Holding a newborn is such a great feeling and can evoke a lot of emotions; from this gal at least. During a recent newborn photography session pre-consultation I got to hold my newest client, Baby ‘B’. She was all tiny toes and button nose and I wanted to stick her in my camera satchel and bring her home to my studio, but I decided I could wait for our scheduled session (that, and I think mom would have noticed).
Now, however, I’m left with newborn fever, so I started reviewing previous newborn portraits and critiquing my past work. What worked, what didn’t work. What issues or hangups I ran into before that I can plan for better this time around. Here is my short list of 5 things I’ve easily overlooked in the past.
1. Keep baby warm – The studio should be between 80 and 85 degrees. I didn’t think too much about this when photographing my son many years ago. Granted it wasn’t freezing in the room, but keep in mind how fast a newborn’s body temperature can drop when they are not clothed. In later sessions I started using a small heater and could definitely see the difference in the baby’s comfort level.
2. Be prepared for pee and poo – Baby will pee (and possibly poo) at least once during the session. If it is a clothed or diapered portrait this will not be a big deal, but for the non-diapered sessions prepare for this by covering what the baby will be laying on with several alternating layers of blankets and waterproof pads. If mom or dad will be holding the baby then make sure they are prepared with extra clothes.
3. Have a plan of action – plan your poses ahead of time and have a general idea of how you want the session to flow. This plan most likely will change depending on what baby is doing, but planning ahead can help lower the stress in the room and keep you on schedule. There is nothing worse than completing a 3 hour photo session only to realize you forgot a pose you really wanted to get. This plan should also cover how you will to review the photos as you go along. I hope to one day have a fancy camera to monitor set up so I can see an enlarged image on a computer screen immediately, but until then there are several options for reviewing your shots in camera while you go. Refer to your camera’s manual to see what your camera has to offer. As for me, I will be using the histogram preview mode which I have not taken advantage of in the past.
4. Keep calm – speaking of stress, keep yourself and mom calm. The baby will feel any stress or tension and won’t be able to sleep or be content for the session. If a pose isn’t working, just move on to what will work. And don’t stress over getting a perfect sleepy baby curly pose; an awake baby is an opportunity for some great shots, so take advantage of this time if the baby hasn’t fallen asleep yet.
5. White noise – this is a great piece of advice recently suggested to me by a friend and great photographer. It was one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments. I’ve used white noise with my own children during naps and other occasions, but it never occurred to me to use during a session. Don’t have a white noise machine? There are plenty iPhone apps out there, and if that’s not an option – use a vacuum cleaner, as my friend suggested.
Well, there you have it. This is definitely not an exhaustive list and there are many other equipment, lighting and prop issues to work through as well, but I’ve found that the above list can easily be overlooked when the sessions starts, yet can cause the most frustration if not planned for… Okay, a dead battery will probably cause the most frustration, but I was shooting for brevity. Check back for my ‘101 Things to Remember for a Successful Newborn Photography Session’ checklist that I will undoubtedly be writing after my upcoming shoot ;).