So You Booked a Newborn Photography Session. Now What?

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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

Wrapping 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

Fathers

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:

Families

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.

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Comments

  1. 2

    says

    THANK YOU! I just recently had the pleasure of photographing my new nephew at 1 week old and it took 6 hours to get 2-3 photos that were the right ones. Thank you so much for sharing all of this info it is very helpful. I enjoyed the session so much I am seriously considering adding them to my services.
    My favorite image from that day can be found here http://www.facebook.com/Danielpstudios?v=photos#!/photo.php?pid=5670424&id=178504040982&ref=fbx_album

  2. 3

    says

    This was just fabulous!! Thank you so much for posting the pictures along with the article. I have my first newborn session in oct and dec and you have made me feel so much more prepared!

  3. 8

    says

    This was a fantastic tutorial! I love all of the photos you used to help visual learners like me! It makes me want to go search the streets for a new mom and beg her to let me experiment!

  4. 9

    says

    Would love to see your editing/workflow process on newborns, who tend to be blotchy, acne covered and at times purplish-red, to get that beautiful smooth creamy skin you have gotten, without looking over-edited.

  5. 17

    says

    That was just fantastic. I’ve done many many newborn sessions and you shared some tips that will make my life so much easier! Would love to know where to get a great beanbag…I’ve been using two that my daughters have from Target…but they are really not “fluffy” enough.
    Thanks! Lisa

  6. 19

    Sue McFarland says

    Thanks so much for this article. Especially thank you for the photos showing in detail your setups!! So very helpful!!!

  7. 21

    says

    I am really glad you are finding this post so helpful!
    @Stacy – For the skin, I like portraiture http://tinyurl.com/imagenomics – (make sure you run it on a sep layer so you can adjust the opacity) and I am a big fan of painting (also on a sep layer!). Just sample an area of clear skin and use a soft brush to paint over any blotchy skin, also the patch tool works well depending on the size of the area. In several of my images the feet and hands will be a bit purplish, I adjust the color to what I want them to look like, then mask all and paint back the hands and feet.
    @Lisa – this beanbag is from company kids (just buy the simple one without a cover). It could def use more fill, but until I get around to that, I use the elastics to make it more full.

  8. 23

    says

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have my son’s newborn pictures that I have not printed yet, b/c I have no idea how to process them without it looking fake :( Awesome info! Would love to know more about wrapping techniques! I try to practice on dolls, but it never comes out.

  9. 26

    says

    Thank you for this wonderful article! You are fabulous at what you do. :) I was wondering if you just used a wall for the background of the family pictures, or if that was a backdrop? Thanks again for all of your helpful info!

  10. 27

    Karyn Collins says

    Wow! What a terrific post. Thanks Alicia for so generously sharing all this info. And thanks Jodi for sharing Alicia!

  11. 29

    says

    aaaaaa. your information and pictures have left me a little breathless. and definitely inspired. thanks for sharing so much information. i just finished my first newborn shoot and i so wish i had read this first.

  12. 31

    RobinJan says

    This article was amazing! I’m just getting into newborn photography and it’s great to know that my prop filled car is normal. I was starting to think I over pack for a session. From start to finish this was so informative. The pull backs of the shots were so helpful and your photography is beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  13. 32

    says

    wow – i have read this about four time so far today….feeling so insprired instead of overwhelmed like I normally do! Thank you so much for sharing this info…your work is amazing!

    I have a funny question too….the first photo of the father with the baby? Is his name Enzo??? He looks JUST like Enzo from Big Brother who was from New Jersery!!!! LOL And I know he just had a baby recently!

  14. 33

    Christina says

    Oh my word! I LOOOOOVE this post! I’ve done more newborn shoots than anything else so far and I’ve not found anything more informative and helpful than this post. THANK YOU!!!!

  15. 36

    says

    For the family images, I almost always try to use a blank wall. To use the backdrop stand on location I find very difficult. If you have the parents standing, you have to put that stand way up high to pull them away from the backdrop!

    Yup that’s Enzo :) I had the wonderful opportunity to do their maternity and newborn images before I knew him as the ‘meow meow’ LOL

  16. 37

    says

    I too would love some info on how to wrap the baby. how do you get those hanging shots? Also, how do you get the basket shots with the blanket all nicely wrapped in there without smashing the baby into the basket? You are wonderful. Thx. Thx.

  17. 45

    Kim says

    Awesome post. Wow, what great info and I love the pull-back photos–so very helpful. Where do you find all your blankets? This was so wonderful and helpful.

  18. 47

    says

    Thanks Alicia – this is a fantastic article and extremely helpful – thanks for sharing…and of course, you have some really great images here…i adore the one of the baby smiling over his / her mum’s shoulder…it’s a heartwarming shot! Thanks again…Wani

  19. 48

    Cindi says

    This has to be the most helpful article I have read on newborn photography — and I have read a LOT lately! Thank you so much for writing this and the pictures are extremely helpful too. Now all I need is some tips on how to get that baby to fall asleep and STAY asleep! New moms just don’t have the skills that first couple of weeks and I hesitate to take their baby from them and try. I have had 2 newborn shoots lately and was not able to get any great images.

  20. 50

    says

    Alicia- This is an incredibliy well written article chock full of great tips! Thank you so much for sharing how you “make the magic happen!”. I only wish to be able to capture the connections you make between the moms & babies. Amazing work!!

  21. 53

    says

    Hi Alicia, thank you so much for sharing this! Your work is truly inspiring! I specialize more in weddings but am asked to do newborns every now and again, the next time I do I will be thinking of your great advice!

    Greg :)

  22. 55

    Sarah says

    This is a great post – very informative. I probably have more questions because I do not have children but one of my first questions is, how do you swaddle the babies? Looking back at the little boy in the monkey hat – he looked like a cute burrito. It also looked like some certain technique was used to get him that way. Care to share?

  23. 57

    says

    I am gearing up to do my very first newborn session today…so I really appreciate this post! I learned a lot and now I have a lot more gear packed up to go than I did before reading it! Thank you again for this post and taking the time to type it all up for us photographers who benefit from it!

  24. 58

    says

    Thank you so much! Your tips were very helpful and your photos are gorgeous. I’m just getting started and will be photographing my nephew when he is born in May. Meanwhile, though, what’s the best way to go about finding other newborns to photograph?

  25. 59

    says

    I’m so glad that this has been helpful!

    The stand here is by impact, the savage portastand is also very popular and affordable.
    For the wrapping, I think that comes with practice! Certain materials are easier to wrap than others. You want to fold over on corner and place the baby there, only his head outside the fabric, then take the left corner and wrap it over, securing it UNDER his back, then fold the bottom up and bring the right side over to secure. Unless the baby is sleeping, you have to be very quick to make sure parts don’t start flailing out while you’re doing it!

  26. 60

    says

    Hi Alicia! This blog was absolutely awesome- I have been thinking about doing more with newborns and this blog really helped push me in that direction- so informative! I just had a question about the bean bag- I went to Company Kids and they have one with a 29.6 diameter and one with a 40 diameter. The difference is about $50, so I was wondering which one you used?

    Thanks so much!

  27. 62

    says

    awesome tips! i have done a few newborn sessions in the past year. i was wondering what apeture and lens you are using for your pics to get such great clarity and focus?

  28. 64

    Cathy R says

    Thanks for the article… a little bit of a pinning glitch tho. There is a Pin It button but when I try to pin all the imagesw say you can not pin them?

  29. 70

    says

    Hi There!

    I booked my first newborn session for this coming Sunday, and I am limited on my budget so I can’t really afford to buy much in the way of props. I have also never had a baby myself, so I’m a little nervous about posing her. Thankfully, momma and I have been good friends for over 10 years, and this is her third baby, but I am so scared I am going to mess this up! Your blog has improved my outlook to some degree, but has left me wishing that I had a bean bag! :) Thank you for the tips; I sure hope the advice sticks with me when I’m in the moment!

  30. 71

    says

    Thank you SO much! You do not know how much I appreciate this tutorial and tips!

    PS This was my first newborn shoot, and oh do I wish I read this before that!! Hoping to do another soon(with your helpfull hints of course!)

  31. 73

    says

    Great tips! I am currently getting into newborn photography and am hunting down all the great tips :) Something that scares me though in the picture of the nursery above…are the blind cords!! Such a dangerous hazard, especially next to the crib. I knew a 18 month old little girl who lost her life to these…and I am doing my best to spread the word about the dangers of cords on blinds and how EASY it is to prevent deaths by them! I can only hope to spread the word, especially to professionals that work with families and newborns, so that they can spread it on to their clients, who may very well be blind to these dangers, as I and many other parents were before tragedy befell them.

    Thank you again for the great tips, awesome pictures and I can only hope my obnoxious rant helped spread the word on this easily preventable danger 😉 A child dies every 2 weeks in the US by blind cords, and in my case, it only took 90 seconds for the little girl to loose her life while her mom was in the bathroom, so sad… no family should have to go through something like that!

  32. 75

    says

    I am a newbie and trying to establish my photography business. Thank you so very much for this info. Even though I was kinda thrown in to sink or swim right off the bat, with a couple newborn shoots already, your advice is well received=]

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