So you just recently had a baby, and you want to capture these fleeting moments in photographs. Babies are really only “newborns” in their first two weeks of life and documenting these early days is so important. You will not get this time back and it goes by so quickly. Here are some baby photography tips to photographing your newborn bundle of joy.
When looking at professional images of peacefully sleepy and curly newborns, it looks so easy! But a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes of those precious images. I have five rules that are crucial to capturing great newborn photographs of newborns: age, sleep, heat, food and noise. I always educate my clients prior to a newborn session about my “rules” so mom and dad know exactly what to expect and how we can work together to ensure success.
Age and Sleep in Baby Photography
As already stated, your baby is only considered a newborn when under two weeks old. Newborn sessions should be booked around 5-10 days old. There are many reasons for this. For starters, your baby must be in the deepest sleep possible for the session to flow nicely. This ensures that a photographer can comfortably pose your baby without him or her making a fuss. An awake or alert baby is much more difficult to work with. When you bring your baby home from the hospital, it may seem that all she does is sleep. After two weeks, your baby will be a lot more alert and awake for longer periods, thus harder to work with. A sleepy baby is like putty in my hands! Your newborn will also be beautifully flexible and able to curl up into tiny poses at such a young age. Just think how curled up she was in your belly for nine months. After two weeks, babies tend to stretch their limbs stiffly and not fold as nicely. Also, after two weeks is typically when baby acne and colic can set in…best to avoid that as well!
When clients come to my studio, I have the heat cranked and I run two small space heaters in the shooting area. I try to mimic the womb in many ways. In your belly, your baby was used to your warm body temperature. I photograph all newborns in their beautiful natural state (naked!). If you do not want to wake her up or startle her, you have to keep her very comfortably warm. If you are sweating from the heat, then the temperature is just right your baby will be happy!
In an effort to keep your newborn content and sleeping, a full belly is a must. Newborn sessions generally run anywhere between two and fours hours, as frequent stops may be necessary so that mom can feed her baby. Before a feeding, it’s easiest to take all clothes off the baby, including the diaper and swaddle him very tightly. Mom can then feed him this way and the baby usually falls into a dream-like state. Once very deeply asleep, baby can be un-swaddled near the heat, so not to startle or wake the baby. If (or when) the baby starts waking up again, its time for another feeding session!
When your baby was in your belly, all the sounds that surrounded her were loud and muffled. This is why newborns love white noise, because it imitates the womb. Of course she heard your heartbeat loud and clear too. I always (loudly) play a continuous stream of a white noise and heartbeat combination throughout the session. This will help the baby stay asleep and feel serene. It also helps mute any sudden noises in the room, which might startle and wake her. Just run a white noise machine during your session. You can also download many white noise phone apps as well.
Some Other Tips
A great way to pose your baby is on a firm beanbag covered with a nice blanket. This makes for a classic and clean image. If you don’t have one, take a more lifestyle approach and photograph your newborn in his or her nursery, your master bedroom bed, in dad’s arms (or yours) or anywhere that feels natural to you and your family. Save the prop shots for the professional photographers. While the set-ups look easy, they are not. A well-experienced newborn photographer knows exactly how to safely pose a newborn into buckets, a bowl, etc. Always put the safety of your baby first.
If your baby gets fussy while taking pictures, don’t lose your cool. She will sense your stress. Before giving up, try some soothing techniques first. A pacifier can work wonders and a nice tight swaddle always seems to do the trick too. A little bouncing and rocking really helps some babies and of course, a nice LOUD and long “shuuuuuush” in the ear can work like magic.
Lastly, when you come home from the hospital with your first newborn baby, it will be a very overwhelming time for you. You are trying to get to know this new little person, breastfeed successfully, set-up a routine and schedule, host guests, deal with your hormones and, oh yeah, take a nap or shower! The first two weeks of her life go by in a blink of an eye. Before you know it, you are trying to take photos of an older, awake baby who will not cooperate. Newborn photography takes a tremendous amount of patience, something you just may not have post partum! Consider hiring a professional newborn photographer while you are still pregnant and take one last stress off your plate. This way you can even be IN the photographs with your baby as well!
Editorial provided by Melissa Lagano, a Newborn Photographer based in Greater Hartford and Farmington Valley, Connecticut.