Successful Newborn Sessions
Successful Newborn Sessions
Friday, October 1st, 2010 at 11:24 am
Newborn photography has been receiving a lot of hype lately. What started with Anne Geddes’ approach to embracing the newborn’s fresh, new, and curled look, has exploded into a thriving portion of the photography industry. see photo 1
When I first began photographing newborns seven years ago, I found a niche that wasn’t covered much on the East Coast, and I went with it. I enjoyed the challenge. Now we look around and newborn photographers are popping up everywhere, so we all know that baby photography has become quite popular.
Comfort is Key
Photographing newborns isn’t as simple as pose and click. Babies obviously do not take direction, and are ruled by their stomach and their comfort. I remember the first time I arrived at a shoot to find a screaming newborn, and two young parents that had no idea what to do to make their baby stop crying. I immediately recognized this baby as colicky, but moreso, I recognized the despair on the parents’ faces, and as I didn’t have much experience photographing newborns, I wasn’t sure how I could reassure them that we would get this. Four hours later, I was exhausted and knew there had to be another way. This was one of the first newborn sessions I had, and I about threw the towel in right there. The next newborn session I did after that, made up for it with a baby that slept the entire two hours. Those two sessions were the extremes, and they occurred back to back. What a great slap-in-your-face introduction into newborn portrait photography.
Every Session is Unique
When approaching newborn photography, the first fact that you have to acknowledge is every baby is different. You cannot predict or control what occurs during each session. If anyone tells you differently, they haven’t been in the business long and haven’t experienced all types of babies. Approach your newborn sessions with an open mind and a relaxed demeanor. There are certain key things you can do to keep your sessions running smoothly. See photo 2
If you remain relaxed, the parents will relax. If the baby is extra fussy or colicky, reassure the parents that this is normal (even if it isn’t very normal). The parents must relax. If you notice they aren’t able to relax and calm the baby, ask the parents if you can take him and rock him. Make sure mom has given him a full belly (full belly is of most importance during the session) and swaddle him up. I feel that many times when I take the baby from the parents, I can sooth him more quickly because he doesn’t know me, and I don’t smell like mom, so he kind of wants to shut me out.
Be clear on parent expectations. Explain ahead of time that the session will be mostly feeding and soothing, and less time photographing. Explain that there will be messes with diaperless babies, and that is okay, you deal with this all the time. Establish at the very beginning, what are the parents’ preferences as far as background colors, props, family images, sibling images, etc. Ask them specifically, what are the “must have shots” and design your session around that.
Heat it Up
The room that you work in must be kept extremely warm. I don’t work very well under extreme temperatures, but I do keep my thermostat in the shooting room to 78 degrees, and I keep a heater that blows warm air near the baby, aimed at the baby’s bare behind, never at their face. They like to be warmed from the bottom up. The heater also acts as white noise as well as a hand warmer when your hands are chilly and you must pose the baby. A big caution: DO NOT use heating pads under babies. This is very dangerous.
Posing a Newborn
Observe the baby. While you may have a pose that you typically like, not all babies will pose the same. Find her natural position, the position she was in while in the womb. This position will be the one that she automatically curls into when you lie her on her back or side. Embrace each baby’s differences. A footling breech may constantly be putting a foot out in front of them. This can be adorable, shoot it! A frank breech baby may keep both feet up by their face. A normal positioned baby may do a gorgeous tight little curl. When positioning, if he/she starts to fuss, do a quick check to make sure all limbs are the correct color (dark red/purple can indicate circulation being cut off), and then back out of the pose if there aren’t any obvious discomforts. Some babies just do not like certain positions. Never force a position. See photo 4
Establish realistic expectations for yourself. Are you wanting to impress your photography peers or are you wanting to run your business and get a really nice sale? With all the one-upping amongst the newborn photographers for the new and latest poses, ask yourself – do the parents really want this? Or is it just me that wants this? What if the baby doesn’t sleep? Well why would you fight it? Photograph her awake! Parents love awake shots more than our favorite curled sleeping shots. See photo 5
I begin every session running down the parents’ expectations and “must haves” including preparing any props that are important to the parents. I photograph the baby curled sleeping, awake, with props, with mom and dad, and with siblings. My newborn sessions do not go over 2 hours. Let’s face it, the parents have lives, and they don’t necessarily want to be sitting with you for 4 hours. You also have to weigh in the fact that you are running a business. The more hours you take photographing, the less profit you turn. Spending all your time on one-upping is not a successful business foundation. I fulfill a nice newborn session that the parents will be thrilled with, and if I have extra time after capturing all the “must haves”, and the baby is very cooperative, that and that only is the time I bring out the extra props or ideas. See photo 6
Dispose of the myths
Myth #357: Babies must be photographed before they are 2 weeks old. While I like photographing babies at 7-10 days old, again, I am running a busy studio and fit them into the schedule as early as I can, preferably in that time-frame. However, sometimes, the parents don’t call me early enough or there are some scheduling conflicts. I do not turn babies away. I’ve had great luck with babies up to 6 weeks old, getting them to curl when they are asleep to look like newborns. This baby on the saddle was 5 weeks old. See photo 7
While there are many more tips and tricks to photographing newborns, these are some very important keys to successful newborn sessions.
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