Newborn photography seems to be one genre that photographers either really love or really don’t–and they tend to figure that out fairly quickly! I’m one that loves it. There is just something so magical about the first few days of a baby’s life at home that I love being able to capture. In the first of this two-part series, I’ll be going over a few tips on setting yourself up for success with newborn photography.
What to Bring
I’m always striving for natural, simple, timeless photos, but especially when the subject is a newborn. Because of this, I tend to avoid using lots of props, giant headbands, or outfit changes. Most of my photos are done with the baby in either just a diaper or a simple, white onesie. I much prefer this timeless look, but I’m always happy to comply with any requests from the parents.
To change things up, I do usually bring a few soft, textured blankets (either in white or light colors). I also use whatever the parents have on hand–blankets given as gifts or anything special from their nursery. I want the photos to be personalized however possible. I also bring extra blankets for layering and padding, a large beanbag and/or a boppy pillow
(more on how those are used in next month’s article), and a space heater. I let the parents know ahead of time that it’s helpful to have a few things on hand such as a pacifier, wet wipes, extra diapers, and anything else that will help keep their baby happy.
The most important thing you’ll need as a newborn photographer is PATIENCE. Newborns tend to be pretty unpredictable. They sleep, wake, cry and eat when they feel like it and there’s not much we can do to control it. So when I schedule a newborn session, I block out a few hours and make sure to tell the parents to do the same.
When I arrive at the client’s home, I emphasize that I am not at all in a hurry and that we will go by the baby’s schedule. This relaxes the parents, who are worried that their baby will be uncooperative and ”difficult.” I want them to know that all babies require a bit of patience and I’ll be able to get beautiful images no matter what. We take breaks for nursing or diaper changes and take all the time needed to get the baby to sleep.
However, if hours pass and things just aren’t going well, the parents (and baby) might just need a break. You can give them the option of trying again another day when you just can’t get what you need. This is just part of the unpredictability of newborn sessions and I want to be as flexible as possible to keep the parents feeling relaxed and taken care of.
Getting the Baby to Sleep
I always hope to photograph the baby both asleep and awake. The family portraits and environmental shots are much more fun with a happy, awake baby, but for the type of individual portraits I want, it’s easiest if the baby is deeply asleep. This is usually the hardest part and what causes the most stress for the mom and photographer. It may take a while to get the baby to that deeply sleeping stage, but once he’s there, you can move him pretty much however you need to get the shots you’re going for–and he’ll stay asleep. Even if it takes 45 minutes to get him to a deep state of sleep, it’s worth it when you can get the next shots done very quickly.
A quiet, calm environment is so important for this reason, so here are a few tricks to get that baby to sleep:
- Using a white noise app on your phone, running water in the tub, or turning on the vacuum can be comforting for a baby who is used to similar noises in the womb. Sometimes even the shutter on the camera startles babies, so having noise to cover other sounds definitely helps.
- With an exposed baby, you’re going to want the home very warm. Suggest turning up the heat in the house or use a space heater directed towards the baby.
- On the same note, keep your hands warm. Nothing is as unpleasantly surprising to a sleeping baby (or anyone, for that matter) as cold hands on bare skin!
- I’ve found that some babies seem to be hypnotized just by running my hand down the bridge of their nose. They’ll close their eyes and sometimes just keep them closed until they’re out!
- If the mom is stressed and you’re comfortable with this, try rocking the baby to sleep yourself. Babies can sense anxiety and tend to respond in kind, so if you notice the mom tensing up, offer to take over for a few minutes.
I love newborn photography, as it’s such a fleeting time for new parents and provides such sweet images of a new life. Though it takes time, patience and practice, it can be some of the most rewarding work you’ll do. Whether you’re just starting out in this field or have a bit of experience with newborns, I hope this article provided a few of these tips you can use in your next session.
Be sure to check in next month for Part Two–I’ll be going into more depth on posing newborns, plus the specific images I’m looking for during a session and how to get them!
Kristin Brown is a wedding, birth, and portrait photographer in Northern California where she lives with her husband, Kenny, and a kitten named Pip. She believes in simple living and meaningful connection. She loves writing, wishes she lived in Paris, and is always finding excuses to bake cookies. She blogs at www.kristinbrownphotography.com/blog