10 Must Knows When Preparing for a Newborn Session
Preparing for a Newborn Session – Ensuring Happy Clients
Working with newborns for 7 years means learning a lot about how they work – and more often than not, it isn’t how they work but how everything and everyone around them works! I get a lot of inquiries on why a newborn didn’t cooperate in a session, and most often, it’s an easy fix that can be prevented in future sessions. Here are some of the most common fixes for newborn sessions to help you and the parents prepare for a wonderful time.
1- Newborn Age
A newborn is just that – a newly born baby. It is used to being in a womb that is close to one hundred degrees, and is used to being squished up. This is why newborn photography is so easy – they are very bendable and posable, and they will let you work with them as long as you keep them warm and fed and dry. Try to schedule newborn sessions within the first two weeks of birth to make it easier.
With baby boys, you will have a heck of a time working with them if they have recently been circumcised. They are a little uncomfortable and hate being touched down there, or laid on their bellies where they boy pieces rub against things. If possible, schedule the session for before the circumcision; otherwise, wait a few weeks so everything can heal up. It’s not a requirement, but the session will run smoother.
3- Momma’s Milk
If baby is drinking from mom, you may want to ask her to refrain from coffee, caffeine, and spicy foods for 48 hours before the session. These can leave traces in the milk that can upset a baby and make it less apt to fall asleep and be happy and content.
4- Baby’s Schedule and Health
You want to work around baby. In the first few days, mom and dad will get a feeling for when baby likes to sleep and is most comfortable, so schedule for a time that fits around baby. You want to ensure baby is happy and healthy, so if they are colicky or sick, it’s best to reschedule until they are better.
5- Scent and Sound of Parents
Newborns know what their parents and siblings smell like. Often this smell can keep them from falling into a deep sleep, so sometimes it is best to ask everyone to step back and chill out on the couch or watch some TV while you complete your session, so that baby isn’t disturbed with the individual shots. Sound works in the same way – I once had a newborn session where if the older toddler brother was in the room making sound, the baby wouldn’t sleep at all. Momma took him upstairs for a play time and the session went perfect from then on out. Babies are tuned into their parents’ emotions, so if you sense stress on mom and dad, chances are baby does too. Ask them to step out of the room and grab a snack so you and baby can relax together.
6- Happy Baby
Have parents feed the newborn right before the session. This will help keep baby nice and happy, so they fall asleep faster. Baby should have on loose clothing that won’t leave marks in the skin, and their diaper should also be on loosely so it doesn’t leave wrinkles in the skin. Right before you begin the session, burp the baby as well, because gas will make them uncomfortable and they can get fussy. Gently rock the baby back and forth when you get them posed, because they are used to rocking and swaying in momma’s tummy.
7- Time Frames – Knowing what is Typical
A newborn session is nothing like a regular session. It can take you up to twenty minutes or more to pose a newborn into a certain position. They need to be in a deep sleep so they don’t move, so often you will have to move them the way you want them, and then sit there and hold and coo them until they are fast asleep. This takes time, and for that reason, a newborn session can last you up to 4 hours or more depending on the child. It’s important to set a clear boundary for your clients and let them know that if they can’t commit to a full session of 3-4 hours, you won’t be able to get a full amount of photos. I average anywhere from 5-10 photos an hour per session, and you shouldn’t expect to get much more if you are handling the baby safely and working carefully and slowly.
8- Knowing When to Quit
Unfortunately, not all sessions go well. My personal studio policy is that if I am not getting the shots I need halfway through the session, I kindly offer a reshoot at no addition charge to the client. You may not want to do that policy, but most clients will be under the impression that even if they know their newborn isn’t cooperating, you continuing on with the full session gives them the impression that you know what you are doing and are able to get the shots you need. If you can’t get them, be kind and gracious, and offer the parents whatever you can to ensure they can either get the shots at a later time, or get another form of compensation.
9- Studio Preparation
You will need some things to prepare your studio for a newborn, and here are some of the more common items:
- Get a small heater that will gently warm the area around where baby is going to be photographed. You want to turn the heat up to the room to 85-90 degrees, but if this isn’t possible make the room as warm as you can and then place the heater nearby.
- Heating blanket. Get a heating pad or blanket, and warm the items you put on the baby, as well as warm the blankets underneath the baby. Be very careful and make sure you don’t burn them! Never leave a baby laying on a heating blanket for any length of time.
- White Noise. Get a white noise app or machine for the room to help keep baby calm. They are used to the noises they hear in the womb, so mimicking them can really be helpful in getting them to sleep. If the parents have one they use at home, ask them to bring it so baby has familiar white noise.
- Snacks and Water. New parents are nervous about their baby. Have something for them to nibble on and give them a nice, comfortable place to chill out while you do the session. If possible, have a couch where mom can lay down and take a cat nap while you work, because she is probably exhausted from the worries of being a new mom!
- Extra Blankets. Keep a lot of extra blankets on hand because chances are, baby is going to pee on one! It also helps to have something to wrap baby up in quickly if you need them to be swaddled to sleep.
- Waterproof puppy pads. These handy little pads can go between your layers of blankets, so that in the event baby does have an accident, you aren’t soiling ten layers of blankets. Put one between each blanket and you will have less laundry in the end.
- Nappies and Wipes. Nappies (or washcloths) are great for using under a blanket to prop a baby up a little bit, but also work great to clean up messes. Wipes help if you need to clean baby or a prop off, and can help to wipe down a harder prop before you use it to ensure it’s clean.
Not every newborn session is going to go well, and even with all the prep in the world a baby can still be fussy. Scheduling as early as possible means you’re giving yourself enough time to reschedule and shoot again if you need to! You may even choose to write up a small PDF with some of the parent tips in this article so you can provide mom and dad with a good prep for the session so they know how to prepare as well.