I’ve been working with a lot of sweet babies lately, and I thought it might be cool to share with you everything that goes into one of these sessions. The truth is, newborn sessions are unlike any other type of photography session. I can’t think of any other time when you actually WANT your client to fall asleep while you’re working with them. Newborn photography takes more than just camera knowledge and posing skills. You have to learn to be a baby whisperer.
The Prep Work
Before the session day though, there’s a lot of planning that goes into preparing for the session. I’ll discuss with the parents what kind of colors they’re using in their nursery and choose backdrops and props that coordinate well with their colors. The last thing you’d want is a beautiful newborn photo that’s in bright yellow when your walls and colors are more neutral and subdued. Often, I’ll go shopping for some new props that tie in well with their décor.
A few days before the session, I’ll send the parents an email with instructions on what time to wake up their baby the morning of the session. We always strive for two hours before the session, so baby is nice and sleepy by the time I get there. I’ll have mom or dad feed and change the baby right before I get there, as well. We’ll also have a space heater going right near the beanbag setup, to make it nice and cozy. We are constantly stacking the odds in our favor to get a sleeping baby who is ready to be posed.
I’ll also ask my clients ahead of time if there’s anything special they wanted to include in their photos, like a special blanket or a family heirloom.
The night before each session, I’ll get all my equipment and props together and coordinate what colors I’m going to use with each prop. That way, when I get to a client’s home, I can get setup and immediately start working and not keep a sleepy baby waiting. My husband Justin says I have a tendency to agonize over which props to bring, and he’s totally right. I know I want to be making that decision before I get to the client’s home and before the morning of the shoot. Otherwise, indecision gets the best of me, and I bring way too many choices. Too many choices can sometimes be worse than not having enough choices. The last thing I want to be doing is asking an exhausted parent to make those calls. After all, I’m the one who knows how these things will photograph and what the colors will actually look like in the image. So I only bring a few things that I know will coordinate well together.
The Day of the Session
We set aside three hours for newborn sessions, so there’s plenty of time for diaper changes, feedings, and wrap/outfit changes. As long as the parents have followed the instructions to wake up baby two hours beforehand, we can almost guarantee the baby is going to fall asleep at some point during those three hours. Some babies will sleep really well through the session no matter what, but the majority of the time, we’re doing a lot of feeding the baby and swaddling to settle them. Most of the time, it takes the full three hours. Every once in a while, we’re done in two, but those are the exceptions to the rule.
I always start out with a swaddle, because it helps calm the baby’s startle reflexes, which are so strong during those first few weeks. Most of the time, we will do beanbag photos first. Occasionally, we’ll do family photos first, if one of the parents has to leave for work halfway through the session. Sometimes, we do family photos first because baby just isn’t feeling the beanbag yet. Really, I work around the baby. He or she is the real client, so if baby is happy, everybody’s happy.
Once we’re done with beanbag photos, we’ll move on to props. I like to set my props up close together, so we can move through them relatively quickly. I really love using furniture in the client’s home as backgrounds. It gives a reference point for how much a child has grown. That way, the parents can keep taking a photo of their child in front of that piece, and it creates a really cool sequence.
If we haven’t already done family photos, we’ll do those at the end. In addition to some posed photos, I really love to capture photos that show what everyday life looks like with a newborn, whether that be rocking baby between photos or snuggling up on the couch. We can leave out the sleep-deprived photos though!
After the Session
It takes me typically three weeks to go through and edit the best of the best from a newborn session. Sometimes, the Photoshop work is minimal, and sometimes it’s a little more extensive – like if the baby has peeling skin or a clogged tear duct. I never know how much editing is going to be required until I open the files on my computer and see for myself. I never want to rush through them. A session can take anywhere from 6-8 hours to edit from start to finish.
Once the photos are finished, I’ll upload them to an online preview gallery. I never tell my clients this, but I also make an Animoto slideshow of my favorite photos. It’s something sweet for them to look back on over the years, and it’s really the way I want them to see the images first. I’ve been using Animoto for years, and they make it so easy to give your clients something truly beautiful. Love them!
I am a BIG advocate of printing your images in a big and beautiful way. That’s why all of my packages include a print credit for wall art, albums, or keepsakes. Your family’s most prized photos don’t belong simply in digital format. They should be something you can hold on to and enjoy every single day.
If You’ve Read This Far…
I am truly impressed! Isn’t it time to contact me about your session though? Click here!