THE age-old advice ‘never work with animals or children’ was thankfully not heeded by Ann-Marie Collins.
Known as the ‘baby whisperer’, her business, AMC photography, concentrates mainly on capturing all the loveliness that is new-born babies and tiny tots.
Her interest was sparked by her own experience of snapping her new-born daughter, seeing how much and how quickly she changed in her first month of life, and realising how much she treasured those early pictures.
It also helped that Ann-Marie’s always had exposure to lots of smallies and knows how to get the best from them:
“I became an aunty and godmother at the young age of 12, in total I had 10 nieces and nephews before my own two daughters came along. So the kids in my family inspired me along my own two girls,” Ann-Marie explained.
“I love being around kids and always have done — they make you feel younger!”
Ann-Marie lives in East Cork, where her glass fronted studio overlooks Ballycotton Bay, with her husband John and girls, Aria, 8, and Ellie, 6.
Her interest in photography started at an early age when she would spend hours sifting through family photos.
“During my school years my favourite subject was always art so when I bought my first camera I loved what I could create with it and before long I was hooked.
“Travelling to countries like Australia, New Zealand and Asia, I adored the landscape there so I always had a camera on me. And on returning to Ireland after my travels I loved doing portrait photography, and had lots of cute little ones to practice on — 10 nieces and nephews!”
She joined East Cork Camera Group — “a great way to satisfy my addiction to photography” — and said she would highly recommend anyone who has a keen interest in photography and has a DLSR to join their local camera group.
“I photographed a few weddings over the years and loved doing that, and met so many nice people. But due to back problems I always found the long days hard and the recovery after even harder.”
It was when she was pregnant with Aria that she researched photographing babies — as she wanted to capture her own bundle as best she could.
“I even brought my camera to the hospital! I love macro photography so I captured all the tiny details like fingers, toes, mouth, eyelashes, etc.
“When Aria was only a month old I couldn’t believe how much she had changed already and was so delighted to have taken so many nice images I treasure forever. This was really the start of my obsession with new-born photography.
“So any of my friends having babies after this were approached by me... with a camera... and so kindly allowed me to photograph their little ones.”
After maternity leave for her second daughter, Ellie, Ann Marie continued working as a sales rep three days a week and spent the other four on her photography, but knew she wanted to devote all her time to it.
“With the huge support of my husband, John, we made this happen! We invested in a temporary office space alongside our house and fitted it out to suit the needs of AMC Photography, which was concentrating on new-born and baby photography with the ability to be able to photograph older kids and families.”
At the end of 2014, John came on board to help develop the business further and they have recently moved into a new studio overlooking the picturesque Ballycotton bay.
Ann-Marie describes her work as the most amazing thing she has ever done but says it can also be very emotional
“As soon as you press that shutter on the camera, that’s a moment frozen in time forever. Pictures are our memories.”
She does admit that it can sometimes be challenging.
“But as long as you stay relaxed and give the baby or child the time they need to settle down without rushing, then the results will come. New-borns need time for feeding during the sessions and the feeding time varies, whether they are bottle or breastfed. I also make sure that mommy and daddy are not rushed during this time.
“I believe in not over-powering kids and I think they like this, I try to make myself approachable and not too scary!”
She has plenty of tips and tricks for getting the best out of her young subjects embarking on a photo session at home or in studio.
“For babies, I would recommend using a white sheet on your bed next to some window light, and a cloudy day preferably, so the sun won’t be too harsh on their face.
“Make sure the baby is nice and relaxed with a full belly so the hands aren’t going into their mouth. For older babies teething, this can be trickier, so just try to do it when their gums aren’t so sore.
“Older children and toddlers like to run around so try bringing them to a wood or a beach, especially now coming into the brighter weather.
“Or if you are doing indoor shots try singing a song with them, you might get them sitting for a minute or two then.”
There’s more: “For newborns I often use white noise apps, the sound of a hairdryer, washing machine, etc.
“For older babies and toddlers, I would use teddy bears to throw up in the air, lens huggers (soft toys that sit on your lens) or maybe one of their own toys that the parents brought as this is familiar to them.”
Of course, there has been the odd dirty nappy along the way — but they only have added to the fun.
“I always try to have fun with my clients in the studio and make it an enjoyable experience for them.
“I feel blessed that so many of my clients come back to me again and again and I just love to watch families grow and flourish.”
Ann-Marie advises that new-born shots are best when baby is 10 days old or younger — and as most new mums are bang in the middle of that ‘baby fog’ at that stage she recommends contacting her during pregnancy.
See amcphotography.ie for more