FAQ: What does a newborn photo session look like?

I've been getting so many questions about newborn sessions lately. (It probably has something to do with my presence recently at Big City Moms' Biggest Baby Shower!)  After responding to a couple of inquiries, I realized this is a perfect blog post!  

At this point, I offer two kinds of newborn sessions: posed sessions and lifestyle sessions. 

Posed newborn sessions

My posed newborn sessions are in your home once baby has come home from the hospital, but within their first 14 days (3-7 days is ideal). Doing these photos as early as possible is key to those curly, sleepy poses that so many people love about newborn photography.

Typically, this kind of shoot focuses on baby, and incorporates some shots of baby and momma or baby, momma and daddy as well toward the end (usually about 2/3 are shots of just baby, and 1/3 are family and baby).  The session can last up to 4 hours with feeding, potty breaks, and posing. Baby will cry, and need to nurse, and there will be messes to clean up interspersed with taking photos (which is totally natural), so I typically set aside a whole weekend morning or afternoon so we're not rushed, and the session lasts as long as it needs to (typically 2-3 hours).  

In posed sessions, we’ll be moving baby around and scrunching them into those sweet sleepy newborn images, so we want to make sure they’re sleepy enough to allow us to handle them. Somewhere around day 8 they discover the joy of stretching. Once that happens, they’re not about to let us get them into those curly poses without a fight! After day 14, it’s almost impossible to get baby into that deep sleep that came so easily in their first few days…so it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to get them into any of the more bendy newborn poses. And, keep in mind that newborn acne (and sometimes colic) is likely to flare up after day 14. While we can easily edit problem areas, I prefer as little retouching as possible to baby’s skin (baby is already perfect!).

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Thanks to the awesome Emily for the behind-the-scenes snapshot from our session!

Lifestyle newborn sessions

Lifestyle sessions are a bit more casual approach to newborn photography.  There may be some posing, but the point is to capture more natural images of the baby and family in their home. I typically do these sessions at 5-6 weeks old (similar sessions at 8-9 months old are also amazing), and they typically last 1-2 hours.  My favorite thing about lifestyle newborn photography is capturing the wonder of family members about the baby. Newborns are incredible, but so is the love in the air!  Memories of this time become fuzzy for new parents, so these types of shoots can capture the magic forever.

If the weather is warm enough and you’re comfortable with the idea, we can take either type of session session outdoors. Baby being all pose-y and cute on a blanket in the grass or with momma on the porch swing? Swoon! 

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Worried about shooting at home because your house is a mess? Please don't be. You just had a BABY! If you didn't have dishes piled in the sink, dirty clothes and various flotsam and jetsam strewn all about, I'd be weirded out. Clutter is definitely expected!  I've shot in-home in every kind of home (including hoarders!) and in some very tiny spaces…and rocked them! I really don’t need much space and can shoot around any problem areas. I'll also probably be moving furniture around if I need to make room for myself, but don’t worry – I'll put it all back the way I found it when I'm through! When I arrive, we'll typically get settled, and usually start with some shots of baby and momma/daddy, and then once baby's comfortable, focus on just baby alone.

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Tips for a smooth session 

  • Before I arrive, please open the blinds and curtains throughout your home. When I arrive, we'll do a walk through and find the best light, so I can set up my "mini studio" in the best possible location. Natural light is the absolute most flattering, so I like to use it whenever possible.  Sometimes, that spot will be a little unconventional... like in the kitchen. Don't worry! I'll have everything we need to make it work. And I'll bring lights just in case we need them.
     
  • Have favorite headbands, hats, or blankets from grandma to use in the photos? Great! Please have them out, and we'll work them into the session as baby permits us.  Also having out a diaper pad or two (if you have them), extra wipes, and a few old towels for messes is super-helpful.
     
  • Newborn sessions where baby is asleep are smooth, easy sessions. If it's possible to make sure baby is exhausted and sleepy when I arrive, all the better!  Also, a recently-fed baby is a happy and sleepy baby.  Feeding and burping baby right before our session is a great idea.  And I almost guarantee we'll stop for a "snack" break at least twice (as often as it takes!) during the session. It's par for the course.
     
  • Take a deep breath, and don't stress out. Patience is so important... newborn sessions typically last 2-3 hours, depending on baby's mood and sleepiness level. It's important that everyone in the room is serene and unstressed if baby isn't feeling cooperative: baby will pick up on any frustration in the room... a stressed momma is a stressed baby. Photos with eyes wide open are gorgeous too!
     
  • Take a break. RELAX. Mommas tend to stress out because newborn photography is a totally new experience for them, and they're not used to the waiting games it involves. Mommas see baby fussing or having a hard time getting settled in and panic. "Oh no! This is a disaster! We won't get any good pictures!" It's not a disaster... it's totally normal and expected. We'll get plenty of good pictures. Feeling stressed? Your baby is in safe hands... feel free to go take a nap, take a shower, read a chapter of a book. If I need you for feeding or have a question, I'll track you down.  Sometimes, it's even necessary for momma to step out for a few minutes. Your smell is super-recognizable to baby, and sometimes all that's needed to the them thinking "sleep" instead of "hungry" is to step out for a little while.
     
  • Speak up. I've worked with children for years, have taken infant CPR, and photographed many babies, so your baby is in safe hands. I promise! But if at any point you're feeling uncomfortable, just let me know. Baby's comfort and safety is always my paramount concern.
     
  • Poop is a thing. Baby is going to poop on me/my stuff. Get over it. :) This is natural -- I expect it. Baby will be in the buff for much of the session. I've never not  been pooped and/or peed on in a session. That's why my (clothes, blankets, etc) are cotton and 100% washable. They get washed with unscented gentle detergent between each shoot.
     
  • Let's not forget about you, momma. I know, I know, you just had a baby and feel like a mess. But trust me, even feeling (or looking tired), I don't know of a single mom who doesn't cherish a portrait of them and baby from this time.  If you can pamper yourself a little, do it! Have a massage, or get your hair and/or makeup done. Feel free to tell your charming spouse that we're making you do it, if they need some convincing. For clothing, keep it simple: solid colors (I recommend cotton t-shirts or camisoles). Tank tops also make it easy to pull down a strap(s) for a few skin-on-skin photos (which I love, love, love!)
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Scheduling

I accept 1-2 newborn session bookings each month to minimize scheduling conflicts between clients. (Newborns can be so tricky about when they choose to arrive!)

To schedule your session, just contact me! We'll put your due date on my calendar (with a 50% deposit on your session fee), and then I'll check in with you 2-3 weeks before that date to see how you're doing, and confer on a shoot date on the first Saturday or Sunday that baby is home.  (And I always feel super special when dads put me on the official “baby is here!” call list!  Just saying…)  

More to read in the helpful hints series

newbornAimee Custis