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Newborn Photography | 4 Tips for Preparing the Parents
Newborn Photography | 4 tips for preparing the parents by Alicia Gould via Click it Up a Notch

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.

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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.

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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.

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!

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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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!

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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.

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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!

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.

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!

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.”

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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!

Read more about newborn photography:
10 Tips to Help Dramatically Improve your Newborn Photography

  • Julie Kiernan
    May 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    I am all signed up and can’t wait to get started! Alicia, your work is beautiful! It’s fun to see some familiar faces above too:)

  • Kira
    May 14, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    I signed up a few days ago and can’t wait for the workshop to begin! Such great information in this post Alicia, and beautiful photos as always!

  • Sarah C
    May 15, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    I’m doing my first newborn session in July! This information is so helpful! Thank you!

  • Meg
    May 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Your pictures are BEAUTIFUL!!

  • May 15, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    Absolutely stunning photos! Moved to tears! My daughter is 1 year and I wish I had these kind of portraits. However, with some issues she had – and let’s not underestimate personality traits… – she was NEVER this peaceful/sleepy for long, and no WAY would she have been asleep for posing these beautiful shots. She’d look you square in the eye as if to say, “ExCUSE me?” I took some cute shots at 3 weeks, but she is wide awake, looks like a 3-month shoot! Anyway, have you ever encountered a newborn like mine who does not sleep for those kind of posed shots? Or have you always been able to get them? Experience with my little one has made me a bit fearful to tackle newborn shots… Thanks for your input!

    • May 20, 2014 at 4:36 PM

      Hi Leslie! The wide awake shots are also adorable! I try to work those into my workflow. There have definitely been sessions that required a lot of work getting the baby to sleep, they almost always do. The key really is the milk and heat. For babies that fuss a lot, I do a lot of wrapping with them to help with the startle reflex and keeping them warm. Even after doing this over 6 years, I have sessions where I struggle! You should definitely give it another chance, each baby is different <3

  • May 28, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Alicia great pictures! I tried my hand at newborn photography here recently just to see how I’d like it as my background is more in the “fashion” related niche. For some reason two of the mothers of newborns insisted on not feeding their babies because they wanted them to be awake for the sessions. This of course lead to fussy babies and a headache after the fact. Right now I’m working in post on my last session I did because the mom didn’t want her baby having a full tummy because she didn’t want sleeping posed shots. I must say I have a new found respect for anyone working with newborns and children. While I’m all for being diverse I think I’ll leave this field to those more adapt to handle it!

    • June 2, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      Hi Adam! It’s interesting that the mom wanted the baby awake! Newborn spend so much of their time sleeping, can’t focus their eyes and flail a lot! How did the images come out? I wonder if during or after the fact she realized what she was asking for :) Also since you’re new to newborns, I wonder if not having a portfolio attracted clients that wanted awake images.

  • January 26, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    Thank you so much for these wonderful tips! I’m shooting my first newborn session for my nephew and his wife this week and am both excited and nervous. I got a few shots of their little one while he was still in the NICU and the new mommy loved them.

    Your work is beautiful and again, thank you for the ideas/inspiration!

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