Featured Photog: Denise O’Donnell

Meet this week’s Featured Photog…

Denise O’Donnell

Twiddle Dee Photography

Fan Page : Site

Tell us a little about yourself in just two sentences and include a picture of yourself.

I’m very blessed to be a mother of 8 and married to the best man in the world, whom without, my dreams of becoming a newborn photographer would have never been made possible! He is my rock and my biggest supporter. Not a day goes by that I don’t stop to think about how thankful I am to have such a wonderful life!

What do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens and why?

I am a Canon gal.  I shoot with a Mark II and only own one lens – a 50mm f/1.4.  It’s been with me from the first day I picked up my camera as a complete amateur who had no idea what she was doing.

When did you start shooting for fun and then move to shooting professionally?

I started my passion for photography the day my first (and second – twins) babies were born. All of my kids have grown up with a camera in their faces, hehe! It wasn’t until the heartbreaking premature birth of my last son that sparked my true love for photography.  I wanted to capture all of his teeny tiny precious features while he was in the NICU and struggled to get properly exposed images.  I would come home to show my other children how much their baby brother was growing each day, only to have dark images that barely showed anything.  I made a promise to myself that I would actually learn how to use my small point and shoot camera – it’s been a whirlwind ever since!

Are you formally taught or self taught?

I’m proud to say both! I started out reading everything I could get my hands on about photography. I was overwhelmed with information. I decided to join an online photography forum. I wanted to learn everything I could about photography.  I initially just wanted to learn for myself.  It seemed however, my photography journey was to take another path I had yet to even understand would lead me.  I have been very fortunate to have found a wonderful mentor, Kristen M. of Son-Kissed Photography, who not only has been an amazing teacher but a tremendous supporter and friend.  I owe so much of my success to her!

What is your specialty and how did you decide to specialize in that area of photography?

I specialize in newborn photography.  I am actually all exclusive to babies under 14 days of age.  I have a passion for newborns, my best days as a photographer are the days I get to photograph a fresh tiny new baby.  I knew even from my very first newborn session, this is where my heart and passion are!

How many sessions are you shooting a month?

Well, currently I am only booking 8 sessions a month until my youngest children are in school full time.  As much as I enjoy my job as a newborn photographer, my children are only young once and I want to make sure I don’t miss their childhood being too busy to spend quality time with them.

On average how long to do you spend editing each session and do you listen to music while editing or just enjoy the quiet?

An average session takes me about a week to edit.  I dedicate mornings and evenings to editing only.  I leave my days free to enjoy my family. I definitely need to listen to music while I edit. I love to listen to just about anything, especially Adele and Enya on Pandora.

What is your favorite part of the process? Shooting, editing, etc.

Hmmmm, this is a tough question.  I love everything, honestly.  Getting to hold and snuggle newborns during a session, nothing is more sweeter! The feeling of pride that I get while editing an image that I can’t believe I just captured is amazing!  And then there is that feeling of satisfaction and pure excitement putting the finishing touches on a clients gallery.  Knowing that I have captured images of their precious new baby that will be treasured for a lifetime is well, simply overwhelming!

What is the best marketing tool that works for you or was a total waste of time?  Do you advertise in print?  Do you offer referral bonuses?  If yes, please share a little.

I have really never advertised. When I was first starting out, I placed a casting call on Craig’s List. I was warned this wasn’t the best thing to do. I didn’t know anyone who was expecting and needed to be given a chance to prove what I could do. I was blessed to have had several families contact me from my “ad”. Truly, without the trust that these families placed in me, I never would have grown to be the photographer I am today.  I couldn’t live without Facebook. I actually spend a little too much time on Facebook – this place is a bit addicting, lol.  I do not even have a website yet. I love to be able to share my sweet images, everyday if I could, on Facebook.

What do you do to “stand out” from surrounding photographers that you’re competing with?

I try not to compare myself with photographers in my surrounding area. I used to and when I did, I would feel overwhelmed and just not “good” enough to be in this business.  The day I stopped comparing my work to those around me, especially the photographers in my area, is the day I began to feel I “stood out”.  What does make me a bit different to my fellow Marylander photographers is I only specialize in newborn photography.  I do not shoot anything but newborns.  Newborn photography is it’s own breed of photography.  It takes a lot of work and passion to learn how to pose these tiny little ones.  I will never stop learning my skill and try to learn something new with each and every newborn session I shoot.

What do you do to help a client come out of their “shell” during a session?

For me, making sure my clients are able to sit back and feel pampered during their newborns session is so important.  I tell them to take off their shoes, put their feet up, watch a television show or a good movie and enjoy the refreshments I have provided for them.  I want my clients to be able to relax and enjoy this time, and especially to walk away feeling as though both themselves and their baby was well taken care of the entire time!

What do you struggle with the most?

Personally I struggle with balancing family and work.  Again, my children are only this small once and I don’t want to miss anything their childhood has to bring.  My passion for my work has been taken over my days and I needed to take a step back recently.  I want to make sure that I balance my two passions equally and not let one overwhelm the other.  Setting up a good work structure is imperative to me and something I am continuing to work on daily.

How did you find your style? Any advice to new photographers on how to find their own style?

I have always loved how peaceful posed newborn images have looked unmasked by heavy props.  I want my newborns to be the main focus of their images and not some wild hat or crazy prop.  I like to use natural earth tones that don’t go out of style.  I want my images to be classic pieces of art that will be treasured for many, many years.  My advice to any new photographer just starting to find their style is to follow YOUR heart – don’t look at what everyone else is doing.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the latest fades.  Find what appeals to you and stick with it.  When clients hire you to be their photographer, they are going to hire YOU for your style.

Please share your favorite image and tell us what makes this your favorite?

I truly have so many favorite images recently but my all time favorite image has to be of 9 week old Reese.  This one is my favorites because, like my son, she was born 9 weeks too soon.  Her session was one of my favorites because my heart knew exactly where Reese’s mom’s had been.  I got to photograph her on her due date.  What a wonderful way to celebrate Reese and her homecoming! My images of my son when he came home were well, not the best.  I only wish I had images of my son, or any of my children for that matter, like the ones I captured that day of Reese.

Can you show us your shooting space?

Is there anything you would like to promote? Maybe a mentoring you offer or any side projects.

I hope to be a mentor one day. I know personally what it is like to struggle learning newborn photography.  I loved to be able to share my passion with others one day soon!

Please share an image of your Prop stash!  This doesn’t have to be an organized space just an image showing off your addiction.

I do have a bit of a blanket/fabric addiction.  I am known as the blanket hoarder, hehe!  I’ve even got more blankets/fabrics than this.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to a new photographer?

Stay true to yourself, don’t compare yourself, or try to be like, any other photographer out there! There is only one you, make yourself stand out!

More of Denise’s fantastic images:

Thank you for sharing with us, Denise!

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Denise O'Donnell - June 4, 2012 - 9:21 am

Thank you so much for featuring me. It’s truly such a wonderful honor!!

Michelle Kersey - June 4, 2012 - 9:50 am

Wow. So jealous of that blanket stash. wow. Amazing work.

Stephanie Donelson - June 4, 2012 - 12:58 pm

Awesome article, Denise is one of my inspirations! Love her images!

Joan - June 10, 2012 - 12:11 am

Love your images. Thank you for sharing your bio.
Happy Clicking. Joan

Jeanine Rebeck - June 10, 2012 - 6:25 pm

Where do you find your best fabrics and blankets?

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