In 2011, I (Jessica Strom) started volunteering my time offering complimentary portrait sessions to families with babies in the NICU (‘the’ referring to many of our local NICUs in the Kansas City metro). It was just something I’d fallen in love with being able to give parents a sense of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic time because everyone, no matter the circumstances, wants to show the world (be it online or not) their beautiful new baby. When a baby is born prematurely and will spend months in the NICU, in the mind of parents professional portraits hit the back burner if not completely off the stove, and many parents miss out on documenting this oh-so-precious time.
These sessions are offered completely complimentary to families with babies born between 22-30 weeks, focusing on families that are facing an extensive NICU stay. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s an opportunity for parents to experience something special and yet normal, to see their baby photographed as they see them. Cell phones do not do the beauty of their child justice as well as it’s so important to capture beautiful FAMILY photos with both parents involved. So often I am able to capture proof their baby knows who they are in their photos, and this gives parents the utmost sense of encouragement and love.
This website and concept for Believe in Preemies is an extension of my NICU work that I continue to give through my portrait business. It’s my independent work, my independent passion for these families, and all imagery and content is photographed and copyrighted by me, Jessica Strom Photography. The official BELIEVE IN PREEMIES FOUNDATION is now an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to promote prematurity awareness through professional photography and support parents of preemies. It is run off of donations only or self-funded by me when no donations are available, no families or hospitals are charged for these services.
It’s very important for parents to understand I do have guidelines for qualifications for a complimentary NICU session which I adhere to pretty confidently. I understand that spending any amount of time in the NICU is hard on any parent, but these sessions are for babies who will be there a considerable amount of time. If you’ve spent any time in the NICU and would still like to do newborn portraits IN YOUR HOME with my vast experience with preemies, please consider investing your time and portraits with me (www.jessicastrom.net) so I may continue donating my time to further bless other NICU families.
GUIDELINES & GENERAL INFORMATION ON SESSIONS:
1. To qualify for a session, the baby(ies) must have been born prior to 30 weeks. I specialize in micro preemies and so if you have a child with a critical condition that will be spending considerable time in the NICU not related to prematurity, please get in touch any way as I may be able to find to a photographer who can still donate a session to you.
2. I need to coordinate the sessions with the parents themselves. So if you are wanting to inquire about a session on behalf of someone, please have the parent contact me directly. As I come to the hospital as a guest of the families and not affiliated with the hospital, it is vital that parents are the ones who invite me and schedule the session around the baby’s cares.
3. I generally need at least a week’s notice to work these sessions into my schedule. Requests for sessions within a day or two of discharge will be asked to consider booking a newborn session at their home, which while they will not be free, it enables me to help pay my bills so I can continue offering these free NICU session to families.
4. I do not bring anything into the NICU with me other than my camera. The sessions are meant to be ‘lifestyle’ which means life as it is. Cuddling, feeding, tubes, monitors, all of it. Parents are welcome to provide a blanket, hat, or outfit but it’s not required.
5. I do not handle babies. I may move a hand or a foot while they are being held but moving them is left up to a parent or a nurse only.
6. I do not use flash photography. Flashes may damage a premature infants eyes and will absolutely overstimulate them. Having as much available light as possible is fantastic. If you as a parent encounter a photographer who is about to use a flash, demand that they stop immediately and that the flash is not used.
7. Sessions last about 30-45 minutes, twins may take longer. It will take about 2ish weeks to get your images to you which will be 30-40, sometime more, high resolution digital images for you to download and use however you like. A CD or DVD will not be provided, images are available via download only.
8. Parents must sign a full release allowing me to photograph their child and themselves. Your session may be blogged to share the work I do for NICU families HOWEVER the only info I share is the baby’s FIRST name only and some little details like how early they were, etc. Last names are never shared, parents names are never shared (they may be tagged on Facebook if we are connected there and you say it’s ok).
Please don’t wait to get in touch with me if you delivered your baby very early. You will treasure those images within the first couple weeks so very much. This time will pass before you know it and these photographs will last forever to tell your child’s story. Often times I will do two sessions for my micro preemies, one when they are still so little and a second a couple months later to demonstrate their beautiful growth.
cell for texting: 913-620-6295