So you’re pregnant, you’ve perfected the nursery and found a photographer online who shows work you would LOVE to have in your home… sweet images of tiny fingers and toes…they’ve captured exactly what you want to see when you look back at your baby’s newborn photos. You book the photographer (I hope it’s me! 😉 ) in advance and wait for baby’s arrival.
Now what? How do you get ready for a newborn session?
I get this question a lot so I’m spending some time today considering how best to prepare for your baby’s big photo debut. Disclaimer– this is how *I* do it, and recommendations that I give to my clients. Chances are, if you’re using a qualified newborn photographer (check out the National Association of Professional Child Photographers for the best in the business) they’ll have their own information to share…but if they don’t, this will give you a good starting point.
While you’re still pregnant, it may seem silly but it’s definitely not too soon to start prepping for baby’s newborn session! Once baby arrives you will be TIRED and possibly recovering from childbirth/dealing with pain and pain meds. It’s always best to “Boy Scout” it— be prepared! In addition to packing your bag for the hospital, go ahead and pack baby’s photo bag. Some things you may want to include: lots of changes of clothes (seriously– the second that diaper comes off babies usually pee or poo…happens every.single.time…don’t be embarrassed!), extra diapers and wipes, boogie wipes if you use them, nail clippers in case a nail is long and scratchy (although there’s NO WAY I’m cutting that off for you, haha! That always made me so nervous when my girls were little). Other items you may want to include are family heirlooms– maybe you have an 80 year old Christening dress worn by every baby girl in your family (like my precious clients in this session!) Maybe your husband loves football and you want your baby photographed with an adorable football beanie on (like this sweet guy) or you brought your wedding dress for your baby girl to pose on any other of 100 other items that have been brought to sessions with my clients. The point is– be original! This is YOUR baby and YOUR family, so show who you are. I am always happy to work these items into my clients’ artwork.
It’s also important to discuss expectations with your photographer before you give birth (if possible). Where will the session be? How much will it cost and what’s included in that pricing? How long will it take to see your completed images? Is your photographer up to date on vaccinations and what happens if he/she gets sick the day of baby’s session? Do you owe a deposit to hold your spot? These are KEY items that you have to have in place before your sweet babe is born. If baby is born before you’ve had a chance to call someone, make sure that you’re alert and awake when you call– you want to make sure everything is clear and understood.
The Day Of the Session
OK– so baby has arrived– hooray! My favorite texts are from my clients, who send them to me once baby is born and let me know they’ll be seeing me in a few days. (FYI for my local audience– booking your session with me for a newborn is never a set in stone date…instead, I keep a very light, flexible schedule in the days near my expectant moms’ due dates to ensure that when baby arrives, I’m ready!)
The day of the session, it’s best to dress baby in a sleeper type gown– the fewer buttons and snaps to deal with, the better! I also recommend that my moms feed baby once they arrive at my home studio– this way, baby is “milk drunk” and very tired, as opposed to feeding at home and then coming to me. I also ask (and this is sometimes hard for mamas but it makes good sense) that once baby is here and fed, that Mom is as “hands off” with baby as possible. Why?? Because Mom=food, and comfort, and love…but mostly food. 😉 I don’t smell like food (I don’t think, ha!) so I am able to comfort baby without baby thinking about nursing again…which means we don’t have to take baby away from the food source again and again during the session. It almost ALWAYS works. 😉
I keep the room where my newborns sessions take place at about 90 degrees- seriously!- because the warmer baby is, the more tired he/she will be, which is exactly what we want. What this means for moms and dads and grandparents is that the room is HOT– so dress in layers! If mom and dad are in photos, they may want to bring at least one change of clothes (see above– I can’t tell you how many times a baby has peed on a parent…or a big sibling!) I also welcome mamas to get ready at my house– I have a nice big bathroom vanity that’s perfect for getting ready, especially when you’ve tried to hustle a newborn and possibly more folks out the door that morning.
I always leave bottles of water and snacks out for my clients and welcome them into my home as not really clients but more friends– so, make yourselves at home! Watch TV (I’ll leave it on for you), rest, and relax. Once I’ve entered the studio area with baby, I’m not coming out until we are finished. It’s unbearably hot in there so I usually tell parents to take breaks as needed and to ignore my workout clothes since I’ll be sweating away working with baby. 😉
During my time posing the baby I don’t allow young children in the room– despite my best efforts to mask the noise of the camera and lights with a white noise machine, the excitable nature of siblings tends to overpower the machine and disturb baby…exactly what we don’t want while trying to capture all that yummy newborn sleepiness. Mom and Dad (and grandparents too!) rare always welcome to stay in the room with me. Siblings and other children are free to watch TV or use my home WiFi to occupy their time while they wait for the siblings part…or, I’ve even had parents drive separately to deliver siblings toward the end of the session, which tends to work best of all. 🙂
While your photographer is working with baby, it’s a great time for you to touch up makeup or put on your “photo clothes”. New moms are typically sleep deprived so I usually encourage neutral tops but not stark white…it tends to wash out an already pale complexion if you’re lacking sleep. Also, a nice wrap sweater can provide a dressy look without having to actually put on a dress. For dads, a complementary color on top and another neutral (dark jeans or khakis) will tie in nicely to your color scheme. I typically photograph most of my newborns in their birthday suits or maybe just wearing a simple hat or wrap. Another key thing to keep in mind when choosing your outfits is your color scheme at home–be sure to pick colors that will go nicely with your walls and accent tones.
How do I prepare for your baby’s session? There’s a lot you might not realize goes into your session— I heat the room to a balmy 90 degrees or so, and I’ll trim my own nails to eliminate the possibility of me scratching fragile baby skin. I’ll wear clothing that allows me to be comfortable in the heat but won’t throw a color cast on baby’s complexion– so no hot pink or green, even though they’re my favorite colors. I stay up to date on my vaccinations so I won’t transmit any illness to baby… I eat and use the restroom beforehand so I don’t have to take breaks while working. I also take workshops and attend photographer events and retreats to make sure I’m staying ahead of the curve in terms of education and new trends. And I am careful to avoid scheduling too many newborn sessions at once to make sure I can accommodate my clients– that first week is a critical window to capture the true “newborn” phase.
Ultimately, your baby’s birth is likely one of the most important days of your life and your newborn photo session is the perfect way to showcase baby’s “new-ness”. I hope that this guide has given you some insight into how to prepare and what to expect the day of the session.. and if you’re local, I hope you’ll call or recommend me if you’re in the market for newborn imagery. I would love to snuggle your baby and capture those precious newborn moments.