tried everything!

Then, after having my second son, and struggling with a new business and a new larger family, I luckily became friends with Josie Taylor and managed to attend her workshops to learn so much about her wonderful approach to parenting.  The focus, is on connection with your children, on understanding their worlds, on being firm but fair and above all else, trust what you are going to do and see it through.  All of the things my gut would tell me to do but my (scrambled/ tired/ panicked) head would ignore because I felt ‘he needed to learn and quick’).

To say it was life changing is possibly a dramatic thing to say.  But I actually think it was for me within my parenting and family life.

Josie teaches a ‘positive discipline’/parenting approach which totally feeds into my love of psychology and really sums up how I want to parent.

The primary thinking is that children only behave ‘badly’ when they feel bad and that the key is to fix whatever is causing that bad feeling in order to have long term improvements in the behaviour.  So, for example, when we were experiencing perfectly normal (but at times difficult) tantrums or attention seeking behaviour after his baby brother arrived, I was able to figure out the specifics of what was actually going on to cause this in our daily routine, reconnect with him and then correct the behaviours afterwards.  As my kids have got older we’ve experienced the odd challenging time and the tools I’ve got from Josie have really helped me understand why they’re happening and work through them without much stress.

 

Most of the people that have used her just want to understand their kids a bit better, whether they are challenging or not.  I for one have learnt some amazing tools to help with the day to day dramas!

However, I know so many people that have used her when going through tougher times; a divorce, or if there children have difficulty settling into school or any of those common life events that can throw children off balance and affect their behaviour and happiness.

It made a real difference to me, not because it stopped my kids from doing any of these things I mentioned as babies.  Nor has it made them angels that never push the boundaries as they’ve got older, It’s all normal. They’re perfect but not always perfectly behaved, they never will be! I don’t want them to be either (although they could perhaps pick their moments from time to time!).

It gave me an understanding of what I wanted to do and most importantly why they are doing it.  And I think knowing what you are going to do in certain situations gives you so much power as a parent (or anything in life) that it takes a lot of the stress away.

We all want to be the best possible parent we can be and we all suffer similar challenges and experience periods of ‘what the actual hell do I do here?’ so if you’d like to check out her workshops – there’s some coming up soon I believe.

Although I know that the hardest years are yet to come, I am really pleased I have worked on my confidence to be the best version of ‘mummy’ that I can be and I have actually met some great friends through her workshops too – bonus!

Josie has a few workshops coming up if you’d like to check them out.

For parents or babies 12 months and under click here

For parents of preschoolers click here

Check out the rest of her workshops here

Josie Taylor


Beginners Photography

BEGINNERS PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSES IN WINDSOR

WHO ARE THEY FOR?

If you have a DSLR or compact camera but keep it in the box or at home because you’re scared of how to use it then this is for you.  Perhaps you have used it but the results you get are frustrating, too blurry, too bright, too dark?  This is where I come in!

Get clearer, more creative photos of your family.

BOOK NOW

Plus meet new people, make new friends, learn a hobby that the whole family will benefit from!

£99

My workshops will cover everything you NEED to know, and tell you what you can just ignore and not worry about!

  • The very basics – How to hold a camera and what do the buttons and settings mean?  How to attach a lens and what to do if the lens gets dirty?
  • What you need to know in order to take effective pictures – what is aperture and depth of field?  What is shutter speed?  What is ISO?
  • Composition and Light – How to position your subject in all sorts of different light and environments
  • How to get the best from your subject (no, they don’t need to say cheese).
  • Top tips on where to print your images and how to store them on your computer.

What previous attendees say:

‘Thank you it was amazing and I can’t wait to put it all into practice over Christmas’

‘I have just got home and recommended you already!’

The best thing is - you can now buy or ask for gift vouchers towards this!

They will be held in groups of 5 – with a 10% discount if you book as a group.

The workshop will start at 10 am and end at 2pm, with a break for lunch which is provided.

Just £99!

Book now for the next workshop

March 1st at 10 am

March 2nd at 10 am

TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN THE NEXT WORKSHOP DATE IS ANNOUNCED - SIGN UP HERE


What makes a family session successful...

There are obvious things that make a family photography session go well.  First of all, the photographer needs to know what they are doing!  Hopefully you will agree I do! Second of all, there needs to be a good report between the photographer and the person/people being photographed.  I pride myself on being good at this.  It’s one of the things I love most about my job, interacting with and meeting new families.

But aside from these points there are two things that the client can really control.  I thought I’d use a recent session to explain.

CLOTHING

The first is what you wear.  This can really impact the overall feel of a photo.

But if the aim of my sessions is to capture you, and your family as you are,  why does it matter then what you wear?  What you are wearing is a reflection of who you are right?  Clothing might reflect what your kids are into too.

This is all so true but clothing really does bring the photo together.

It can also fight with the background (different colours work better together and are more pleasing to the eye).

It can also distract from the emotion in the image (large patterns or motifs especially do this).

Lastly it can date.  You child may be in love with chase form paw patrol right now but if she wears a paw patrol t shirt it’s going to date the photo when you look back.

I advise to just keep its simple.

In spring / summer months, the light is soft, the colours are light and airy, so I like to recommend clients compliment this.  Light pastels, greys, creams, baby blues, pinks all look fabulous.

Im autumn shoots, the colours of yellow, red and brown dominate the scene so anything that fights this makes the photo look inconsistent and confused. Sticking to rich, strong colours like burgundy, mustard, green, will help your photos look really strong and help the eye to focus on your interactions with each other.

At Christmas, the images need punch and impact.  These want to grab attention, so bright red against the green of the trees or the whites of the studio work really well.  As does gold.

Accessories are great, as are layers (cardigans, hats etc).  Different textures also look great, for example  lace and tulle in spring, wool, corduroy in the autumn.

TIMING

Evening light is awesome, fact!

It’s soft, its flattering, it gives a gorgeous glow to  the images you will receive.  Therefore my preference is always to shoot around two hours before the sun sets.  In the summer months this is around 7pm with it moving forward as early as 2pm in the winter.  This is what we call the golden hour because of the impact it has on the light (golden and soft).  It’s every photographers preference to shoot at this time.  The shadows on  the faces are softer, there is no squinting and in the summer months the kids aren’t moaning that it’s too hot.

Understandably, it’s a worry to some parents to keep their kids up towards bed time, or sometimes past bed time.  But this is where I come in.

It’s my expectation that they might play up / show off during a photo shoot.  It’s a new environment, it’s a new person and they may feel nervous if they haven’t had it done before.  It’s my job to make your kids feel at ease, to empathise if they find it nerve wracking or distract them when they’re tired.  In any of these cases I often take the lead and it works wonders as i’m new and fun (in their eyes – others might disagree!) and encouraging them to be silly and not worry about anything.

Yes they may be a bit ratty the next day if they stay up late, but it’s one day and it is worth it, I promise!  I’ve done it myself.

And if we get to the point where they’ve had enough during the session, we stop, no problems!

This gallery below shows you exactly what I mean.

The family dressed to compliment both the season and each other.  No one clashed, there were no distracting logos or patterns, lovely long layers and accessories.  Perfect styling!

Additionally, the light was just what I want, soft, light, airy, flattering.    The session below was held around 2 hours before sunset.  We met around 6pm on a beautiful hill near my studio.

And here’s a little clothing inspiration for those of you working with me this Autumn

To book or find my prices for family sessions then just click HERE


wedding photo

My First Solo Wedding!

So last week I set into unknown territory for me, photographing a wedding, completely by myself!

I have previously been a second shooter for my lovely friend Abi Moore of Photography by Abi Moore but I have never done it alone!

The wedding was a very small, intimate affair with just 25 people to the day.  It was held at the lovely Great Hallingbury Manor  in Bishops Stortford

My aim for the day (and request from the lovely bride) was to capture natural images of them all.  Nothing staged, nothing too posed, just them in the moment.  As a result, I absolutely loved it!

Hoping to do two or three more weddings next year – watch this space!

I hope the bride and groom like this quick preview!


white board

My top 5 toys for 1-5 year olds when travelling

I have just got back from a trip to Crete with my 2.5 year old and my just 5 year old (who can’t read well enough to go through books).

I was quite conscious of the amount of time they/ we could potentially default to the iPad…

iPad

Two 4 hour flights, meals out every day, time inside when it got too hot at midday, so I took a supply of toys that I hoped would help keep them happy.  On the plane I was sat in-between the two of them and on the whole it was fairly stress free, so I thought I’d share the things that we took with us, that ended up being a godsend.

SMARTMAX - MY FIRST SAFARI ANIMALS

These were a real hit especially for my youngest.  They are animals with a magnetic centre that you can swap heads and feet to make different creatures.  He had a good half hour on the plane swapping their heads, bottoms, acting out different scenarios, making different sounds and they fit nicely on the tray table so he was sat still which was a total bonus!  My eldest also really liked them, he was interested in how many magnets could stick together and working out why one end repels and the other attracts.

I actually bought mine from Odds Farm in Bucks, but you can get them on Amazon for £17.95.

WHITE BOARD AND PENS

white board

I think this was one of the best distractions for us both on the plane and going out.  My two year old just likes to scribble and erase over and over, but my 5 year old played naughts and crosses, ‘teachers’, drew various members of the family and we had to guess who it was (I didn’t fare well on that one), as well as practiced his writing skills which was a bonus.  If you have a child that’s 4/5 I’d definitely recommend getting one. It is just the right size for small hands but fits a lot on.

Mine was from Amazon and cost £5.99.

ACTIVITY BOOKS

These were an absolute winner for my five year old.  He can get quite bored of the wipe clean numbers and writing books but we haven’t done a mixed activity book before.  We had a mixture of them that included school type activities like tracing letters and circling correct shapes but then fun activities like spot the difference, crack the cryptic codes (which he loved), word searches (was quite impressed with how he did on those) and lots more.  I also think it helps having stickers so they can mark their progress too, my son loves to tell himself well done!

Where’s Wally books are great for this age group too In our experience.  We spend a lot of time looking at those.

Our favourite was a present so i’m not sure what it cost but amazon stocks loads of them at good value.  I find The Works always have fab selections normally at around £1.50-£3.

MOBILO

mobilo

This is small enough to stow away in travel bags or hand bag on a night out  and fits on tray tables easily.  It’s great for 2 year olds and my 5 year old still really loves it too.  You can connect pieces to make all sorts from space ships, houses, cranes, cars, horses etc.  My two year old likes finding me the pieces and I build them with him and my 5 year old likes to make surprises so that we guess what they are.

I got a large starter pack years ago after seeing my son playing with them so much at nursery.  It’s fairly pricey but you can get smaller, cheaper packs too.    The starter pack I have is £44.

I’ve often looked at the different magnetic toys too but not personally used them, although I bet the work just the same.

DUPLO

duplo

As a lot of parents probably do, I take duplo with me most places.  Both of mine love pirates so a couple of pirates and mixed pieces of duplo kept them both entertained during meals and on the plane and in the car.  Especially as I took wheels so they could build cars and trains.  You don’t need lots, just a few to keep them (especially the little ones) interested in sticking them together and pulling them apart over and over and over!  My eldest is into lego now but still loves building duplo too and the bonus is I can split the pile of blocks in half so no fighting!

I HOPE THIS IS HELPFUL. WITH ANOTHER TRIP COMING UP FAIRLY SOON I’D LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOUR GO TO TOYS ARE FOR THIS AGE RANGE… PLEASE COMMENT BELOW!

I am a photographer, specialising in anything to do with families.  Newborn, baby and family portraits are my speciality although I also do commercial/ product photography too.

You can see my latest work HERE

or please get in touch fiona@fionanormanphotography.com  07970 612867


Holyport sundial

A little look at Beautiful Holyport Village

My little village was hit by a fire (actually more than one) last week, it was horrible.

Everyone really rallied, ensuring people were safe and well informed.  It made me realise how much I appreciate living here.  Everyone is just so kind and it felt awful having fire engines around such a beautiful place.  I feel like it’s an incredibly warm, welcoming and safe community for my children and I need to photograph more of it!

So here’s a little snap shot of the gorgeous light I have been appreciating on my evening walks recently.

Have a look at my recent work, here.  Or get in touch below for more info.


family cake smash

Recent Session - First birthday celebration at Ockwells park, Maidenhead

This family combined a first birthday celebration with a family photo shoot.  It was great un in ockwells park, Maidenhead, watching the kids run around and play and then sitting down afterwards with cake.  The little girl who’s first birthday it was didn’t fancy her cake much!  So everyone else got stuck in!


Recent Session_Baby boy before his christening

This family travelled to my Holyport Studio to capture this little man before he got christened and turned one.

 

It’s a gorgeous age to get photos (Around 7 months- 9 months).  Baby’s are usually smiling, happily distracted and not crawling or walking, which makes my job a bit easier!


family kissing

Family photography - before and after

Photoshop

A lot of people could be mistaken into thinking that 90% of a photographer’s time is spent photographing, but actually this is not the case at all.  Aside from the emails, enquiries, orders, invoicing, marketing, packaging, posting, delivering, researching, location scouting, advertising, training, website and SEO updates I also spend my time editing photos.  Especially at this time of year when I am so busy…

I am currently doing a lot of photographing outdoors in the evening, for family and maternity sessions especially.  This means that the light is softer and easier to work with.

At times though, some photos need a bit more work.

I’ve picked a few of the more extreme examples below, to show you what happens after a shoot.

Some of the issues I was faced with below:

  • Lack of light – for the maternity sessions we stayed quite late which meant the light was almost gone. This makes for some fabulous silhouette type effects but also means that some of the pretty details and light from a photo needs to be brought back in when using photoshop.
  • Change of location in a session without adjusting settings – When chasing toddlers around I end up using many different places within one location.  One minute I’m photographing them in bright sunlight and then I am under the trees or running through the forest.  So whilst I adjust my aperture/iso/shutter speed to cope with this, things like my white balance don’t change and then need to be tweaked in post production.
  • Distracting elements – trees, benches, people, you name it!  They can take away from the focus of an image and I spend A LOT of time removing things when working in public places, especially photobombing dogs!  If there is something I really want your eye to focus on, like a pregnant lady in the distance, I remove anything (trees) that will make your eye wonder form that focus).
  • The need to compliment and accentuate what’s already there.  Sometimes photographs just need a bit of extra colour, light or contrast to highlight what was already there.  For example, when working in the long grass it can often look a but dull in camera, so accentuating the warmth or the colour can make an average photo have more drama and impact.

I hope you found this interesting!  If you’d like more info on Maternity, Newborn, Baby or Family photography then please contact me using the form below.


family-photos-windsor

Bluebell Photos - before and after

Green colour casts, dark shaded areas with little light, or bright hotspots of light with little shade.  The Bluebell season really challenges photographers when it comes to the photo shoot itself but especially the editing process!

This year, I thought it would be fun to show you what goes into making my bluebell photos really stand out and explain why it takes a while to edit them!

The first thing and most important thing in running bluebell photoshoots, is the choice of location and then the spots I use within that location.  I am looking for somewhere with limited logs and branches that are a huge distraction in the background, let alone a pain for the kids to manage when running around.  I also chose to use a spot with a clear path so that the kids aren’t trampling over bluebells too.

Where possible, I tried to find spaces for the subjects to sit so that they were facing outwards towards open sky so that they have some natural light on their faces (and not facing more trees that are blocking the sky)  but often this isn’t possible.  Bluebells typically grown in the woodland where they are fairly covered by tree branches and shaded, this causes a problem for photographers as it doesn’t provide a lot of light on faces and skin ends up looking dull and often tinted a dark green colour.

On the flip side to this, there are also many hot pockets of light that can reflect the acidic green colour from the plants and the trees onto peoples faces.  On bright days the pockets of light also mean that bright spots can appear on peoples faces and blow out the highlights (overexpose the bright spots) and ruin a photograph.

On this day pictured below, the sun was constantly going in and out, so I’d find a spot I liked, adjust my settings so that the subjects faces were lit just right, then the sun would either come out and blow the highlights or it would go in and they’d be underexposed.

However, the main problem with the bluebell photo shoots, is really just the green colour casts you get.

In the photo below, you can really see what I mean by the acid green colour taking over the photo.  The kids have a green colour cast all over them, especially their faces.

edited bluebell photo

Yukky Green

In this picture, the green is so overpowering that the kids and the bluebells are lost.  So I work to increase the exposure slightly, reduce the green from their faces and clothes, especially in the shadows, reduce the green from the background and also from the grass, increase the warmth of the whole photo, add a few more bluebells and clone out the dead leaves, and create a bit more light around them  whilst darkening the tree somewhat (to help them stand out).

Did you also notice that I removed those distracting leaves from behind them?

Another example below.  I love this next image, so sweet.  it took us a while to get the little one standing too, so I wanted to get it right!

bluebell_photoshoot

It doesn’t need a huge amount doing to it but just a few steps to really make it pop a bit more.

The first image you will see is slightly under exposed, this is because it was a bright day and there were pockets of light coming through the trees that I couldn’t control with them moving so much.   As discussed above, had this hit their faces, It would have blow the highlights which means a loss of detail.  So as I know my camera well and also shoot in manual and raw, I could allow for a small bit of underexposure as I can fix it in photoshop without doing damage to the quality.

Editing

Here’s what I did, in a bit more detail (for anyone that is familiar with photoshop).  I increased the exposure, as mentioned, as well as lifted the shadows and reduced the highlights which in turn reduced the contrast.  I like my bluebell photos to be softer than my usual edits.   I played with curves layers in Photo shop to make the kids stand out, I did this by brightening them up and darkening the background slightly to create some subject / background contrast.

I warmed up their skin, ( I added more yellow and reduced the magenta and blue tones) and I also reduced the green that was being slightly reflected onto their skin.   I reduced the yellow saturation from the acidic green plantation and increased the vibrancy of the blue in their clothing somewhat to make it stand out a bit more.

I thought at this point they needed a bit more framing, so I brightened them up a tad more and created a slight vignette.

Lastly, I brightened up the older boys face a tad and then added a soft layer of lilac to give it more of a dreamy look.  I then noticed the log at the front so I remove that!

The key to avoiding these types of problems, is really to step your subjects out of the shaded green areas, so that they are facing natural, open light, rather than being enclosed and the light bouncing off green leaves and blue flowers and then reflecting on to their hair and skin.

It’s so tough when you’re in the zone though! Sometimes you just got to get the image and worry about it later!

If you’re photographing kids in woodland or a similar environment, here are a few top tips on how to have them stand:

Get down low– this creates the illusion that they are surrounded by flowers or grass when they may not be.  In the example of the kids sitting down above there was just a small patch of bluebells infront of them and they weren’t actually that tall, but getting down low made them look more surrounded than they were.  It also helps to hide things like paths if you get down low enough when there are flowers in-between you and the subject.  Getting down low also gives the feeling that you are in the childs world, not an adult looking down upon it, which I personally like.

Face the children/ subject towards open sky – this is going to illuminate their skin much more than if they were facing large trees or surrounded by woodland.  It also helps to prevent colour casts which give your photograph and undesirable feel.

Don’t position them facing the sun in daylight – this will create harsh shadows (especially in midday sunshine) and it will also cause squinting and unflattering faces.  Instead, position the subject either with the sunshine behind them (you can tell when this looks really nice as the back of the hairline lights up and create a slight golden halo) or at 45 degrees.  Just don’t have it behind you unless they are in a shaded area or until it’s much later in the day and therefore lower, softer and more flattering.  If you are shooting very late in the afternoon it will be darker so you will need them facing the light at times to get their faces bright enough.

Look out for hotspots – Have you ever taken a really nice photo only to have a part of their face really bright that you can’t see much detail?  When taking a pictures outside, try to get them to move around so that there is no isolated light shining on their face and move them so that they are more evenly lit (all in the shade or all out of the shade).  One bright spot distracts your eyes from looking at the subject and draws them to that light part of the photo.

An example of what I mean below:

Don’t ask them to say ‘Cheese’- this applies to all photo shoots really!  It’s such a common thing for parents to do but you just get staged/false smiles with no real connection.  Instead, get them to tell you a joke, tell you something that makes them laugh, tell them a joke or a story about yourself, ask them to look at the flowers or guess what they smell like. Anything other than look at me and say cheese – trust me!

Some more of my 2018 bluebell sessions are below, hope you enjoy them!  I can’t wait to share the other two sessions that are currently being kept a surprise for a birthday and and anniversary present!

See more of my family sessions here

Or enquire by completing this form