A lengthy session-Newborn photography

April 23, 2014


I get a lot of emails regarding newborn photography and one of the same questions I get all the time is why I block off so much time for them!

A usual session for me is an hour to an hour and a half.  Newborn photography blocks off anywhere from two hours to four hours.

I recently got a question from another photographer who is interested in learning the art of newborn photographer why there is such a big time difference… so since you asked here is the answer… in a quick condensed version!

There is so many considerations when it comes to newborns!

  • Safety is one of the biggest considerations!
  • Baby’s mood and hunger
  • Temperature of the room and is baby comfortable and sleepy
  • Mom’s mood and nearness (sometimes if baby can smell mom it makes it hard for baby to sleep)
  • Lighting (is it too bright for baby if you are using anything other than natural light)
  • Textures of blankets/props
  • Your own mood and comfort level as a photographer!

In any session with photography there are a lot of factors to consider;  and many of the above will apply to all types of sessions!  But let’s talk about newborn sessions and how they are vastly different.

It’s so easy to look at pictures and think that looks so easy!  It’s a sleeping baby on a chair!  Or it’s just a sleeping baby curled up on a beautiful soft blanket!  And it’s so easy to think my baby sleeps all the time and nothing wakes him up… I could do that any time I want!  Or, I even hear but my baby is soo good.. it will only take 30 minutes!

And you know what… that is exactly what I thought when I first had Linc!  How easy is this going to be!  I can practice any time I want.  And I did.. which is how I learned that it is NOT easy to get the beautiful shot of the sleeping baby curled up on the blanket… and that beautiful shot of the just sleepy baby in the basket that I thought would be 5 seconds… took me an hour to get!

You read that right… and HOUR!  You see getting the baby into position (even if it’s just laying curled up on that soft beautiful blanket) at a minimum can take 20 minutes because you want them to rest there safely and comfortably!  

Safety is super important because while newborns are very resilient they need help settling into positions so they can stay there peacefully and calmly.  This is where equipment can help!  Here are some of the things I use to help set the mood and also help me protect baby.

  • Sound Machine- I like white noise or heart beat to help baby feel like he or she is back in the womb
  • Space Heater- I keep this far enough away but close enough so there is a steady stream of warm arm flowing over baby to keep him or her warm and also sleepy.  I also warn my clients though to dress and be prepared because it gets HOT in my studio room for us adults.
  • Newborn Bean Bag- This is a great prop but it’s also stronger than most bean bags so it allows baby to settle comfortably in the middle without sinking or moving like a regular bean bag
  • Backdrop stand and PVC stand- I use these to hold up my blankets and fabrics but I use the PVC stand around my bean bag so it’s like a little cage to protect the bean bag from moving or shifting too much
  • Blankets, towels, pillows etc…. These are my stuffers!  I have baskets and baskets of them that I keep near.  They are great as props but they are also used to help stuff under things.  You will find that you might need to help prop up baby’s front or rear end and using a towel or a baby blanket under the large blanket adds just the right amount of oomph.

I also use mom and dad as spotters!

When it’s time to settle into a position I use my hands with a firm touch to settle baby in.  I gently rock baby back and forth with a light sushing sound.  This can take me anywhere from 5 min to 20 minutes depending on how baby is feeling!  Once I settle baby on in and he or she is sleeping, I ask mom or dad to come sit by so they can spot while I take the actual photo.  I do this even if baby is just laying on a blanket!  Baby will wiggle his or her way into their own spot where he or she is comfortable and sometimes they just need a soothing hand on their back to settle them back down.

It is always best to have another person there with you for the safety of baby!

This is why sometimes it can take up to 4 hours to shoot a newborn session.  One pose or position can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes to settle in for baby! Sometimes just getting baby’s fingers to uncurl and lay nicely under the chin can take 25 minutes by itself!

Plus you need to allow for little mini breaks so baby can eat or be changed or just to have a moment to breath without being touched or handled.

It takes a lot of patience to shoot newborns but the end result is just magic!

I hope this answers some of your questions!  This was just a really quick (and really jumbled I feel) explanation of why newborns are so different than any other session.

The time that they are this little flies by so fast.  It’s so important to document and the sooner you can the better!  Just be sure you are being safe and taking the time to document things the right way!

Please ask me anything… anytime!

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