Joy.

I’ll never forget this time.

It’s weird to *know* when you’re living history. I mean sure, we document our lives and we all have a history. But to know we are living moments, memories, times that will actually be in a history book? Something that our children and grandchildren will read about?

Man.

Something weirder is that I can without a doubt say that this has been the worst and best time of my life.

Someone compared the feeling to grief, and I think that’s not a far cry from it. We’ve all lost something here. But we’ve also gained something else in the process.

When the numbers of covid cases started creeping up in the world, when it finally made it’s way into the United States, when the first case showed up in Kokomo, when Kokomo announced the closure of the schools, when the city posted an ordinance of the temporary closure of all non-essential businesses…it felt like my life was over.

Last year was so good to us. So good that I cried. so. stinking. much. because I couldn’t believe that this was our life and because I was so scared to lose it. It was so good, that it was too good.

I must have told Jon this a million times about how scared I was for it all to end. For it to be gone. For something to finally swoop in and ruin our happily ever after.

Thoughts the last couple weeks:

“This is it. This is what I’ve been fearing.”

“The other shoe has finally dropped”

“How are we going to tell the kids?”

“How am I going to teach the kids?”

“What if one of us dies?”

“What if someone we know dies?”

“How are we going to keep our kids safe?”

“How are we going to keep each other safe?”

“How am I going to keep my business from going under?”

“How are all of our small business friends going to recover?”

“How is Kokomo(which has FINALLY started to grow) going to recover?”

“How are WE going to recover?”

Needless to say, the inside of my head has not been a pleasant place to live. I’ve been crabby, moody, and walking around feeling pretty much hopeless.

But wouldn’t you know it. After about a week something started creeping on in, just like she always does.

Joy.

I didn’t think she would come around. I’ve been pretty unhappy the last two weeks. But as I was sitting the other day in my own pitty party, praying, trying to squeeze in just a few minutes of silence after what had been an overwhelming day, and wondering how we were going to get through this, that still small voice showed up.

“Jessica. If you had chosen to take this time off, you’d have been happy about it.”

Dang it.

Don’t you hate it when you realize that you’ve been sour for no reason? Or said something angrily to someone and then realize that YOU are the one that made the mistake?

If you told me that I’d get to take off three weeks to spend with my kids, to do the things that I love, to make homemade play dough, to play in the dirt, to race paper boats, to catch up on the endless pile of laundry, to read a book, to take a long bath, to have fun…I would have been overjoyed.

But because this was something out of my control and something that significantly impacts our family financially, I was hopeless.

Two weeks ago, I was handed a gift.

Just because it’s a bad time, doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time too. Joy can be found in any place, regardless of our circumstances. We just have to look for her.

Joy

She found me. Because I let her.

And I’m so glad I did.



Tips for Photographing Your Newborn ~ Kokomo Indiana Photographer

A virus(he who shall not be named!) is taking over. It’s caused uncertainty for parents everywhere but we want to alleviate just a tiny bit of that uncertainty. We want to help.

Right now hospitals are closing it’s doors to visitors, including photographers, which may mean that your scheduled Fresh 48 session with us has been cancelled. But that doesn’t mean that you have to walk away from the hospital without memories of your baby.

Here are some tips from us on how to photograph your newborn baby at the hospital if your photographer can not attend your birth/fresh 48 session.

1). Prepare your camera.

Whether it’s an iphone or DSLR, make sure that your lens is clean. A dirty lens will create hazy images. We want crisp clean images, so be sure to wipe down your camera lens or your phone lens so that it is free of oils and smudges. A warm damp cloth works well.

2). Time your session.

The best time of day to photograph your baby is going to be in the daytime. If the sky is overcast, you can photograph your baby almost any time while the sun is out. If the sky is clear and sunny, it’s best to wait until the sun is highest in the sky and not shining directly into your window with sun beams.

Be sure to raise any blinds on the window and turn off all lights in the room, so that the only light coming in is from the window. It will be dark, don’t worry, window light is sufficient.

3). Prepare your baby.

Feed your baby prior to the session. This way Baby will have a full tummy and they’ll be more likely to stay calm while you are taking photos. And if not, no worries! If you start taking photos of your baby and they cry, comfort them and/or offer some more food until they are happy or asleep.

4). Dressing baby.

Take photos of baby swaddled and photos of baby unswaddled.

We recommend using the plain white hospital issued newborn outfits. These are nostalgic and represent your time with baby in the hospital.

When swaddling, keep in mind that nurses are the *best* swaddlers. If you need help, they are happy to assist. For photos the swaddle should be nice and snug around baby, and not around their face so that you can see their sweet little cheeks and chin. We also recommend utilizing the hospital issued blanket as a swaddle or any Aiden + Anais muslin swaddle.

5). Placing baby.

Clean up any loose clothing items, gifts, belongings, etc. away from the window so they will not be in the photographs. Wheel the bassinet as close to the window as you can and lock the wheels.

There are multiple ways that you can position baby but for the most beautiful shadows I recommend having the back of Baby’s head facing the window, so that the light falls down and across their face. You can also lay the bassinet flat against the window lengthwise for a lovely silhouette shot.

6). Focus.

Between each photo, check your focus. It’d be awful to take all these beautiful photos but for them to be fuzzy. Focus on Baby’s eyes whenever taking photos of their face.

7). Details.

Don’t forget them. Details mean so so so very much years later. Get as close to those little eyelashes as you can. Take photos of their ears, their wrinkly hands, their sweet little cow like, and their blushy toes. Added details of the bassinet name card, your room number, and your birthing suite hallways are also great details to have as remember your time at the hospital.

I hope this is helpful! Just remember to add your camera to your hospital to go bag, get lots of rest before photographing your baby, and have fun. Stay safe and healthy, we will see you all very soon!

–Jessica

Why I don’t use live animals for photography sessions. A cautionary tale of animal abuse.

Easter! It can’t get here soon enough. For me Easter means spring time, chocolate easter bunnies, colorful tulips, fluffy easter dresses, handsome pastel bow ties, and a reflection on my faith.

But as a photographer, it also now means something else. Live animal Easter photography sessions.

I see them everywhere. A cute toddler holding a cute fluffy bunny or cuddling a ducking. A baby adoringly looking into a box of tiny baby chicks. And it makes me well…anxious. Actually our sweet golden retriever Poppy’s face (as seen in the photo above) is an accurate description of how it makes me feel.

Because as an avid animal lover and pet owner and farmers daughter, there are a lot of reasons why live animal photography sessions are a really bad idea.

If you are considering hiring a photographer over Easter, please read below. There are steps that you can take to ensure your safety for an adorable easter session and to ensure that no animals are harmed in the process.

Here are my reasonings on why I do not offer live animal photography sessions(with the exception to a client’s pets) and why the only little easter bunny I’ll ever photograph is the one below 😉

1) It’s illegal if you don’t have a license.

A license is required by the USDA every time live animals are used in a photography session. This doesn’t apply for pets, but it does apply when using animals that are not pets for commercial gain. An inspection of the photography business and session location is required and the fee varies depending on the amount of animals being used. Sometimes a inspector also must be present during the photography sessions depending on the state.

2) It’s not safe (for the animals)

Tiny bunnies, chicks and ducklings are usually the most used animals for Easter photos. These tiny creatures have very delicate features and bone structures and they simply aren’t meant for hours of handling. Tiny duckling wings, little chicky feet, delicate bunny ears…Most mini session events for Easter photos run at least two hours in length, sometimes up to 8 hours a day. The animals will pass through multiple children’s hands which is not only exhausting for the baby animals, it’s also dangerous. Small children, toddlers especially, simply don’t understand how to hold tiny animals.

Children may become overly excited and squeeze a tiny chick too tightly. They may drop a busy squirmy bunny on accident. They may squish a tiny duckling if they move too quickly in their seat. You may even remember the Mercer Harris Photography incident from two years ago(don’t google it, it’ll only make you angry) where children are seen in the photos holding bunnies by their ears, photographed throwing ducklings into a lake, and even one child bite-kissing a rabbit.

This is in my opinion at NO fault of the little ones. Some small children are simply too young to understand how to hold tiny animals, especially if they’ve never held one before. And because there is no way to know or regulate which children know how to handle live animals and which ones don’t, we have decided to not take the risk.

3. It’s not safe (for the kids).

Unless the photographer using the live animals has taken each of the animals to the vet to have them checked out, and examined, there’s no way to know if the animals are healthy. And even if they are healthy, often times small farm animals can carry any number of germs and communicable diseases. Tularemia or “rabbit fever” is common in bunnies and almost all farm animals carry salmonella in their claws.

And not only diseases but small untamed animals can physically harm participating little ones. Bunnies are easily startled when handled by children. They can panic, especially if they are not pets that have been properly handled. When they do panic, they scratch and it hurts something fierce. With a scratch and the combination of salmonella in bunny toes, your little one could end up with an infection. And out of 10+ children holding the same bunny in the same day….it’s only a matter of when someone will get scratched, not if.

Also poop. It happens. Everyone has to go and there will be poop at some point during someones Easter animal session. Animal feces also contain germy germs and unless that animal is pet living in your home, you’re being introduced to the possibility of some not so nice bacteria. Something to consider.

4. They add to already overcrowded animal shelters.

Each year at Easter, animal shelters like the Kokomo Humane Society see a large increase in the amount of surrendered animals and it’s typically small farm animals and bunnies. Easter photography sessions are only adding to this problem if the photographer using the live animals does not intend to love and keep them.

Where are the animals going to go when the sessions are over? Does the photographer have a plan? Ducklings and chicks are not allowed as pets within zoned city limits here in Kokomo and in most other city limits as well. They are meant to be raised by a loving family with a property where they can run free and live their fullest ducky chicky lives.

Bunnies can make great pets, but they require a lot of love, attention, and regular handling. They also require regular vet visits and have special needs just like any other pet.

5. I could be fined and lose my business. Even if I have a permit.

Even if I have an inspection and a license form the USDA, if any animals are harmed(God forbid), it’s considered to be animal abuse and there is a hefty fine. Not only that, the USDA can ban me from actively doing business permanently. It’s just. not. worth it.

So How Do I Still Get Those Cute Easter Photos?

1. Don’t hire a photographer using live animals. There are quite a few photographers that can photoshop in “fake” animals that can sit right next to your little one and appear real when they actually aren’t. Contact your photographer and ask them if they are using live animals or a “composite” of fake animals.

2. Find a photographer with an adorable animal free Easter setup that you love. They are everywhere. Easter is colorful and beautiful and bright, exactly as it is and gorgeous photos can be taken without animals ever being in the pictures.

3. If you really really really want live animals in your shoot, ask the photographer for proof of their license from the USDA, ask for proof of a healthy vet visit(even if they are pets), and ask the photographer what will happen to the animals after the session is over. Also require a signed contract for your session and ask how the photographer plans to protects your little ones and the animals throughout the session.

Happy Easter! Here are my own little sweet peas from last year’s Easter Sunday <3

Studio Newborn Session Prep Guide

Congratulations! I am so so so excited to be photographing your little one in the coming days. Thank you so very much for choosing me to be a part of these precious memories that will adorn your home for years to come.

This prep guide is meant to help for the success of your newborn session. Newborn sessions are a balancing act that require a lot of preparation. Following this prep guide will aid in the success of your newborn session, as well as the quality of images that we will be able to preserve.

Please follow this guide as closely as you can. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out, we are here to support you.

1. Location and Parking.

We are located at 219 1/2 N Main Street in Kokomo, IN 46901. We are on the same side of the street as Main Street Cafe and right next to Dechert Law Firm. We are the little door with the two spiral potted trees on either side. The door leads to our stairwell which will take you upstairs to our studio.

Two hour parking is available on the street Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm. Outside of those days and hours, there are no time restrictions for parking. There is also a parking garage located just around the corner if you can’t find a space.

We do not have a restroom at this time unfortunately, but we do have a changing room and a changing station for baby.

2. Hungry Baby.

Please feed your little one 2-3 hours prior to their newborn session so that they arrive to the studio hungry. Plan on feeding them as soon as you arrive.

Please also bring along an extra bottle of formula or pumped milk so that we can feed baby as needed throughout the session. If you are breastfeeding and would prefer that no bottles be used, please plan to feed on demand throughout your session, even if baby has just eaten. The studio is “new” to baby with new sounds and smells, and often additional feeding and comforting are needed.

Please also bring a soothie pacifier, the circular bendable pink/blue/orange ones that do not leave marks. They typically provide these at the hospital. We also have unopened ones here if you don’t have any on hand. And if you prefer that we do not use a pacifier, please let us know.

3. Sleepy Baby.

Please “play” with baby the 2 hours prior to your session to ensure that baby is sleepy upon arrival. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that baby stays awake prior to their session.

Many parents will come in saying “He/She has been asleep all morning, but sleeps so good this time of day!” Only for baby to wake up because they will be unclothed and unswaddled for their session.

To keep baby awake, try giving them a bath, letting them kick with only a diaper on for a bit, setting them on a baby gym mat and showing them crinkly toys or baby books, and tickling their toes and hands. If baby starts getting fussy, move them to a new location, walk around for a bit, and try the above again, avoiding pacifiers if possible. This will ensure those sleepy dreamy newborn portraits.

Note: If you live more than 10 minutes away from the studio, please have someone sit in the backseat with baby to keep them awake during the drive.

4. Baby Care.

Peely skin is a newborn trademark, especially around their hands, face, and feet. It’s not a worry to us at all, but if you’d prefer, peely skin can be mostly solved with a bath and lotion. We recommend using Aquaphor as it does not leave an oily sheen on Baby’s features.

If your baby has a lot of hair(hello pregnancy heartburn) please bring along a baby brush and let us know how you’d like Baby’s hair styled throughout their session.

Also, Baby will likely be naked at some point during their session with us. Poop happens. All the time. It’s not a big deal to us and we come stocked with diapers and wipes but we recommend bringing along a baby blanket that you don’t mind getting accidentally soiled, just in case.

4. It’s Hot in Here.

We keep the studio at a balmy 82 degrees for Baby’s comfort throughout the session. For this reason, we come dressed for a warm few hours and we suggest that you do as well.

Newborn sessions with parents/siblings are 2-4 hours in length depending on how baby feels. Baby only sessions are typically an hour in length.

If you are having parent/sibling portraits done with baby, we recommend dressing comfortably for the heat and changing into your portrait clothing later.

5. Neutral Outfits.

Parents you are also a big part of the show. Photographing the connection between you and your baby is one of my all time favorite things. Just like in the hospital, skin to skin contact creates the most beautiful images.

Dads: if you prefer not to be shirtless, I ask that you bring along a neutral tight fitting v neck shirt with a snug pair of jeans. Most Dads bring along a white or beige logo free t-shirt.

Moms: bring along a loose fitting tank top. Keep the color neutral and simple in design. If you prefer more coverage, bring along a neutral blouse. Be sure that you have no nail polish as your hands will make their way into the images. Also, rest assured, that I aim to use flattering angles and light to bring out the natural beauty in your family.

Lastly, we have a professional hair and makeup artist that visits the studio. While we are working with your little one in the newborn room, you can sit back with a cup of coffee and have your hair and makeup completed. If you’d like to add on hair and makeup services, please let us know as soon as possible and we will make arrangements for you.

6. Sibling Outfits.

Including older brother/sister in your newborn portraits with baby is the perfect way to document this fleeting time in your lives.

Sisters: I will provide a wrap that will act as the perfect top or please bring along a plain neutral fitted tank top. I ask that girls hair be kept natural or in braids and free of bows and headbands. Also just as mom, no nail polish please.

Brothers: A snug pair of jeans and shirtless are preferred, please take a few moments to talk to your guy about this so that he is prepared for the session. If he prefers not to be shirtless, just like dad a tight fitted white t-shirt with no logos or designs is fine. Natural or lightly gelled hair is great.

7. Additional Info.

If siblings will be joining you for the session, I have some toys and books on hand as well as snacks to keep them busy. If your little one has food allergies, please bring along some safe snack choices. If you plan to bring an iPad or eLearning device, please download games, movies, and books prior to arrival as the studio does not have wifi.

And for ease, here is a helpful packing list:

Spare diapers and wipes
Extra bottle of formula or breastmilk
Soothie Pacifier
Aquaphor
Baby Brush
Baby blanket(that you don’t mind getting dirty)
Spare burp cloth
Comfy clothes
Mom’s Outfit
Dad’s Outfit
Sibling’s Outfit
Sibling’s toys or devices

It is my hope that you come to the studio feeling comfortable and at home. I am truly honored to be documenting this incredible time in your lives and look forward to getting to know you and your sweet baby!

Phone: 765-461-3173
Address: 219 1/2 N Main Street Kokomo, IN 46901
Email: jessicabnewton@gmail.com

Baby Bolinger ~ Kokomo, Indiana Newborn Photographer

The BEST thing about winter? Snuggly winter babies.

It’s about this time of year that I really start missing spring. The flowers and the fresh air, oooooooh how I wish for those things after being stuck inside for so long. But my goodness do I look forward to seeing babies at the studio during this time.

Seeing a wee babe on a cold winter day is *just* what the heart needs. So new. So beautiful. All the hope, peace, and joy for new things to come. The reminder that the world is always moving, always changing, and that even in winter some of life’s most beautiful moments take place.

Here are some of my favorite’s from little Eleanora’s jewel toned newborn session and her parents portraits with our milky white lifestyle studio bed.

Baby Avery’s 6 Month Milestone ~ Kokomo Indiana Photographer

Every time I see Avery I just want to squeeeeeeeze her! She is *such* a happy baby. With quite the personality too.

I’ve been lucky enough to see her every 3 months since her mama booked a Grow With Me Plan and I can not wait to see her again for her 12 month session this spring!

She loves loves loves her mama and despite all the smiles in the pictures, the only person that could *really* get her to smile was definitely her mama. See my favorites from her session below.

Lauren & Jem ~ Catey Heritage Farms Barn Wedding ~ Peru Indiana

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When I meet up with potential bride & grooms for their initial consult, I can typically tell right away if it’s going to work out.

We only take on so many weddings per year to ensure that we are at the top of our game, so we meet with couples prior to anyone signing on, just to make sure we are all a good fit for one another. We want to make sure that we are all on the same page, and that our personalities blend well to ensure a seamless wedding day.

So I sat down at Starbucks, getting my things together for the meeting, and I get a text from Lauren that says:

“So so sorry, we are running a little bit behind! A fox stole one of our chickens and we had to chase it down and save it. We will be there as soon as we can.”

Aside from the text message being incredibly sweet, 1) to let me know they’d be late and 2) that a very happy chicken was now safe, it was a key indicator that this was a couple that I wanted to work with. Lauren cared about her wedding day but also cared equally about her farm animals, and the meeting would have to wait. Obviously I agreed with this decision, so I waited until they were able to make it.

Said chickens for reference 😉

Not long after, L&J arrived and began telling me about their dream wedding day. A day filled with no stress, good friends, and family. On the farm that they had taken on together, Catey Heritage, where they grow their own organic flowers and produce with happy healthy chickens that roam the farm(see their engagement session and more about their farm here). A whole roasted pig for the reception, overflowing charcuterie boards, held around a bon fire, under the moonlight, ordering Pizza King for late night snacks, with great local beer.

Sign. Me. Up.

But the kicker for me was when they left. Our meeting ended and when we headed out, Jem looked down and realized that he had accidentally tracked mud from his shoes all through the Kokomo Starbucks when they came in. It was from chasing the fox and he felt terrible for getting the floor dirty. I said something like “Oh I’m sure this happens all the time and it obviously wasn’t intentional. You had bigger things to worry about just before coming in” And he said “I know but I used to work in food service. It’s a hard job and I’m sure they already mopped for the day.”

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In the short few minutes I got to know Lauren & Jem, I knew that their wedding would be the highlight of my year. Because they loved one another deeply and because they cared. They were good people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fancy bouquets, elegant wedding decor, and a beautiful bride and groom. I love all of my couples. But I *LOVE* good people. Because their wedding days reflect who they are and wedding days are that much sweeter because of it.

My text message to my 2nd photographer to let her know about the wedding we had just booked was something along the lines of “OMG BEST WEDDING IN OCTOBER 2019. NICEST PEOPLE EVER, ON THEIR ORGANIC FLOWER FARM. BON FIRES. CHICKENS. PIZZA.”

I can happily tell you that their wedding day was absolutely a highlight of my 2019 and it was everything they thought it would be(with a few fun hiccups thrown in).

Lauren & Jem, it was an honor to get to be your wedding photographers. We love every image that we took and your wedding day was one that we will always remember. Thanks for letting us tag along on one of the most memorable days of your life!

In case anyone is curious, Lauren & Jem run Catey Heritage Farms in Peru Indiana and not only do they grow some killer produce, they are now booking weddings for 2020 at their wedding barn! You can find out more here: https://www.cateyheritage.com

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Look at that little tear coming out of Dad’s eye! Teared up myself for this one.
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They made canned jams, salsas, and pickles as their favors. So much love.
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In-Home Studio Newborn Photography ~ Fishers Indiana Photographer

It is chilly chilly chilly out today and you know what that means? In-home newborn sessions!

One of my favorite things to offer new parents is the luxury(and often times necessity) of an in-home newborn session. This time of year, it is so so so cold out. Bringing a newborn out of the house on a normal day usually involves quite a bit of shuffling, packing, more shuffling, and more packing. Bringing a newborn out of the house during the winter means even more shuffling and packing with a ton of blankets, car seat covers, and the added worries of trudging through the snow and icy roads with a baby in tow.

In-home newborn sessions take all of the packing and prep work out of your hands and into ours! We bring everything to you. We pack up our traveling newborn setup, props, backdrops, outfits, headbands, etc. and bring them right to your door. You’ll have everything you need for Baby from the comfort of your home and we will setup our traveling studio right in the living room or in baby’s nursery where you can watch us work.

Crew’s parents decided early on that an in-home session worked best for them and they opted for a mini series. We did their maternity session just before fall hit and Crew was born just a couple months later with quite the adoring big sister. We set up in Crews nursery and you never would have known that his session took place there instead of the studio. His mama and daddy stayed close by, sipped some coffee, and relaxed while we did the rest.

Here are some of my favorites. Thanks Connor family for letting us snuggle your sweet boy! Can not wait to watch him grow <3

4 Reasons Why You Should Do a Fresh 48 Session ~ Central Indiana Photographer

It’s baby season! We are seeing quite the boom this December with little ones arriving just in time for Christmas. And this last week I visited an itty bitty babe at St. Vincent in Kokomo Indiana for his Fresh 48 photography session.

His sweet mama delivered him early that morning, so by the time I arrived on the scene, he was only 9 hours old. When I reached home afterwards, I remarked to my husband what a huge difference I saw in this baby compared to the newborn that I had just seen the day before in the studio at 7 days of age.

Why do a Fresh 48 session? Because they are totallyyyyy different than a newborn session and contain some pretty big memories. Here are the differences that parents and myself see between a Fresh 48 session and newborn session.

1) Your Environment.

Obviously this is a big one. Fresh 48 sessions take place in the hospital or at home depending on your delivery location and are meant to preserve those fresh memories of a new baby and the environment surrounding them. Traditional newborn sessions take place at the studio with props and blankets and cute outfits. Fresh 48 sessions are candid portraits meant to make time stand still, so that you can remember your birthing day and it’s environment exactly how it was.

2) Baby’s appearance.

Your little babe will change so much in just one week. Their Fresh 48 session and their newborn session will look *completely* different. At 48 hours old(or less) Baby will be pink, puffy, and dewy. They’ll have wrinkly fingers from being in your womb, “blushy” feet that are still acclimating to the oxygen from their own lungs, and a puffy pink face with a little button nose that has a glow of new life to it. These little details all fade away after about 72 hours.

3) You’re recovering.

Having a baby is no picnic and those first few days are a whirlwind. Recovering from birth while also caring for a newborn puts quite a bit on your plate! And taking enough photos of your little one on your own between their feeding and sleep schedule can be hard, after all you need your rest too. We take this job out of your hands and preserve those early memories for you. So that you can do more snuggling and less camera work.

4) Your memory.

Did I mention that you have a lot on your plate? Because you do! Parenting a newborn is beautifully exhausting and our memories betray us over time unfortunately. Those early baby day memories fade so so fast. From a Fresh 48 session, you can see time stand still. You’ll be able to see the presence of birth in the room, the dreamy airy light that shines on Baby’s bassinet, and even the little hospital gown and hat that Baby only wore once.

This time is so fleeting! And your little one is only this tiny once. Want to book your Fresh 48 session? Or have a question? Send me a message here (or email me directly at jessicabnewton@gmail.com). I typically reply within 24 hours if not sooner.