Purple Owl Photography: Capturing the cuteness of babies and children

Beside the Point

Julie Harberts, right, and Amber Smith, left, spend their days photographing babies and families. (Photo by Kelli Caplan)

Purple Owl Photography elevates the definition of adorable to a whole new level. It’s a place that makes the needle on a cute meter go crazy.

This is a studio that focuses on the beauty of family and the pure joy of babies.

Julie Harberts has been in business for nine years. She first opened Purple Owl in Poquoson and two years ago, she moved her studio to York County. It didn’t take long after starting the family photography business that she found her niche. She is like a baby whisperer.

“I decided babies were my thing,” she says. “It’s what I enjoy. I love that vibe. I like the idea of being focused on that.”

Purple Owl, named in honor of her grandmother who loved owls and her mother whose favorite color is purple, is a full-service fine art photography studio. Harberts and her associate, Amber Smith, photograph parents before their babies are born, capturing all the beauty and excitement of pregnancy.

Once the baby arrives, Harberts, 42, does her magic. The ideal time for the pictures is between 21 days old and seven months. The infants are still tiny and easily posed, she says. She gives the parents very specific directions about feeding and sleeping prior to photographing to be sure the baby is most photogenic.

“The baby is the boss,” says Harberts, who, when younger, was a devoted fan of famous baby photographer Anne Geddes. “We are the slaves to the baby. We cross our fingers and hope the baby is onboard with being a model on picture day,” she adds.

The cuteness factor of the photographs is off the charts. Harberts uses all sorts of whimsical props, from heart-shaped baskets to nests and everything in between. The studio is filled with bows, diaper covers and other items to allow the cuteness to shine. Her creativity overflows as she places the baby, often sleeping and unclothed, into adorable positions. Sometimes baby is swaddled. Other times, diapered. The pictures capture an innocence and a beauty that only a newborn possesses.

“Ninety percent of my job is soothing and posing,” Harberts says. “It comes naturally to me. That’s why I enjoy doing it. Until you see a newborn session in action, you don’t understand,” she says with a smile.

Harberts, who describes her style as “classic and timeless,” says she can quickly figure out what a baby’s personality is going to be.

“They all are born with a unique personality,” she says. “It’s the most interesting thing ever. Some are touchy and jumpy and others are totally pliable. You can see immediately what kind of personality they are going to have. You pick up on their energy.”

When a baby turns one year old, she does a special photograph session called a “cake smash.” She has a custom cake maker create the perfect cake for the child and then photographs the little one with it, oftentimes eating it or sticking a hand in it.

“We capture moments that go by so fast,” says Smith, who specializes in taking outdoor pictures.

Harberts is happy to work with families all the way through childhood and adolescence. As the mother of two teenagers, she knows firsthand how important it is to have photographs of one’s children. Mothers are famous for being the family photographer and never being in pictures.

“You give up your entire life for them, so get in the pictures!,” Harberts says. “Get in the pictures for your children.”

That, coupled with family’s pictures being taken digitally and then never printed, makes Harbert’s works even more important. “To think about future generations not having printed pictures is so sad. Life gets busy. Our clients have full-time jobs. Printing pictures is not on their to-do lists, We say ‘let us do that for you,’” Harberts says. “That is why we offer what we do. It’s super important to us.”

Once she takes the pictures, Harberts edits them and then can create all sorts of options, from books to prints. It’s an investment, she says, but one that is worth it.

“I’ve never had someone say ‘I wish I didn’t get it,’” she says.

Working every day with babies and children has taught Harberts about patience, reverse psychology and “going with the flow.” She is delighted with how her business has blossomed. After more than a decade, Harberts still adores what she does every day.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she says.

Purple Owl Photography
Address: 115 Arthur Way, Yorktown, VA 23693
Phone: 757-897-3692
Contact: Julie Harberts, owner
Website: Purpleowlphotography.com

Kelli Caplan
About Kelli Caplan 46 Articles
Kelli Caplan is a wife, a mother of three and a friend to all who know her. She spends a lot of time in her SUV, driving to schools, pediatricians, WalMart and Harris Teeter. She loves to try new recipes and new authors’ books. Her favorite foods are green (lettuce, broccoli, pickles). A former crime reporter for the Daily Press, Kelli has been writing for the Oyster Pointer as long as she has been able to hold a pencil.

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