Rock Your First Newborn Session

March 16, 2015 12:00 pm - Published by The Photographer Within - 7 Comments
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What an honor it is to have Kelly Wilson guest blogging today with tips and tricks for making your first newborn photo session a success.

Newborns are sweet and squishy and oh so cuddly, who could resist photographing them?  You tell yourself, “It can’t be that hard, they just lay there!”  But as you begin to prepare for the session, you realize just how challenging they can be and you start to panic and doubt yourself.  So now what?!  I’ll walk you through this first session with a few tips and tricks, and with a little luck you will deliver beautiful photos for your client, and hopefully fall in love with newborn photography.

Set the Stage

Your shooting space needs to be warm!  I generally set the thermostat to 80 degrees shortly after the family arrives.  This gives them time to adjust to the temperature rather than walking into a furnace right off the bat, it warms up slowly and they barely notice the temperature rising.  Warmth will help eliminate splotchy skin, and will keep baby warm as you work through the session.  Have mom feed the baby, or top him off as soon as they arrive.  This will help everyone settle in for the session, and baby will start out with a full tummy which should get your session off to a great start.  I like to take this opportunity to ask mom if she would like a few nursing photos at some point during the session, what a lovely bond between mom and baby to capture!  If she is open, I pull her to the window and give her time to settle in with her baby, then I will snap a few shots from a distance, then come in closer.  Use shadows to help hide sensitive areas, try shooting from above moms head or over her shoulder to capture the bond from her perspective, too!

Keep a noise maker handy, this will help lull baby to sleep and keep them from waking easily while you are working with them.  I love this app for my iPhone!  I set it to Red Noise, and then slip it under the blanket so it’s near baby but out of the shot.  Be sure you always set your phone to airplane mode to prevent a phone call from coming through and waking baby up!


Keep it Simple!

Keep props, set ups and poses to a minimum for your first session–remember, simple is beautiful too!  Although it may be hard to reign in all your exciting ideas, just remember that one or two beautifully photographed set ups are much better than five poorly shot set ups. You don’t need a million props to create stunning photos as the baby is the focus after all! Adopting the less is more strategy will relieve a lot of your stress, shorten your session, and perhaps most importantly, allow you to capture stunning images for your portfolio to land more clients. Once you have a couple of sessions under your belt and are more comfortable working with newborns,  you can then start experimenting with props or different setups once your work through your standard set of shots. Still not sure what set up to use for your first session?  Try this!  These poses are easy to achieve and you can get several images out of a single set up.

If you can, have mom snuggle in close and capture some photos of her with baby!

Here is another easy set up that will yield several images.  Lay the baby in a basket, or on a rug, and wrap him/her up snug with only his face showing, then gently pull hands or feet out for a slightly different image.  Next, remove the wrap and put on a hat/bonnet/headband, and finally, change out the flooring to give even more variety.  You can also shoot from different angles to add more variety to your clients gallery.  If you have any siblings to incorporate into the photos, this is a great way to do so!  Lay baby on a rug and have siblings snuggle up beside them.  If big brother or sister is wiggly, try swaddling baby, this will help the older child hold on to the baby.

Rock your first newborn session the photographer within kelly wilson photography 2

Get the Light Right

Always, always, always light from the head!  Your light source should always be at the head of the baby.  As you are posing baby, be mindful to place the top of their head toward the light, that way the light will shine down the baby from the top of the head toward the chin, that will give you that nice little butterfly shadow under the nose.  You always want an angled light rather than straight on, this will ensure you have nice depth in your images and prevent dark shadowing on baby’s eyes.


Awake Is Not Always Bad

What if baby won’t sleep?  Don’t stress over it, use it to your advantage!  Both of the set ups shown above are great for an alert (but calm) baby.  While I prefer most of my shots to be of baby sleeping soundly, I usually try to take advantage of an alert baby by getting a few shots with their eyes open.  Parents love these, often more than the sleeping images!  So don’t worry if baby won’t sleep, take advantage of that alertness and get some great images of those wide eyes.  Be patient, they will fall asleep at some point!


Safety Tips

  • Always use your camera strap when standing over babies, or any client for that matter.  This will prevent your heavy camera from dropping on baby should it slip out of your hand for some reason.  Always stand on a sturdy stool or chair when standing over baby, you don’t want to fall on them!
  • If you elevate baby in a basket, bucket, or on a bean bag, be sure to surround the area beneath the baby with pillows when possible.  And always use a spotter if baby isn’t 100% stable, or can’t maintain the pose on their own.
  • Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth during a session.  If you feel like a cold is coming on, please reschedule!  Passing an illness onto a newborn with a low immune system is never worth any photo.  The two weeks after birth is typically the best time for photos, but if you have to wait out an illness you won’t miss out on the newborn window entirely, I have had just as much success with three and four week old newborns as I have the five to ten day old newborns!  This baby was three months old at her session, but you would never know it…

Have Fun!

Even if things don’t go as you planned, have fun with it. You have to start somewhere and everyone makes mistakes. If things go wrong, learn from them so you can improve the next time you photograph a newborn. And most importantly, enjoy it–it will be over before your know it!


Kelly WilsonKelly Wilson

Kelly is a hobbyist photographer located in Norman, OK specializing in newborn photography. When she is not busy shuttling her three children to gymnastics, tennis, and swimming lessons, she enjoys spending time photographing animals for the Central Oklahoma Humane Society.

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