LOCAL SPOTLIGHT | Photos by Monika
The South Bay has a knack for attracting young families from all over the world. Monika, a photographer who got her start in New York City in the fashion industry, realized that she could capture precious moments in these new families' lives in the cutest way possibly. We sat down with her to get the scoop on how she gets these incredible shots and learn about just how much work goes into capturing these moments that will last a lifetime.
How did you get into photography?
I was living in New York and working in the fashion industry when I got pregnant and couldn’t travel anymore. I started taking photography classes for fun, in my free time. I really enjoyed it and decided to go to the Julia Dean photography school in North Hollywood when we moved out West. After I finished school, I got into newborn photography. The South Bay and Manhattan Beach are full of babies and new families, so it worked for me. I continued my education by training with other newborn photographers across the country. I learned that photographing babies requires a lot more education than any other type of photography. You are handling 6 and 7 day old babies, so there is a lot of attention and care to make sure the baby is safe and happy.
Did having kids of your own get you into newborn photography?
When I had my first son, I was shooting everything from engagements, to children and families. I followed where the market took me. I was booking a ton of newborns and I felt like that was where my strengths were, so I kept going in that direction.
What is involved in a typical session with you?
It’s a lot more than people imagine. A baby is very unpredictable and every baby is different. The child has only been out of the womb for a week. There can be crying, pooping, gas, hunger- you never know. Or they can just be a content and sleepy baby. A lot of the session happens behind the scenes making sure the baby is ok just to get those magical shots. A typical newborn session is about 3 hours and some people are shocked by how long that is, but it could take 45 minutes to breast feed a baby and get them into a deep sleep. Sometimes they sleep through the whole thing and they are like little Gumby dolls and I can pose them into whatever position. It’s amazing. It takes a lot of patience but I have infinite patience when it comes to newborns.
So tell us about these Cake Smash pictures you take?
It’s a super fun thing I introduced this year to mix up my workflow a bit. It’s for the baby's first birthday. You get to pick a theme or color scheme and I do all the rest. The baby comes when they are between 11 - 15 months old. We start off with clean, cute photos and then introduce beautifully decorated cakes that they get to smash and get crazy with. A lot of people choose to do this instead of a birthday party.
Some babies cry hysterically and some babies love it. Some don’t want to touch it because it’s too sticky. It’s all part of the experience because in a year from now they will be begging for more sugar. It’s a great experience for the parents as well.
How does the South Bay inspire your work?
I have lived here for 8 years now and the South Bay has inspired so many of my shoots. A lot of the Cake Smash shoots have been beach themed and incorporate a lot of nautical themes with blues and whites. I get to do a lot of fresh cool things because everyone here is super hip which allows me to get more wild and creative.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened when photographing newborns?
The funniest thing that happened was years ago. No one has ever beat it. I was doing an in-home newborn session, (which is an upgrade option) and they wanted some photos with their big fluffy dog, all piled on their bed. All of the sudden, the baby just started rocketing poop out and it landed all over the dog’s head. The parents had this look of shock on their face and started screaming. Meanwhile, the dog started spinning around and chasing his tail. To this day we always laugh about it when we get together.
What makes you love what you do?
With newborns you can play around and have fun with colors and texture. I pull from things I see in fashion magazines and trending birthday parties. They are so sweet and wonderful. This is a dangerous industry for me to be in though. I may just have a 4th baby!
For more info on Photos by Monika visit her website here