Getting Photos Done Professionally Part II: Newborns
Thinking of arranging a newborn photoshoot for the family album once you welcome your bundle of joy into the world? Allow us to guide you through the process...
While you still have some free time before the big arrival, why not check out some tips on how to organise the photoshoot and make it a memorable family experience? Experienced family photographers Maria Sze and Hazel Chiu share their tips on how to make the most out of your baby’s first ever photoshoot.
Hire a photographer you trust
We went over the basic guidelines in our maternity photography article last week: research, dissect and negotiate. This is pretty much the same for newborn photography, except for one extra criterion: experience in handling newborn babies.
“Newborn photography is a very specialized field,” says Chiu. “Not many people have the patience, experience, and skill to handle very young babies.”
Photographers must know how to soothe a baby, while ensuring their safety and avoiding putting them in positions that are uncomfortable or even potentially dangerous.
Book as early as possible
It’s best to book a session 3 – 4 months before you’re due, as once your baby arrives, you will have your hands full with this, that, and the rest of it! According to Sze, the best time for the photoshoot is when your baby is between 5 – 14 days old. Chiu calls this the “magic time frame,” as they’re still flexible enough to curl up into snug foetal positions.
“The reason why we want to do these curly, compact poses is because it replicates how they looked like inside the womb,” explains Sze.
Home vs. studio
Newborn photoshoots are typically done either at home or in a studio, to minimize the time the little ones spend outdoors.
Shoots done within the comforts of your own home are a lot more relaxed and laid-back. You may find it to be an easier and less stressful experience, as you won’t have to worry about packing all the baby supplies and lugging them around; all you need to do is to make sure your baby is well-fed and content. The photographer will use the natural light from the windows and may also bring along a few studio lamps.
However, due to limited or cluttered space at home, you may opt to shoot at the studio, in which case you’ll need to pack diapers, extra clothes, milk, props you want to use and other baby necessities. You’ll may also have to feed your baby at the studio so make sure you put some thought into packing for all situations. The reward for doing all this is the access to backdrops, lights, lighting modifiers and a much wider range of props and professional equipment, giving you and the photographer more variables to work with for the final outcome.
Posed vs. lifestyle
There are generally two styles of photography done for newborns: posed or lifestyle. Posed shoots can be done either at home or in a studio; lifestyle shoots are done at home.
Posed photos of sleeping babies are usually done against soft, pastel-coloured backdrops with a few props. A few popular poses include:
- Aerial shot: taken from above when the baby is lying down
- Bum-up shot: when the bum is perked right up
- Side shot: a side-profile of the baby
- Composite shots: when an assistant helps the baby sit and pose upright (her hand is later photoshopped out)
- Curled-up shot: when the baby curls up tightly into a ball. Usually, they are put inside a container of some sort, like a suitcase or a vintage bucket.
Lifestyle photos are done at home in a more relaxed environment, where parents interact with the baby. These shots have become more popular in the past few years, and Sze calls it the future trend of newborn photography. “It’s also even easier for us [to shoot], because we don’t need to wait for the baby to sleep – it can be done whenever,” says Sze.
Get the whole family involved
Although getting your older kids in the picture sounds like a great bonding experience, your toddlers may not find it as exciting.
“It’s very challenging to get them to pose with their baby siblings harmoniously,” admits Chiu. Depending on their age, there's a chance they could get jealous of the attention that the newborn receives, and may require a little more time to warm up to their new sibling.
However, if your older kids are up for it and you'd prefer to round up the whole family to be in the photos, it's advisable to arrange these shots at the start as they will get restless waiting around. Keep in mind that the photoshoot in its entirety can take up to 2 or 3 hours, so if you’re shooting at the studio make sure you bring along your helper or a relative to take them out once the family or siblings shots are done. If you’re shooting at home, make sure your older children have enough distractions set up to keep them out of the way, but close enough that you can keep an eye on them.
Set the mood
It's easy to run out of time if your baby continuously refuses to cooperate. If you're not having much luck trying to calm your precious bundle, you may want to have a go at some of the following tips:
- Keep the room temperature steady at an optimal 26-27 degrees Celsius: when babies get hot and sweaty, the crankiness emerges!
- Play some white noise: put a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner on high to comfort your baby. These noises remind your baby of their time in your womb, so it actually has a soothing effect.
- Gently hush them while patting their bottoms rhythmically. The repetition mimics the sound of your heartbeat, making your baby feel safe and sound.
Get up close and personal
Close-up shots are a favourite for most parents as it highlights the baby's youthful features. You can also pair your baby's hands and feet with your own to lend a bit of contrast.
If you have keepsakes, incorporate them into the shoot to lend more depth to your photos. The trick is to choose props with personal meaning that connects you to your baby. “Keep it timeless and simple,” advises Chiu.
Play the waiting game
Get ready for a long afternoon indoors, because a newborn photoshoot can take anywhere from 2 hours (lifestyle shoot) to 3 – 4 hours (posed shoot). “It’s all about waiting, anticipating and not rushing,” says Chiu.
Working with a baby model is difficult, so expect a few hiccups along the way. “Babies are unpredictable!” says Chiu. “Sometimes they want to poop, or they’re not in the mood.”
A newborn’s photoshoot can be challenging, but the results are very rewarding. Just relax, take it slow, and enjoy the ride; soon you’ll have yourself a set of beautiful newborn photos that you and your little one can treasure for many years to come, even after they’ve flown the nest!