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Do you ever wonder how newborn photographers get their newborns posed so nicely that they look peaceful?
Here are 10 tips for a successful newborn photography session.
1. Keep the baby warm:
Newborns have a difficult time regulating their own body temperature. To keep them comfortable with no clothing on it is important that you keep your studio warm. I keep my studio at 85F. I also warm my blankets in the dryer or with the heater fan prior to placing a newborn on them. If you choose to use a heater fan be sure to keep it far away from the baby so you don’t hurt their sensitive skin. If you are sweating during your session then you have it nice and warm for the baby and he/she will likely sleep more soundly.
2. Make it noisy:
The sounds in the womb are very loud and some say as loud as a vacuum cleaner. Newborns will sleep much more soundly if there is white noise in the room. During a newborn session I have two noise machines (one with rain, one with the sound of the ocean) as well as an app on my iphone for static white noise. I also play music in the background. I not only find it helpful for the baby but it also relaxes me as well as the parents. Being relaxed is key since babies will pick up on your energy.
3. Full belly equals a happy baby:
I always ask the newborn’s parents to try to hold off feeding their baby until they arrive at the studio. I have the parents feed their baby first prior to beginning the session. If the baby is happy when they arrive then I start with the family images and then have them feed their baby while I am setting up the beanbag. I also stop if needed during the session if the baby needs to eat some more. Babies with a full belly will sleep much more soundly.
4. Keep them awake prior to coming to the studio:
I always ask that parents try to keep their baby awake for 1-2 hours prior to coming in to the studio. A good way to have them do this is by giving their baby a bath. This is a great way for the babies to exercise their lungs a bit before coming and tire themselves out a bit. It also helps their hair to be nice and fluffy (if they have any!).
5. Time of day matters:
If at all possible I always schedule my newborn sessions for first thing in the morning. This is a time when most babies sleep more soundly. Afternoon can be very tricky as they approach the afternoon witching hour. Anyone who has kids can attest to the fact that kids of all ages tend to not be at their best as late afternoon approaches. It is the same for newborns.
6. Stay calm and relaxed:
Babies are very perceptive and can pick up on our energy. If you are nervous or anxious the baby will sense that and will not settle easily. If the baby’s Mom is anxious this can also affect how the baby does. I have two comfortable chairs placed behind me so that parents can sit back and watch while giving me enough space to work. I also offer them snacks, drinks and I have a stack of People magazines for them to read. I rarely have Mom’s that come over and hover but if they do I politely tell them that this is their chance to sit back and relax and enjoy.
7. Get them while they are young:
The best time to photograph a newborn is in the first fourteen days of life. During this time they sleep more soundly and curl up more easily into adorable poses. For babies that are born early and spend time in the hospital I try to get them into the studio within the first seven days of them being sent home. I don’t usually photograph babies younger then five days old since they are still working out how to feed and can often be very red or jaundiced. I have photographed babies as old as ten weeks and have been successful in getting newborn like poses. The key to photographing older babies is to make sure that they are kept awake for up to two hours prior to starting the session. I also make sure that the parents understand that there is no guarantee that they will get typical sleepy shots.
8. Take your time:
Newborn sessions can be quite time consuming so you should plan accordingly and educate the parents. If you are stressed about time the babies will sense that. My typical newborn session lasts at least three hours with some as long as four hours. It takes time to get newborns comfortably posed and sleeping soundly. It also takes time to perfect the little details like keeping their hands flat and fingers straightened.
9. Be safe:
Remember that although you are an artist and your goal is to capture an amazing image, at the end of the day this is someone’s precious new life that they have entrusted you with. No portrait is worth putting a baby at risk of getting hurt. Use common sense and always make sure to have someone VERY close by spotting the baby, even if the baby is on a beanbag. Be gentle and NEVER force a newborn into a pose. Make it a habit to always wash your hands well before starting the session, and make sure that all of your blankets are laundered after each use. Never ever photograph a newborn if you are ill, even with a common cold. Babies are very susceptible to infections, and it is our job to keep them safe.
Newborn sessions are my favorite. What an amazing experience it is to hold a precious new life in your hands and be able to document all the precious details of these sweet little ones.