When it comes to nursing, we tell new mothers that as newborns, for the first four to six weeks of life, babies don’t have a schedule. So having an extra feed during a photo shoot isn’t going to mess up their plan or make them less hungry for their next bottle. If baby needs soothing because the photo session is out of the ordinary (baskets, naked bodies, bright flashes of light, etc.), it isn’t going to hurt anyone to let baby nurse an extra time or two.”
Take a look at these baby photoshoots compiled by Bored Panda for example. They look so simple, right? What could be so hard about getting a nice picture of your newborn kid lying on a rug or sleeping in a bowl of gumballs? Well, everything actually…
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All of that being said, you should never pull on the umbilical cord; its job is to fall off naturally.”
Did you take newborn photos? What advice do you have for other parents?
Have other newborn photography questions? We’ll find the answers for you! Comment below with the questions you’re dying to ask.
“Babies are super-susceptible to germs. The thing to remember is that any type of illness can be dangerous for a newborn to get. What may seem like just a little head cold for you could be RSV for a newborn. So, if you’re going near someone else’s baby, hand-washing is an absolute must.
With my twins we have so many outtakes, and it’s funny to look at them in sequence because they tell a story of my baby girl getting fed up and finally baby boy joining in the fuss. You’ll laugh at these later, so don’t worry about the photos that don’t turn out as you hoped. That said, you’ll usually wind up with several shots that will work as mementos, even if you might not consider them canvas-worthy.
We sat down with Anna Walters BSN, RN, a registered nurse here in Atlanta who works at the biggest maternity hospital on the East Coast. She handles babies within minutes of their birth and was happy to share her most intimate knowledge of these precious little beings. Anna gave us the lowdown on how bad it really is (or isn’t) to do the things so many of us are all secretly doing at newborn shoots every day.
“Babies are actually super resilient. A lot of people think they need to be handled like an egg, like they’re going to crack at any moment. Of course, you have to be careful, and gentle. But if you think about what they go through to be born, and how they’ve spent the last nine months of their lives, it makes sense that they can be comfortably moved and curled up and posed. All of the bendy things that photographers like to do with newborns, that’s what they’ve been doing in the womb.”
Proper hand-washing is 20 seconds of friction, warm water, and soap, and you should wash your hands before you come into contact with the baby. But then, during the session, hand sanitizer should also be used. For example, your phone is full of germs. When mom is nursing and you’re checking your messages or when you’re snapping a behind-the-scenes photo, you’re potentially transferring hundreds of germs back to your hands. You must use hand sanitizer before you touch the baby again.”
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Ready to kick your newborn photography business into high gear?
Pinterest is full of beautiful pictures that provide inspiration for people all over the world. But it’s easy to forget the amount of hard work, good luck, digital wizardry and skill that goes into creating a perfect photograph, and only when you try to recreate them for yourself do you realize that, well, it isn’t quite as easy as it seems.
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“Pacifiers are such a hot topic! Our lactation specialists, despite widespread belief, do not disapprove of pacifiers for healthy newborns. Sucking is a natural reflex for babies. They’re born knowing how to do it and it’s not only for nutritive purposes, it’s also a soothing mechanism. So, a pacifier can certainly help baby (and even give Mom some sanity!), but even if Mom didn’t want to keep continuing using it on a daily basis, it could be a lifesaver for an hour or two during a photography shoot. That session would likely be over just that much faster if baby is allowed to pop that pacifier in, be soothed, and take some pictures.
How bad is it… to pick up a newborn without supporting his head?
Photography is one of the things I’d love to be good at. Newborn photography is so precious and such a big thing right now. I love looking up “newborn photo props” on Etsy and seeing all the things people come up with. For some reason, my husband and I went the DIY route with newborn pictures. With two babies, it was definitely an adventure! Here are my tips — take it from someone who tried it herself with less than stellar results and learn something useful!
“The neck and head of a newborn are so important to protect. Newborns have zero neck control other than when they make their own little efforts to raise their head every now and again. You definitely want to be aware of that, and always have a hand behind their head. It’s important when holding or carrying or moving a newborn that you don’t make any jerky-type movements.”
They say it’s best when newborns are between five days and two weeks old. This is true. The reasons for this are that the babies tend to be very sleepy still, which works well, and they are also very ‘pliable.’ They will sleep right through your manipulations and not fight you on it. Our babies were a little over two weeks and there was always one awake. They also liked to fight us and each other.
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“As long as you’re putting baby in a natural position and not forcing her body into awkward poses, you’re propping the head and neck securely, and padding up the basket and protecting baby from any sharp corners, sharp edges, or anything scratchy, these types of poses can be okay. However, a newborn shouldn’t ever be left alone, or expected to hold her head up or sit “upright” or “lean” on things. You have to remember that their safety is always the first priority.”
“It goes back to germs again. I think you can never be too careful. If you have something you’re wrapping their whole body in and it’s coming in a lot of contact with them, it should be washed before you use it on the next baby. I would bet that most blankets are going to get pooped and peed on anyway!”
How bad is it… to skip washing blankets and wraps in between newborn sessions?
Whether you’ve been a newborn photographer for years or you’re just beginning to dabble in the world of babies, you’ve likely had questions that you’re too nervous / too ashamed / too embarrassed to ask. Always your friend in the business, we decided to take matters into our own hands and ask them for you!
Unless you’re really proficient with photo editing software, you may want to avoid naked shots. Diapers leave wrinkly impressions on the skin, and leaving your baby (or in my case, babies!) naked can result in messes. It’s hard being mom, photographer and clean up crew all in one. I’d suggest leaving the diapers on and covering with some artful swathes of fabric.
“Whooping Cough (Pertussis) has made a comeback in recent times, and it’s highly contagious and can be deadly to a newborn. At the bare minimum, we recommend that all adults that are going to be around a newborn (especially a photographer, who can come into contact with multiple newborns and their family members) have an updated Tdap.”
Plan out the poses you want to use, with some alternatives if your model is less than cooperative. Know exactly where you’d like to take the pictures, and even take some test shots beforehand, so you know what to expect. The area of the house I’d chosen had really poor light and cast a bunch of shadows. I wasted a lot of time by thinking I could wing it.
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How bad is it… to start a session without washing your hands?
How bad is it… to use a pacifier (or let Mom keep nursing) during the session?
“There are certain cultural or religious reasons why a photographer (or a parent) may not want to take photos of a newborn, but that’s a different subject. For me, the reason photographing a naked baby is risky is because keeping a newborn warm is one of the most important things you can do for him or her. One of their hardest jobs is regulating temperature; that and eating are the two things that burn all of their energy! Mom has been keeping them warm like an oven for nine months, so being stark naked out in the cool air can be unsettling. Obviously, it’s more comfortable for them to be warm and they’ll be more likely to stay asleep or stay “posed” for you. But it’s important for you to make it warm for them versus forcing their bodies to keep themselves warm. When newborn photographers have it like sweatbox in their studios, it’s actually for a good reason!”
“The remaining bit of umbilical cord itself doesn’t hurt; it’s like hair or a fingernail, so there’s no feeling in it. Sometimes the skin around it can look red, but most of the time that’s just from the drying process. If you see that the skin is a little irritated, you can be extra gentle just because it can be a little sensitive to the touch. But temporarily wrapping baby’s torso or putting clothing or a blanket on the belly button area won’t hurt the average newborn.
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Focus on a few key poses and keep your expectations low! Many adorable newborn poses are actually Photoshopped — for example, the head in hands pose and some of the shots where babies hang from trees. Keep your baby safe and stick to what you can do yourself. Neutral backgrounds and minimal props will make things easiest (also during the editing phase). One “prop” I would recommend are the cheesecloth-type wraps used for swaddling, available in many different colors. We just used plain white Aden+Anais swaddle cloths, but it would’ve been nice to have some color in there.