Justine is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island.
Please tell us about yourself, what is your background and how did you start with newborn photography. Do you have any formal training?
I’ve always loved art and photography. When my Granny died a couple of years ago I found a letter I had written to her aged seven. I described my plans for the future including my career as a wildlife photographer in Africa! (I did go on safari when I was older and there was a camera disaster which meant that I only had disposable cameras…one of the saddest happy times in my life). Despite studying photography at school, life had other plans for me and I became a Social worker and a Mum of five daughters, which didn’t leave time for much! I always “took photos”, but didn’t return to photography with a passion until six years ago when I needed images for baby products I was designing. The passion for the photography overtook the passion for design and with the help of my local camera club I investigated online learning, resulting in a diploma from SIT which gave me a grounding. I didn’t plan to become a photographer, but the photos of my designs worn by babies evolved into photos of babies and then paid work, so I decided to embrace it. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I love every part of the process, from planning the session with the client, to getting the parents settled in my studio and weaving magic with their baby.
Was photography your first choice of career? Is it something you have always wanted to do?
It is definitely something I have loved my entire life, but was put aside until my children were grown. It was actually very healing for me, as I left my social work career due to being burned out. I have always wanted to make the world a better place at a human to human level, so being able to share the joy of new life has helped replace the connections I had in my previous career.
How did you find your own photography style and what do you find yourself thinking about when you edit your photos?
I think my style has grown out of the things I find important – eye contact, connection, texture and a portrayal of the softness and innocence of my subjects. My choices are informed strongly by my surroundings, the colours of the coast, the cold grey green sea and soft fog laden pastel foliage. My images are rustic and rural, often including elements from nature and hand made textiles, items that tell a story and provide comfort. Babies are part of the world, but a little ethereal as well, so I love to illustrate their otherworldliness through my editing style.
Who influenced you the most? Is there any other photographer that you consider as a kind of Idol?
Kelly Brown of course – with her Creative Live workshops, these gave me a great start in learning about safety as well as the basics of posing, lens choices and editing. She gave me a structure to grow from. I am in awe of Anne Geddes, her creativity and longevity are life goals.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing what you do?
I feel newborn photography is undervalued by other photographers, relegated to the “mumtogs” when it is actually a challenging genre. Adults usually do as you ask, babies do not! I am often called a baby whisperer, or magic and I love being able to calm an upset baby – which calms frazzled parents, so they can have some quiet time watching their session unfold. I see my patience as a superpower! Another challenge that I used to believe was insurmountable is my studio’s distance from a main centre, as we are 25 minutes from Dunedin. However I chatted with some rural NZIPP members, changed my mindset and haven’t had a problem keeping my calendar full.
What are your other passions?
We shifted from Auckland to a rural block south of Otago as we had had enough of the rat race. I love working in the garden and with the animals, surrounded by native birds and amazing light. We aim to be self-sufficient-ish within the constraints of our work commitments and prefer entertaining on the deck to harrowing the fields…it’s all about balance and it’s a lovely existence. I also love to travel – but we will be staying close to home for the foreseeable future, exploring the South Island.
Do you have a “bucket list” for 2020?
Well…I did have before Covid-19, and I had to cancel a series of sessions which many clients were looking forward to (sunset hayfield sessions up here on the ridge, they are so beautiful and fun with kids wandering through the long grass, their hair bright halos as the sunlight makes everything golden) so I have decided that this is the year of quiet reflection. I’m looking at my business and considering the improvements I can make in the future.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Buy the good camera!
What is in your Camera Bag?
The Canon 5D Mark iv and Sigma 50mm 1.4 art are joined at the hip, I also carry a 6D body so that I can pop the 24-70 onto it and take overhead shots of different setups without having to swap lenses. My favourite maternity and family lens is the Sigma 135mm 1.8 art. I also use the Canon 24-70 2.8 mkii and Canon 100mm macro for newborn shoots. If I am going into people’s homes my bag always contains socks and a wonderful baby white noise machine which plays lullabies, heartbeats and shushing sounds.
Why did you join NZIPP and begin your journey to becoming accredited?
I joined NZIPP so that I could learn more about being professional in my approach to the business of photography. I want to be able to give my clients the best service and images possible, so accreditation was a great journey towards that goal. I really appreciate the support and education opportunities NZIPP has given me – particularly the zoom workshops, I have been awed at the amount of time members have given to providing education to others.