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Baby photography: Top tips and tricks from celebrity family photographer Julia Boggio

Julia has photographed Holly Branson's twins amongst other celebrities

by Andrea Caamano

Celebrity family photographer Julia Boggio has been photographing babies and families for over 12 years. Her trendsetting work in the photography industry, as well as her American-style customer service, has helped her to become the photographer of choice in the London luxury market; Julia had the pleasure of photographing Richard Branson's twin grandchildren when they were just a few days old, as well as Katy Hill's family (in the most adorable photoshoot ever).

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Holly Branson's twins Artie and Etta were only a few days old when Julia Boggio photographed them

The mother of two is not only well known for her amazing photography skills - in 2007 her Dirty Dancing-themed first dance, which has has more than 10 million views, went viral on You Tube and landed her and her husband on The Oprah Winfrey Show, dancing with Patrick Swayze!

HELLO! caught up with Julia to discuss baby photography, and get her top tips for doing your own baby shoot at home!

What's the perfect age (weeks) to do a shoot with a newborn?

Newborn photography ideally needs to happen within the first 10 days of life. After this time, they start spending more time awake, which makes them harder to pose. With twins or babies that have come a little early, this time frame can usually be extended.

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Ideally, a newborn photoshoot should happen within the first 10 days of life

How do you keep a baby calm/sleep and not crying during the shoot?

Timing the shoot to begin after feeds is a good place to start. Keeping the room warm, almost uncomfortably so for you, can help the baby relax, especially if you want to get shots where their clothes are off. It’s also a good idea to play some white noise or heartbeats on your phone as the sound is comforting to babies (after all, it was all they really heard for nine months).

How long should a shoot last?

There is no perfect amount of time for a newborn shoot to last. I've had shoots go anywhere from two hours to eight hours. It all depends on the baby's temperament. There are often long breaks for feeding and lulling the baby to sleep – this can't be rushed.

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Julia Boggio established her studio in London in 2005

What essentials do you need to create a 'photo studio' in your own home?

The most important ingredient is light. You don't need to have professional flash, but you do need a window with good light. If the light is too bright (like direct sun), have some white plastic shower curtains on hand to tape up on the glass to help make the light a bit softer. If you want to take pictures in the baby's crib, move it next to a window. You can also use pillows or layer lots of blankets on the floor in the window light to make a nice comfortable spot for baby.

Is it possible to do a baby shoot at home like a pro?

Yes and no. You can get simple, natural-style images at home, but the more complicated, artistic portraits require an advanced knowledge of lighting, posing and, most importantly, safe handling of newborn babies.

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Julia comes from a long line of Italian photographers and artists

What shoots are the most popular with parents and why do you think they are so popular?

In the first year, most parents will see me three times (four if you include a pregnancy shoot). Newborn shoots are special because the baby is so new and beautiful. However, the baby will quickly change and soon will look nothing like that cuddly bundle you brought home from the hospital. My favourite time to photograph babies is between 6-8 months in a studio setting. The key is to do it when they are sitting up steadily, but not yet crawling. You can have lots of fun dressing them up or photographing them with their rolls of fat (which also disappear way too soon). Finally, there is the first birthday shoot, which sometimes involves baby's first taste of cake (also known as a Cake Smash Shoot). Some babies absolutely love it and some act like you are feeding them cow pats. It's always hilarious and always yields great photographs.

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Her son taking part in a 'Cake Smash' sailor-themed photoshoot. Cake by Cakes By Robin

How did you get into photography?

Both my great-grandfather and my grandfather in Italy were photographers, so it's always been in my blood. I didn't discover my own passion for it until a trip to South America in 2000. When I returned, I enrolled on a course in photography on weekends while I worked as an advertising copywriter. Eventually, I decided to turn it into my career and now I've been a full-time professional photographer for 12 years.

What's your favourite part of your job?

I absolutely love all the interesting people I have met through this job, from celebrities to just really awesome individuals, many of whom have become friends as well as clients. I also really love the challenges of running a business – it's never boring and, if done right, should be just as creative as the photography side. For example, I've published two Boggio magazines, which you can find on Issuu.

Are there any memorable images or shoots you can share with us? What made them so special?

Proud parent alert – I really adore photographing my own children. They are my muses. In fact, ideas I have for them are often the ones that I then turn into shoots for my wider client base. Earlier this year, I won Children's Portrait Photographer of the Year at an international photography conference for a Fine Art photograph of my daughter hugging a giraffe (I'm holding a Menagerie Fine Art Shoot Day on September 16, where I can capture images like this for clients). The feeling I get every time I look at that portrait of her gives me shivers. It's timeless and beautiful. I want my clients to get the same feeling when they look at my photographs of their own children.

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Julia recently won an award for this 'timeless and beautiful' picture of her daughter hugging a giraffe

You have a lot of celebrity clients, one of them is Richard Branson's daughter, Holly. How was it photographing her twins?

Holly was lovely and her twins were very well behaved. I had photographed her father in the past and I'm a mother, too, so we had plenty to chat about. The thing about babies and motherhood is that it's the great leveller – no matter who you are, we've all had similar experiences. I've been asked for recommendations on all sorts of things by celebrity mums, from breastfeeding coaches to books about sleep routines.

What are the best/most popular props for baby shoots?

Trends in newborn photography are always changing. Right now, using flowers and greenery in newborn shoots is popular. However, cute hats and outfits will never go out of style. The first thing to decide is whether you like things neutral or bright and then shop for blankets and hats accordingly. If you love shots of the baby with cute hats on, then you can purchase them on places like Etsy (just make sure to do it in plenty of time in case you want things shipped from other countries).

For more adorable baby pictures and to find out more about family shoots visit boggiostudios.com

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