When I knew that I wanted to start photographing newborns, I quickly realized that a newborn session would be quite different than shooting adults. These are a photog’s youngest clients — merely days old — which takes the session to a whole other level with precaution and makes the session slightly more challenging… Well, as a photographer, I’m constantly looking for ways to enhance my skills and stand out in the industry so… challenge accepted!
Over the past several months, I have researched, read blogs, and followed experts to better educate myself on the whole process. I’ve recently implemented several preparation steps before photographing a newborn session which has made the whole experience much more seamless for everyone.
So! I thought I would feature my best practices on a blog post regarding the proper steps I take to ensure my newborn sessions go as smoothly as possible for me as a photographer and for my clients. Of course, this isn’t the only way to do it… but this is what has worked for me on how I educate my clients before the shoot so they are comfortable before/during/after the session.
Booking a newborn session
I’ll need to know your estimated due date and then I’ll block off some time around that. When your baby finally does make his/her entrance, contact me as soon as you can and we will set a specific date from there. The MOST important thing, however, is to book your session as soon as you can WHILE you’re pregnant. Please don’t wait until your baby is born as my schedule fills up very quickly and I don’t want you to be left without newborn images.
Scheduling a newborn session
The “right” time to shoot a newborn session is a question that is asked over and over. Most photographers will say the best time is within the first two weeks of life (between 7-11 days). However, there are two very important factors in determining the best time… age and weight. We’ll want to wait until your newborn is at least 6 to 6.5 pounds. It is not uncommon to photograph twins at 4 weeks if they are premature. Many times they are just getting to their birthweight a few weeks later. So what if your baby is 8 or 9 pounds at birth? Usually I will photograph between 7-10 days, and sometimes as early as 5 days.
Why do I photograph newborns so early?
Within the first few weeks of life babies are still “womb” like and love to stay curled up and warm. You can achieve great fetal like positions and truly see their newness. They often have peely skin and their umbilical cord end may not have fallen off, but they are in a dream like state and often quite heavenly. As they get older, they are more alert and stretch out and will not be so “bendy” or sleepy therefore; making cute baby posing challenging. Notice I didn’t say “impossible” I just said challenging – and that’s a big maybe. Every baby is different. Of course, the timing of when you want your newborn session is completely up to the parents.
Where will my newborn’s session take place?
Typically this session will take place in the comfort of your own home. If the weather is warm and you want to get out of the house — I would love to meet at an on-site location that is special to you. Babies love the outdoors! Of course, proper precautions will be made to ensure your baby is warm, cozy, and protected.
Before the session
Roughly 3-4 weeks before my client’s baby is due, I’ll send them a newborn questionnaire for them to complete. It’s a fillable PDF so it’s easy to complete and email right back to me.
There are roughly 20 questions which include basic contact information, Baby’s name and gender, names/ages of siblings, etc. The last set of questions are very important for me because it helps me better understand your goals and hopes for your newborn’s session. Are there any family heirloom’s you would like to incorporate, what color is the nursery, any specific images you’re drawn to, etc.
This is very helpful for me as the photographer to be 110% prepared for your newborn’s session so there are no surprises when I show up at your home or location of choice.
How to Prepare
I provide my clients with a helpful guide that is loaded with information. However, here are a few key tips…
- I need to arrive at their sleepiest time – so try and coordinate their “new” schedule for when your baby’s photo session is scheduled (must be within great daytime lighting too!).
- Try to feed your baby (if schedule allows) 30 minutes or so prior to my arrival. A full and happy baby turns into a sleepy baby quick!
- We will be shooting in the room with the most available natural light so make sure the room is clear and clean.
- Have your house warm. Ideally, you’ll want the thermostat set around 80-85°. For the adults it will be hot, but the baby will be toasty and happy. I will bring a space heater, heating pad, and a white noise machine.
- Collect any items you want used in the session beforehand – family heirlooms, hats, headbands, baskets, toys, monogrammed blankets, etc. I’ll go through these with you to determine what will look best in the pictures. I have a selection of baskets, buckets, and other fun props that I’ll bring along.
Be prepared for explosions of all kinds. Yes… poop, pee, and spit up may go flying or spraying on anything around. Let’s have burp cloths and wipes out and ready!
- Your baby should be only in a diaper when I arrive, that way we do not have to disrupt him/her by undressing. Be sure to loosen the baby’s diaper about 30 minutes before the session. This allows time for the diaper’s imprint marks to disappear. Don’t forget about socks too — we don’t want sock lines ruining on those cute little tootsies!
During the Session
Your newborn’ s portrait session will be very low-key and relaxed. I will guide your child/children through simple poses or activities that are appropriate for every stage of infancy.
How long will it take? Between soothing, feeding, precise posing, and prepping shots, your newborn session can take up to 3 hours. Sessions with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) may run longer. I love taking my time and perfecting every shot, and I’m careful to follow the baby’s lead as I work through the session. Please reserve at least 6 hours for our session in case your little one is sensitive to handling and needs more time between poses.
Get ready to LOVE your baby even more! Watching them sleep is such a beautiful thing.