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So You Booked a Newborn Photography Session. Now What?
Most photographers, especially those just starting out, get very excited after booking a newborn session, then immediately nervous and anxious! Newborn photography takes a lot of practice and patience. But there are things you can do to help your session/experience go smoothly.
Make the connection. Photographing a newborn is time sensitive and is like a wedding, usually there is only one shot at it. You have to make sure your potential client feels completely comfortable with you and trusts you. Start nurturing the relationship early, ask about the expecting mom’s experience and keep the communication open as the due date approaches.
Educate your clients. Newborn sessions are a two way street. You come prepared with your ideas, camera, all your props, etc. Your client also has responsibilities to make the most of the session. I send my clients information upon booking and ask them to read it again when confirming the session after the baby is born. I mention things about the temperature of the house, the flow of the session and most importantly the flexibility of feedings/nursing. I think the latter is one of the most important things to stress. I think this one thing can make or break a session. If a newborn is rooting and not completely full, it will be very difficult to get the baby into a deep sleep.
Establish trust! I am an on-location natural light photographer. For the most part, I am coming into people’s homes and asking them to trust me with their most valuable asset! If there is a pile of shoes at the door and both parents are not wearing shoes, take your shoes off! Wash Your Hands!! After you set up, make sure you stop to wash your hands before handling the baby. I really couldn’t imagine anything starting the session off worse than a client asking you to wash your hands before handing you the baby.
I feel like I bring everything but the kitchen sink to my newborn sesssions, so it’s important to get everything together before you leave. Here is my car all packed up to go:
And here is a peek to what’s inside all those bags
When I get to a session, I ask to see where they get the most natural light. It seems to usually be in the dining room or upstairs bedroom. Be cautious of the time of day it is and the direction the sun will shift. You don’t want to lose the sun and you don’t want the sun to fall at an angle directly where you are shooting (if there is no sheer curtain to soften it). Then I lug all my stuff up! This session had yummy light because both windows were at a perfect angle:
I see a lot of concerns about the fill on your beanbag, if you don’t want to buy and add new fill, you can tie it with an elastic or rubber band.
I try to use my surroundings as much as possible to limit the amount of trips to the car, but if I don’t have a chair or other item to clip my blankets to, I use my savage stand. I’ve labeled the items here, I also bring a space heater and noise machine. What is the ultimate crib sheet you ask? My oldest daughter spit like no tomorrow when she was a baby and these saved our lives. They snap to the rails of the crib and can easily be changed. Now that she is 4 and no longer spitting up massive amounts of formula, it is very useful to my business!
The actual flow of the session is always different. There are times when the baby is completely out cold sleeping when I arrive and stays that way once undressed. I normally start the session with the baby swaddled and awake. If the baby is warm and full, this will usually be enough and s/he will fall asleep enough to remove the wrap and pose. If the baby is still fighting sleep, I will do the family pictures first. The baby will be cozy in mom and dad’s arms for a series of shots and then usually still be good for an hour of solo shooting. This is where stressing the importance of feeding comes in. When a baby is tired and struggling to fall asleep, 99% of the time all it takes is just an ounce in a bottle, either formula or pumped milk. This can make all the difference in getting those sleepy photos.
When the baby is awake, it’s important to watch the location of their hands. If you don’t hold their hands into position before taking your shot, you end up with this:
Here are a few pullbacks and resulting shots from the same session. Hopefully you’ll find it useful to see how the light is hitting the baby.
Resulting image, standing over the baby
The colored wraps from these images are either from the local fabric store or etsy. The others were done with cheesecloth from bed bath and beyond. Cut it into long strips and wash to fray the edges. There are many different ways to use this, here are a few:
Don’t forget to capture the details:
Keep It Simple
I love all the cute baby props, hats, wraps, etc, but don’t forget to get the images without them. I always make sure to capture images that have the baby as the only focal point. Showcasing their adorable rolls and sweet lips.
Babies and their Mamas
If I could only photograph one thing for the rest of my life, it would be moms with their babies; newborn, toddlers, kids, any age. I just love it… I just love the emotion that exudes. It can take a few attempts to get mom and the baby comfortable and most importantly, close to each other’s faces. Sometimes it is a lot of back and forth between our hands, adjusting the baby into position. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t happen on the first try, it can take a few adjustments to get the right series of shots. The most important is to try to get them on the same level, it can be on a bed:
or the mom can hold the baby up to her face
I love capturing the tiny new life in daddy’s big, strong hands. Dads are usually a bit more comfortable holding the baby like this:
One thing I stress when capturing a family is to get as close together as possible. If their heights allow, I want their heads touching. It frames the picture nicely. If you leave too much space between each other, it will look disconnected.
And lastly, remember to capture the in between moments, the time between the poses.
Alicia Gould is an on-location, natural light photographer. Her greatest passion is capturing emotion and telling a story through her images. Newborn photography is a large part of her business and enjoys being with her clients as they grow.