April 13, 2023 | Features

Behind The Image — Aoife O’Connor – Newborn Photographer of the Year 2023

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The IPPVA asked newborn photographer, Aoife O’Connor, to talk about her Silver Award-winning image from the IPPVA’s 2022 Awards.

Aoife O’Connor — Silver Award Winning Image, Newborn Category

This is such a strong image! We’d love to hear about your challenges and what went through your head the moment you were shooting it.

I am always interested in people’s hands. I feel they can tell you so much about a person and there is so much symbolism in holding someone’s hand, especially your child’s. Parents’ hands are always part of my newborn shoots. When I see a baby’s hands they are so full of possibility for their life ahead.

I was actually setting up an image of this baby’s toes in mum and dad’s hands when I noticed the contrast in skin tone between dad and baby’s hands. So I setup this shot to have the light fall across their hands to highlight that contrast and tone. I often shoot these types of shots against a white background but in this case I used black fabric as it really makes baby’s fingers pop.

How did you feel right after taking this image? Did you know instantly it was an “award-winning image”?

When I took the shot I knew I loved it but certainly didn’t think of awards. I’m shooting for my clients and with baby sessions while I will have shots in mind for a session there is no guarantee that a baby will cooperate so you have to be flexible! In this case baby was asleep and relaxed so the fingers aren’t clenched which is key.

Would you be able to share some technical information and a bit about post-processing this image?

This image was shot with a Nikon Z6ii and Sigma f2.8 105mm macro. I use a large Lastolite with a strobe and layers of sheer curtains over the Lastolite to recreate a soft window light effect. There was very little altered in post production. There was a highlight on baby’s thumb which was a little distracting as I wanted all the attention drawn to the fingers. So apart from bringing that highlight down, removing a couple of tiny flakes on baby’s skin which were catching the light, some levels and curves adjustments and a black and white conversion the image is pretty much as shot.

I do love this image in colour too but I normally shoot the detail images with the intention of them being in black and white as I love the texture, contrast and depth in a black and white image.

From your point of view, what are the key elements that make this image successful? Is there anything that you would change in the image if you were shooting it again?

For me the key to this image was keeping it simple and focussing on the emotion.

Every parent knows the extraordinary feeling of seeing how tiny their baby’s fingers and toes are when they’re born. For this image, by paring back everything else to just dad and baby’s hands it accentuates that emotion.

I wouldn’t necessarily change anything here as there were adjustments done while setting up the shot to make sure the light was falling correctly and catching baby’s fingers. Also during setup I was adjusting all the details such as the positioning of dad’s fingers and thumb around baby’s hands and making sure baby’s fingers were relaxed, this is so important to making the image feel calm.


Find out more about Aoife O'Connor

When my first baby was born and I realised how quickly he was growing and changing, I knew that I wanted to be sure to capture every precious moment. As I Mum myself, I know how difficult it can be in our busy lives to take time out to pause, bre...

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