IN A WORLD WHERE most people have a camera on their phones – and those same cameras are incredibly advanced – trying to stand out from the photography crowd and offer something original and inspiring to clients is as tough as ever. Louisa Peacock of Louisa Peacock Photography shares how she creates unique and loveable wall-worthy art, by combining illustration with photography.
They say it doesn’t matter what equipment you’ve got as a photographer; it’s not the machinery that takes a good image but the vision and passion of the person behind the camera.
And this is no more true today when most people have access to the most fantastic little cameras, sitting right in their pockets all day long. The advancement of smartphone technology means it’s pretty easy to take a technically great photograph, add an amazing filter and share it to thousands of people within minutes.
As a working photographer myself, I’m not upset by this. It’s absolutely fantastic that lots of people have access to this kind of technology. I believe wholeheartedly it’s important to take and record images, so I’m glad the ways of doing this for millions of people are easy, affordable and fun.
But it does make the task of the professional photographer that much harder. It forces us to up our game and consider how we can stand out amongst a very saturated market. What can we offer that takes photography to the next level, that stands out and makes our art desirable?
My latest project, part of my new photography ‘Baby Club’, has seen me combine another love of mine, illustration, with my main passion; portrait photography.
Louisa of Louisa Peacock Photography is a highly experienced and an award-winning baby, child and family photographer based in North London. After a successful career in journalism, she became a mum to two boys and then discovered her true calling: capturing special family moments in distinctive and timeless portraits. Her photography has been featured in top women’s magazines, mummy blogs and in luxury children’s clothing retailers. Instagram:
Straightforward and playful, this series mixes sketches of well-loved animals onto fresh and classic baby portraits. It’s an aesthetic that merges hand-crafted techniques with the digital age. The end result is a refreshing break from the typical baby portrait, and offers an experience for the client that is intimate and totally unique.
Each image is designed and visualised before I even get into the photography studio. I’ll come up with a list of all the things I want to include, such as a baby looking backwards while a bunny rabbit looks at her, or a butterfly fluttering over a sleeping newborn – or a tiny mouse looking up at baby – and take it from there. Generally the images I make all convey different emotions, such as love, awe, and overwhelming responsibility.
I’ll try to connect the two figures (animal and baby) in a heart-warming, believable and unusual way – that’s the fun part, trying to merge the two images to make it look authentic and elevate the art to a new place.
For this project I teamed up with the fabulous north London illustrator Lauren Rolfe, after she came into my studio for a newborn photoshoot. We got chatting and I realised she did the most amazing animal sketches – the lightbulb went off for me that the two of us should be doing something together!
Says Lauren: “For me, illustrations make a beautiful piece of art but the photography side of it makes it personal. It helps the image come to life and gives character.
“Combining sketches and portrait photography brings a whole new dimension to the finished art and makes it fun.”
Being a mum (to two young boys), I can also think from a mum’s perspective on what parents are really looking for when they purchase any kind of wall art.
For example, when you’re trying to create the perfect nursery setting for your new baby and you want to decorate the walls with meaningful and gorgeous art. I found it a struggle when I was looking for my two because most of the options on offer are too generic and don’t really mean anything to you.
Placing your baby at the centre of that art, and using the latest techniques to create a truly original image, brings a whole new meaning to ‘nursery wall art’.
As a ‘full service’ studio photographer, I regularly help clients to print and display their photoshoot images around their family home. What’s the point of going to the trouble of hiring a pro photographer and buying digital images, if all they do is sit on a memory stick collecting dust?
Printing out the image, to me, is nearly as important as taking it in the first place. The print brings tangible significance to a moment that otherwise passes in time – and with children growing up so fast, printing is one of the key ways parents can hold onto something real.
Illustration, much like photography, has the power to speak to people in a way that stirs up emotion. Of course, we all know a great picture speaks a thousand words but when combined with imaginative sketches, these words become very real and powerful thoughts, feelings and memories.
- The feeling of how much you love your children.
- The memory of them while they were so young.
- The way that holding them and smelling their newborn hair makes you feel.
This technique gives the photograph an air of 3D about it; giving you the chance to witness the most beautiful and innocent moment with your child, again and again.
How I did it
During the series, I’ve had to photograph babies in a slightly unusual way, thinking ahead about the types of image I wanted to create and having to leave enough space in the frame to fit the animal illustration in. Normally I wouldn’t sit babies facing the side, off camera, for example – rather straight on and interacting with me more.
I have to focus my attention on not only capturing a loveable portrait of the baby, but also make it look as though Baby was actually witnessing a real-life animal in front of her. I brought in the help of a parent to engage the child off camera, making her laugh, smile or look inquisitively at something.
I also had to pay careful attention to mood of the overall image, using light and bright backdrops to enhance the playful and bright nature of children. At the same time, I dressed the baby in simple, plain white outfits so there is no distraction and the end result highlights only on the interaction between Baby and animal.
The studio set up is fairly simple; one main key light feathering onto the baby’s face and another fill light to light the white wall backdrop. Using flash, all my camera settings are fixed except for the apeture which is generally 4.0 here.
The real fun begins in editing, where Lauren sends me her illustration as a .png file and I embed it into my raw file in Photoshop using the ‘multiply’ blend. Lauren draws her sketches straight onto her tablet, in this case, an iPad Pro, using Procreate sketching tools to create the desired pencil effect.
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