NIAGARA FALLS — Andrea Costrino is very patient.
She has to be. Her little clients don’t often do what she hopes they’ll do. So, she’ll pat their backs, whisper in their ears and wait as long as it takes for them to settle into sleep.
“If I have to wait for 20 minutes, I wait for 20 minutes,” she explained during a recent photo shoot.
That’s why, in the photographs she takes of little, tiny newborns, her patience pays off in the faces of blissful and perfect-looking babies. The images are so sweet they sometimes make their parents cry
Recently, the Niagara Falls photographer did some baby whispering and got young Daniel Destino II, just 6 days old, to pose for an assortment of photos that could just as easily adorned greeting cards as his own baby book.
In one setting, Daniel was decked out in earthy, autumn toned knits, made specially for Costrino by a Niagara Falls textile artist, Stephanie Casale. Daniel was tucked into a twig nest, where, settled inside soft blankets he looked just like a living doll. Or, as his dad said, a tiny garden gremlin in the teeny pointed hat.
AsCostrinoclicked away in the natural light of the family’s North Tonawanda foyer father, Dan, mom, Erin, and grandmother, Sheree Mowrey, watched rapt as the baby slept angelically in his whimsical nest.
Costrino, a former kindergarten and special education teacher, and the mother of two toddling daughters, clearly has a way with children, but Daniel made the shoot even easier by sleeping through nearly all it.
Just about to pick up her Nikon to shoot, the photographer stopped and touched his baby fingers, gently uncurling them so each perfect little digit was visible.
“I’m particular about my fingers,” she smiled before she snapped the shot. “If the fingers are clenched the baby doesn’t look peaceful.”
That’s why she likes to take photos of the babies when they’re sleeping.
“I like to make sure they look as peaceful as possible,” she explained.
The gentleness and patience of the photographer was appreciated by the new parents.
“She knows how to nurture the babies and take her time,” said Erin, who learned about Costrino after seeing pictures she had taken for mutual friends.
The new mom, who had taken a photography class given by Costrino and her partner for mothers who wanted to learn to take better photos, thought it would be easy to take shots of her own newborn.
“Turns out, it’s a lot harder than it looks,” Erin smiled.
The photographer, however, has had lots of practice — including an estimated 40 baby sittings — through her company, Vita Bella Photography (www.bellaphotography.com). She also does wedding photography with her partner, Jessica Dolly, of Jecca D Photography in Boston.
Soon, the pair will be joining forces with a video production company, Shutter Dreams Studio of Buffalo, to add movement and music to the Vita Bella baby sittings and Costrino and Dolly’s wedding shoots. But Constrino’s main goal is to specialize in taking pictures of newborn babies.
For the newborn shoots, Costrino can take up for five hours, waiting through feedings and fussiness and diaper changes. Her window of opportunity for the most successful sittings is with babies between 3 and 10 days old.
“They’re not aware yet that they’re out of the womb and you can pose them in more intricate poses and it doesn’t bother them,” she said.
It certainly didn’t seem to bother baby Daniel, who slept through most of the sitting, including six different settings and outfit changes, and poses with mom and dad.
There was even a shot of him posed with his mom’s stenography machine, a set of glasses perched gently on his little brow and papers strewn about. That shot will be used for birth announcements, as his mom has her own court reporting business and she thought it would be darling if he was posed with her machine. Given the responses by those in the room, it clearly was darling. Even the photographer was captivated by the newborn.
“Those lips, so cute, right?” she asked of his parents.
“This is definitely the hardest age group to work with,” she said between Daniel’s outfit changes. “But when the images come together and I show them to the clients for the first time — in a slide show that I put to music — and the parents start crying, it makes me feel so happy,” she said.