A few years ago I did my very first newborn session. Man was it scary! You are literally dealing with the smallest human beings on the planet who are NOT used to being out of the womb let alone willing to go along with a photo shoot. There is so much that goes on during a newborn shoot behind the scenes that I didn’t know about before I started photographing them. I figured it would be helpful for clients to know what to expect when it comes time to have your little one photographed or if you are a photographer help set you up for success!
Let’s think about the environment your little one just came from as far as the temperature is concerned. It was a constant, comfortable 98.6 degrees with no variation. All that changed as soon as they left the womb. Can you say shock! I hate it when I’m laying in bed all toasty and warm and my husband throws the covers off to wake me up. It is startling and uncomfortable. Babies are in the same boat! They are still trying to get used to the fluctuating temperatures. Most babies like a warmer environment. A small portable space heater next to where you are shooting can do wonders when it comes to keeping the baby comfortable. If baby is warm and happy, chances are they will sleep better and we’ll be able to capture those beautiful sleepy baby images. I find that a space heater works better than a heating pad because it keeps the surrounding air warm not just the blanket they are laying on. Also I am never quite sure how hot the heating pad is against the baby, even if it isn’t in direct contact with their skin. I don’t want to risk it.
Get Some Help
NEVER EVER do a newborn session without someone else there! The baby’s safety should never be compromised. NO picture in the world is worth it. Get someone to help you. This is especially important if you are using a prop of any kind. You never know when those powerful newborn reflexes will kick in. Also be aware that baby is not very strong and has very limited control over their body. Always stabilize the head and neck. This is where an assistant will come in handy. Some popular poses require having the assistant stabilize the head and the photographer using Photoshop to remove the assistant. Remember that the baby’s safety is more important that the time it will take to retouch the photo. Having help will not only contribute to a smoother session, but everyone will be more relaxed knowing that baby is going to be safe. You may be thinking, well I don’t have an assistant to help me. NOT TRUE! Mom and Dad can make great assistants. Don’t be afraid to ask them to come help spot the baby. Keep in mind that Mom just had the baby and may not be able to help. Good communication between you and the parents will make it easier to know if you need to have an assistant or if a parent is able to help.
Keep it Simple
I like a good prop every now and again, but ultimately I like the baby to be the focus. Simple wraps or even just having a parent holding the little one are usually the images that end up being some of my favorite shots. Keeping the backgrounds clean and non-distracting really help keep the attention and focus on the baby. If you or your client has a soft simple blanket with a texture or color that you absolutely love, pull it out! I love when clients use things from their own home. I feel like it makes the photo more meaningful. How fun would it be for your little one to see the photograph of them hanging in the nursery and then be able to go and cuddle up in that same blanket several years later? It is all about the memories.
Be a Baby Expert
Okay so there is no need to go and get a degree in baby development, but it will help to have a better session. Learn the tricks to keeping a baby calm. This can range from white noise, swaddling techniques, learning different baby cries, and shushing techniques. Gripe water can help gassy and fussy babies. A well fed baby will also lead to a happier baby. Did you know that the food’s mom eats can make a big difference in the temperament of the baby if she is nursing? Learn what foods to eat and what to avoid to help your little one, especially in the 24-48 hours before the session.
It Takes Time
Don’t expect this session to be in and out in 30 mins. Like I had said earlier, we are working with the tiniest humans on the planet! Swaddling, shushing, cuddling and then positioning the baby all take time. Not to mention we have to deal with their bodily functions. Plan on a few hours.
Newborn sessions can be so fun, but they are also a lot of work. The final images however, are always worth the time and effort it takes. These are memories that will be cherished forever. Hopefully this tiny bit of behind the scenes info will make mine and your sessions run smoother.