It's funny. I'll often times get other photographer friends look at me with wide eyes when I tell them I love photographing newborns. Why don't they, you might be wondering? Well I think it stems from overwhelm, and maybe not having a lot of experience with babies. I was given my first nephew when I was 13, and since then it's been a steady pace - so I've always been familiar and comfortable around them. That, plus the fact that my first photography gig was with Bella Baby photographing the newborns in the hospitals.
Over the years, I've developed a few points that make photographing this little babes so much easier. Because trust me when I say -- it wasn't always that way! I remember feeling so panicked with each shoot I'd encounter. How do I pose them?! What if they fall asleep? What if they cry the whole time? How do you handle their flailing limbs?! Ha, so much anxiety would go into each and every one of those sessions, but these days it's a whole different ball game. Here's how I made that happen:
1. It will always take longer than you think.
Whenever I have a newborn inquiry, in the collection I list it as: 1 hour of coverage, on site for up to 2 hours. I chose the 1 hour of coverage because in my experience, after 1 hour the baby (and the new parents!) are ready to just be off camera. An hour is a really good amount of time for a photo shoot regardless, but especially when it comes to littles. When I say "on site for up to 2 hours" this is implying that I want the parents to feel comfortable taking a break to feed the baby, to pump, to change any diapers, to console the baby (all great photo opportunities, by the way!) It helps that I don't do the Anne Geddes type of newborn photography either - rather I focus more on lifestyle images reflecting life at home with the baby. So when you photograph this way, you're able to document the every day moments, not just the perfect ones. So, the point is to give yourself, and your clients, some room for real-life scenarios. You'll feel less stressed, they'll feel less stressed, and you'll probably get some really beautiful, authentic photos.
2. Let the baby be a baby. (and make sure your clients understand this, too)
I've had shoots before where the parents are hell-bent on having the baby be awake the entire time. As much as I can appreciate this, newborns sleep. That's just what they do. They're growing constantly, they're exhausted, and if they don't sleep, they're probably going to cry. So instead of fighting the reality of the situation, just let the baby be a baby. 12 years from now when they look at images of themselves as a newborn, they won't think "why aren't my eyes open?" We all know they'll just see a newborn baby doing newborn things. Communicating this with your clients also helps set realistic expectations and avoids any disappointment if their little one refuses to open their eyes.
3. Bring out all the stops.
How many of you have either a) had a newborn session where the baby won't stop crying, or b) have nightmares about booking a newborns session because what if they don't stop crying?!
Fortunately, over the years I've created a little go-to pack of tricks for when and if (mostly when) this happens. First things first, ensure the parents are on the same page and know of these tricks so that they're ready and the tools you'll need are nearby before you start the session. My favorite tool? The vacuum or the blowdryer. If the baby won't stop crying, simply have the parents run the vacuum or the blowdryer within the vicinity of the shoot. Loud noises like these help the baby to feel like they're back in the womb. It's actually quite miraculous how quick and effective this trick is.
If for some reason this doesn't work for you, don't fret. I've got a few more :)
If the baby is a pacifier baby, do the pull out method. Keep the pacifier in their mouth until they've soothed themselves. Once the baby looks relaxed, lightly (but quickly!) have the parents pull out the pacifier and begin shooting. You may only get a few seconds here, or the baby may feel so calm that the rest of your shoot is a breeze. Although this trick can add a bit more time and activity to your session, it works when you're feeling desperate.
Lastly, skin to skin. If that sweet baby can't seem to relax, have the mother expose some of her skin on her chest and have the baby lay on her. For obvious reasons, this works as well - but generally requires some flexibility with the session since parents are often looking for fully clothed images ;) or images just of their little one. This goes back to the second point of just letting the baby be a baby, and honoring how new they are to this world. So again, it's crucial that you communicate with the parents before hand that these things could occur. I'll tell you, though, some of my FAVORITE newborn images that I've taken are of those skin on skin moments. I've had moms in tears over those images, because they're so raw and emotional, and truly tell the story of bringing a baby into the world, and doing all you can to nurture.
For those of you who have photographed newborns in the past, do you have any tips worth sharing? Feel free to leave them in the comments below! x
Photographer. Stylist. Writer.