A newborn photo shoot is like no other. It is dictated entirely by a tiny human who has no idea what the word “schedule” means, and nor does s/he care. All adults present must be prepared for feeding, burping, changing, and settling breaks. This means a session that typically lasts 2-3 (and sometimes up to 4) hours. But not to fear, there are some tips you can follow to help prepare baby for the session and make it run as smoothly as possible.
1. Book your session early!
Babies are notorious for not arriving “on schedule” (remember what we said above about babies and schedules?!). Because of this, newborn photographers only take on a certain number of sessions each week/month, and these spots tend to fill up quickly. I only book one newborn session per week so that if there are babies that decide to arrive early and late that month, I am still able to accommodate clients while their baby is in the ideal window for a newborn session (typically 5-14 days old). Ideally you should be booking your newborn sessions while you are in your 2nd trimester of pregnancy, but for sure before baby is born! I schedule newborn sessions for one week past your due date and then adjust as necessary after baby is born so that the session fits into that 10-day window. Premies are a different story – we will stay in touch after baby is born to determine when the best date for your session will be.
2. Tidy up areas of your home that we will be shooting in
This means straightening up and de-cluttering…it does NOT mean getting on your hands and knees and scrubbing every scuff mark out of the floor! You have enough things to do with a new baby, cleaning your house before a photo shoot doesn’t need to be one of them! General tidying can be a great task for baby’s siblings while you’re busy getting yourself and baby ready :). Rest assured that even if you don’t get to everything, I will move things as necessary in order to get clean shots.
3. Crank up the heat!!
By “crank”, I mean pump up that thermostat until you feel like your insides are cooking ;). New babies are unable to regulate their body temperatures (which is why you are told to dress newborns like you, plus an extra layer), and since a lot of the session will be with baby undressed, the house (or room if you are able to heat rooms separately in your home) needs to be roasting in order to keep baby comfortable and sleepy. You should set your heat at around 29-30* an hour before your session is scheduled so that the house has time to warm up before we strip baby down. This means you’ll need to dress in very light clothing, as you’ll be sweating like crazy in no time!
4. Feed and strip baby just before session is due to begin
Just before I arrive and while I’m setting up, loosen baby’s diaper and remove clothes, loosely wrapping them in a blanket while you give them a full feed. A baby with a full tummy is much more likely to remain happy and sleepy through their session, and having their clothes removed before you feed them enables us to transition them into posing without much disturbance. Try to avoid putting tight socks and diapers on them before the session as these can create creases in the skin that will show up in pictures.
5. Keep lots of diapers, wipes, and receiving blankets close by
Baby will pee, poo, and/or spit up during their session, so being prepared for a quick cleanup means the session can get back on track with barely a glitch.
Babies can sense every ounce of tension emitted from their mothers, so the most important thing you can do before and during your session is to stay calm and relaxed. Things will not go as “planned”, this is a given. An experienced newborn photographer will be prepared for this and just roll with the punches, knowing that baby is the boss and sets the tone for the session. Don’t be surprised if Mom is asked to leave the room for a bit during the session, as baby can often smell the milk if Mom is nursing and get fussy, wondering why the milk is not in their mouth. It’s no reflection on anything Mom is saying or doing, it’s simply a trick that often gets baby to settle back down and relax. I once had a midwife tell me that Mom’s milk smells to a baby like KFC smells to us, so we’re simply removing the distraction and resulting craving from baby’s environment! This isn’t to say we won’t stop for feedings if/when baby needs them – a newborn session always entails at least one feeding during it – it’s just something that sometimes helps to calm baby before Mom is ready to feed.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful in planning for your newborn photo session! You can always contact me with any questions or concerns you may have and I’ll gladly work through them with you.
About this Vancouver newborn photographer: Samantha is a Vancouver, BC area photographer and lives in Maple Ridge. She offers the following services: maternity, newborn, and family photography. She will travel as far as West Vancouver and Richmond for on-location sessions.