In The Spotlight: Kristi Allen Gayton, Newborn & Maternity Photographer from Reno, NV
I love shining the light on professionals and businesses that just 'wow' me, and I want to share them with you! This could be another photographer, small business owner, or another sort of professional that I think has an amazing lesson to teach and inspiration to give. For my first interview, I'm featuring Kristi Allen Gayton, a newborn/maternity photographer based out of Reno, NV.
I (virtually) met Kristi because we both hired the same business coach in 2017 (and special thanks to her, Jenni Maroney, for without her this interview wouldn't exist!). Immediately, Kristi's photography blew me away. She was also incredibly kind, hard-working, and could give amazing advice as well as receive it. She is the epitome of a phrase I love, "strong women rise by lifting each other up". If you need newborn or maternity photography in Nevada, or you're a photographer that is looking to get into newborn photography - I highly recommend checking out Kristi's work! All photos in this post were taken by Kristi.
C: What got you into specializing in newborn photography?
K: It was a natural fit for me from the start! I have always obsessed over the newborn stage. With both of my children, I spent every available moment of those fleeting days holding them, smelling them, and just staring at them! I cried when I had to pack up their newborn clothes because they no longer fit - it's amazing how quickly the time passes! This helps fuel my passion of capturing those moments for other parents. I encourage new Moms to relax and enjoy the moment during the session. The experience of the session can be just as important as the images they get at the end. For parents, being photographed with their newborn is a bittersweet reminder that their baby will never be exactly that tiny ever again. Plus, giving clients a beautiful & memorable experience is truly the most rewarding part of my job.
C: What are three tips you'd give to a client looking for a newborn photographer?
K: Don't wait until the last minute to find a great photographer! Many photographers can be booked up months in advance, so you'll want to find that perfect fit as early as possible. You'll also want to ask your photographer if they have packages covering your baby's first year, which can save you money, rather than individually booking each session. This will also help you budget. My second tip would be to look through the photographer's gallery to see if you like their style and if the photos will match the style of your home if hung up on the walls (a rustic photo could look oddly placed in an ultra-modern home). The third would be to keep your budget in mind - but also keep in mind you get what you pay for. Photographers do invest a lot of time and money into their craft and perfecting your images, ensuring that they're beautiful and timeless for you to enjoy for a lifetime.
C: What're your favorite pieces of equipment for shooting newborn photography?
K: Aside from my Canon 5D Mark III, I am obsessed with the "Baby Shusher", which is an app I have on my phone. It took a while to get used to the "shush" noise on repeat for so long, but after a while you can block it out and it works like magic keeping the baby in deep sleep to get those perfect poses!
C: What's a must-have accessory for a newborn shoot?
K: Hats and bonnets! They are the easiest way to get a variety of images during the session without disturbing the baby's sleep too much. I prefer to stick with hats and wraps in neutral, soft colors. Plus I love hearing "awww" from parents while you switch up their look!
C: What is something your clients wouldn't normally know about you?
K: When we were pregnant with our second child (Esme), I had a scare and we spent a good duration of my pregnancy unsure if she would make it. My husband was on a hiking trip, out of cell range, when I was at my OB's office where they told me I had a 50% chance of there being a heartbeat come next appointment. It went on like that for a while, but her odds got better as the pregnancy went along. It was one of the scariest things I've ever been through, I was constantly worried we would lose her. Now she's a spunky almost four year old!
C: If you could go back and tell yourself something when you started out as a photographer, what would it be?
K: Don't play the comparison game - or spend too much time looking at other people's work! I think it's important to learn from others and be inspired - but, as cheesy as it sounds, there is only one you! I think the more you hold on to your own unique style and pay attention to what you're drawn to as an artist, the more you grow. It's easy to look at other images and think that yours should look like that or to follow a trend. In reality, people will be drawn to you because of you staying true to yourself and ability to bring everything you've got to the table.
C: What is something a client might not know about a newborn shoot?
K: I do my best to make sure my clients come into the session completely prepared by sending a list of tips/tricks to follow before they come in. I think one thing that clients don't realize is the amount of time that really goes into the session beyond what happens in studio. Photographers who specialize in newborn work spend an enormous amount of time learning about posing & safety in order to be the best at what they do - and that's definitely something parents should expect. Before my client arrives, I try to get information about the color scheme of the nursery and basic style of the home so that I know what props and backdrops to pull. I spend a great deal of time styling the session with perfectly matched hats, headbands, clothing, and backdrops. Post-session, I wash blankets/clothing, and clean/sanitize the studio to ensure a safe environment for the next family/baby. In post-production, I go through all of my images and eliminate those that aren't up to my standards. Then the editing begins! It is an extremely long process as careful attention must be paid to the baby's skin. I spend more time editing than I do photographing.
C: Did you have professional photos of your kids when they were babies?
K: I did! My dear friend, also a photographer in Reno, photographed both my kids as newborns. I cherish those and I'm SO glad I did it!
C: What has been one of your favorite newborn sessions?
K: As any good Momma would say, "they're all my favorite!" - but it's really true because I have baby fever 24/7 and being a newborn photographer keeps me from being sad about not having any more! I especially love it when I get an older sibling, who I photographed as a newborn, with their new little brother/sister! It is so fun seeing those tiny humans grow in front of my lens.
C: What're your favorite, creative ways to get big brother/sister to interact with the new baby?
K: I always have some ideas lined up for sibling poses before my clients arrive at the studio but I never fully decide until I meet them. Some kids want nothing to do with the camera, which is perfectly fine, so I allow them time to watch or hang out and watch a movie until they feel more relaxed and comfortable. Kids love to hear how special they are - especially after an adorable tiny human, who's getting a whole lot of attention, comes into the picture. I like to encourage them to be my helper - "Can you help me so I don't wake her up?" or "What can I do so your sister will be nice and sleepy?" Then the sibling may tell me how I should be quiet and gentle. In turn, they are also quiet and gentle because it was their idea! I also have siblings show me how strong they are by lying on their backs and holding their new little sibling with their strong muscles. If I "think the baby might wake up", I ask them to help them relax by giving them a soft kiss on the head. All of these not only help to produce great photos - but they help instill confidence and love in the older siblings!
C: What advice do you have for photographers on getting interaction shots with baby/parents and baby/sibling?
K: I think the best way to capture a genuine connection is to focus on each individual relationship and the unique physical characteristics and personality of your subjects. If I have a Dad with an amazing sleeve tattoo I might choose a pose that allows me to incorporate both the tattoo and the baby to make it more personal for them. If I have a Mom come in with stunning eyes, I'll likely want an image that shows them off. One of my newborn photographer idols is Julia Kelleher, and when she poses Mom & baby together she encourages the Mom to really breathe her baby in and take in the moment, reminding her that the baby won't fit like that in her arms again. While that's sad, it's also a wonderful reminder for how special the moment truly is. It's easy to get caught up in beautiful images we see online, but in the end you really can't create a step-by-step plan. Every baby is different, so every session is different!
Leave a question or comment for Kristi below!