“Some good things to bring are pacifiers, a change of clothes for yourself (if you’re going to be in the photos holding a naked baby you might get pooped on), some extra diapers and wipes, extra formula or bottles if you are not breastfeeding, and any special blankets or toys that you want included in the photos.”
Tags : photography, newborn, newborn-photography, Amore-Baby-Portraits, Baby-Axioo-Photography, Smallbites-by-Rittar
Award-winning newborn photographer and founder of Smallbites by Rittar, Rittar Rajagukguk, suggested parents conduct their own research before making an appointment as every photographer has their own signature style. “After doing research, you can later choose the photographer [that suits your preferences] and [feel safer] knowing that it will done by professionals,” reasoned Rittar.
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So in summary, I would suggest you take your time setting up as a newborn photographer. Research good training, and consider that in this area especially, you get what you pay for.
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A newborn baby poses for the camera. (Amore Baby Portraits/Shinka Moeharjo)
For babies aged 21 days and above, some poses may not be possible.
So having decided it’s for you, you’ll have a huge number of questions. Here I aim to answer some of the biggest, and most important ones.
“Studio sessions typically last 3-4 hours which includes portraits of the baby on his or her own and then with each parent and then the whole family together. That may seem like a long time, but usually about half of that time is spent feeding and comforting the baby to get him or her as sleepy and happy as possible for the portraits.”
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7. What Do You Do To Make Sure The Baby Is Comfortable? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
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4. How Long Does A Session Take? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
So that covers not doing a session too late, but you need to know why doing it too early isn’t good either. Newborns don’t usually look their best after birth, and it can take time for their faces to settle. Also, feeding needs to be established because until a baby is feeding well, he won’t sleep well. My advice would be don’t do a session under 5 days of age.
Sessions can be done either at home or in a studio. However, it is best to ensure that the room is cleaned before the photo shoot.
Below are 12 questions and answers accompanied by Rebecca’s newborn portraits all taken in her NYC-based studio.
Shinka, who was trained by US-based newborn photographers Kelley Reyden and Tracy Raver, said each baby was different as their bodies varied. For certain poses, such as sitting, a photographer needs to find a balance that allows the baby to sit without support. When asked about safety, Shinka replied: “If the baby feels uncomfortable, they will cry.” (kes)
Newborn photography— those adorable photos of infants posed in baskets and buckets— was not on my radar when I was pregnant with my first child. And, I later found out, if you don’t book while you are pregnant, you are out of luck because the poses you see in those pictures can only happen within the first couple of weeks.
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“Most studio newborn photography is done naked to capture the tininess of being a newborn so something that is easy to take on and off. If you’d rather have your baby clothed in the pictures something that fits them very well is important. Big clothes never look good on anyone in photos, but on babies it really looks terrible.”
Newborn photography is for babies aged one to 14 days. “At this stage, the baby is easier to pose,” said Baby Axioo Photography sales and marketing representative, Clara Retha Laimanto.
With my second child, I booked a newborn session in the middle of my second trimester, I called the photographer right after Harlow was born along with my friends and family, and then had our photo session when my baby was just ten days old. (You can see my photos here.)
I found the whole experience fascinating so I asked our photographer, the wonderfully talented Rebecca Yale, if she could answer some questions about how she works with new parents to get them the photos they will no doubt treasure forever.
5. What Should Your Baby Wear To A Newborn Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
10. How Do You Handle Pee And Poop When You Take Off That Diaper? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
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The temperature of the room is also important. “It is a well-known fact that the temperature in the womb is around 36 Celsius degrees. In the first few days, a baby isn’t used to cold environments. It’s best to keep the room temperature at 30 Celsius degrees and above,” said Shinka.
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All professional photography involves a multitude of skills and newborn photography is no different, with one very important exception. It is the only area of photography that involves the photographer being completely responsible for the safety and welfare of the subject – the baby. As a newborn photographer you will hold, comfort, soothe, pose, wrap, and often even feed and clean up after your subject, even with the parents present.
1. What’s The Ideal Age For A Newborn Studio Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“There are a lot of photographers out there with different levels of experience and different styles so first I would see if you like the photographers style- their props, poses, lighting, positions, etc. Then I would make sure they have done a good number of newborn sessions. I have heard horror stories of inexperienced photographers or moms picking up a camera thinking it looks easy and then having a bucket tip over or a baby topple off a pillow. Always ask for a reference.”
The short answer is yes. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at photography, because the skills required to be safe and of a good standard as a newborn photographer are really very different than anything you have done before. If you decide to become a wedding photographer with no training, the worst that may happen is you let down a couple on their big day. As bad as that could be, no one will get hurt.
“Weighting the buckets and props is a big one so a baby doesn’t tip over and get hurt. Another is the pose itself- newborn necks are very delicate so you want to be very careful with positioning. If the pose comes undone, you don’t want the baby to fall or hurt his neck. I use a very large beanbag that was designed specifically for newborn photography so if the baby does tip to one side they are very protected and are on a soft surface. Also, everything used from the blankets to the hair bows are all washed between every session to keep everything very clean and germ free.”
“You should book your session as far out as possible, as early as your second trimester. I usually book sessions 3-4 months in advance and for busy photography seasons, it can even be 5-6 months out. I’ve received hundreds of phone calls from parents who have just given birth who want to book an appointment and I have no availability left. Then they get very sad because its such a short window of time to take those special portraits and they missed it.”
Keep it simple. Training will show you the basic equipment you’ll need, like beanbag and backdrop stand, as well as a small selection of throws, hats, headbands, and wraps. The most important area for your development as a newborn photographer will be developing safe handling of the baby in your early months. The confidence in posing takes time, and that is where your focus should be, not on having all the props and the biggest selection of hats. What will set you apart as a top newborn photographer will never be the amazing set up you design – it will be how good your posing is, and how comfortable your baby looks in the images.
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8. How Should You Choose A Photographer? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools in this genre. Mums talk, and will recommend you if they came away feeling that their baby was safe, respected and adored. The testimonials that will get you more bookings will not be the ones where mum says the pictures are good, but rather the ones where she gushes about how lovely the experience was while with you.
6. What Else Should You Bring? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
A photo posted by rittarajagukguk (@rittarajagukguk) on Nov 3, 2016 at 8:57pm PDT
“The worst thing a parent can do is be nervous. If your baby is crying, you have to trust the photographer to be able to comfort her. Continuously swooping in and handing the baby back and forth can make an infant even more distressed. My advice is to take a deep breath and relax. I know its easy to be nervous, especially when it’s your first, but the best thing a parent can do is sit back and take a couple hours to check their email, listen to music or just enjoy watching their newborn in all these adorable poses.”
12. What’s The Worst Thing A Parent Can Do During A Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
However, Amore Baby Portraits founder Shinka Moeharjo, who started doing newborn photography in 2010, stated that he only took bookings after a baby was born. “As a parent I know the first few days are tough, therefore we decided to do shoots for babies aged five to 14 days [only],” he said.
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If you have children, you may well remember that newborns sleep a lot, at least through the day, and seem able to sleep through pretty much anything too. But that changes really quickly, and by week three babies are waking more easily, and spending more time awake each day. You cannot pose a baby that is awake, so a sleeping newborn is what you need, meaning you need to aim for under two weeks, and under ten days is even better.
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“One of the most important things is to make sure the room is very warm. I keep the heat turned way up and have a space heater next to the baby. I also will play white sound or soft music depending on what the baby responds to better. This keeps babies calm and asleep (sometimes parents too— I have had many a father fall asleep on my couch). I also never force a baby into a pose he or she is uncomfortable in and let the baby indicate to me which poses he or she is most happy curled up in.”
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While it is indeed heartwarming to see pictures of babies sleeping soundly, some parents may have doubts about safety. Below are the things you need to know before booking a newborn photography session.
However, Shinka said that could pose a challenge with some first-born children. “For new mothers, sometimes they face problems while breast-feeding, which causes a lack of milk supply. We warn them at the beginning that the baby can get fussy. Usually the baby will get cranky and want to be fed within an hour,” he said.
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Talk in a way that shows their baby means almost as much to you as he does them. Ask them lots of questions about their baby, and life since his arrival. New parents can talk all day about their baby, so showing he interests you will really endear you to them. Use emotive language on your site and Facebook page. Rather than saying “I like doing baby shoots” say “I simply adore capturing images of beautiful, squishy babies!”
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“I hold time before and after so the parents are guaranteed a space no matter when their baby arrives.”
Sleep isn’t the only issue that dictates though. Newborns are gorgeously squishy, floppy and bendy under ten days old, which, coupled with being sound asleep, makes them perfect for gently posing into those adorable positions parents love. Much after two weeks and they begin to gain muscle tone, which means they lose the flexibility that makes such posing possible.
“For studio photography the ideal age is between 5-12 days. When babies are that tiny they spend a lot of time sleeping and still curl up into very sweet poses similar to the positions they were in when they were in the womb. After two weeks babies go through a growth spurt and will start stretching their arms and legs and will not be as amenable to curling up for a picture or sleeping as soundly, which is needed for some of the poses and photographs in props like the buckets.”
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Look after the parents when they are with you. Provide drinks and snacks, and comfortable seating. Mum will be sore and they are both likely to be exhausted.
A photo posted by Baby, Maternity & Family Photo (@babyaxioo) on Oct 27, 2016 at 7:12pm PDT
Expectant parents may have heard about newborn photography. Some hospitals have partnered with photography studios to offer the service, like Siloam Kebon Jeruk in West Jakarta and RSIA Grand Family in North Jakarta, which collaborate with Jakarta-based Baby Axioo Photography.
Warm knitwear is a common prop during newborn photo shoots. “We want the baby to feel warm throughout the session and it looks good on camera,” Rittar added.
“I always love the photos of a baby in a bucket sleeping soundly with her head resting on her hands, it’s very sweet and makes for a cute birth announcement shot. I also love a baby curled up on his belly with his hands tucked under the side of his head and feet tucked under his butt. Most babies love to be in that pose because it reminds them of the womb. My favorite though is a baby curled up in his parents’ arms with his head resting on one of his parents hands. There is something so wonderful about the scale of seeing a tiny newborn in a huge hand that just makes for a magical and very special image.”
You are selling emotions. That is really the bottom line with newborns. The parents are melting with wonder and love at their new baby, and emotions are running their lives completely. If you can build a relationship with your clients that taps into their emotions, and leaves them feeling that you can truly relate to them and their baby, they will be more inclined to not only book you, but trust you.
The average session is 3-4 hours, and you will soon realize why when you have done a couple of your own. The session is taken up by everything BUT taking photos. When I do a session my camera is in my hand for less than ten minutes the entire time. The session will involve settling, cuddling, reading baby, soothing for sleep, and gentle posing. They baby runs the show, of that there is little question, and as each baby is different, so is each session. Try to rush it and clock watch, and you’ll put yourself under huge pressure, and babies pick up on stress, which could cause you to have an unsettled baby on your hands. As a general rule, most newborn specialists will do just one session a day.
Newborns are delicate and must be handled correctly. They can suffer circulation problems, are poor at regulating their temperature, and cannot tell you when they are feeling uncomfortable, which means they are relying on you to take care of them at all times. The correct training will teach you safe handling techniques, how to spot signs of baby not being happy for many reasons, as well as general safety and other important areas.
11. Which Poses Are Your Favorite? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“There’s no way to sugar coat this one- newborn photographers get peed and pooped on a lot. Blankets and props get peed on frequently. That’s why everything is 100% washable and it’s no big deal. You just keep going and throw it in the wash after the session is over. Parents need to be prepared as well. If you are going to be in the pictures, I don’t recommend wearing your favorite shirt or expensive clothing.”
For a smooth session, Clara said it was important to feed babies before a shoot as it would make them calmer.
2. How Far In Advance Should You Book Your Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
All photos were created by Rebecca Yale, who gave me permission to use them here.
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3. What If Babies Don’t Arrive On Their Due Dates? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
9. What Are The Safety Precautions Used During A Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
It is because of this difference that it is so specialized, and requires the right set of skills. Not having those skills is about more than the risk of poor images – someone’s safety is at stake.