Thursday, October 14, 2010

How a newborn photography session works

I just proofed a really fun newborn session. As I thought about how it all went, I realized that it might be helpful to new parents considering a newborn session to get a feel for how these sessions work. So I thought I'd talk about it a bit.

First of all, the younger the baby is, the easier he or she is to work with. They curl up easier and they sleep longer and more soundly. (In general. Everything to do with newborns is different! But this is usually true.) So when people call me with a 2 week old.... I am always sure to warn them that we'll get something they like, but it's hard to predict how well an "older" baby will sleep. I usually suggest newborn portraits be done at 10 days old or younger, and I'm thrilled when I can get a 3 or 4 day old baby!

This darling little guy was 12 days old. I've never seen long blond hair like this before! He arrived asleep in his carseat. We carefully moved him to a blanket, where we got a couple quick sleeping pictures.
Professional portrait of a sleeping newborn baby in Albuquerque

And he immediately woke up. This is pretty typical of what happens when you bring a baby asleep in his or her carseat. Now I do really like to get some awake pictures too, and he has especially nice bright focused eyes, so I love these.
Professional portrait of a newborn baby in Albuquerque

But his mom had something specific in mind that she really wanted. And for that we needed him to sleep. You can do lots of cute things with newborns awake, but they don't hold a pose :) so for some pictures I just need them to sleep. His mom fed him for awhile, he was sleeping nicely, but when we put him down he woke right up. Repeat. :) (This is really normal.) I am pretty good at getting newborns to sleep, but he slept so lightly that even uncovering him woke him up every time. We were running out of time - by this time it had been about 90 minutes, and we hadn't even come close to getting the shot his mom came for. Some parents aren't prepared for newborn sessions to take a looooooong time, and it can be frustrating when the baby just doesn't sleep soundly enough to move. It always works eventually if we have enough time and patience!

Eventually his mom fed him again and we moved really fast. Just in case, I got a quick picture on the suitcase covered :)...
Professional portrait of a newborn baby lying on a suitcase in Albuquerque

but he kept sleeping and we got the perfect image! I love it.
Professional photo of a newborn baby sleeping on a suitcase in Albuquerque

His mom had seen this baby announcement on my website and wanted the suitcase picture to go with it. (BTW I never post real names...)
Custom designed baby announcement

She also wanted to try the cocoon, and he kept sweetly sleeping for some great pictures.
Professional photo of a sleeping newborn baby

Professional photo of a sleeping newborn baby

Then he coughed and spit up about a cup of milk, soaked everything, and woke up. Very wide awake. This is normal. :) I just plan to wash all the blankets, etc., that I use after each newborn. Especially when we do naked pictures it's best to expect things to get wet. Sometimes parents are uncomfortable with that but please realize it almost always happens.

Anyway, he was perfectly happy awake, so we took some lovely pictures with his mom.
Professional portrait of a newborn baby boy Albuquerque

Professional portrait of a newborn baby boy Albuquerque

Professional portrait of a newborn baby boy yawning Albuquerque

Professional photo of newborn baby feet Albuquerque

Professional photo of newborn baby hands Albuquerque

Professional portrait of a newborn's back Albuquerque

Professional portrait of a newborn baby and his mother in Albuquerque

And since he was still happy, we did a few more with his fun polka-dot blanket (I need to get some polka dots, I love them).
Professional portrait of a newborn baby in a polka dot blanket

And since he was STILL happy I grabbed his darling sister and had her hold him for a few pictures.
Professional photo of a newborn baby and his sister Albuquerque

Professional photo of a newborn baby and his sister Albuquerque

So there are a few things I would like prospective newborn clients to know.

1 - Newborn portraits take some time. Sometimes a lot of time. Bring lunch! :) On photography forums I see photographers who take 6 hours for a newborn session. I've never done that, but it always takes longer than people expect.

2 - If you have a pose in mind, great! Let me know and we'll focus on getting that first. But newborn sessions are unpredictable - I never get everything done that I want to. I make sure that we get as much of a variety of poses and setups as your baby can do. I love it when parents bring props - a baby tutu, shoes, a toy, a football, a special blanket, etc. We'll use those first.

3 - Don't get frustrated if Baby has a hard time getting to sleep. Bring a book! I always get them to sleep eventually, given enough time. I've found it's best to bring a wakeful, hungry baby to a newborn session. You can feed him or her here, and hopefully that will lead to a nice long restful sleep. It doesn't always work but it's more likely to than most other methods. (I do sometimes do newborn sessions at the family's home. But I find most people like to bring their babies to me - that way I have all my props, the light is predictable, and they don't have to clean up their living rooms. :) )

4 - If you have other children you'd like to have with the baby in pictures, I usually do that first. I suggest simple clothes, and if the baby is awake I don't try to put him or her to sleep. Then when the sibling(s) are done, it's sometimes helpful to have a grandparent or someone else to take them home. That way if the session is taking a long time (see above!) it doesn't stress anyone out. That said, this baby's older sister played very happily with my daughter, and they both had a great time. (As a side note, there was leftover cake from a birthday party 3 days before up in our outside playhouse - which obviously I didn't know about - and they ate it! My apologies to her mom.)

5 - As in the pictures above, I like to use parents as a prop to hold their baby. I suggest wearing a long-sleeved black shirt, and we pose you in front of the black backdrop. Then the focus of the portrait is your hands and the baby's skin. Beautiful! Sometimes I get moms' faces (even when they don't think they want to have their face in the picture, they usually love it).

If you are interested in newborn portraiture, please contact me before your baby is born if possible. Unless you have a specific induction or c-section date, we obviously can't set a specific session date. But I can be planning ahead, and be ready when Baby is born. I love being on new parents' hospital call list! :) Newborn photography is so unique - it's such a fleeting time of life, a precious and rewarding time to capture. Please call or email me if you have any questions. I also have a bunch more newborn sessions, along with some info on my baby plan options, on this blog page.

I offer four different options for baby photography collections. If you are interested for yourself, or if you have a friend or family member you might like to gift a collection to, I have an online magazine with more information that you might like to see. You can send me your email address below and I will email you a link right away.

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  1. Great, informative post! I love the money shot you worked so hard for too! He is really cute, and I can't believe I am going to say this...but I WANT ONE! Of course not for awhile...but I've never looked at babies with longing that's really not like me.

  2. Beautiful shots and he is adorable!

  3. I love this!!!!!!! You are the best and thanks again for getting some really great shots!!! :)Baby boys mom!