Nothing brings more emotion to a parent than to see their child captured in a quality portrait. If you are either a baby photographer now or want to be, you will see your share of different types of personalities of babies coming before your camera. You will see “mild and wild” children and everything in between. We all know that knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have in your “toolbox” before you start a photo session of a child (at any age), the better off you are.
In this article, I want to talk specifically about the first stage of growth – the newborn stage. This is between 0 months and 3 months of age. Parents will call you literally from their hospital room just after the birth of their child to secure a spot on your schedule so they don’t miss this precious time. The pressure is on for you to give your clients the best you can. But at this newborn stage, it’s hit or miss because it’s more unpredictable than any other stage of growth. After all, the baby will control the session to a point.
Lets talk about some strategies we can use to minimize any possible problems. First, I believe a photography studio should be clutter free. A client’s first impression when they walk in your studio is the lasting impression. For instance picking inviting colors of paint for your walls. having 24×30 or larger portraits for your wall decor add impact for that wow experience. You are telling your clients you specialize in wall portraits. Having soft instrumental music playing in the background and scented candles creating that “calming” atmosphere and touch the senses. If you are dealing with first time parents, trust me they are stressed as it is. A calm mom and dad is a happy mom and dad.
The temperature of your camera room should be kept warmer than normal. A newborn baby cannot be cold or it will cry. Putting up with the warm room will be worth it. Explain to the parents why you are doing this so they already feel you are the baby expert. Get a hairdryer and put it on a low setting to make noise. This is known as “white noise” and has been proven (by my own school of hard knocks research at my studio) to keep a baby calm. It works like a charm! Then based on what the baby is doing, proceed with the photography.
If the baby is sleeping, tell the mom to carefully remove the baby from the car seat without waking the baby. The good thing about this stage is a baby likes to do two things – sleep and eat. A sleeping baby likes to “scrunch” up because that was it’s position for 9 months in the mommy’s tummy. Simple capture what is natural to the baby. Using an all white background and flooring with white bath rugs folded up so it creates a stack works well. This setup looks great in black and white photography. Lay the baby down on it’s tummy and “mold” the baby in the position you want to capture. Position the baby’s hands underneath it’s head like a pillow. Do these poses without the baby’s diaper on. Yes…the baby may pee or poop but welcome to baby photography. It’s comes with the job description.
After some variation of these nude poses, change to a darker background. Focus on the bond between mom, dad and baby. These can be very close intimate poses because showing a lot of the body of the parents doesn’t do anything for the little tiny baby. It will get lost. I do all different combinations of mommy, daddy and baby. Now let’s say the baby starts to get fussy. Stop the session. The baby is most likely hungry. Let the mom have time to feed the baby. If the mom is nursing, provide a private area for her in your studio. This is yet another way to ease the mom’s stress. It’s always better to be the baby expert with little things like this than to just be an average photographer. After the baby is fed and burped (very important) start the photography again.
Put the baby on it’s back in an antique baby scale with a diaper cover and nice looking baby blankets. Antique baby scales can be found for a reasonable price on eBay. Just make sure they are the old fashioned type (it usually has a wicker basket on top) and make sure the scale actually works. If you are handy build a wide wood platform for it so it will not tip over with a baby in it. That would not be fun. Cover the wooden platform with material so it does not show the wood. Take some photos looking down on the baby. Do this from a small step ladder. You have to work as quickly as possible to get as much from a baby at this stage as possible. Patience and expertise will come with time and practice.