Newborn Photography Decoded: An interview with Meredith McKee

Image by Meredith McKee

There is no dearth of photographic talent in Seattle. Every once in a while, you come across photographers whose sheer skill astounds you. Meredith McKee, a Seattle based, family, maternity and newborn photographer is one such powerhouse.

Meredith is a hands-on photographer, entrepreneur, and a delightful baby whisperer. Besides specializing in newborn photography, she also runs Om Mama Co., which is a valuable resource for new moms.  As new parents, It took us a lot of time to find the right photographer to shoot our new baby. In retrospect, we’re glad to have waited. Because babies are only tiny for so long, and these pictures last a lifetime. It is so important to get it right. 

Being so new to this, we didn’t quite know what we wanted. But to our credit, we did know what we didn’t want. We didn’t want the pictures to look contrived, we didn’t want our baby to get overstimulated or too tired and we didn’t want much clutter in terms of props or arrangements. Sounds simple enough? Well, easier said than done. I browsed through thousands of photographer’s profiles and while their images were beautiful, most of them looked pre-meditated too. That is until I stumbled upon Meredith’s simple but striking imagery. And was blown off my feet. THIS was what we were looking for. 

What we liked most about Meredith’s work was how natural the photographs looked, and how they captured stolen, fleeting moments of babies with their parents. I reached out to her with a bunch of questions, and she addressed every need. One of my biggest concerns was lighting since we wanted to shoot in the comfort of our own home. With Seattle being so grey, would we need to rent extra lights? Meredith explained to me that dark, PNW winter weather actually makes for excellent diffused and glowy lighting. She even sent me a great link to her earlier blogpost – “What happens if it rains”! This detail-oriented approach is very useful when dealing with the unpredictability of shooting with a newborn.

Early December, on a cold, grey day – we found ourselves getting ready for the shoot. Meredith helped us move this around at home to make it more shoot-friendly and things went without a hitch. Meredith’s work is a labor of love, and her passion reflects through the images themselves. Whether it was gently caressing our newborn to calm him or to place props in a carefully curated manner, she did everything with thought and love. She was very open and receptive to us.

The afternoon turned out to be dry, with the predicted rain yet to make an appearance. We capitalized on the opportunity immediately with Meredith’s help. We bundled up our baby, she packed her gear in a matter of moments, and together, we careened off to Golden Gardens Park. Once there, she knew the exact stretch of beach that would be isolated and private (Nothing rattles a baby more than noisy crowds!), and where we would find parking easily. 

We shot at home and the beach, all in gorgeous natural light. What about posing? Well, Meredith is great at helping with poses if needed. But we didn’t even need to pose. We just went about doing our thing, and she captured us in our element. Meredith made it look so easy! She handled our baby like a charm, who saved his gummiest smiles and happiest gurgles for her. The baby played, cried, laughed, fed, and got diaper-changed during the shoot. There was no rush or pressure, as she was really quick with her camera. That left us with more time to spare. 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we were overwhelmed by just how perfect the photos turned out. We’d shoot with her again and again, and would whole-heartedly recommend her to parents wishing to freeze some moments in time with their brand new babies (and older kids as well!)

There is so much that goes into orchestrating a special baby shoot. In a candid interview, Meredith tells us about how she chose newborn photography (spoiler alert: it chose her!) and the daily nuances of her profession…

Seattleite: Tell us a bit about you and your growing up days?

Meredith: When I was growing up, my dad would send me postcards from everywhere he traveled to in the Navy. I strung each one together and hung them in my room. In 8th grade, on a trip to New York City with my mom, I had an “aha!” moment. I wanted to take the pictures on those postcards myself, and not just buy them in a store. My parents bought me my first “real camera” after that trip and the way I saw the world was changed forever!

As a Navy brat, we moved around a bit, but I grew up mostly in Virginia and Tennessee. I am the youngest of three daughters and fully embraced the “creative third-born” stereotype. I loved school sports, especially lacrosse and cross country, played percussion in the school band, and was the editor of my high school yearbook! 

Seattleite: Tell us a bit about your journey as a photographer. What is your biggest source of creative inspiration?

Meredith: I fell in love with photographing weddings when I was 17 after shadowing a local photographer. I tried out documentary photography during an internship with the local newspaper but went to college (University of Virginia) knowing I wanted to make a career of photographing people in love. I double-majored in studio art (with concentrations in film photography and digital media) and American Studies (with a concentration in modern American art history). 

I moved to Seattle with my now-husband in 2012 and have been photographing couples and families professionally ever since! I would say my biggest source of inspiration is joy—I am most happy photographing a family having fun together (but a gorgeous backdrop like the PNW doesn’t hurt!)

Seattleite: How did you choose family + maternity/newborn photography to specialize in?

Meredith: Family photography chose me! The first maternity session I ever did was my sister’s, almost nine years ago. Then, my wedding photography couples started having babies and asked me to photograph their families, too. It has been a slow transition over the last few years from mainly photographing weddings, to specializing in lifestyle family photography.  

One of my greatest joys as a photographer is being able to photograph my couples over the years—big & small milestones, celebrating love & growing families. I love building that relationship with what I call my “forever clients”—that they trust me to be there for all their life events, telling their story and creating memories for them to cherish for generations.

Seattleite: If we were to peek in your camera bag, what would we find?

Meredith: Snacks! Haha! I never want to be hungry during a session so, in addition to my camera gear, you’ll also find a handful of grab-and-go fuel! I’m not a huge gear person; I usually only use one or two lenses during a shoot. 

Seattleite: How did you develop your immense skillset for newborn photography (and dealing with newborns!)?

Meredith: Practice, practice, practice, and just getting more comfortable & creative through experience! I also follow a handful of really talented photographers that teach both online classes & inspire me to grow as a photographer! 

Creative Live (based in Seattle!) is an awesome resource for aspiring photographers. I really look up to Sarah Cramer Shields—my mentor in college—local Seattle family photographer & educator, Elena S. Blair, and Alexandria Smith of Daphne Mae Photography, to name a few! 

Seattleite: What are the biggest challenges of your profession?

Meredith: Being a solo-preneur can be very challenging and lonely. Managing the business side of things can be difficult at times, and not something you necessarily consider when pursuing a creative career path. 

Photo credit: Meredith McKee

Seattleite: What is the most gratifying thing about your profession?

Meredith: Authentically capturing priceless moments for my families that will help them remember this time in their life forever! It fills my heart with joy when a new or expectant mother tells me that I made them feel beautiful during their session. It is my mission to help women, especially, see and feel how incredible they are. 

Seattleite: What are some tips for parents looking to do a newborn shoot?

Meredith: Find a photographer whose style you really love and who you also like as a person! It’s a vulnerable time and personality-match can make a big difference. 

Tactically, I recommend finding a photographer during your pregnancy and schedule your session within the first few weeks after birth. Babies really do grow up so fast and capturing them when they are teeny-tiny is so special! Bonus benefit if you can do a maternity session with your photographer so you are more comfortable being photographed after the baby arrives! 

Seattleite: What has been your most special shoot to date, and why?

Meredith: I have been photographing one family in particular for over six years. I have captured all of their family milestones from their wedding day to their two daughters growing up. Each shoot we’ve done over the years is so so special to me.

It also feels very meaningful to capture the gratitude and joy of new families who may have had a difficult time getting to that moment, whether through infertility, loss, health concerns, adoption, etc. I feel so privileged to get to photograph those memories for them and celebrate their family. 

Seattleite: If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?

Meredith: In a dream world, a professional ice cream connoisseur! Haha, but in reality, I am loving being a community builder + connector for my second business, Om Mama Co.