Danielle Petti is 28 years old. She was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She received a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and met her partner, Juan, in Toronto. They have two kids. River, their first son was Canadian born. About a year ago they moved to Torino for her husband’s career. Danielle had her second son, Solan, here in Italy. She is now working from her own photography studio in Torino, specializing in newborn babies (5-10 days old) and also older babies and families.
1. When did you start taking pictures?
My mother gave me a digital camera when I was 14. I specifically remember taking a photo of my shadow against a door and thinking that it was art.
2. When did you discover that you want to work as a photographer?
I didn’t consider it a career until art class in high school. We learned traditional photography methods and used film cameras and a dark room. My teacher was advocating for careers in the arts and encouraged me. I really enjoyed developing photos in the dark room and I wished I could be a professional photographer.
3. Have you always been a kids photographer?
Immediately after university I began working as a photographer in a Mother-Baby unit at a hospital. It was supposed to be a temporary career choice but I fell in love with newborn photography and took it to another level once I opened my own studio.
4. What inspires you to take pictures of newborn and kids?
I realized baby photography was a great fit with my personality once I started. I am generally soft-spoken and shy, and babies were not expecting conversation from me! This was my initial motive. However, now that I am a mother myself, I also realized there is much more meaning in what I do. Newborns change very quickly, in just a matter of weeks they are completely different. This is why I think it is important to capture these first moments. The way they curl up as if inside of the womb is very special. It is a fleeting time, and a time that most moms won’t remember very well because it goes by in a blur!
5. What was your dream job when you were a child?
I was encouraged by my parents at a young age to paint and draw which is what I loved to do. Being an illustrator was one dream of mine. Art was always going to be in my future, but I was drawn to photography once I was in high school.
6. Can you tell us three things that you love from each country you lived in?
What I love and miss about Canada: vast open spaces, open mindedness, and my family. What I love about Torino and what I am enjoying a lot these days: The food, the beautiful mountains, like a backdrop for the city, and the new interesting people I meet.
7. What do you love the most in your job?
Obviously I really enjoy actually taking the photos in the studio but a great satisfaction comes later when I send out the first peek to the parents. It’s great when I receive a wonderful message in return from a happy mom or dad who is glad they decided to take their newborn baby to the studio even though they were so tired!
8. What do you hate the most?
Baby poop on my clothes! (to be expected)
9. Is there a preferred period to take pictures of newborns and why?
The perfect time is 5 to 15 days after birth. At 2 weeks old a baby is starting to be more aware of his/her surroundings and won’t stay asleep when people move them around. The poses that I achieve with fresh newborns are how they prefer to be; curled up or wrapped, and nice and warm.
10. What are your clients? Newborn and Children of what age? Is there a rule to fix a session for newborns?
Most of the clients that come in to the studio are from 5 days old to 1 year old. I always recommend an outdoor session for toddlers (1-3 years old) because they are so active! I am much more likely to get natural smiles if they are running wild than if they are sitting in a studio. Babies (0-12 months), instead are so happy to be in the studio, smiling at mom and dad or at me!
The booking of a newborn session should be done when the baby is still in the belly. This way I can be sure we schedule the session within the 5-15 day time frame.
11. Can you describe as your style?
What is obvious about my style is that I like to keep it simple. I love props and accessories (hats and headbands) but i like to use them lightly. I don’t want anything to overpower the baby, the focus should always be on their face. I am also always drawn to neutral colours! It gives the end product a more natural feel.
12. What is your opinion about the massive children exposure on social network?
Personally, I always share photos of my kids online. My work and my life are intertwined; the boundary is blurry. I document my children freely to keep memories for myself but sometimes I want others to see those photos. Then they can understand the importance of documenting their family and keeping moments forever.
13. What is your relation with the light?
Light is everything when it comes to photography. When photographing outside of a studio setting I am looking for pockets of light, areas where the light shines through in just the right way to convey a mood. Usually I am drawn to bright spaces because I photograph a lot of kids. Bright, golden sunsets are optimal; they give warmth, joy, and happiness to a photo. In the studio, while photographing newborns, I use a much more diffused light. Newborns are so delicate and soft so a diffused light is essential.
14. Which are your favorite Baby Photographers?
A photographer that is always inspiring me is Erin Tole, an American photographer that specializes in newborns. I learned from her in a workshop a few years ago. She has many more years of experience than I do, so absorbing her knowledge was fantastic. Many people first think about Anne Geddes right away once I mention I am a baby photographer. I love her work but I think it is very different from what I am trying to do. I am trying to show the baby as a unique and precious person; a gift to the baby’s parents so that they can remember all those little features. Anne Geddes is an artist of a different kind, she has a concept and a goal in mind and uses babies as her subjects to achieve that goal.
15. Where do you Get inspiration for your work?
I get very inspired at vintage shops! I see very old objects that can be perfect for props and I immediately start to imagine what the end product will look like complete with a cute baby!
16. How do you set up a session?
From the parents I like to get a sense of their own specific style. I don’t compromise my style too much but if I know they like bright colours then I try to incorporate those colours in their session. I set up 5 or 6 props before they arrive so that they are ready and I can transition the baby into different setups quickly.
17. How do you handle newborns during the session. I can see from the pictures that are often sleeping. Are they calm?
This becomes easier and easier with practice. After many years in the field I have become pretty good at keeping a newborn asleep. Being calm is essential. If I am not calm, the baby will sense it! Lots of heat in the room, some white noise like “shushing” or the sound of waves, and if all else fails: wrapping the baby up in a nice tight swaddle will surely soothe him/her!
18. Kids get bored easily. How do you handle With that during the session?
If the whole session is “posed” then the kids will quickly lose interest. I need to incorporate play in the session; maybe reading a book, or tickling, or peek-a-boo. Patience is key. Sometimes these moments of reading and playing with mom or dad are perfect for the photos too.
19. You told me you are using props for your sessions. Which one are your favourites?
Neutral colours and vintage! Nothing too distracting.
20. Is there a way we can follow your work?
I have a blog where both personal photos and client photos are intertwined. A lot of my best work ends up there!
21. What is your relationship With art? Do art effect your work and how?
Yes I think it does affect my work, even if subconsciously. I am drawn to images and paintings that have a beautiful simplicity. I often try to achieve this simplicity with my compositions.
22. Any project for the future that you want to share with us?
Not yet a project, but a very clear goal for the future. Something I definitely want to add to my repertoire is BIRTH photography! I am very eager to begin this! I don’t know if it will be popular in Italy but I find birth photography to be strikingly beautiful. I personally wish I had great images of my children coming into this world.
Danielle Petti – Images by Dee
Phone: +39 366 219 2992