Safety is my absolute number one priority for taking photos of newborns, which I’ll talk more about later in the article. It scares me how many pros and amateurs alike don’t make this step important. While on my soapbox, if you don’t make safety an absolute priority, then you have NO business photographing newborns. Whew – I feel better now.
Here’s a tip – you don’t need a massive studio with a huge backdrop to create gorgeous images from far away. Take the example before/after photo above (sans newborn baby) – some minor editing and blending can create fabulous images you’ll be proud of. Just search for some floor/backdrop fading tutorials online for details and step-by-step instructions on how to do it.
2. Make sure the parents know exactly what to expect during the session. Imagine if they didn’t realize posed newborn sessions can take about 3 hours? That’s a lot of time to be invading their space if you’re on-location like I am. Walk them through everything that is going to happen, especially if there are older siblings they are worried about. I always do sibling images first, but be aware of scheduling your session around nap time!
Photo one (left) holding the baby’s head for safety. Photo two (middle) holding the baby’s head from below for safety. Photo three (right) the two combined to make it appear that the baby’s head is resting on its hands.
5. Lavender essential oil – Starting an hour prior to your arrival I diffuse one drop of lavender essential order into the air and turn it off prior to your arrival, it is just enough to bring a nice calming scent into the air while not being over powerful. I also place a drop on my wrists and rub them together. This is the soft aroma you will notice upon your arrival.
Before I dive right in, I want to give you some insight on my background and techniques, so that you can evaluate your style compared to mine, and make adjustments to my tips to suit your photography.
3. Discuss the wardrobe. One of the best things about going on-location is how easy wardrobe decisions are. I ask mom to lay out a few choices before I arrive and we discuss what works and why when I arrive. If you’re incorporating the home and nursery, choose an outfit that compliments their decor. If you’re going for traditional portraits against a solid background, you’ll want something simple so nothing distracts you from your subjects.
by portraitprettyphotographyFiled in: Buffalo NY Newborn Photographers
7. What to Bring For Baby? – Your baby should arrive to the session in loose fitting pajamas that button or zip all the way down. NO ONESIES. The photography session can begin immediately this way, taking advantage of a sleeping baby. Undressing him or her can wake them up and loses valuable time. Loose fitting pajamas are best because they won’t leave seam makes on your baby. Have a pacifier on hand, regardless of whether you plan to use one with your baby or not. Having a pacifier will help soothe your baby during the shoot and will help move the session along with minimal discomfort for the baby. Bring gas drops or gripe water. Have plenty of diapers and formula on hand for mid-session feedings and diaper changes. I can supply everything else you may need.
9. 2-3 Hours Before the Session – In the hours immediately preceding the session, do not keep your baby awake like often suggested in photography blogs. It is said that keeping your baby awake means that he or she will be sleeping during the session, however I have found this just stimulates the baby which is counter productive. Like stated earlier in this prep guide feed your baby as much as possible to really fill up their bellies. Change their diaper before putting in the car seat and simply keep to their sleep schedule. They should arrive nice and sleepy and I can start the session right away, if they happen to be awake, you will feed them when you arrive and then I will start the session after the feeding. If you normally bathe your newborn in the morning, feel free to do that otherwise please bathe the evening before, again no over stimulation.
This brings me to the first decision the parents help you make: when to do the session. I try to get all my sessions scheduled within the first two weeks, but this doesn’t give you a lot of time to work with!
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4. White glove treatment – Newborn skin is very sensitive, in an effort to again prevent startling and over stimulation you will notice I wear gloves during the session.
Buffalo NY Newborn Family Photographer. Portrait Pretty Photography specializes in fresh and modern maternity, newborn, baby, child, senior and family photography. Our studio is in the Southtowns of Western New York just outside of the city of Buffalo. Our sessions are relaxed and fun. If you’re ready to experience the difference, contact us today to schedule your session, We’d love to work with you!
3. Studio Noise – In order to more closely replicate the environment your baby enjoyed while in your belly, the studio will have background noise playing at all times. Calming hushing noise will be playing in order to keep your baby calm and relaxed. It is important during these sessions to keep talking and noise to a minimum to prevent waking the baby.
While I prefer to naturally pose the baby, I will also do a few “risky” shots for variety, and that artistic touch. I put risky in quotes because these photos would be completely unsafe normally, but with composite editing in Photoshop, you can merge safe images together to create the artistic illusion you may be going for. Classic examples of this would be the head propped on hands photo (see above picture), hammock photos, or anything where the baby is perched on some object. By the way, you should never do these photos in one take – use the composite route! Just do a quick Google search for “composite newborn images” for step-by-step instructions on how to pull this off.
If mom is nursing, you might want to do it in the second week to make sure her milk has come in. Find out when they have scheduled their pediatrician appointments for so the baby isn’t getting shots an hour before your session. Last, but not least, give the baby at least 3 days to heal from a circumcision.
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1. After Delivery, Schedule the Date – From this newborn photography prep guide, the most important step you can take when it comes to taking portraits of your newborn baby is scheduling a time to do so. Call or text your Buffalo Newborn Photographer as soon as you can. Having a newborn places many new demands on your schedule, however it is important to understand that your baby will change daily during the first few weeks of life. This is why it is so important to schedule your appointment as soon as possible. Photographing newborns within the first seven days – 14 days offers the ability to take advantage of your baby’s natural sleep patterns. During the first few weeks of life, babies sleep more and are therefore are best for a photography session. They are more easily posed and enjoy curling up. After this stage, babies begin to become more aware and enjoy stretching out, making it more difficult to get certain poses. After 14 days, it is more difficult to get babies into the deep sleep necessary to get some of the more signature poses and this is the time when colic can set in, making for a very fussy baby. This is why it is imperative to have your baby photographed as soon a possible. Not only will the session be shorter, you will be able to select from many more beautiful poses.
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Whether you’re a photographer inviting newborns and their parents in, or you’re a parent yourself trying to capture beautiful images of your baby, the steps for preparation are virtually the same.
In the end, you’ll need to decide what your style is, and what you want your photos to look like. My style includes editing out the skin imperfections on the newborns, but leaving certain features on macro shots (like skin flakes, birth marks, some baby acne, etc.), but there are others in my area that leave the images as they are, with very little touching up. It’s up to you. If someone has hired you, it’s because that person loves your images and the way you edit your photos – stick with it, or try to appeal to a different base.
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4. 10 – 12 Hours Prior to Session – In the hours leading up to the session, it is very important to feed your baby as frequently as possible to ensure his or her tummy is full. This will not only keep your baby from being fussy due to being hungry, but will also allow him or her to enjoy a long, peaceful sleep, which is perfect for picture taking.
This newborn studio prep guide is not a general one-size-fits all newborn prep guide. Please note, this guide is exclusively intended for Portrait Pretty Photography’s clients and how they can best prepare and what they can expect at their newborn session with us. Photographers – do not copy, print, screenshot, share in social media or download, this guide is protected by copyright and this guide is intended for Portrait Pretty Photography clients only.
12. Grandparents – If you opted to have Grandparents portraits done with your newborn I suggest that you bring two vehicles and we will do the family and parent portion first. Too many people in the studio is distracting and can cause too much stress, so the Grandparents can be taken home.
1. Studio Temperature – The studio will be kept warm since many of the photographs will be taken with your baby completely undressed. This means that the studio may be too warm for comfort for you. So dress appropriately for the session, keeping in mind that you will be in the studio for up to four hours.
8. What to Bring For Yourselves? – Newborn photography sessions take a very long time, usually in the neighborhood of 2 – 4 hours. This means that having something to entertain yourselves with go a long way to passing the time, bring a laptop or iPad will help pass this time by. Also, bring snacks and drinks to keep your own hunger at bay.
Newborn photography is, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding (and difficult) branches that a photographer can get into. I’ve shot numerous hectic weddings where I was physically exhausted afterwards, and had lifestyle sessions where nothing went right, but nothing has even come close to the process involved when taking photos of a precious newborn baby!
5. What do Moms Wear? – Keep it simple. Portraits of mom and baby where there is skin on skin contact are beautiful. If you want to have portraits done like this, wear a dark colored tank top or cream colored. This will not only allow for skin on skin contact, but provide the perfect amount of contrast in the picture. For those who are more self conscious, wearing a form fitting long sleeve knit shirt in dark brown, gray or cream will also work well. Moms, pamper yourself with a new do, a manicure and/or professional makeup. You can get your eyelashes “done” but keep them natural or with mascara as sharp eyelashes look great in portraits.
3. Breastfeeding Moms – For babies who are breastfeeding, the mother’s diet is the baby’s diet. Starting, 48 hours prior to the session it is important to follow the breastfeeding guide that eliminated foods and drinks that are likely to cause upset tummies for babies. Not only does this help prevent unnecessary spitting up, but it also reduces gas, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort, which can cause an unhappy baby. Caffeine can cause babies to be more alert and jumpy than babies who have not been exposed to it in breastmilk, please avoid.
The best solution for interacting with all parents is to make sure they’re properly informed before the session begins. Reassure them that their baby’s safety is your number one priority, go over your process with them, and make sure you openly communicate about their baby during the session. This will help ease any concerns a nervous new parent may have.
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10 Things You Can Learn About Photography from Elliott Erwitt
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11. Sibling – If you are planning to have sibling portraits done with your newborn I suggest that you and your spouse or a relative/friend bring two vehicles and we will do the sibling, family and parent portion first, so the sibling can be taken home. It can be too much for small children to sit in an 85 degree studio, to keep things flowing as easy as possible I have found this works the best.
A hungry newborn will cry and root, sometimes shaking their heads back and forth and opening their mouths (kind of like a fish) as they look for a food source, i.e. Mommy. Another symptom of being fussy can stem from being cold. Look for tiny goosebumps on their skin to see if they’re too cold. The newborn baby may also be gassy, which can be tough to detect many times, but usually happens in a delay after a feeding. Sometimes it feels impossible to detect what may be causing the baby to be upset. I’ve found that often this is due to the newborn being just slightly uncomfortable or restless. You can calm a a fussy little one by doing some very soft rubs on their forehead or back, or some very light taps on their bottoms. Every baby is different in what they like so it may take some trial and error.
Including your clients in the planning will hopefully make your sessions flow smoother. Posing newborns takes a ton of time and patience, so I’m always looking for ways to make my job just a tiny bit easier!
1. Spend some time with mom. I like to check in throughout the pregnancy to see how everything is going, especially around the due date. This way when I ask about things like circumcision and doctor appointments right after the baby is born, we’ve already established a relationship.
Warm it up! I close the door to my studio and use a space heater in the corner to warm the room up to about 80-85 degrees F (26-29c). This is usually a great temperature to keep the baby happy, especially if they aren’t swaddled.
Be sure to give any clients a heads up about the warmth, and suggest they bring light clothes for themsleves. Wash your hands. Take every precaution not to spread germs, especially for a newborn with a weak and developing immune system.
Do NOT wear jewelry. I always take off my rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. While the likelihood of your jewelry falling off is low, it’s not a zero chance. Keep it simple to keep the baby safe.
Avoid fragrances. While a newborn’s vision and hearing senses are not too keen, their sense of smell is very sensitive. Don’t wear perfume/cologne, fragrant lotions, or strong hand sanitizers. This can upset the baby quickly.
Try to create some white noise. Having some white noise can dull any thuds, shuffles, or the sound of the shutter on the camera that may otherwise wake a baby. My space heater serves to not only provide heat, but also gives me plenty of white noise.
You may want to consider an app on your phone if the space heater is too far away, or too quiet. Get all your props, backdrops, blankets, etc., ready before you take any photos. The less you have to move the baby to set up a new shot, the better.
6. What do Dad’s wear? – For men, one of the most important things you can do is to get a professional manicure, if not that is okay, clean, trim and file them up if you have a buffer, buff them. Your hands will be in a lot of pictures, so it’s important to have them look their best. As for your attire, stick with a plain black knit shirt, like a t shirt, with no collar. Steer clear of button downs or anything with a logo on it as they will detract from the photo. If Mom is wearing a color other than black, then coordinate with her attire. For hand-only shots, it’s important to wear a black, long sleeved knit shirt that fits snuggly around your arms and wrists.
9. After the Session – When the session is complete, I will need time to process the photographs and make the necessary edits in order to present you with the best images possible. It generally takes two weeks from the date of your session to be able to look at the proofs on your online gallery, so please be patient.
6. Babies Run the Show – Keep in mind your baby will ultimately dictate how a session will proceed. If he or she is fussy, it is important not to react to it and stress because the baby will pick up on this and will become more agitated. Simply sit calmly and allow me to work with your baby. I have plenty of experience and infinite patience, so know that everything will be fine. Please try not to hover over me as I am working, if you are breastfeeding, your newborn can smell you, this can stimulate them to want a feeding since they know their food source is close by.
As a natural light photographer, I don’t typically manipulate the light in too many of my photos in Photoshop. I’ll make some tweaks here and there, but my biggest adjustments are typically associated with skin smoothing (although I also do some touching-up in post-processing). Slightly overexposing images helps with smoothing the baby’s skin, and shooting in RAW can help you correct any exposure or color issues along the way.
10. Arrival at the Studio – Follow the directions that were emailed to you when you booked your session. When you arrive at the studio, park in the garage so that the baby won’t be startled by loud noises or cold winds. Then come into the studio and begin feeding him or her only if he/she is awake.
The information I give my clients ahead of time says “Even if your baby has just finished eating, almost all of the babies want just a little bit more after being moved to help them fall deeply asleep. If you have your heart set on sleeping baby portraits, this is one of the most important things.”
4. Tell your clients what they can do to make the session a success. In the winter, I ask them to turn up the heat and in the summer, the air conditioning off in the morning before I arrive. As soon as I’m done with the posed part of the session, they can adjust their thermostat comfortably!
The most important thing a mom can do to ensure a successful session is be flexible with feedings. This can definitely be a touchy subject as some moms are adamant about sticking to a schedule or monitoring ounces. Push this one as far as you comfortably can. I can overcome just about anything during a session… except a hungry baby!
First, I’m a natural light newborn photographer. I will use a continuous lighting system in my studio on the darkest of days, but 99% of the time the only light in my photos is coming from that big fiery ball in the sky. Speaking of studio, I exclusively shoot newborn sessions at my in-home studio space. I’ve converted one of the bedrooms in my home to my shoot-space. You don’t need a huge studio for newborn photography – my small 10×10′ (3×3 meters)room with two windows gives me enough natural light and room to do everything I need to do.
Using the clone tool, the blend tool, and creating/manipulating layer masks in Photoshop, you can create exactly what you are after in a “look”. Digital Photography School has some basic Photoshop tips that are fabulous!
Over the years, I’ve learned some insightful tips from interacting with parents, to posing newborns safely, and also my philosophy when it comes to editing. I want to give all of these tips to you, to hopefully fast-forward your newborn photography aspirations and take you to the next level.
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Here are some great tips to keep in mind when you prepare for the session:
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« How to Choose a Newborn PhotographerNewborn Pictures by Orchard Park Newborn Photographers »
Cuddling, posing, and capturing newborns is the best part of the job, right? But taking the time to prepare and educate your clients on newborn photography can make the actual session easier! You have to find the right balance between wanting your clients to sit back and relax by taking care of everything and allowing your clients to help prepare for the session.
I LOVE natural newborn poses, and I try my best to capture the precious little miracle, and show how they are naturally. I do own a newborn posing beanbag (which I highly recommend purchasing) that has curves, allowing me prop the baby up, or lay them down. There are literally hundreds of guides on the internet about how to pose a newborn, so I won’t go into the different specific poses and setups here. However, I will go over the basics, and get into some more in-depth and technical aspects. If you have no idea how to start posing a baby, start with those guides before you ever (read: ever, ever, ever) actually take photos of a newborn!
8. Outdoor Scenes – Outdoor scenes are available if the weather permits it, and are done at the end of the session.
7. Safety First – It is important for you to know that there is the utmost importance placed on the safety of your baby. Poses will never be forced nor will any unsafe poses be used in any manner during your shoot. The studio is completely sanitized after every session and all linens used will be washed in free and clear detergent. I will not photograph your baby if I am sick or otherwise not able to photograph your child in a safe manner and will reschedule with you as soon as practical. Throughout the session you will notice I take pictures of your baby in props with a scene not completely set up. Do not worry, the bulk of my prop images especially the hanging ones are composites of 2 – 4 images and I set the remainder of the scene up after you leave. This is so your newborn is safe at all times and no time is wasted during your session.
About the Author: Jennifer Lee of Portrait Pretty Photography is a Buffalo Newborn Photographer whom specializes in newborn babies, families as well as high school senior portraiture. To Book a session with Jennifer, please visit the contact us tab below and we look forward to working with you.
2. Studio Lighting – The lighting used in the studio is a soft diffused studio light that mimics natural lighting, which allows for better quality images even on days where the natural light is plentiful. I strive to produce the best quality images for my clients and will use both natural and artificial light sources to achieve this. If the weather is cooperative, I will be more than willing to take outdoor photos of parents with their babies.
A Guide to Newborn Photography – Preparation, Posing and Post-Processing
You WILL eventually run into a fussy baby at times while posing during the session. It’s pretty rare to have a newborn that gives you no issues at all. That being said, you can prep the baby beforehand to increase your chances of successful posing. I always ask the parents to plan a feeding right before the session begins. Full belly = a happy baby most of the time. However, this isn’t the be-all-end-all solution for some newborns. I’ve been affectionately called the “baby whisperer” by many of my clients because I can typically sense what the baby wants, but I do so by using cues that the baby provides.
Like I’ve stated numerous times already, MAKE SAFETY FIRST! Natural poses are also safe because there’s very little risk involved if the baby twitches or moves spontaneously. While the baby is posed naturally, I’ll also snag some macro feature shots of the baby’s unique features like their cute little noses, tiny feet and toes, and the adorable little lips they have. Posing the baby naked, or swaddled with blankets, is something that you’ll decide, hopefully after a conversation with the baby’s parents to see what they prefer, and what photo theme they want.
Have you ever put your family in front of the camera? It’s an incredibly nerve racking experience! You’re a bundle of nerves ahead of time… what if everyone misbehaves, no one smiles, our outfits look ridiculous, I look terrible… and so on. Now factor in a new mom who hasn’t gotten a good nights sleep in probably a month. Being nervous before your own session can make you feel helpless. You can help your clients ease a little bit of stress by taking the time to prepare them. Let them help you, give them a job to do, it will make them feel less helpless and give them something to focus on before the session.
2. Schedule the Time of the Session – Ideally, the baby should be sleeping while being photographed in order to allow me the opportunity to create those beautiful poses you love and adore. Typically newborns are the sleepiest in the morning so I try to schedule the session around 8:30 – 9:00 am.
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You’ll also run into two types of parents while photographing newborns: “hover” parents and “passive” parents. Hover parents may clutch and grab for their baby at the slightest sign of a whimper (which is natural human instinct, by the way), and it can impede your ability to take great photos for them. Passive parents are typically those that are the opposite of hover parents, and I’ve found are usually associated with parents who’ve had multiple children and are pretty laid back about the whole process.
Another aspect of preparation for photographers working with clients, that isn’t talked about as much, is preparing for newborn parents. As a photographer myself, I have met hundreds of parents who are swelling with pride for bringing life into the world, but who are also completely exhausted. I offer my clients coffee when they arrive to let them know that this is a haven for comfort, and to trust me because I know what they are going through.
When I arrive I ask mom to wrap the baby in a blanket with just the diaper on and feed while I set up. This way I don’t have to undress the baby once they’ve fallen asleep.
Portrait Pretty Photography: Buffalo NY Newborn Baby Photographer