Q&A’s in Newborn Photography
your most frequently asked questions about newborn photography, answered!
Throughout my years as a newborn photographer, I have been asked the same questions over and over by both fellow baby photographers and new parents. I thought it might be fun to come up with a cool and interactive blog post tackling these Q&A’s in Newborn Photography! I have collected a variety of questions asked on my Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as emails and PM’s.
Here you go, folks – your most common questions, answered! Let’s get started!
How do you calm fussy babies without the use of a pacifier? I don’t do many newborns anymore, but I have had parents that don’t want to use a paci and it makes it so much more difficult? Any tricks?
Ah, great question! I know from experience that some newborns just need to suck for comfort. My first daughter would have been permanently glued to the boob had I not introduced her to the pacifier. She was quite a colicky, anxious baby, and needed that extra comfort. Anyhow, I always have new packages of Soothie brand pacifiers on hand in case a parent does not have one in their diaper bag. I will ask the parent if they wish to give it a shot if I find it will be helpful, but in the end, I absolutely respect a parent’s decision to use or not use a pacifier during our session. Soothing a fussy newborn involves many different techniques. Sucking is absolutely one of them, and perhaps one of the most important ones, but besides using a pacifier, I find that a very tight swaddle works wonders as well. I use a stretchy material and bring baby’s arms and legs to their belly, then comfortably but tightly wrap them. If baby calms, I will bring one or both hands up close to baby’s chin for a few cute fingers to be included until baby is calm enough to unswaddle and pose. I also use a BabyShusher, which is a hand-held device that emits the shhhhhh sound repeatedly. It’s on a timer, so it also helps me keep track of time during a newborn session. Temperature is also important. As baby is usually undressed for the session, keeping the studio at a warm 80-85 degrees is a good idea. Rocking and jiggling are important too… rhythmic motion mimics being in mommy’s tummy, so newborns find it comforting. If in the middle of posing and baby wakes up, I firmly hold baby’s bottom and give it a rhythmic jiggle. I also very gently and slowly rock baby’s head back and forth to lull them back to sleep.
How do you get babies to look so bendy?! I know that’s naturally how they are but I get so nervous to bend them!
What I love about newborn photography is that I can recreate posing that mimics life in the womb. Newborns are so tiny and bendy for a short while after birth. If you think about how a baby is so compacted inside the womb, it’s amazing! Toes resting on cheeks, sucking on kneecaps… it’s crazy how bendy a baby is inside the womb! It’s of course important to never place a newborn in a position that would be uncomfortable. In posing, I always think about how a newborn would be scrunched up in the womb and follow poses that recreate a similar position. Also a lot of that ‘bendy’ look is just a matter of tilting baby’s head ever so slightly and achieving a particular angle while shooting to give the illusion that they are Gumbi.
How long do you usually spend on a typical full newborn session?
For a full newborn session, I usually always take up the full session time, which is three hours. Most of the time, this also includes sibling (toddler) and family portraits as well. I recommend to my families welcoming their 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 17th newborn to plan on arriving to the studio in two separate cars, or having a helper drive separately. I work on those sibling and family shots within the first 20-40 minutes, then have dad, a helper or family member bring the older siblings to the park or back home while mom and I remain with baby in order to work on our newborn posing. A three hour session gives baby plenty of time to take feeding breaks, which typically occur 1-3 times during a session. I always HIGHLY recommend to parents to make sure that baby is fully fed before leaving for the studio, then arriving to the studio 15 minutes prior to our scheduled session in order to top baby off. I ask that newborns be ‘Thanksgiving Day’ full at the start of our session – this ensures a happy, satisfied newborn. I typically have my different ‘stations’ ready to go at the beginning of the session, accounting for all of the possibilities. Here are some of these possibilities and my go-to plan at the start of the session: Baby is awake and fussy – tight swaddle on flokati rug, beanbag and/or comfy box prop. Baby is awake but calm and alert – half swaddle (legs and hands are posed but untucked) on the rug, beanbag or prop. Baby is asleep but startles easily – beanbag poses with a firm and comforting hand on baby at all times (well except for when I take the shot, of course). Baby is totally asleep in la-la land – prop and beanbag posing. All of these ‘stations’ are ready to go at the beginning of the session, so that I can follow baby’s cues and take it from there.
How do you get those cute poses in those adorable chairs?! So Cute!
Ahh, my newborn chair! I love that thing! I use it all the time, even with newborns that are wide awake! For sleepy newborns, it’s pretty simple – I create the pose that I want while holding baby in my hands – I like to have one hand at baby’s face, resting on the chair while the other is not visible (it’s comfortably tucked behind baby), and one leg dangling off of the chair. This is my go-to pose. I carefully place baby in this position onto the chair and gently rock the chair and baby with both hands until baby is relaxed and asleep in that position. For newborns that are awake, I tightly swaddle baby, and use a couple of rolled up wraps that I secretly tuck away behind baby in order for baby to comfortably rest on the chair.
I’d love to know how your light is so soft and natural looking? It’s perfect for highlighting their delicate little features!
I switched to studio lighting a couple of years ago. I LOVE natural light, but my studio has windows that are too high on the wall to cast even lighting on my babies that are down low to the ground, so my Alien Bee and large soft box is a lifesaver! I love the combo of dramatic but soft lighting. For this, I usually have my light directed to the side of baby’s face. If I happen to have baby’s body in a particular pose and only move baby’s face, I always make sure that my light still parallel to baby’s face. My editing style is pretty soft and includes adding a few light hues to create a dreamy and sweet image.
How many different poses do you typically get done in a newborn session?
It really depends on each individual newborn! During full sessions, I always aim to include family, so I will always get one + of baby with sibling, one + of the entire family, one + of mom with baby, and one + of dad and baby. For individual posing, I have a workflow that I typically follow for each of my ‘stations’. For example, if I start with beanbag poses, I usually begin with the froggy pose, then move baby into the taco pose, then the ‘bum up’ pose, then the hands rested on arms pose. Then I carefully flip baby to his/her back and get some semi-swaddled ‘gumball’ poses. I move away from the beanbag to the next set, which is usually dictated by baby… if baby stays asleep, then I move onto prop posing – I have a couple of props ready to go where I achieve a few different angles of baby resting his/her head on his/her arms inside a crate, basket or box, then move on from there. During a full newborn session, I always get a few shots with each of these stations: colorful rug, beanbag, prop, with parents. The variety within each station depends on baby’s sleepiness, but regardless of if they are sleepy or wide awake, I always achieve a variety within these stations.
Is it as easy as it looks?
Well, newborn sessions require a lot of patience and knowledge of how to handle newborns. Knowing how to calm a fussy baby is key, and being consistent and confident if your method is important. When I first started out, I would come home super drained and unsure of myself, always wondering what else I could include in my session to make it go smoothly. I am always learning and incorporating new tidbits that I learn along the way, but I LOVE what I do and definitely know that I have the patience, skill and imagination it takes to create a calm and artistic environment for baby during our session.
How did you start in newborn photography and what drew you to it?
Ahh, great question! So… 11 years ago, I was a High School French teacher and photography was not even a hobby of mine at the time. I had a point and shoot camera, like all of us did before our iPhones could do better, lol. Anyways, my first daughter, Ava, was born. Clueless me did not know the value of photography, as these crazy (yet probably not that uncommon) words came out of my mouth in talking about having newborn photos done: “I don’t need to spend money on a professional photographer – I can totally do this myself!” So, off I went on a journey to copy what the pros could do… I took Ava, placed her on my bed on a pink blanket, with nothing but a floor lamp to illuminate this precious baby (keep in mind it was BEHIND her) at 9pm at night. I snapped and snapped away. Ohh, I was rockin’ it… so I thought. Next up came that famous ‘newborn in daddy’s arms’ pose. Oh I was good… haha. I handed Ava over to her dad and had her lay out, tummy down, across his left arm. I didn’t have a backdrop, so her nursery wall did the trick. I had heard of this thing called ‘Photoshop’ and was stoked to get my hands of a free 30-day trial just to magically edit these beauties and show the world that I too, was a ‘professional newborn photographer’. Ha. I sucked. Like, really, really bad. I mean, I will always cherish these ‘gems’ because they are of my sweet girl, but holy cow, they were terrible! I should have hired a professional. Anyhow, that 30-day trial of Photoshop expired, and I thought, hmmmm, I LOVE newborns, and although I sucked at Ava’s session, I would love to learn how to actually use a camera and to pose newborns! So, I gathered my birthday money, and headed off to Best Buy, where I purchased my first entry-level Nikon d-40x with a 50 mm 1.8 lens. This was the start for me…
How do you prep parents for longer shoots?
I send every newborn client this exact preparation guide before our session. Parent involvement can make or break a session, so it is SO important to follow these recommendations:
Please be sure to feed baby fully right before our session. I am typically in the studio about 15 minutes before our session, so please feel free to come in so that you can feed baby while I set up, so that we can begin right away with a sleepy, happy baby. It is important that baby be fully fed – we want baby to be ‘Thanksgiving Day Full’ to ensure a happy and comfortable sleep and session.
The use of a pacifier during our session may help our session run more smoothly, in the event that baby might need additional soothing during our session. A pacifier will help a baby that might not be hungry but needs to be soothed back to a comfortable sleep. I highly recommend bringing one along to our session, just in case.
Although we will focus on baby during our session, I love capturing baby with his/her family. If you wish to be included in a couple of images with your new little one, I recommend wearing a neutral or natural, solid colored top. We will work these images into the beginning of our session.