Monifieth-based Ally Stuart-Ross had two thriving photography businesses but when the pandemic hit, both disappeared overnight.
At the beginning of 2020, Ally was busy planning a year of wedding photography. When not doing weddings, she did commercial shoots for a range of businesses.
When Covid-19 took hold and the country shut down, all of Ally’s work was cancelled.
She says: “I had a really good reputation and two thriving businesses. To have that gone overnight was horrible.
“My mum and dad were quite entrepreneurial, and brought me up like that. I remember my dad saying ‘if your boat starts to sink, learn to swim’.
Mabel & Moose is born
Initially, Ally planned to make her business the best it could be for the future.
But when she realised weddings would be put off for a long time, she changed course.
She says: “I just woke up one morning and thought this is not going to happen. I’m going to turn it around and do babies.”
Ally got three weeks of work in, before another lockdown started on Boxing Day.
However, since she opened again in April, she’s “had babies everywhere”.
The initial target was to have two clients a week.
But the business was an immediate success. In the first week she had six families, including a set of twins and their two-year-old brother and triplets.
She says: “I fought back and created Mabel & Moose. I’m loving the result.”
Baby’s first day out
Going to Ally’s studio in Monifieth is often the first time many of her clients have left the house with their brand new baby.
Not to worry, Ally has spares. As a mother of four, she remembers what it was like.
She says: “I wanted the studio to be a beautiful place for the families to come and just chill out together.”
The small studio is well heated to make sure the babies don’t get cold during the shoot.
Ally tells parents they can step outside if they need to, and has even been left alone with newborns.
She says: “They must trust me so much. I know I’ve had four children and I’m older, but they don’t necessarily know that.
“They bring the most precious thing they’ve ever had and hand it to me.”
Empathy is key
Starting Mabel & Moose during the pandemic means Ally has spent more time with the newborns than some family members.
She feels very privileged to be meeting babies just days old, before aunts, uncles and grandparents. Because of this, she thinks her job is more important than ever before.
Ally says: “It’s got more meaning this year, because parents want photos to show their families. A lot of families haven’t seen the babies at all yet.”
Getting the right photo takes teamwork. At the end of a session, Ally feels part of a four-person team, the mum, the dad, the baby, and her.
Just as important as the camera settings is making the family feel at ease.
She says: “You’ve got to be really empathetic to be a photographer. It’s not just about a big lens.”
Once the pictures are done, families are invited back to Ally’s studio for a reveal session.
“When they come back to see the pictures I’ve had dads in tears. If both parents cry, I’ve done my job,” Ally says with a smile.