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21.05.2024

Newborn and Portrait Photographer and winner of the MPA International Newborn Photographer of the Year 2022 award, Elli Cassidy, has been creating unique portraits of newborn babies for more than 12 years.

We talk inspiration and technique with Elli – and find out how Fujifilm cameras and lenses empower her creative vision.

Photo 2022 © Elli Cassidy | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/160 sec at F2.8, ISO 160

Beginnings

“When I had my first child, he was born really early – at 28 weeks of pregnancy,” begins Elli. “He was only 1lb 15oz. While I was in the neonatal hospital with him, someone lent me a little camera and said, ‘Get pictures of him every day. See how he progresses, how he grows, and you’ll have a record of it.’

“Unfortunately, he died at two weeks old. But having those photos to look back on, it massively helped my grief, my journey, and validated him being alive and a real person – it felt that he counted and mattered.

“I’ve always loved photography and photos. But that brought a whole new level to its significance.

“Not long after, I had my two daughters. With my first daughter, I was photographing her every day, just like I did with my son. And I realised quite quickly my images all looked the same. Babies don’t do very much,” Elli points out.

“This led me to the newborn photography scene online in the US, which hadn’t really reached the UK at that point. It was the first time I’d seen people photograph babies as an individually posed portrait rather than just snapshots where they’re held in someone’s arms. It was a whole new world of art I’d never seen before.

“I started replicating it with my kids. And that brought about friends asking me to do theirs. I ended up deciding to leave teaching and make a career out of baby photography. It’s a lovely tribute to my son, to see that it led to a completely life-changing new career.”

Photo 2021 © Elli Cassidy | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F2.8, ISO 160

Style

“What I like about working with babies is you don’t have to verbally guide them through a pose; you gently mould them and move them and cuddle them into poses rather than trying to describe how you want them to move,” explains Elli. “It’s a much more tangible way of working with people, which I really like.”

When it comes to a visual style, Elli aims for tender, transporting images.

“What I’m personally drawn to is something that feels warm, cosy and intimate,” she describes. “I want people to look at the picture of the baby and feel like, if you reached out to touch it, you’d feel how warm they are. And you’d feel that calm, steady breathing when they’re relaxed.”

Photo 2023 © Elli Cassidy | FUJIFILM X-T5 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F2.8, ISO 125

Camera

Combining high resolution and professional performance, but weighing just 557g, the FUJIFILM X-T5 is Elli’s first choice of camera for her work in the studio.

“The X-T5 helps me in that it’s really small and lightweight. I can hold it in one hand when I’m photographing, and I can keep – if I’ve got a slightly unsettled baby with me – a reassuring hand on them until the second I take the photos,” Elli notes.

“I’ve also become a big fan of the rear LCD, which is crisp and clear and wonderful to look at. It means I don’t need the camera up to my face – I can have it at an angle where I can see the baby and make sure they’re where I need them to be.

“I know that the camera will catch the focus, and I can see exactly how I’m exposing and framing it, so I’m not having to keep looking and checking any dials or anything. It does what I need it to do, when I need it to do it.

“One of the big advantages with FUJIFILM X Series cameras,” she continues, “is that they’ve got an amazing array of built-in Film Simulations. You can see them live when you’re photographing, so it’s very much a case of what you see is what you get.

“For example, if I know I want to do a monochrome image, I’ll put the ACROS profile on and be able to see it in black and white before even pressing the shutter. That makes a huge difference to how you’re styling and lighting – and makes it easy to visualise what you’ll get at the end.”

Photo 2023 © Elli Cassidy | FUJIFILM X-T5 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/160 sec at F2.8, ISO 160

Lenses

Elli owns an array of X Series lenses, which she uses across her business. When it comes to newborn photography, though, she relies on a handful of outstanding performers.

“Generally, I use the FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR. That’s my workhorse because I can get really close or really wide without having to move around too much,” Elli explains. “I also love the XF35mmF1.4 R for newborns – it’s a beautifully sharp lens that lets you compose nicely without any major distortion. It’s flattering for them.

“I’m also a massive fan of the XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro. All the macro shots I do of babies’ lips, eyelashes and toes are always with my 80mm. And it’s so rich and creamy – I absolutely love it.”

Photo 2023 © Elli Cassidy | FUJIFILM X-T5 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/160 sec at F2.8, ISO 125

Advice

For those looking to delve into the world of maternity and newborn photography, Elli has this to say: “If you’re not a people person, it’s probably not the right genre for you. The key is to really enjoy families and newborns.

“You also need to know your camera and lights inside-out, so you don’t have to think about them. Then you need to spend time learning how to safely work with babies – how to style and pose them in a way you love.”

Photo 2023 © Elli Cassidy | FUJIFILM X-T5 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/200 sec at F2.8, ISO 125

You can find out more about Elli on her website, ellicassidy.co.uk. To learn more about Fujifilm imaging equipment, head to fujifilm-x.com.

Fujifilm will be exhibiting at the upcoming Click Live photography show – so if you want to try out any of the equipment Elli talked about in this interview, head over to the Fujifilm stand from 23 to 25 June at NAEC Stoneleigh.