It's My Job: NDSU grad captures babies' first day of life

FARGO -- Grand Forks resident and North Dakota State alumna MeiLi Smith commutes here a few times each week to take the first photos of newborns at Sanford Medical Center. Smith graduated from North Dakota State University in May with a degree in...
Meili Smith, a photographer with Bella Baby, takes a photo of Morgan and Josh Remer with their newborn son, Brooks, at Sanford Health in downtown Fargo, N.D. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO - Grand Forks resident and North Dakota State alumna MeiLi Smith commutes here a few times each week to take the first photos of newborns at Sanford Medical Center. Smith graduated from North Dakota State University in May with a degree in women and gender studies, but she's using self-taught skills and lessons she learned in a photography class to help in her new job taking photos of newborns and their parents. Smith works for Bella Baby Photography, which started doing newborn portrait photography in Fargo in early November.

Q: When did you become a photographer and when did you start doing the newborn photography?

A: I've done photography since I was in high school, but I started doing photography professionally about three years ago when I shot my first wedding. I actually just started doing newborn photography three weeks ago when I started working with Bella Baby.

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

I would say the most interesting aspect of my job is getting to document one of the happiest moments of people's lives. It is truly an amazing experience being able to see how overjoyed these new families are as they welcome life into the world. And who doesn't love hanging out with babies all day?

What is it like interacting with the parents of newborns?

It's pretty great meeting all of the parents of newborns because you get to know such a wide variety of people.

What about your job is rewarding?

There are loads of things that are rewarding about my job, but the thing that sticks out the most would have to be seeing how in love parents are with their brand-new baby. Being able to give parents these once in a lifetime memories is such a fulfilling experience as I can see how gratified they are when I show them their photos. I love capturing raw, genuine moments and there is nothing more real than capturing a baby's first day of life.

Are there any challenges associated with this job?

I think the biggest challenge with this job is finding an appropriate time to take the photos. Obviously there are a lot of things going on in the first couple days after labor-like the baby getting tests, being fed, crying, etc. - and I never want to add stress or be a nuisance.

How do you find clients?

In the mornings we go around to all of the new moms' rooms and let them know about our complimentary photo session service. We inform them that it's extremely convenient as we do it right there in the hospital room and it only takes about 15 minutes or so, they then decide if it's something they are interested in or not.

What's it like working in the hospital environment as a photographer?

Doing photography in a hospital setting is a completely different experience for me. I'm used to moving around, changing environmental settings and finding the right light for my shot, but working in a hospital room doesn't really allot that much freedom. The light is limited and the rooms are a little on the small side, so it can be difficult getting the shot you want sometimes, but it has definitely challenged me to be creative and work more efficiently.

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