COLUMBIA — Billie Stock has her camera at hand as she patiently waits for the newborn baby girl wrapped in pink to fall asleep so the photo shoot can begin.
After the wait, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, Stock prepares the studio, arranges the baby and positions herself to take the picture.
1. Be careful. According to Stock, extra precautions are key. "Newborns are so fragile that you must rethink every pose and remain very calm at the same time," she said.
2. Take your time. "It can take two to three hours to get a couple of good shots," Stock said. "But you must have patience and wait for the perfect shot in between the newborn crying and trying to fall asleep because the resulting photos are worth it."
3. Accept advice from parents. It is important to listen to the parents and find out what they are looking for in these photos, Stock said.
4. Have fun. Stock encourages photographers to just have fun with it. "Taking photos is a fun way to express your creativity," Stock said. "Think out of the ordinary and enjoy your work while working with newborn babies and proud parents."
The baby is bundled in a blanket that reveals only her face; Stock leans over to capture her rosy cheeks.
Although she has experience shooting weddings, engagements, nature and families, Stock says her favorite subject is infants.
The 20-year-old photographer set up a home studio last year and started Billie Stock Photography. She works to capture and record for parents the first flush of infancy.
"The newborn size only lasts for about a couple months, and they grow up so fast," Stock said. "It is so rewarding, and the parents always thank me because that is how they want to remember their child."
She said she has seen infant photography become as popular as weddings.
"Women are coming to me more and more," Stock said. "They are finding out that they can capture the blissful state of having a newborn and create adorable, timeless images they will have forever."
Hospital photography is growing
Charley's Angels Photography also has a mission to ensure that a baby's first days are an enduring memory.
Charley's Angels is a Chicago-based company that specializes in newborn hospital photography. The goal is to bring the newborn photographs up to a professional standard using state-of-the-art equipment and a portable studio.
Donna Hoeschele, the southern district manager for Charley's Angels and a photographer herself, said it isn't easy to explain the increasing demand and growth the company has seen over the years.
"It is hard to put into words how fast we have grown and changed," Hoeschele said. "More couples are wanting these photographs taken and there is no better joy than providing it for them."
The business has contracts with more than 60 hospitals across the U.S., including Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Mo. There, the company photographs about 1,500 infants annually, she said.
In early October, Craigslist.org ran a listing to find a photographer for the Columbia area, but Hoeschele said she was unaware of any developments.
The infants are photographed within the first three days after they are born, Hoeschele explained. Charley's Angels sets up a small, portable studio in the hospital room. Portraits start at approximately $16, but they can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the order.
Babies are natural subjects
Stock said her love for newborn photography sparked when her sister had a baby boy and she began taking photos of him.
"The first time I saw and held him, I thought in my head, 'He is so tiny and adorable, maybe I could capture that through my camera,'" she said.
Born and raised in Columbia, Stock received her first camera at the age of 10 and has been taking photos ever since.
"I taught myself," she said. "I did a lot of research online and watched a lot of videos just to kind of see what other photographers were doing and then fed off of that and went in my own direction."
Stock said she favors a "realistic" style. She looks for unusual angles and tries to incorporate as much natural light as possible in her photos.
A collection of baby props can add charm
Stock uses a spare bedroom as her studio. It includes chairs, multiple backdrops and shelves full of props — baskets, blankets, stuffed animals, hats, headbands and a tiny pair of butterfly wings.
Suzanne Mathis, a mother of two and one of Stock's customers, said she has spread the word about her experience.
"Having photos taken of my child was such a different experience than having photos taken of me on my wedding," Mathis said. "You're just so struck with amazement with this child that God gave you, and the photos are much more precious."
Some of her favorite shots include one of her older daughter holding new baby Noah, and also a close-up photo of Noah's wrinkly little feet.
"When you have a baby, you just can't seem to stop staring at your child, and these photos make that feeling last," Mathis said.
Stock recently began making handmade headbands and selling them to customers and on her shop on Etsy.com. The headbands, feathers and handmade outfits with embroidered names are in high demand for infant photos, she said.
Her biggest seller is an MU-themed headband in black and gold fabric with a big yellow okra flower on the side.
Stock said she hopes to pursue a degree in either business or photography at Columbia College and open a studio in Colorado some day.
"I love the thought of people coming to me and my studio and wanting me just to spend time with them and take photos," Stock said. "It is fun and rewarding."
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