I can clearly remember the first time I ever tried to capture newborn photos. Fortunately, it was not a paying client as I was honestly a bit of a hot mess. LOL! Working with a precious new baby can be intimidating and overwhelming. I did a lot of research on newborn session tips in advance of my first few sessions. I am very glad I made the decision to mentor with another photographer after working with a handful of babies. While I am a firm believer that in person mentoring or eduction is the best way to learn, there are a few simple things you can do to set yourself up for session success.
1. Communication is Key!
Before any session, it’s important to clearly communicate with your client on what is expected from them and what you will deliver. I have put together a welcome packet that each client receives prior to their session which includes my “Sleepy Baby Tips.” I also conduct a pre-session consultation with them over the phone before their session takes place. I encourage moms to feed their baby right before the session if they live close to the studio. If they live more than an hour away, I tell them to arrive a few minutes early to feed baby upon arrival. A full baby is usually a sleepy baby. During the initial consult, we also discuss when family/sibling photos will take place (if applicable). Answering as many questions as possible before the session will help eliminate problems or confusion on the day of your appointment.
2. Control the Environment
Whether your a studio photographer or travel to your client’s home for newborn sessions, it’s important that you control the environment around the baby. During my sessions, the room is kept toasty warm at approximately 85 degrees with two space heaters. My favorite heater is the Lasko 5309 (affiliate link). I also make sure that all of the supplies I will need for the session are within arms reach. This includes props, my cart of supplies, and a changing pad for baby that I use when switching backdrops. I have found that my sessions go much smoother when parents remain at a distance. I do allow my clients to peek in during my sessions, but I ask that they stay behind my light (about six feet back from where I work). If baby is extra wakeful, I will politely ask mom if she can step outside the room. Newborns are especially attuned to the scent of their mamas, and sometimes this can keep them up.
3. Have a Game Plan
The biggest mistake I made as a new photographer was not having a clearly defined game plan for each session. I would pull out props I wanted to use, but I found myself having too much of a “go with the flow” mentality when it came to posing. About a year into my journey, I realized that my sessions would go much better if I developed a plan – or workflow – that I would try to follow for each session. Start by creating a list of the poses you really love and can execute with most babies. Put them in an order that makes sense based on the type of supports you use under the blanket to achieve the pose. I start with the pose that uses the least amount of supports, then order the others after that one. Quick tip – try not to flip baby from front to back lots of times. Constantly turning baby will make them wakeful.
Before each session, I will grab a scrap of paper to jot down my everyday workflow plus I will make notes of where I might want to try new angles or a new pose should baby be extra cooperative. I then organize my props in a small basket in the order I will use them in my posing workflow. For my prop images, I will lay out the prop, stuffers, wraps/headbands all together as shown below.
What happens when baby won’t cooperate with your plan? Great questions! This happens to even seasoned photographers. Make sure you keep extra wraps on hand in case baby needs to be swaddled. Don’t be afraid to modify or eliminate a pose if baby resists your attempts to pose them. Remember – the comfort and safety of your little client should be your number on priority!
4. Maximize Each Pose
Here’s a great example on how to maximize a pose with a baby that is more wakeful. This sweet princess preferred to have a wrap on her at all times. I was able to deliver a full gallery to my client by switching up the wrap, headpieces, and angles. In the first image, baby’s arms are in the swaddle to help her feel secure and settled. Once she was sleepy, I carefully worked out one of her hands. For the third image, I added the bunny and pulled the outer portion of the wrap up to hold them together. At this point, she became pretty sleepy so I could work out both of her hands, then flipped her over for the tushie up pose. The last image is created by getting over and close up to her face to capture her sweet profile. For any pose you attempt, try to get a pull-back, close-up, and profile view of the baby.
5. Mind the Details
What separates beginner from established newborn photographer? You may be thinking lots of practice, but I venture to say it is actually attention to details. Here are some things to ask yourself before pressing the shutter:
- Is my backdrop smooth as it can be? Do I see any lumps, bumps, or fuzzy stuff?
- Are baby’s fingers straight and relaxed?
- Is baby’s mouth closed?
- Are the eyebrows relaxed?
- Does baby look comfortable?
By taking a few seconds to pause and run down this checklist, you will save yourself lots of time and frustration in the long run!
I hope you have enjoyed these tips and tricks! For more information on Nestled Workshops, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 688-8723. Each session is limited to two photographers, and you will have the opportunity to customize your time with me to include maternity posing, newborn posing, or a combination of both.