Photographer Lisa Tichané Captures the Organic Nature of Babies and Children for Massive Ad Campaigns
While catchy copy and an unforgettable tagline are necessary for a good advertisement, eye-catching images are the most powerful element in a campaign. Images are the first thing a viewer sees, and they can make or break a campaign.
When it comes to advertising photography, where multi-million dollar products are on the line, the images have to grab the viewer’s attention in an unforgettable way. Naturally, this places quite a bit of pressure on the photographer to deliver. Now, add in an unruly subject who needs regular naps, is easily distracted by that shiny fuzzy thing in the corner, and doesn’t know what a production schedule is, nor do they care, and the pressure on the photographer is multiplied exponentially.
For professional advertising photographer Lisa Tichané, who specializes in shooting babies and kids, this is the norm; and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lisa says, “I have a passion for capturing emotion, and in that matter young children are such a goldmine. They are full of bursting energy and their emotions are always larger than life! Bottling up the carefree, playful moments of childhood is a never ending pleasure.”
Photography is a powerful art form with one image being able to tell an entire story and lead the viewer to feel a myriad of emotions. Given the caliber and demands of the clients, advertising photography is arguably the most competitive, and out of all of the genres, babies and kids photography is undoubtedly one of the most challenging.
“Advertising photography is all about meeting your clients’ needs except that in this case, your little models couldn’t care less about the brief or the brand’s expectations,” Lisa says laughing. “They are just living their life as they want, not following directions, purposely doing the exact opposite of what you want them to do… if you’ve ever met a toddler, you know what I am talking about.”
For Lisa, these challenges are what make her work exciting; and her skill behind the lens and love for capturing her young subjects has led her to be one of the leading photographers in the field. Over the years she’s been sought out to shoot massive campaigns for Procter & Gamble, Enfamil, Danone Cow & Gate, Picot, MAM Baby, Laboratoires Gilbert, Stanhome, Bimbies Diapers, Red Castle, Baxter and countless others.
“Many commercial photographers avoid young kids like the plague because they are so unpredictable and can’t follow directions, which is a real challenge, I won’t deny it,” admits Lisa. “But the truth is that I absolutely love this challenge. You never know what you are going to get, which is absolutely scary and totally exciting at the same time.”
In 2017 Lisa was sought out by Conran Design Group to shoot the comprehensive “5 Step Weaning Plan” booklet for Cow & Gate owned by Danone group, the №1 baby feeding brand in the UK. Distributed monthly to thousands of parents across the UK for the past decade, the “5 Step Weaning Plan” provides advice and recipes to help parents transition their child onto solid foods.
Looking to revamp their guide book, which is a core brand loyalty product, they hired Lisa to come on board and shoot all new images to illustrate their 77-page manual. Over the course of a two-day shoot Lisa photographed 12 babies between the ages of 6 and 12 months, capturing the 50+ images that are featured in the current book.
“Images of kids and babies playing with food is an endless source of joy for me… Photographing not one but twelve babies discovering the pleasure of messily eating with their hands was a dream come true,” Lisa admits.
“I absolutely loved the fact that the client really wanted candid, authentic images so we would set up a scene and then let each baby play and interact with the food freely… It’s truly the best way to get cute expressions and funny moments.”
Considering the magnitude of the job, which entailed tackling a sizable shot list, while managing the feeding, napping and necessary break times for the babies, many photographer’s would crumble under the pressure, yet Lisa managed to deliver all of the images the client wanted without ever losing her calm demeanor.
“Getting the ‘perfect shot’ across every age range meant we had to think on our feet and respond and react, sometimes changing our shot plan and running order to suit the sleep times and emotional moods of the babies we had at our disposal,” explains Conran Design’s Creative Director Kieron Molloy.
“[Lisa’s] knowledge of how much time we’d have with each one, or whether the baby we were focusing on had ‘more to give’ was unbelievable. There’s no way we would have got such a wide range of amazing shots if we’d worked with another photographer.”
When it comes to shooting babies and children Lisa is a magician behind the lens and she’s someone other photographer’s look to for guidance on ‘how to get the shot.’ In 2012, after asking her to develop a comprehensive manual on child photography, Pearson Publishing House published Lisa’s book “Zoom sur la Photo d’Enfants” a.k.a. “Zoom on Children Photography,” which featured hundreds of images and proved to be an inexhaustible source of information on how to successfully shoot children and babies.
“Babies and young kids are incredibly cute and totally irresistible but they are also unpredictable and follow their own rules so you need to be patient and calm, reassuring and funny, creative and flexible,” she explains.
“With babies and kids, the best images are very often the ones that weren’t expected. I love capturing funny moments and quirky expressions on the spot, they are always my favorite shots! But those magical images only come to life in the right atmosphere… You have to create the conditions for them to happen.”
As opposed to other styles of photography where the models are seasoned professionals, babies and children are wildly unpredictable, and the window for shooting is significantly shorter. Telling a 6 month old to smile and look to the left is like asking a blind person how many fingers you’re holding up.
Setting the right environment to make everything run as smooth as possible is key. In most cases Lisa contacts the baby’s parents a few days before the shoot in order to create a relationship, let them hear her voice and reassure them that she wants their child to have a wonderful experience. She creates the space for them to ask the myriad of questions they may have, such as whether their baby will be safe and what will happen if they don’t cooperate.
“It’s very common that the baby’s parents have never attended an advertising shoot before so they can be pretty anxious about it… Fears and stress can be overwhelming for young parents… The stress of the parents can spread to their child very quickly, which is the worst thing that can happen during a shoot,” explains Lisa.
“My goal is to address those fears as early as possible so that they can be relaxed and confident.. if the parents trust me, if they are convinced that this shoot is a safe and friendly place for them and their little one, then the child will be relaxed and happy.”
From the time the parents and kids arrive on set, Lisa makes them feel welcomed, pampered and lets them know they are the most important people on the shoot. The initial time she takes to interact with them also allows her to assess whether it is better to have the parents right next to her during the shoot, or whether they should wait in a separate room, which she says depends on the personality of the child.
Aside from being a skilled photographer who loves what she does, Lisa’s understanding of kids psychology is a key strength that has helped her get the shots she needs.
She says, “Your tiny little models simply cannot understand what you want so you really need to find creative tricks to get the picture you have in mind. It requires understanding how babies think and behave in order to speak their language and connect with them on their own level.”
When it comes to shooting her youngest models, as well as those who are on the shy side, Lisa admits that having their mom in the room will help the child feel safe and secure so she usually brings the mom in as an assistant, giving them simple directions to follow to assist the shoot.
“With older kids, or with toddlers who can have a strong oppositional behavior when mom or dad are around, it might work better to shoot without the presence of their parents,” says Lisa. “I will ask the kids if they can help me prepare a surprise for their parents and the shoot will be our own secret affair.”
Setting the perfect environment for the shoot is key and for that Lisa needs a calm set, which means once the shooting begins, the entire crew of onlookers, which often includes the clients, agency, stylist, hair and make-up artists, production staff, lighting staff and more, need to vacate the room.
“Everybody is briefed from the very beginning so that they know as soon as we start to shoot everybody needs to be out of the way. I will only keep one assistant with me who will help me drive the kid and sometimes the mom if necessary,” she explains. “The clients and agency can watch the images going live on a screen in another room, and my assistant will gather some feedback from time to time to see if we should adjust anything.”
Though some may assume that toys would be a useful tool in helping elicit a smile and capture that special moment from the child, in Lisa’s experience they’re counterproductive, so she uses other means to capture her subjects attention.
“I very rarely use toys during a shoot. Kids love them, but most of the time they love them so much that they want to hold them and never let go!… which can totally ruin the image. And if you take the toy away from the child to get the image you want, you get an upset or cranky kid, which is usually not what you are looking for.”
On occasion Lisa will draw upon a clean feather duster that she’ll give her assistant to tickle the child with when they need a giggle, or a squishy noisy toy or a cascade of wondrous soap bubbles to catch a baby’s attention. Among her key tools though, is music.
“I ask the parents beforehand what music is the kid’s favorite and I make sure to have them on my playlist to use them whenever I need to cheer things up! I might have listened to ‘Baby Shark’ at least a hundred times in a row during a shoot… I’ll do whatever it takes to put a toddler in a happy mood.”
One of Lisa’s secret weapon’s though is her assistant, in fact, she wouldn’t shoot without one. Having an extra pair of hands on set to position the baby or do silly things to grab their attention means she has the freedom to wield her camera and capture the adorable shots that happen in a split second. Depending on local laws, shoots with babies sometimes require a ‘baby wrangler’ to be on set, which Lisa says are a godsend as they have so many tricks up their sleeve to get the child to smile or look in a specific direction.
Considering the fluctuating emotions of babies and children, unpredictable circumstances are inevitable, so on the occasion that all fails and the model just doesn’t want to cooperate during the shoot, Lisa always has a backup in place.
She says, “Even if the baby or kid was absolutely perfect during the casting, the mood on the day of the shoot can be very different. Especially with babies who can become very cranky when they are teething. Even a fever or an unexpected virus can ruin the shoot. It’s really crucial to have a second model ready to step in if things aren’t going as planned with the first model.”
Above all though, the most important thing is for the photographer to bring a calm and confident energy. We are all humans and no matter how young or old, we feel each other’s emotions, so being able to maintain a stable energy, especially in the face of challenges, is vital.
“On the shooting day, I need to be calm and reassured to send good vibes to my little models. My own stress would spread very quickly to them so I simply cannot let it happen. This is the mirror effect — babies are more likely to be relaxed and smiley if you are oozing joy and calm yourself. Being absolutely and perfectly prepared is also what gives me the confidence to improvise when things don’t go as planned.”
Last year Lisa was hired once again by Conran Design Group, this time to shoot the 2020 campaign for Enspire baby formula by Enfamil, the leading baby formula in America, which called for a few key visuals of parents being loving and protective with their tiny sleeping baby.
Lisa had six babies to shoot ranging from 2 weeks old to 5 months old. The young age of the babies meant that beyond having high-end photography skills that would fit the brand, there needed to be a deep understanding of the safety needs of newborns, as well as their biological rhythms.
Lisa’s creative eye and her long history working with newborns made her the perfect photographer for the shoot. She scheduled the shoot around each baby’s individual sleep pattern and also supervised the lighting to ensure that the lights weren’t too strong for their little newborn eyes.
“Lisa has an innate understanding of babies and capturing their natural moments. The timing was tight and the brief was very specific but Lisa was up for the challenge,” explains Fay Bandoula of Conran Design Group.
“It took us a couple of hours to get a baby to sleep, which on a one day shoot can be stressful but Lisa remained focused, flexible, creative and supportive… She made everyone feel at ease immediately. Another photographer in the same situation could have been frustrated, but not Lisa.”
There’s no question that Lisa’s ability to set the right environment coupled with her dedication to being fully informed about the habits of her subjects, as well as the desires of her clients, not to mention her creative prowess behind the lens, have all helped lead her to become such a sought after kids and baby photographer in the advertising world. Yet, beyond all of the planning and the seasoned technical knowledge, the one thing Lisa Tichané has that is so incredibly rare is a deep love for her subjects, and that shows in her work.
She says, “Photographing kids, creating the conditions for them to be joyful and natural in front of my camera makes me reconnect with my inner child and it nurtures me like nothing else. I am a happier person because of the precious time I get to spend photographing all these babies and kids. They feed my soul!”