Over the years we have done quite a few newborn photo shoots. A newborn photo shoot was actually our first paying gig, "Thank you Rabatin Family!" When you are getting ready for your first newborn shoot it can be really nerve wracking. These are special moments a family is going to treasure forever, and you really don't want to mess up or disappoint a new mom.
We have picked up a few tips along the way from various shoots, and we want to share them with you to help make your newborn shoot a success. Because let's face it, even if you have been at this for awhile you can still get nervous before a shoot. And who doesn't love a few tips and pointers to boost your performance and make your clients want to give you rave reviews.
Schedule Ahead & Keep the 7 Days Rule
During the first 7 days after birth, a newborn is generally going to be the sleepiest and in general they will do the best for their photo shoot, After that they start getting more alert, and it is harder to get those sweet and peaceful newborn photos everyone loves. So, you want to make sure you are scheduling your newborn shoot within those first 7 days.
This means you will need to be in contact with your mother-to-be or father before they are due, and get on their contact list. Then you will know when the baby has arrived. If you are doing a First 48 Photo Shoot as well then you need to be contacting your clients about when to schedule that as well. Read more about a successful First 48 Shoot here.
Don't forget to congratulate the new parents! But then try to schedule your newborn shoot. Or, you can remind your client that you will call them in 2 days to set up a time so they don't feel pressured while they are at the hospital.
Then be ready to go!
Turn Up The Heat & Bring a Heat Pad
This tiny new bundle of joy just came off a 9 month vacation where the weather was a constant 98 degrees... can you image going from 98 down to 72(ish) degrees? Now imagine some stranger wants you to do a photo shoot barely clothed or naked after getting hit with that temperature drop... you would be upset too!
There are a couple off things you can do to combat this drastic change in temperature to help your newborn enjoy their moment in the spotlight. If you have a studio & the family is coming to you, turn your thermostat up! And or half an hour before your shoot turn on a space heater to get everything nice & toasty. Now, you don't have to go overboard and try to heat your space to 98 degrees, but low to mid 80's should be perfect.
Make sure to warn the family so they know to expect a tropical climate, and can dress appropriately. This goes for you too... you are going to be moving around and working hard so be conscious of your wardrobe as well.
Now if you are going to shoot at a clients location you can of course request that they turn up their thermostat, but don't put all the responsibility on them. Go ahead and bring that space heater! Bring it in first and get it set it up so it can get cranking at creating a warm environment your newborn will like.
However, there is one other tool I like to have on hand to ensure my newborn is comfortable, a heat pad. We use ours to put under blankets or warm up spots on the floor before setting a newborn down. We do not recommended setting the newborn directly on the heat pad as it can get too hot for the baby and that might make them uncomfortable too. But even thought you are not setting the newborn directly on the heat pad you should still make sure you are watching the temperature so you don't overheat your newborn. Warm is good but burnt is bad. As long as you are watchful though this heat pad will be your newborn's new best friend.
Bring Plenty of Soft Blankets or Rugs
We have a stock of small rugs and blankets that we like to use for newborn shoots. They are all neutral so they can work for all newborns. This is a great idea because lots of times parents can have lots of very colorful or loud patterns that distract from the natural beauty of their newborn child. Don't get me wrong those are great for everyday and sometimes you can make them work, but in order to get that professional look they are paying for you want to have some neutrals so that precious newborn can really shine in the photos.
The rugs that are my favorite and always seem to photograph well are similar to this Faux Fur Rug and this Faux Sheepskin Rug. The shadows and texture they add can really enhance your photographs. I also love a good faux fur blanket as well, they not only look good in photographs, but add a natural element that plays well with the essence of newborn photography. As an added bonus they are also generally softy and fuzzy and newborns love to snuggle up in them.
Don't Forget Extra Diaper Covers
When we go to a newborn photo shoot we always try to bring extra diaper covers. We do this for a couple of reasons. Reason number 1 new babies poop... and sometimes it gets all over the diaper cover the new parents had picked out for the photo shoot. Reason 2 sometimes parents just don't have any or can't find one. Reason 3 No one likes how diapers photograph you will want to cover them up.
We like to make sure to bring extra covers in white and a gender appropriate color. This way we know we are prepared in case of a emergency. I mean diapers aren't generally cute (although there are some exceptions), and you are going to want to cover them up so all those cute baby designs and cartoon characters don't end up as eye sore's in your photos.
One of the other items like to bring a white swaddle, we recommend these ones, just in case we need a neutral swaddle or the one the parents picked out gets spit up on, pooped on, peed on, or all three. But be prepared to wash your extras because they may meet the same fate as the one they are replacing. And no you shouldn't expect the new parents to clean yours if it gets soiled. We also like to bring along a few headbands for baby girl photo shoots just for fun. They are easy to switch out and generally don't upset your baby to much to change. However, there is one thing that we have learned to try to minimized when doing a newborn photo shoot, and that is outfit changes. Newborn babies don't love being put in and out of full outfits, so try to limit them.
We recommend that babies start in one full special outfit, then do some with just diaper covers or nude and then one more special outfit at the end when getting them dressed again. This helps to keep them drowsy and sleepy because they aren't being constantly getting wiggled around while being changed. Also, clothes for newborns with words or pictures are fun but don't photograph well, so we try to discourage our clients from choosing them. For beautiful tiny babies simple plain clothing is best.
We like to recommend that parents focus on props not outfits. A special stuffed animal, a wooden letter for their initials, a family heirloom. Something that is special and meaningful to them will mean a lot more in a photo than any new outfit would.
Shoot During Nap Time
Now don't expect your newborn to be on any type of set schedule at this point, but it is reasonable to expect that there is a part of the day where they are more likely to be tired. Ask your clients when this is, and try to schedule your photo shoot during this time. Sometimes this works out wonderfully, but newborns can be unpredictable.
Allow for Plenty of Extra Time
Which brings us to our next recommendation, allow for plenty of time. If you go into a newborn photo shoot thinking that it will only take you an hour... you may be in for a bit of a shock. I like to try to carve out at least 2 hours with the assumption that it could take up to 4 hours for a newborn photo shoot.
This may seem like a long time but anytime you go to change something in a shot your newborn may need to get some snuggle time with mom. There will be diaper changes, feedings, and just times where the baby is crying. For all of these things you will need to be patient and take a break. Don't pressure mom to settle her newborn. They just met, and although it was love at first sight they are both still figuring things out.
So our best advice is allow for plenty of time and enjoy your time getting to know this special new family.
Shots to Get
Now the first thing I would recommend doing is at the time of booking have a talk with your clients about any shots that they know they would like to get. If you haven't already discusses if ask if there are any special props that they would like to use. It is important to know what your client wants so you can make sure their expectations are met.
Once you know what they would like, try to see how you can build on that and also fill in some shots that you know are generally favorites. You want to make sure you get some shots with mom and baby, dad and baby, siblings if there are any, possibly family pets (if they have been dubbed safe to be around the baby), group shot, and of course individual shots of just the newborn. If you are struggling with ideas check out our sessions page, or Pinterest is always great for ideas and inspiration.
When doing individual shots I like the make sure we ask the client if they want any naked baby pictures. You will find some clients don't, some do, and some are too shy to ask. But I like to ask because for some people those fully natural photos end up being their favorites.
Other shots you should make sure to try to capture are the details. Especially the ones that are going to be changing and growing quickly. Tiny toes, small hands, cute noses, close up facial features all of these little details are so special and need to be captured.