Monday, July 29, 2013

Baltimore Photographers In Home Session Giveaway

Baltimore Photographers In Home Session Giveaway


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Journey with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

It has taken me so long to write this because every time I'd sit down to use my voice software I realized it didn't work very well and I'd have to do so much typing still which is not easy.  Putting it all into words also brings it to be very real when typically I try to push these things out of my mind in order to get along in my days as best as possible, but I have to look at it all in the face you's just time.  And it's been a long journey here so if you don't make it through everything you can just skip to the bottom where most of the current information is.

Well I guess it all started a couple years ago when I was pregnant with my second baby. Ended up with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, this was a horrid experience to have and upon my baby's birth it only worsened so I had surgeries on both hands. This helped greatly but I never completely healed from that; fingers remained numb and then I began to have shooting pains into my arms and elbows.  I saw my neurologist for this and he sent me back to my hand surgeon saying it may be related to the surgery.  My hand surgeon, Dr Dennis at The Hand Center in Annapolis in our consult suggested I may have thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), unrelated to my carpal tunnel surgery, and did a clinical exam in his office to come to that suggestion.   TOS is a condition where the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet area between the first rib and scalene area are compressed.  He recommended to return to my primary care doctor to discuss this Thoracic Outlet issue but when consulting with her she had not heard of this syndrome.  She was very helpful though in researching and finding me a specialist in the area who was familiar with what I was experiencing. With a little more research I realized I have been having symptoms of this for many years.  I have always not been able to raise my hands over my head for very long such as when blow drying my hair putting things on high shelves etc.  The end of my pregnancy may have brought it on more as that was one of the things that could predispose one to this condition other causes could be repetitive work such as my long hours at the computer plus my photography and holding a 5lb camera to my face for hours at a time.  Also, females have a higher chance of having this condition.

So it was a four month wait to see this neurosurgeon specializing in TOS, Dr. Alan Belzberg at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, apparently he is a national expert on this syndrome. While waiting for this appointment I saw several different physiatry doctors in Annapolis for tests and further opinions and pain management.  I also began a physical therapy regimen to strengthen my upper body muscles which one of the physiatrists recommended but these exercises only made my symptoms worse.  Based on my MRI and x-rays I was also showing moderate disc herniation's at C-3 to C6 indenting on the spinal cord casing (not the actual cord) with degenerative disc disease, bone spur formation at those herniated areas likely adding to nerve compression, and a bad reversal of the cervical lordosis meaning my neck is shaped backwards - awesome right?!  A couple of the physiatry doctors thought we should focus on the cervical issues due to the fact TOS is very rare.  I had carpal injections and a cervical epidural injection which did not prove provide relief.  I finally saw Dr Belzberg at Hopkins and after a thorough clinical exam in addition to another MRI, this time with contrast to look at the vessel and arteries in the upper body it was determined I clearly have neurogenic and vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in addition to the other obvious cervical issues.  I brought up the thoughts of my moving to VA to have the help of my husband and I was given a referral to a physical therapy clinic in Virginia Beach to be seen for a round of TOS specific therapy.   My symptoms at this point were increasing, pain in my arms shoulders and shoulder blades as well as in the neck and chest area.  I was also having headaches in the back and right side of my head/neck pretty frequently, weakness of my hands causing me to constantly drop stuff - this was really irritating.  I have always had minor neck discomfort as well as back discomfort but was able to manage very well with an occasional deep tissue massage, stretching and just staying active.  I was an avid fitness trainer in my 20's and now had a daily regimen of running and staying fit.  However, all of this was becoming difficult as my pain increased but I tried so long to continue my normal daily routine.  Add working 50 hours a week in my business and being the sole care taker of my baby and 4 year old, my plate was overflowing.

The pain became so bad within those months it was difficult to concentrate and handling my camera and computer were becoming impossible.  In order to determine how well I could recover with conservative treatment I had to start slowing down in the studio.  I already had clientele scheduled and I had just push on through to get these babies photographed and I went ahead hired a photographer to help out.  I would have a session and then not be able to use my arms the rest of the day; it was becoming harder to take care of my children now while I gave all my energy to my work.  At this time my husband was already stationed in Norfolk, VA and was not home except for some weekends so his absence was greatly noticed now as I was more limited in my daily activities.  I could barely keep up with everything, sessions were taking many weeks to edit and sometimes I would not even respond to new inquiries.

As time was passing with increasing symptoms and pain I had to make a decision on what to do with my business.  After years of building my clientele for Bitsy Baby Photography in the Maryland and DC region I had no interest in closing up shop.  I decided to further train the help I had hired in the studio and work towards having her take over full time.  I also hired a customer relations specialist to help in all our communication and client interaction so I could focus on my health and getting better.  Now with the studio running smoothly without me we decided it was time to move to Virginia to have the help of my husband with our children and get more opinions on my health issues at the military facility in Portsmouth, VA and begin the TOS physical therapy.

This move had a very unexpected impact on my medical care.  Obviously it was stressful to up and leave my studio which I had been the sole employee for many years and then the relocation of our family to a new place wasn't easy.  Dr appointments at the hospital here were taking 30-45 days for each specialist to just review my records and during this time it was confirmed what a rare form of issue TOS is.  We had a couple more test done including another EMG and a vein/artery study both showing signs of compromised nerve and veins with my arms raised above my chest.  Now 4 months later it has been decided my symptoms are likely (noone can be 100% sure) more from the TOS versus the cervical issues and since the facility here has no experience with treating this we are working on getting a referral back to John Hopkins to continue my care there with the professional community whom has so much experience with TOS.  Two of the best specialists in the nation are at Hopkins, Dr Belzberg and Dr Julie Freischlag, a vascular and thoracic surgeon.  After all my conservative routes of care including months of TOS specific PT here in Virginia Beach, the next option appears to be an invasive surgical procedure to open up the space in the thoracic outlet area by either removing the first rib, one of the scalene muscles, and/or possibly the pec minor....we do not know yet the exact route the surgery will take but it is now our only solution.    One plus is when this is caught earlier as in my case the benefits of surgery are predicted to be higher versus someone who has suffered many many years with this.  While I wait for the surgery consult I will also have an injection that could give me some temporary relief.  They will put botox into the scalene muscle which relaxes it completely and opens up that space where the nerves and veins are compressed.

So now I wait longer and I manage best possible day to day while I wrap my head around all this.  Thankfully my husband has been my rock and biggest help during this journey, without him I would not be able to continue on with such limited activity and high amounts of pain.  At this time both arms and hands are numb with a burning pain 100% of the time, severe burning in my shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, upper chest, shoulder blades, and neck with extreme weakness in both hands.  I am on a medicinal regime of pain relief along with 2-3 days a week of manual work in physical therapy and psychology sessions for help coping with such a major lifestyle change and the daily difficulties it encompasses.  Today I lead a very conservative routine in order to minimize my pain, pretty much limited use of my arms and upper body.  I have to choose whether I'll sweep the kitchen or make the bed, I can't manage to do both and not increase my pain.  It's those kind of things that has me frustrated and irritated, simple things you never think twice about are now my biggest concerns.  Questions like why me and how much longer will I be this way go through my mind daily.  Even post surgery many people with this issue are not able to go back to their typical life's routine and work so I can't say 100% that "this is only a season".  I just can't think too far ahead right now as each day is already enough to handle.  This experience has given me more time at home with my family, before my condition worsened I was working many many hours and was not able to spend time with my girls and family.  Now I am here everyday, all day, and though it does get frustrating at times not being the old me or doing the work I love to do I have to see the light in the darkness.  My children brighten my days and give me so much energy to keep going.  Thankfully, I have a husband that loves to cook and manages to clean the kitchen afterwards as well.  I delight in these benefits right now and just pray for a smooth surgery and quick recovery when the time comes.  Though this has been a long road and I've been bounced from Dr to Dr at many times I am just thankful for having insurance and the ability to seek treatment.

Here are some images of my family that were taken by Shannon our studio photographer.  One bonus (depending on your viewpoint lol) of not being able to pick up the camera yourself is that then you are able to be in front of it!!
If any of you are going through chronic pain or health issues of your own I'd love to connect for support.  Going through this has been a life changing experience and it's not just anyone that understands what this is and how it affects one's life.  Thank you for reading if you are still here.  I just wanted to share my journey so far in case it could help someone else.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Baltimore Photographers Session Giveaway

Baltimore Photographers Session Giveaway

This giveaway is for our clients, previous clients, and future client friends!

We are giving away an in-home newborn session in the Baltimore, MD area (within 20 miles of Baltimore). Will you be the lucky family? This giveaway is open to families who already have a baby either newborn or sitting stage OR whom have a due date up to September 2013.

How To Enter:

You have THREE chances to enter and win by following the instructions below.

A winner will be drawn via mid-day on Friday, July 26th and the announcement will be posted on the blog and Facebook.

Baby Photography Training and Business Documents

The Blooming Baby Business - Baby Photographers Workshops Training and Documents - Professional or Going Pro!

Baby Steps: Non-Professional Photography for Parents and Enthusiasts:
One-on-one non-pro photography consultation available. Please inquire for more information.

The Blooming Baby Business:
Baby Photographer Workshops, Photography Training and Photography Business Documents for the Professional Photographer or the Photographer Going Pro!

Professional Photography Consult, tailored to your individual needs.  
$475/ 3 hours of training
Can cover the following:

  • Business, smart marketing, sales tips
  • Thorough information on scheduling babies and prepping parents
  • Soothing babies and troubleshooting
  • Session prep and set-up
  • Shooting and session flow information for first year milestones
  • Efficient workflow and post-processing tips

Professional Documents available

> Bitsy Baby client prep for Newborn Session in a studio - $49
This document includes preparation guidelines for you and many details to share with your client for ensuring a comfortable and happy baby resulting a smooth and successful session.

> Bitsy Baby client prep for Newborn Session on location - $49
We have found the prep for a studio session in a client's home varies quite a bit. This document covers additional information for preparing your clients for a successful session in a home environment.

> Client prep for remaining Baby's First Year Sessions including Smiling Session, Sitting Session, Standing/Birthday Session - $49
This is preparation material for the remaining first year milestones - important tips and notes for ensuring all expectations for your client are out up front and the session is smooth resulting in a great quality collection of images.

> Legal Binding and Legally Consulted Photography Booking Contract/Photo Session Agreement: $149
We have had our legal team review and recommend professional wording and details included in our session agreement for booking sessions with the studio to cover so many issues that can and likely will arise over time for a portrait photographer's business. It covers many necessary details when booking clients which wouldn't even be thought of without years in the business and many client learning opportunities. Some wording is specific to baby's first year's business but can be customized to fit your business needs. Specific details covered covered within this legal document include usage and copyright, liability, client media, payment plans, rescheduling, cancellation, and refunds.

Complete Baby's First Year Document Collection: $249
All of the above documents.

Portrait Session Posing Guides available: $175 each ($300 for both)
The Blooming Belly - A Maternity Session and Posing Guide
Maternity Photography Training Guide

This photographer's training guides can benefit you if:

  • You are a maternity photographer but still new to maternity portraits
  • You are a DIY'er and would like to take your wife's or friends' maternity portraits
  • You are adding professional maternity portraits into your established portrait business
  • Your sessions are long and lacking a flow or plan
  • You are uncomfortable with maternity sessions and posing
  • You need help on communicating poses to clients
  • You need a smooth, predictable session flow for maternity sessions
  • You need flattering and timeless maternity posing ideas
  • You would like to know areas of concern for many pregnant mothers and what to do
  • You photograph portrait sessions in your client's home
  • You need to make the most of a small studio space or home studio
  • You would like to see pull-back samples from a Bitsy Baby session

Baby Photography Training Guide

This photographer's training guide can benefit you if:

  • You are a DIY'er and would like to take DIY baby's photographs at home
  • You are a baby photographer but still new to baby portraits
  • You are adding professional baby portraits into your established portrait business
  • Your sessions are long and babies are crying
  • You are uncomfortable with baby sessions and posing them
  • You need help on communicating preparation guidelines to clients
  • You need a smooth predictable session flow for baby sessions
  • You need some go-to posing ideas that work for every sitting baby
  • You photograph portrait sessions in your client's home
  • You need to make the most of a small studio space or home studio
  • You would like to see pull-back samples from a Bitsy Baby sitting baby session
These photography posing guides are provided in digital format. They can be conveniently viewed on a media device during a session or can be printed for hard-copy reference cards. These are jpg card of an actual session. It includes setups showing where I am standing and where the subject is placed in the light as well as the final portraits for the session. Basically, you are here at my studio with me virtually!!

***Blooming Baby Business training or products are not available for any photographers pro or non-pro based within a 60 mile radius of zips 21037, 21401, or 23456. Thank you for your understanding.

Patrycja Baczowska Photography
Emerald Photo Props
So Cuddly Creations
Baby Bliss Photography Props
O.Love.Via Boutique
Just Josie
Prop Me Up Props
Ivy Lane Hair Accessories
Shabby Dreamer Photo Props
Daddy Mack Hats

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, email for details!

Would you like to receive free photography tips? Click here and start improving now!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Photography Tips Finding The Light and In Home Photography Sessions

Photography Tips about Light, Finding the Light, Good Lighting, and in home setups!

Answers to your questions regarding photography lighting!!

Rita, Bitsy Baby's studio owner, has answered your questions here in this blog post. If you have a question please email us at and we will put it in line for our next post in this series.

How do I know what good light is for my photography sessions?  

I always say "good light" is a matter of opinion. For instance, some photographer's work use very dramatic light setups with a lot of shadows and small slivers of light on the subject. Others may prefer very high-key setups, which means much of the image and subject is brightly lit including the background with little shadows, two good lighting styles but certainly appeal to different tastes. Here are just a couple rules I use in my own work and studio:

  • If a baby or subject is looking at the camera with eyes open there should always be a catchlight in the eye so your light would need to provide this.
  • The subject should be closest to the light source for the best quality light or further away if you prefer or need more feathered light or if your light source is a higher window.
  • Unless the background is black or white, all parts of the image should have some detail versus completely black or blown out (white), especially on the body or face.
  • When outdoors, sunlight is generally best coming from the side or behind the subject.

How do I "find" the good light for newborn portraits?  

I always say as long as you have some light then you are good but the more light you have to work with, the better. You can always block extra light to customize your light arrangement but when you have very minimal light you may need an alternate source such as a reflector or an off camera flash. We use black felt to block extra light sources and white nylon material to diffuse very bright direct sun such as this product HERE.

What do I look for when I am doing in home photography such as where to set up to photograph a baby?

When we work in client's home, we are looking for light sources/windows or patio doors that also provide somewhat uncluttered backgrounds. Sometimes we will remove a wall portrait or decor element in their home to provide a solid background for their immediate setup. If it isn't distracting then we leave everything in place and love to include the natural elements of the family's home just as it is.  For larger families with young children we prefer larger light sources like bay windows or patio doors that will give us plenty of light which allows us to still use higher shutter speeds to assure the moving subjects are not blurry. When there is limited light indoors don't be afraid to wrap the baby up and go outside if the weather permits.  Open skies provide beautiful light.

For newborns up to sitting babies we look for light that goes to the floor such as a patio door so the baby that is laying or sitting closer to the ground is still fully lit. Alternately, you can use a window next to a bed and have the baby up on the bed.  Always have a parent watching the baby for safety when on the bed. We do use a high chair in some sessions and this can be near even a smaller window as the baby is raised higher in the chair.

Our first birthday session babies always end up with their cake in our antique high chair. If we are shooting lifestyle images we look for enough light in the living areas and nursery. Now, if we are photographing a newborn and are working towards those posed images, typically on a beanbag, then we definitely look for a smaller area that can be easily warmed to keep the baby sleepy. If you are bringing a lot of things for your setups such as faux floors, backgrounds, beanbag, blankets, etc., you may need a somewhat larger area. The most important thing is to keep your baby warm and comfortable. The larger area you are working in the more challenging this becomes so prioritize the session's needs and go from there. We enjoy keeping our in home photography sessions all natural with lots of emotional lifestyle imagery where we use minimal props and setups that are not a part of the home.  I could go on with this question but this provides some basics. =)

Is it easier to have a studio where you are accustomed to your light or work in a client's home where light may always be different but children are more comfortable?

I am lucky enough to have a studio but do also give clients the option for us to come to their home for an in home photography session in Maryland and Washington DC areas. True, you do become familiar with the light and white balance etc in your own studio but there is nothing like going into a client's home and using their own personal space as their backdrops, though admittedly this adds a challenging element to the session if you are just starting out.  What style of imagery they prefer also adds to whether it is easier. For example, if they prefer the studio style of perfectly posed images, sleeping babies, and solid backgrounds then that is definitely easier for us to do in the studio where all the preparation elements such as proper temperatures and props are at hand versus setting up all the stuff in their home and hoping there will be an ideal working space.

However, if they enjoy the emotional and raw images of a lifestyle session then that is very easy for us to accomplish in their home versus our professional studio since we are trained and prepared to "find the light" and then focus on capturing storytelling imagery for the family. I will say we have our studio set up to be able to provide both studio and lifestyle looking imagery even including outdoor setups. Clients love the variety in their final galleries we now provide and they can get it all in one place which is ideal.

When you work on location do you bring studio lights or only work with natural light?

Our professional camera equipment allows us to shoot in very low light settings without the need of large and cumbersome studio lights in homes. So, no, we do not bring studio lights but do have an off camera flash in the event we need just a touch more light to fill shadows. Even in the studio, we prefer to work with natural light for our baby sessions and the natural light of nature itself outdoors on our wooded studio property.

What equipment do you recommend for low light situations?

Certainly look into professional camera and lenses, the consumer level of even SLRs do not provide the quality needed for professional images under low light situations. A prime lens such as a 35mm or 50mm lens helps out as well with their low 1.8 apertures to let in the most light as possible. We always say as a professional you should have equipment that allows you to do what your clients can not do for themselves. And if you are a non-pro that is inspired to capture your own family with professional quality then do look at the pro lines of equipment.  We use the professional line of Nikon camera bodies and lenses and are always thrilled with the outcomes, even in near darkness.

I have seen so many styles of baby photography I like and sometimes the image is very dark and sometimes it is very well lit and bright. What is the difference and what is the best style for baby portraits and clients?

This could be an extension of the first several questions above. I would say the style of lighting you choose to go with in your art and business is a matter of taste.  For my own liking I tend to fall towards dramatic light and deeper shadows but we seem to notice our clients actually enjoy more evenly lit images based on the particular images they choose and order. We provide a variety of styles in the studio and have a setup for a darker more dramatic style of image as well as a brighter background and lighter toned side of the studio to make sure our clients receive a good variety in their image galleries.  We encourage our clients to let us know if they have seen any work in our portfolio they are specifically fond of and we can lean towards that style more for their images to be sure they are satisfied with the outcome.

If you have a question you would like highlighted in our Photography Tips blog series please email it to us via the contact page on the Bitsy Baby Photography website here and we will line it up for future posts.  If this has been helpful and you are interested in more photography training please visit the Photography tab on the website for more training and workshop information.

Photography Tips & Resources from Maryland Newborn Photographers

Photography Tips and Resources from Maryland Newborn Photographers

We have to admit that one of the best things about being Maryland newborn photographers is the fact that we have the ability to share our skills with others. We can offer our expertise with those who want to learn how to take professional-looking pictures themselves. If you've always been interested in photography, and you'd love to learn how to create beautiful pictures without hiring a photographer, you're in the right place!

Photography of any kind takes a little bit of training in order to see the shots you want to capture. Working with babies requires an additional amount of skill and craft. Here are a few areas we like to cover in our training, which will give you an idea of what you can expect.

Location Preparation

Depending on the location you choose for a shoot, the newborn you're working with may require different things. As you might imagine, even as newborns, babies react differently when they're in the comfort of their own homes versus a strange location, like a studio or even nature. If you have your heart set on taking pictures in a location away from home, and to ensure that you're able to get the best possible pictures, you have to know how to put your newborn at ease. As professional Maryland newborn photographers, we can show you what tricks have worked well for us in the past.

Maternity Preparation

Photographing newborns is one aspect of our work that we just adore. We also love working with moms-to-be. We believe that all photography is really a form of art; however, maternity photos are in a unique category all of their own. It's important to properly capture the life within, and the beauty and mystery that go along with pregnancy. We'd love to share with you the tips that have worked for us in maternity photography. With a little bit of training, you'll soon be brimming with creative ideas on how to capture beautiful photos of pregnant moms that will document one of the most special times in their lives.

What are your photography goals? Are you interested in taking maternity pictures? Or perhaps you want to be able to take beautiful photos of your own little one as he or she gets older. Whatever you'd like to do with your passion for photography, we offer workshops and guides that will help you accomplish the goals you have set for yourself.

We're always excited to see people following their dreams of becoming great photographers. Whether you want to become a professional, or you're just interested in taking great pictures, we’re sure we can equip you with the tools you need. Contact us, your Maryland newborn photographers, for more information!

Family Photographs with a Beautiful Baltimore Backdrop Are Forever Keepsakes

Family Photographs with a Beautiful Baltimore Backdrop Are Forever Keepsakes

Here we are, enjoying another beautiful Baltimore summer! At Bitsy Baby, we hope that you're having a great summer with your family so far. We also hope you're looking forward to having some family photographs taken during this special time of year. As your Baltimore family photographers, we have so many ideas for great family photos this summer, and we can't wait to share them with you.

Enjoying the Sunshine

One of the best things about being a photographer in the summertime is being able to work with some of the great scenery we have available to us in Baltimore, Maryland. This time of year is perfect because the sun gives us the absolute best light. We love to take family photos outdoors. They're perfect because being outside inspires those beautiful smiles that you'll want to see on your children's faces. Outdoor pictures are a beautiful addition to your family room, and they will document what a great time you had together this summer.

Ready, Set, Go!

While every family we work with always wants those posed photographs of everyone together, we love to work with families who want to mix it up a bit. Is there a special activity that your family really enjoys doing together? Perhaps you're avid baseball fans, or maybe it's difficult to find a time when you're not hitting the swimming pool, or even the beach. Regardless of what fun activities you like to do together as a family, we'd love to help you capture some of that fun. After all, when you're participating in the fun, there isn't much time to take pictures of your own, right? Why not let us document your fun through photographs so you can be an active participant, and have great pictures to cherish too?

Special Moments

This summer is bound to be full of special moments. Perhaps it's your newborn's first summer. Or, maybe it's your first summer with a new family pet. Whatever your 2013 summer milestones are, your Baltimore family photographers want to be sure that those important events are captured in pictures. We'll also create a great photo shoot experience for you, complete with photos of the kids by themselves, and photos of mom and dad together too. We're skilled at knowing what makes an unforgettable photograph, and we'll be sure that every detail that's important to you is captured.

One thing is for sure - the photographs you have taken of your family this summer will end up being precious keepsakes that you'll cherish and keep forever. We're so sure that this summer is going to be memorable, and as your Baltimore family photographers, we're looking forward to helping you document it through the beauty of pictures.


About This Blog

We specialize in maternity photographs, newborn and baby photography, family photography with babies. Bitsy Baby Photography offers professional photography services in Edgewater, Annapolis, Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia and all the surrounding areas. Please browse through the Blog Archive to the right for photography tips and samples of portrait work. Please also take a look at the website portfolio here:

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