Helpful tips for having a successful (and often shorter) newborn photo session
Often times articles like this are written for parents of newborn babies. Us photographers do everything we can to prepare our clients, who are often first time parents, for their newborn’s first photos. We give them tips on what to eat when breastfeeding, what to wear to the session and anything they’d need to bring to the session for themselves and for their baby to be comfortable during the 2-3 hour photo shoot.
But what can photographers do to prepare for the session? After 10 years of being a newborn photographer, I find these tips can be super helpful. Following these tips can often lead to a more successful and shorter newborn photo session.
What to Eat Before a Newborn Photo Shoot
I remember when I first started doing newborn photography over 10 years ago. I didn’t have a studio, so I traveled to my clients’ homes for the session. Typically I traveled about 30 miles from my home. The session usually went about 2-3 hours, but that didn’t include the 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the session for setup and tear down of the background stand, backdrops, beanbag, etc.
Naively, I would just eat a bowl of cereal or oatmeal and head out the door before my photo shoot. Midway through the session, I was starving! I could feel my blood sugar drop and would end up feeling shaky. Sometimes I could take the opportunity to have a snack (usually a granola bar) while mom fed the baby, but if mom had fed the baby right before I arrived I didn’t get another opportunity to eat until I got home. If you did the math, that was roughly 4-5 hours later.
I knew I needed to eat a breakfast that would keep me fuller longer and wouldn’t leave me shaking midway through a session. I tried eggs and some protein shakes, but they still didn’t hold me over. And then I discovered the Fab4Smoothie by Kelly LeVeque. While scrolling through Instagram I saw a post from Jennifer Garner making one of these smoothies. It sounded wonderful and exactly like what I needed to get me through a shoot without feeling hungry. These shakes truly are fabulous and I have one before each and every newborn session. They hold me over easily for 4 hours without giving me the shakes. I highly recommend these to my fellow photographers, or really anyone for that matter!
Sleep Isn’t Just for Newborns
I feel like this should just go without saying, but photographers should be well rested and clear minded when going into a newborn photo shoot. Remember, your clients will most likely be sleep deprived, so we don’t need to add another sleepy adult to the mix. My newborn sessions usually take place on weekend mornings at 10am. That gives me time to stay up late with my husband to watch a movie or Saturday Night Live and still sleep in a little to get my much needed rest before my session. And on that note, skip the extra glass of wine the night before, too.
Wear Comfortable, Breathable Clothing
Newborn photography sessions are much like a hot yoga class. Ok, so probably not that hot, but it can still get pretty warm in the room. There is also lots of bending over, squatting, and sitting/stretching on the floor. These sessions can be quite the physical workout. Have you ever seen the shirt that says “newborn photography sessions are my cardio”. That’s no lie!
I wear a pair of soft leggings with a soft, long and loose shirt. The material matters in the clothing you pick because you’ll most likely be using your body when you hold the baby and wrap the baby. You want to make sure you don’t have on anything that’s scratchy and could irritate baby’s sensitive skin.
I also remove all jewelry, except for my wedding band, which is solid and smooth. Watches, bracelets, necklaces and especially rings with prongs should be removed. I also keep my nails short and smooth and double check for any rough edges before my sessions. The last thing you want to do is scratch the baby with your ring or fingernail.
The Room Should be Warm, but Not Too Warm
I find a good temperature for the room to be 73-78 degrees for newborn photography sessions. I’ve heard some photographers say they warm the room closer to 80 degrees and sometimes warmer, but I personally think that’s too warm. Not only for the baby, but for mom and the photographer, too. Most of the times, baby is wrapped or covered, so there really is no need to warm the room up quite that much. I’ve found my sessions to be far more successful when the room temperate is around 73-75 for a wrapped baby. I only bump up the temp if baby is being posed completely naked. Keeping the room at this temperature will keep everyone warm, but not uncomfortable.
Stick to the Flow and Don’t Overshoot
My workflow is pretty much the same for each and every newborn session. On average, my sessions last about 2 hours. That includes the family photos, sibling photos and the posed photos of the baby. I don’t stray from my workflow because it keeps me on task and helps so I don’t forget any shots that I want to include in my client’s gallery. It also helps so I don’t overshoot and overthink about what I’m trying to capture for my clients. I aim for 2 prop setups (bed/bucket/basket) and 3-4 beanbag poses using a variety of wraps/headbands/bonnets, etc. With each setup I aim for 4-5 unique images with macro shots of the eyelashes, lips, fingers and toes.
Hopefully these tips will help you get the most from your newborn photography session. I’d also love to hear if you have other tips and tricks for making the most from your sessions, too!
Alicea is a Professional Photographer specializing in newborn, baby and maternity portraiture out of Minneapolis, MN. She lives in Maple Grove with her husband, son and rescue pup, Masha. Her hobbies include reading, photography, gardening, trivia games and on occasion jamming to 90’s rock and hip-hop; mostly while cleaning the house.