You know that old saying, I wish I knew then….Well, that’s how I feel about newborn photography, and my own children.
I have been in the professional photography business for about 7 years, and newborns are one of my favorite subjects. I have learned a ton over the years, and have finally perfected my formula for capturing those darling babies. I’ve come a long way from laying my own daughter flat on her belly with her arms and legs stretched out and her face planted right on the (way too busy and colorful) blanket, wondering why my final product didn’t look quite right. Or all those photos I spent time making sure her outfit was just right, and her arms are tucked in just perfect, only to see the final printed result has my husband’s pajama bottoms in the corner of the frame, or a laundry basket off to the side, or a pacifier hastily spit out and lying near her leg. It takes practice, and observation, and time to perfect your skill, and I feel like I finally have it down pat. I also learned, through error and poor planning, that you can’t do a newborn portrait session when she’s 2 months old, or 1 month old, or even 3 weeks old! There are very firm timelines we must adhere to, or those babies will just flex their very tiny muscles and bust out of every pose we try to put them into. So welcome to my newborn photography page, where hopefully you can learn everything you need to know before your baby arrives, in anticipation of your upcoming newborn photography session.
The first tip is PLAN AHEAD….WAAAAAY AHEAD!
As photographers trying to run a business, and likely a family, and possibly another career as well, we love hearing from clients well in advance from when they are hoping to schedule their photography session. You may think, “but I don’t know when my baby is coming, how can I schedule a photographer already?”. It works, we just need to have you on the radar. It’s best to contact your photographer in your second trimester, so around 20-24 weeks. When you get in touch that early, you can also discuss whether or not you want a maternity session. I offer a discounted maternity session for anyone who books a newborn photography session. And also contrary to popular belief, it’s not best to get maternity photos as close to your due date as possible. In fact, around 30-34 weeks is ideal….before your ankles start swelling, your back starts continually aching, nothing fits, your boobs are popping out of every dress, and you feel cranky all the time. (If you’re not that far along yet, or have never been pregnant, don’t let that little bit of negativity scare you out of getting pregnant…maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who LOVES being pregnant right to the end! ) Anyway, if you let us know your expected due date, we can tentatively put you on the schedule for a few different days surrounding the due date, and whenever the baby comes, we can commit. I like to tell my new clients to keep me on the short list of who they call when the baby is born. I don’t need to be the FIRST one they call (secretly hope one day that happens!!), but I want to know in the first day or two.
The newborn photography session, ideally it happens in the first 2 weeks. I’ve pushed babies into their 3rd week, but that always makes me nervous. If you can get them scheduled from day 6-12, that’s really the sweet spot. Earlier than that, they may not be eating well, or getting enough to stay full very long, or they may still be splotchy and bumpy and red (or yellow!) from the birth. Later than that, they start to wake up a little more, want to stretch a little more, and are in no mood for flipping and tucking and primping and posing.
I like to photograph my newborn clients in their own home. Everyone is more relaxed, we can get personal items included in the photos, get shots on the parent’s bed, in the baby’s nursery, and when the baby needs to take a break and eat, mom is more comfortable breastfeeding in her own home. It’s also easy to incorporate siblings into the photos, and then release them to go play somewhere else in the house. Or as is often the case, leave the house altogether with dad! One of the biggest time savers is to get mom out of the room that I’m shooting in. It’s a tough request sometimes, because mom loves to watch, and be with her baby. But it is so true that babies can smell you and recognize your smell at just a few days old! Babies almost always are a little more restless, sleep a little less deeply, and need more soothing if mom is in the room. It’s astonishing how keeping baby and mom in separate rooms keeps the baby asleep for a longer stretch, letting me get a bunch of shots completed before the next feeding. So doing the shoot in the client’s home gives mom an opportunity to take a break from watching the baby and getting something done. Like laundry (endless), or a nap (never enough).
The next tip to a successful newborn photography session is heat! I tell my clients to crank their heat up to 80 degrees! Even in the summer! And I mean it too. I come prepared to sweat. I wear light clothes and bring tons of water, because if I’m not practically sweating to death, it’s not hot enough for the newborn baby to feel comfortable. (this may be why dads and siblings leave the house as soon as they are released!) The baby is usually naked, or in very little clothes during the photoshoot. So having the ambient temperature toasty warm is crucial to keeping the baby happy, comfortable, and asleep…the key word here. If she is sound asleep and happy because she is warm and full, I can move her into all sorts of poses, put hats on her, wrap and unwrap blankets on her, and she might snooze through the whole experience. When that happens, I can get in and out of a session in 2 hours. That is a dream. If it’s taking a bit more time to settle the baby, include more feedings, more cuddling, and more soothing, it may take up to 4 hours. I don’t think I’ve ever taken longer than 4 hours, but that can seem like forever if you’re not in your own home. So I really push for in home newborn sessions. The caveat to that is if there is no good natural light source in the client’s home. I can work out of any room with good light. Sometimes it has been the kitchen, or the parent’s bedroom, or the even the landing at the top of the stairs. You will never know where the photos were taken when you see the final product.
All I need is light, heat, and a couple weeks notice, and I can give you newborn portraits that you will cherish forever. Don’t hesitate, this time of tiny fingers, puckered lips, fresh bellybuttons, and sleepy smiles goes way too fast….preserve as many memories as you can, it’s worth it.