Hello, and welcome to a special behind-the-lens interview with the talented newborn photographer, Zoe Arnesen. I’m Anne Willingham, the creative eye and heart behind Brown Bunny Photography, I am absolutely thrilled to be interviewing my friend and photography colleague right here on her very own blog.
Both of us have a passion for crafting timeless images that will be cherished for generations. We’re almost always behind the lens while practicing newborn photography, and our superpower is making others look and feel their best. But today, we’re turning the spotlight onto Zoe!
Our journeys as photographers have been filled with laughter, inspiration, and a shared love for making memories come alive through our lenses. I couldn’t be more excited to learn more about Zoe’s story.
Without further ado, enjoy this interview with Zoe!
I’ve been passionate about capturing memories, remembering details, and documenting life events for as long as I can remember. My mom was a photographer, too, so I was never far from a camera while growing up, and I was always my mom’s go-to model.
In high-school, I carried a film camera around everywhere and loved documenting my high school experience. Some of my friends affectionately called me the “mom” of the group because I always reminded them to take the photo to look back on in 20 years.
I got my first SLR camera when I was 22, and couldn’t put it down all throughout college. I studied American Sign Language in college, was an ASL interpreter for a few years, and eventually earned my Master’s of Social Work degree from PSU. While I love everything I was able to learn through that academic journey, the pull of photography was just too strong. I set out to become a professional photographer and spent time as a wedding photographer, portrait studio photographer, and eventually discovered newborn photography.
After having my daughter in 2019, I felt an incredible drive to offer newborn photography full time. I saw how quickly my daughter changed and wanted to have every memory documented. I’m so glad I photographed her weekly; otherwise I definitely would have forgotten so much in the newborn haze. That’s what led me to quit my portrait studio job in 2020 and start my own photography studio focused exclusively on newborns, maternity, and family.
Aside from the artistry, I think there’s something magical about documenting these moments – the sweet little details, the raw emotions, and the indescribable bond between parents and their newborns. These are moments that pass by in the blink of an eye, and I wanted to capture them in a way that would allow families to relive and cherish them for years to come. Every session is a new adventure, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of these special moments with my clients. Being a newborn photographer is a privilege and a passion that continues to inspire me every day.
I think people might be surprised to learn that actually taking photos, wrapping newborn babies, and posing families is only a small part of the job! For every three-hour photoshoot, there are hours of session planning, client communication, office administration, and — of course — photo editing and retouching. You’ll find me editing everywhere; my bedroom, my couch, my backyard, even on my peloton. Gotta get a workout in somehow!
Then there’s cleaning. A lot of cleaning. Since keeping newborns healthy is such a high priority, I deep clean after every client session. It’s a labor of love, for sure.
Plus, a photographer can never really stop learning. I probably spend just as much time on continuing education as I do with my photos.
As a highly empathetic person, I always want to get to know my client as a person, to learn about their story and understand who they are before I photograph them. I aim to build a relationship, maybe even a friendship. Maternity and newborn photography is so special and also during such a vulnerable time in my clients’ lives. I’ve never met an expecting mama who didn’t have a million and one things that she had to worry about. I can remember how much was on my plate when I was pregnant with my daughter, Remi. I was also very worried and anxious as a new mom, and I needed to trust in so many people to help me throughout my pregnancy journey.
For that reason, I really can’t help but connect with my clients and empathize with everything they have going on. Beyond that, I try to appreciate what a special opportunity it is to be present and take these precious photos during these incredible moments in my clients’ lives.
Photographing newborns is a delicate art! Baby’s moods and comfort levels can change in an instant, so patience is key. I always allow ample time for a newborn session to ensure we have the flexibility to work at the baby’s pace. Another important factor is being attuned to the baby’s cues. I watch for subtle signs of hunger, discomfort, or sleepiness and adjust the session accordingly. This means taking breaks for feeding or soothing when needed.
Last by not least, I keep the environment warm and comfortable to help newborns feel safe and relax. It also helps parents relax! Many parents fall asleep on the studio couch while I’m gently posing their baby just a few feet away. I’m so honored that parents feel safe enough to doze for a few hours; they definitely could use the rest!
Yes! For the last couple of years I have been mainly a maternity and newborn photographer, but I am excited to announce I am branching out to include family sessions, too! I’ve already done a few sessions with previous newborn and milestone clients, and they were such a joy. I’ve built a relationship with so many of the families I’ve served that it’s so heartwarming to see how much their sweet babies have changed and grown over the years. I’m so looking forward to seeing where this new journey leads.