Liana Ostberg is a Californian transplant to Sweden who rediscovered photography after a 10 year hiatus. She is now getting a lot of attention for her stunning photos of children and maternity, though her work tends to branch out quite a bit.
The beautiful crisp images she captures are just teeming with life and joy, and combined, they make for a powerful portrait of early life. We talked to Liana to get some insight into her beautiful work.
How did you get started in photography?
I first started exploring photography in high school when I took a class my senior year. I instantly fell in love with it and spent a year experimenting with technique, photographing my friends and fiddling in the dark room. At this point I photographed only on film. I even went as far as to apply to art school and was accepted to the California College of the Arts Photography program. Though this thrilled me, I ultimately decided on a different path for my education and went on a nearly 10 year hiatus from my photography hobby. It wasn’t until about a year ago when my best friend encouraged me to pick up the lens again and even offered to give me her old camera. I haven’t stopped taking pictures since and I am so glad I rediscovered this part of my life.
Have you always been gaga for children and babies?
Yes. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever really grown up myself, so childhood continually fascinates me. I currently teach kindergarten as my day job and I am inspired daily and enthralled with the magical lives of my students. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child truly makes everything more beautiful and whimsical.
How do kids respond to being photographed with regards to adults?
Kids are way less self-conscious than adults. The camera doesn’t really faze them as much and they are completely comfortable just being themselves. Alternatively, kids are always on the go, so you have to be fast when photographing them and this can be a challenge. There really is no point to posing or trying to set up a certain scene sometimes. The best is to just take the time to watch them and get into their world.
Do you engage kids in the photography actively, or try and catch them by surprise?
I do a little of both. As I began to describe above, kids can be quite unpredictable, especially the younger ones. Their emotions can change instantly and trying to plan out a shoot ahead of time can be futile at times. As I do with all of my shoots, I just try to get my subjects to have fun. With kids, this can mean me doing a silly dance in front of them or playing peek-a-boo. It can also mean taking part in a tea party while keeping my camera always ready to go.
How much of your images are planned and constructed? Do you use props and build a vision, or are they all naturally occurring moments?
Usually before I do a shoot I have an idea of the overall feeling I want to capture with the photographs. I will make a mood board or Pinterest board of images that illustrate what kind of aesthetic feel I want the shoot to express, choose a location that will support this and then just go for it.
There are a few key props I like to have on hand, depending on what I’m shooting. Scarves and light fabrics in various colors are great for backdrops, hair accessories and cover-ups in maternity shoots. I love the addition of a flower crown for a feminine feel and for babies I always have my sheepskin in tow. Favorite toys usually make an appearance in children’s photo sessions and outfit selection and changes happen in just about every session. For the most part my photos do have more of a journalistic feel to them and my favorite images to capture are the candid ones.
You capture soft lighting beautifully. Do you have any photography tips on how capture soft lighting, technical or otherwise?
Know your location and how much light it offers at certain times of day. Planning your shoot around the times of light is key. For me, I find indoor shoots using a natural light source (from a window for example) to be my favorite. It gives you control of how much light you want to come in and also allows you to play around with angles and shadows. When shooting outside it’s best to find a somewhat shaded spot opposite of a natural light reflector, like a light painted wall. Having the natural light reflected on a subject’s face can give the most beautiful results.
You are a transplant from sunny California to Nordic Sweden. Have you noticed any differences to how Swedes and Californians approach parenting?
So many! The thing I like the most about raising children in Sweden is the freedom they have. Most of Sweden is covered in expansive forests, the most perfect place for adventuring as a child. I feel children can be freer here than in suburban California as there are way more open fields and untouched nature to explore and less busy roads. Everything in Sweden is truly geared toward childhood—from its social system supporting parents to have enough time at home with their children to their outlook on early childhood education that focuses on learning through play. You can’t beat the weather in California though…that was lovely to grow up in!
Your photography seems very personal, with a warm energy like you know people the people in your photos.
Everyone I have shot I have known in some way, whether they are close friends, family or just acquaintances. If I am shooting a subject I don’t know very well, I do make an effort to get to know them before the photo session. I like to learn about children’s interests when doing a family shoot or the business plan of someone whom I am shooting professional headshots for. Capturing an image of someone can be a very intimate experience and ultimately I like to make my subjects feel as comfortable as possible so that their true nature will easily come out in the photos.
What is the most memorable moment you ever had with a camera in your hands?
Shooting my first commissioned photo session was a very memorable moment. It felt like such an accomplishment. I had decided I wanted to give a go at professional photography and I just went for it, even though I was scared. Connecting with my clients on that day and then having the most amazing shoot made me feel so proud of myself and encouraged me to push myself even more. You never know what you are capable of until you try something that scares you. I felt completely like myself behind the camera that day and it made me feel so good.