with Courtney Slazinik
9 Tips for Hospital Newborn Sessions
9 Tips for Hospital Newborn Sessions

Having a baby is one of the most important days is a new parent’s life.  It’s so important that some parents jump at the opportunity to have a photographer present to document those first moments after arrival with lifestyle newborn photography sessions.  Known as a “First 48” or a “Fresh 48” session, this is a perfect way to capture that brand newness of a newborn in the hospital within the first 48 hours of birth.  From what questions you should have answered before the due day to what photos you should focus on, I am going to share some helpful tips that will make your next Fresh 48 session a successful one.  Plus, I am even going to share what lenses I bring along with me that help me capture beautiful photos in a hospital environment, despite the distracting surroundings commonly found in that setting. Post contains affiliate links. Thank you in advance if you purchase something and support Click it Up a Notch.

  • No.
    Know the details.

    2015-09-10_0003 Babies come on their own schedule, which can make planning a session a little more difficult.  Honest communication is going to be your winning ticket here.  While waiting for the baby to arrive, I like to have a lot of questions answered so that on their due day, I am ready to go!  Things you should already know before your session include: what hospital the client will be delivering at, how soon or how late would they like you to arrive at the hospital during that first 48 hours, and if they have any particular moments that they would really like captured. Having these questions already answered will encourage less stress for you and the new parents.  Being organized and efficient before the due day makes it so much easier when you get that call announcing that their little one is finally here and your only remaining question will be, “What’s your room number!?”  Take it one step further and have the expectant parents text or call you once labor has begun, allowing you time to have your camera gear packed up and waiting by the door. Lastly, be sure to chat about hospital lighting with your client.  If they deliver in the middle of the night, do they still want you coming right after to photograph or would they prefer you arrive first thing in the morning?  Giving the client an idea about how their photographs will look in natural light versus artificial hospital light will help determine when you should arrive for photos.

  • No.
    The setting.

    2015-09-10_0004 The four walls that they wheel the new mommy and baby into after delivery is going to be a special room.  It will be the room where they experience some of the first moments as a brand new family and really get to know their baby for the first time.  Be sure to step back and document the setting.  A great way to do this is through the use of a pullback photo.  I like to be sure to keep my Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens in my camera bag because it has a wider angle and allows me to get more of the room into the frame, capturing all of the details.

  • No.
    Capture the emotion.

    2015-09-10_0005 Capturing emotion is going to be easier than you think, as the new parents are going to be full of honest and raw emotion.  Be sure to capture that “awe” of a new parent with their tiny baby.  They have been waiting nine months to finally meet their little one, so make sure you focus on photographing that new connection between baby and parent.  Have them get close to their little one and look at them, as you stand back and photograph the moment.

  • No.
    The traditional hospital bassinet.

    2015-09-10_0007 Just like their parents and the grandparents, the new little baby will lay in that traditional hospital bassinet a time or two during their hospital stay.  Be sure to get at least one, or a dozen, photos of them in it.  Because most of the bassinets have clear sides, take the opportunity to get creative with your angles, get down low at eye level and photograph from the sides as well. 2015-09-10_0009

  • No.
    Their first portrait.

    2015-09-10_0008 Although it may seem obvious, take all the time you need to get that perfect first portrait.  It will most likely be the one that the parents will share the most with friends and family, especially when creating baby announcements.  Some newborns will sleep during most of your session, as they are so brand new.  But if you get a peek at their pretty eyes, press pause on your current photography posing and focus on a baby portrait. My favorite lens to use during sessions is my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, as I love how the low aperture helps me keep my focus on my subject, but allows me to blur out the surrounding environment.  And hospital settings contain a lot of distractions that I cannot control, so having my 50mm lens helps me tone down the surrounding distractions that I don’t want to place focus on.

  • No.
    All the tiny details.

    2015-09-10_0006 Just like the new parents will be soaking in all of their new baby’s tiny details, so should you.  After capturing that perfect portrait of their cute face, take some time to photograph their hands, feet and ears.  Most of these photos can be achieved while the newborn is laying in their bassinet, but laying them on the mom’s hospital bed is also a great tip for capturing the details.  By using the bed, you are allowing yourself more space to use a variety of angles.  As a bonus, hospital bedding is very neutral and will allow you a perfect and natural backdrop for your photos, allowing the focus to stay on the baby and not a distracting surrounding.

  • No.
    Daddy and baby.

    2015-09-10_0010 The mommy-to-be gets to carry and feel her baby for nine months, but the daddy truly experiences his child after birth.  Photograph it.  He has been waiting a long time to be able to hold their baby in his own arms so be sure to take the time to photograph that moment.

  • No.
    Skin to skin.

    2015-09-10_0011 Skin-to-skin after birth is so important for new babies and their parents, as it facilitates even more of a bond.  If your client is comfortable, photograph that important moment.  Have the mommy look at her baby during this time and take the opportunity to get some photos of the baby, as they will be naturally comfortable and calm during this moment.

  • No.
    The first family portrait.

    2015-09-10_0012 Be mindful of getting a variety of photos of the brand new family all together.  Whether the new mommy is more comfortable in bed or is ready to stand for a little while, be sure to take every opportunity to capture their brand new moments.  Getting a good combination of natural photos versus portraits of the family looking at the camera is also something to keep in mind.  After placing my families into position, I like to start with them looking at me and then looking at one another or at their baby, as of way of getting a variety.

Just as quickly as you were packing your camera bag for the hospital, you will be packing it to go home.  Remember that new mommies and daddies are going to be very tired and emotional, so keeping your communication organized before the session and arriving to the hospital with a plan of the photos you want to take will help ensure that your clients experience a relaxing and stress free session experience.  And the more relaxed and comfortable your clients stay, the more natural and successful your photographs will look. To see even more moments from this Fresh 48 session, click on over to my portfolio!

  • Trisha
    September 11, 2015 at 6:53 PM

    I loved this post so much, Beth!

    • Beth
      September 20, 2015 at 5:53 PM

      thanks so much, trisha! this was an amazing session experience!

  • Heather
    September 11, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    What beautiful photos of the new family.

    • Beth
      September 20, 2015 at 5:53 PM

      thank you! i agree, and it makes me want some just like it when i have a little one someday!

  • Vanessa Wyler
    September 12, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    Beth – I LOVE these! What’s your secret to nailing white balance every time?

    • Beth
      September 20, 2015 at 5:55 PM

      thank you so much! my biggest secret is, i am super picky about the time of day that i photograph indoors. i really work with my clients beforehand to select the very best time of day for natural light in their homes, or in the hospital, so we can take every advantage of great light. i don’t use any artificial light or flash, so i am completely dependent on natural light. i mostly find that i photograph indoors in the early afternoon and being picky about indoor light has really paid off! hope this helps!

  • Grace
    September 12, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    Thank you for the tips. Lovely photos!

    • Beth
      September 20, 2015 at 5:56 PM

      you are very welcome, grace! so happy you found this helpful!

  • Ashley
    September 20, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    This was truly so helpful!! I’m going to start doing newborn photos, and I have already done 1 hospital session but this is seriously such a better post of advice of preparedness. Thank you so much!

    • Beth
      September 20, 2015 at 5:58 PM

      thank you so much, ashley! i really appreciate your kindness and i am thrilled that these tips will help you prepare! i always think that what you do before session, in means of organization and preparing, makes your session even better!

  • kelly
    October 12, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    Holy gorgeous Beth! I love this.

    • Beth
      October 13, 2015 at 7:52 AM

      thank you so much, kelly! you are so sweet!

  • Gabby
    January 16, 2017 at 10:20 PM

    Thank you for such an incredibly informative post, Beth! I have a session this month and I’ve been pretty nervous about it since indoor photography is so tricky if the light isn’t perfect. What times do you prefer to work in? I’ve started an “itinerary” of sorts for the day so I’m starting to get everything in line so any help in the right direction would be super appreciated!

    • Bethany Deschamp
      January 21, 2017 at 11:13 AM

      You will do great, Gabby! The time is completely dependent on the hospital and it’s light. Luckily, my client knew their hospital had wonderful light so scheduling was easy. Generally, I find that anytime between 11-1:00 is brighter indoors, however it really depends on the specific location….every place is so different based on the direction!

  • Elaina
    July 10, 2017 at 3:11 PM

    I’m getting ready to shoot my first Fresh 48 and this was the best refresher and so simple to give me the confidence going in. How do you approach lighting, I use natural light and the clients are aware of shooting at a time with the best natural light, but what is your approach or tips for indoor natural light. I’ll be using canon 5d mark iii with my 50mm 1.4.

  • Lisa Schwenneker
    July 29, 2017 at 2:22 AM

    Thanks Beth! I always love your artiicles and blogs, and didnt know you wrote this piece till i came across the first images :) They are so beautiful- I am trying to schedule a fresh 48 coming up for the first time, so im trying to get all the info i can- keep up the great shooting!

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