Emma Godfrey

Becoming a big sister | Story of the photo

I’m a big sister to a little brother, although there are not many years between us. I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to be a little bit older when he was born, what would it have felt like? Taking photos of siblings is one of my favourite things. The interactions are so different each time. One of the best bits about becoming a big sister is that sense of someone extra special to look after. Whenever I do I newborn photo shoot, I am keen to include older children. For Bora’s baby photos at eight days, sister Alya was really excited to take part. Just a few years ago I was taking her 12-day old photos and I can’t believe how quickly time flies.

The Story

I always encourage parents to include big sisters and brothers in a newborn shoot. Depending on their age, it’s a good idea to have a friend or relative who can be there to entertain in case they get bored. Alya and Bora’s grandparents were visiting which was perfect.

Alya was excited about the photo shoot so I got everything started quickly to make the most of her energy. After a few family photos, we tried setting up some cushions to support Bora while she held him—with mum and dad just out of shot for safety. We got some good images and carried on with portraits and lifestyle moments of cuddles, feeding and burping. All at once, big sister decided that she wanted to help with feeding. Jumping up onto the sofa, mum passed over her baby brother and dad came round for support. As Alya settled herself into dad, Bora leaned into her.

What I love about the closely cropped picture is all the hands. Little Bora holds his hands delicately, almost not quite knowing where to put them. Dad’s hands lend support, while mum’s comfort. Big sister holds hers ready. There is a sense of curiosity but hesitation in the knowledge that he is delicate and she needs to be careful. The moment is full of tenderness, with all the emotion of having a new baby in the house captured in the gestures of each family member. It’s one of those moments that I notice and just click but don’t really see until it’s up on my computer screen or printed on my desk.

Capturing the bond between siblings

As all mums know, getting children to do exactly what you want, when you want requires planning and patience—and more often than not, bribery! I always arrive at a shoot with lots of ideas for perfect moments and on the alert for when they might happen naturally. Forcing affection on cue can result in those cheesy fixed smiles that parents always tell me is all they can manage themselves when taking pictures of their kids. If you let them be themselves they tend to surprise you. I always think the presence of my big camera—and maybe of me with those kids that now know me well—is a sign that this is different to the pictures mum takes. The experience I have gained from so many years of photographing families is that the universal moments are expressed differently in each person. Setting up the possibility for natural, personal reactions is the best way to capture the real bond between siblings.

Discover the story behind some of my favourite children’s photos, check out the links below or visit the Story of the Photo page. If you would like to book a family or newborn photography collection, get in touch to chat about making it happen.

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