So as soon as I enter their home, my goal is to make them feel that the session is about THEM, first and foremost.
You can be sure that most of the time, the option to be left aside while you’re focusing your attention on the baby is the best motivation to finally be in the picture. But it will be HIS choice, not yours.
I owe this picture to the promise of a nice piece of chocolate. And when you think about it, is that really so wrong? Having a little brother is not easy every day so why not enjoy an unexpected benefit?
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The maternity session is all about big brother or sister, we have time to meet each other, to play and become best buddies. When I come back for the newborn session they are excited to see me again and they know beforehand that we are going to have fun!
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This is probably the most important point. When a tiny baby is invading your family life, your world is upside down. Big brothers/sisters often feel insecure and neglected during those first days of having a newborn at home so if they think that this session is all about the baby (again!!) they may be resentful and uncooperative.
I guarantee we have all been there at one point or another either early in our careers, or even as experienced newborn photographers. You get that comment from your client saying, “We really just want one beautiful photo of our 14 month old with his new baby sister.” Your heart just stopped for a moment, then sank to the pit of your stomach. As if newborns aren’t enough of a challenge at times? Let’s throw in that just over one year old whose life has been turned up side down like a Smart Car in a class five hurricane with the addition of a new baby. Believe me I have been there, and stayed there for a long time.
The key point to having siblings to cooperate in a newborn session is to always give them the choice. If they feel forced to do anything, they will probably do the opposite of what you want them to do.
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I also love to ask them if they have their own ideas about the shoot. When I said to this little guy “Let’s take a picture of you and your little brother. What should we do?” he immediately suggested that he play music to him and grabbed his guitar! I never would have thought about this but I definitely love the outcome!
Have Mom or Dad with them on the bed the whole time but just out of the frame of the camera, carefully watching the baby’s position and safety. With younger kids and toddlers, it’s even better to actually include Mom or Dad in the picture (holding big brother and the baby at the same time, or sitting right next to them).
When several siblings are involved, ask the oldest one to hold the baby while the other one is snuggling around. Swaddling the baby can be really helpful too, he/she will be much easier to hold. Using pillows can help ensuring a firm and safe position.
Holding the baby is not the only option. You can pose the baby alone, safely lying on the bed, and let the siblings find their place around him/her. You can also have them all laying on their backs. Make sure you interact with the older kids in order to catch sweet expressions.
Again, have Mom or Dad stay very close the whole time, in order to prevent any careless move that could hurt the baby.
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lastly, i find it helpful to bring a tripod. this allows me to set up my shot where i would like it, while allowing me to run back and forth between my clients and my camera. when photographing newborns with siblings, i find that i am constantly running towards the client to get my older sibling posed just right, then running back to capture the moment. having a tripod helps ensure that my shot is always set up where i want it, despite my movement.
So I am always thrilled when a client contacts me for a newborn shoot and mentions that there will be siblings involved as capturing interaction and emotion is my absolute favorite thing.
because my lifestyle newborn sessions take place in the clients home, it helps older siblings feel comfortable because they are in their own territory. i like to increase that comfort by giving them special attention during the session, like having them show me around their house, show me the nursery, show me their favorite toy, etc. again, siblings of newborns are experiencing a lot of change and sometimes, by no fault of their parents, are feeling a little left out. sometimes giving them a little extra attention goes a long way. it creates trust between you and the child which will encourage cooperation once it is time to bring the camera out and start the session.
But meeting up prior to the session might not be an option for you. Don’t panic, there are still 5 more tips to help you run successful newborn-sibling sessions!
i always, always, always, get my family photo taken first. i do this because a photo of their entire family is the photo that the client truly wants and at the beginning of the session everyone is a little nervous and very cooperative, so it’s naturally a good starting point. when arranging my session, i make sure that i take all of the photos that include siblings at the very beginning. let’s be honest, sometimes newborn sessions take a long time because we are waiting for baby to calm down, to be changed, or be fed. we cannot expect siblings to have the same patience that we have. by photographing newborns with siblings at the very beginning of the session, it ensures that the sibling will be done within the first 20-30 minutes and can go play while we move onto photographing the baby with parents and individually. while photographing siblings, be aware of attitude changes and build in breaks when necessary.
After a few pics, especially if big brother is a young kid or a toddler, he will probably be done. Again, no pressure – let him leave the room, do his thing, and come back a bit later when he wants attention again.
It is also key to give them some time when they first arrive at the studio. Don’t expect them to jump right up next to the baby and say cheese! Let them get comfortable, ask them questions and have them “show you their new brother or sister.” I love to try to involve them into the shoot by asking, “what headband do you think your sister would like to wear?,” or “ Is there a special way you want to sit or lay for photos with your brother?” Many times if they have more of a personal connection with the process, they will be more apt to participate.
there are a lot of times when i honestly just let the sibling take a little control and i simply go with it. listen, that is the beauty of lifestyle newborn sessions…you are photographing life as it is. as photographers, i think we get so caught up in getting “that perfect shot” that we forget we are working with really young kiddos who are essentially in control of our session. being able to allow them, within reason, to take control of the session and step back and document it in a beautiful way is so important. be willing to go with it and have fun too. don’t let a little one scurrying off the bed intimidate you, but inspire you to grab your camera and photograph the moment.
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This is the ideal situation. When a maternity session is booked prior to the newborn session, I know everything will go smoothly.
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Be prepared and do your homework. Ask mom or dad some questions about the child; what do they like to play with, what are their favorite shows; do they have a favorite snack or sweet treat. Many times I will have that special show playing on my computer for them or bring that special snack for when they are all done with pictures.
sometimes siblings just want to know what the schedule is going to be, so tell them! if i notice that i have a sibling that is hesitant, getting silly, or squirmy, i will tell them exactly what five pictures i want to take with them and it helps them know what to expect. in their world, their is a lot of change occurring so sometimes letting them know exactly what is going to happen will help their comfort. by easily saying, “let’s get a picture of you with your family and a picture of you and your baby,” you are telling them exactly what is going to happen. by also telling them you want a picture of “them with the baby” and “them with their family” you are making it about them, instead of about the baby…which they love. also allowing them to take a peek at your back of camera is very encouraging. they love to see themselves and it’s instant gratification. not only is it fun for them, but it allows them to see themselves!
If there is no maternity session involved, meeting them, even briefly, during a pre-consult can definitely help. When the session comes around, they already know you and the ice will be broken even before you enter the room.
photographing newborns can be challenging, making photographing newborns with siblings just a tiny bit stressful. not only do you have to worry about the newborn’s schedule, but you have to incorporate siblings within that timeframe so that everyone is happy and cooperative all at the same time. that being said, photographing newborns with siblings is my absolute favorite! it allows me to really get creative and spontaneous with my photography, while capturing some genuine emotion.
Admit it, we love those beautiful shots of older children holding their baby brothers and sisters. Be safe and realistic about the ages of the children you are working with. A two year old is not going to safely hold a newborn baby, so please don’t try it on your clock even if your client swears they do it at home. Include mom or dad in the photo to help support the baby or let the oldest sibling hold the baby as the others cuddle in around. Usually around the age of four I feel more comfortable with allowing children to hold their newborn siblings but always, always , always have mom and/or dad right there next to them just in case.
it’s important to remember that not all siblings will be willing to hold their new sister or brother, and that’s okay! never force a sibling to hold a baby, sometimes they are simply not ready for it and it’s important that we respect their preferences and comfort level.
I love when I get to do maternity sessions prior to the newborn shoot. It gives me the chance to really get to know the older children and have a fun time with them playing and being silly. Come the day of the newborn session, not only do they recognize me, but they associate me with the fun we had the last session.
I always make sure that I talk to big brother/sister first, introduce myself, chat a bit about the time we will be spending together…all before I even lay eyes on the baby. This is something I will discuss with the parents during the pre-consult, so that they don’t feel like I am not interested in their newborn!
one of my main sources of posing inspiration is the design aglow posing guide for family portrait photography. it’s a wonderful read!
When doing those siblings pictures, always have baby’s security in mind. Using a bed or a sofa (or any soft surface) is probably your best option, and make sure that Mom or Dad is standing right next to them at every moment.
on the flip side of this, you have to do what you say. if you tell them you want to take 5 pictures, take 5 pictures. don’t take 10 more, it will increase frustration.
yes, it can be a little stressful trying to get everyone happy at the same time, but it makes for a really fun session because the end results are always unique. every sibling is going to react differently to their new baby brother or sister, and it is our job to capture that emotion. the next time you book a newborn session that includes older siblings, keep these 8 tips in mind to help minimize your stress and make your session a successful one.
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Most of the time things turn out just fine, and we worry way too much. but there are some tricks that can help ease the situation and the minds of both your clients and their precious little ones.
Make sure to speak with mom and dad about this well before the session! The more you push the more the child may resist! Clients can often get upset or frustrated with their toddlers if they aren’t doing what they want during the session. Getting emotional will only force the child to shut down even more. As hard as it is, try to remind your clients to stay calm and positive and let me do most of the talking and coaxing.
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This topic is also a must-discuss during your pre-consult because when that moment happens you need to be sure that Mom or Dad won’t pressure the child into cooperating and that they will be comfortable with your way of handling it.
Check out these five tips from Scottsdale, Arizona based Newborn Photographer Cortney Talbott…
photographing newborns with siblings is a lot of fun because no two sessions are ever alike and you can get really spontaneous with the photos you take. by keeping these tips in mind and understanding the change that siblings are going through, you will be sure to have a successful session. remember, clients simply want to remember the moment that their family grew by one more. yes, you definitely want to get a great portrait but be sure to also document all those other little moments in between. some of my favorite photographs ever taken were between shots.
one thing that is really important to remember about siblings of newborns is that they have just experienced a lot of change in their life. they now have a new brother or sister and have to share their parent’s attention with them. this can be a little overwhelming, and confusing to them. be sure to give them choices throughout the session, allowing them to feel like they have some control. this will help them not only feel special, but they will cooperate more with you if they feel like they are making the choice to. when getting ready to photograph the entire family, allow the sibling(s) to choose where they would like to sit and pose everyone around them. most of the time i ask, “do you want to sit on mommy or daddy’s lap?” once they make the choice, i have the other parent hold the newborn and pose them accordingly.
But a session photographing a brand new big brother or sister comes with its own set of challenges so you need to be well prepared. Here are some tips that really help me make these sessions enjoyable for everyone:
I don’t usually need to do it but it is also something you want to discuss beforehand with the parents. If the kid is done but you really need that extra family pic to close the shoot, then having a little incentive to buy you a few minutes of patience can be useful.
Having another adult available at that moment to play with him in another room is invaluable. It will be the perfect moment to do pictures of Mom or Dad (depending on who is playing with big brother at that moment) with the baby, or pictures of the baby alone.
Bribe! Make sure you okay it with the parents before hand, but this is where it comes in handy to know the child’s favorite sweet treat! I’ve gone through my share of gummy bears and Smarties just to get those few precious shots. Nobody will ever know you are dangling a candy right next to the camera!
I usually start with the siblings shots first, because big brothers/sisters are usually more cooperative at the beginning, but also because as I said previously I want them to feel that the session is about them. If you start the session with, let’s say, pictures of Mom holding the new baby, you are pretty sure to get jealousy issues!
before we get into the tips, let’s make sure you have the right gear in your camera bag for photographing newborns with siblings. because there are going to be more people within the frame, i always carry my wide angle lenses, the sigma art 24mm f/1.4 lens and the nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens. having a wide angle lens allows me to fit more of the surroundings of my clients home, as well as more people, inside of the frame. the purpose of lifestyle newborn sessions is to document families within their home, so having a wide angle lens is a key factor in doing that. i also bring my sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, as it is perfect for both family and individual portraits. it’s low aperture also allows me to get some detailed photos of the baby, surrounded by soft bokeh. because i photograph my lifestyle newborn sessions with more than one lens, i carry two camera bodies, my nikon d750 and nikon d610 so that i can have a lens on each camera body and reduce wasting time by switching out lenses.
my favorite photos are when my clients are looking at one another instead of looking at the camera. and honestly, my clients adore them too because they are real, honest, and capture genuine emotion. yes, you are going to want to get a photo of the newborn and sibling looking at the camera as well, but then get over it once you have gotten it. photograph siblings simply interacting with their new baby brother or sister, your clients will love you for it. capture the way they look at them, taking in their tiny features. have them look at their baby brother or sister and find their eyes, their nose, their mouth.
When it comes to photographing newborns, my heart definitely goes to natural, unposed images.
That’s it! Enjoy your next newborn/siblings session, and remember that preparation before the shoot and flexibility during the shoot are the keys to success!
Be prepare to break your own rules, though. If at the moment I thought I would do the siblings shots, big brother isn’t into it, I make sure that I don’t put any pressure on him. “Okay, you don’t want to do it now? No problem. You can go and play in your room, and come back when you’re ready. In the meantime, I will take a few pictures of your sister”.
During the session, when siblings are around I will always engage them in what I’m doing, explaining my every move, or asking advice. “Do you think your little sister would like it if we sang her a song?” “Oh, she is crying! What do you think she is trying to tell us?”
Two simple shots that I have the most success with over the past few years is to have baby laying down on a soft surface or if baby is still in a prop, have the sibling lean over and kiss the baby. If you have a newborn girl, ask the child to “smell the flower on her headband” which can give you that same appearance as a kiss. The other is to gently lay the children side by side on their backs. Again always have mom or dad close by just to be on the safe side in case a hand or arm goes flying towards baby. Shooting down on them I can focus on the sibling, make silly faces, pretend I’m going to tickle them and therefor they sometimes forget there is a baby right next to them.
However, the goal of the conversation is also to explain to the parents how I will handle their children (see points 3 and 4 below) and how I suggest they themselves behave during the shoot so that we are all on the same page.
Newborn sessions can be very long and tedious. I never have my clients keep their older children at the studio for the entire session. I only have 450 square feet, which is not a whole lot, and there are a whole lot of things for little hands to get into. I always have my clients have someone else bring their children either right at the beginning of the session then let them go when they are finished, or bring them in towards the end. Many times this will depend on any napping the older children may still need, as I prefer them well rested for the task at hand.
Put yourself in their shoes. You haven’t gotten a great nights sleep because this baby is crying, and you are walking into a new place where a stranger with a big black camera thing in front of her face. She is asking you to kiss this new baby that has taken over your family’s life. I think the single most important things is that you make it about them! Forget that sweet little sleepy baby for a few minutes and focus on that older sibling. True, you are there for a newborn session, but the child doesn’t need to know or feel that. For the most part these young toddlers (ages 1-4) are already going through so much change and are realizing that they are not the center of attention 24/7. I want them to feel like this shoot is about them!
most of the time, siblings are willing to hold their baby brother or sister but they simply aren’t strong enough. and sometimes parents simply aren’t comfortable allowing them to hold the baby just yet. in moments like these, laying the siblings down together on a bed or soft surface is a wonderful way to pose them for a portrait. have the older sibling lay down first, put an arm out, and then lay the baby in their arm. this allows you to get them close together. because you will be photographing from above, it is very very important that you wear a camera strap while taking these photos to ensure you do not drop your camera.
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Once the ice is broken, I will always ask big brother/sister if they would show me the baby. Some of them are pleased to do so while others refuse, but I always give them the opportunity to introduce me to “their” baby. If they chose not to, I never insist and go meet the newborn on my own.
playing little games with siblings can help lighten the mood and encourage cooperation because…they are having fun. once my families are posed together, i like to play, “look at the baby. now, look at me!” as the families go back and forth between looking at the baby and looking at the camera, they laugh and have fun which allows me to capture some genuine emotion. if the sibling is comfortable and willing, i also have them kiss their new baby sister or brother on the forehead and then look at me, and repeat this a couple of times. i always make sure both the parents and sibling are comfortable doing this and never make the sibling do something that they don’t want to.
It is far better to spend some time cloning Mom’s hand out of the pictures in post-processing than to take any risk of baby slipping off his brother’s arms or falling down. Here’s a few ways to keep them safe.
need some tips on how to approach a lifestyle newborn session? check out my 10 tips for photographing a lifestyle newborn session to get you started.
So my session workflow is entirely built around the siblings.
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Before any shoot I hold a phone pre-consultation. When siblings are involved in a newborn session, they definitely are the main topic of this pre-consult. Knowing beforehand how they are handling the situation, their personality, their favorite games etc. definitely comes in handy during the shoot.
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