I have been a newborn photographer for six years now, and a newborn nurse for 9 years before that. I know a LOT about newborns. In fact, I like to tell potential clients that I “speak” newborn. Because of that, I have a lot of tips that I’ve gained throughout my years of working with this population and I’m going to share some of what I know with you right now.
Tips for Photographing Newborns: Keep It Warm
This one isn’t breaking any news that we didn’t know already… newborns like to be WARM. So one of my tips for photographing newborns is to make sure that the room you are in is nice and cozy warm. This often means that mom, dad, and photographer are all sweating within the first 10 minutes of starting. In the winter months, it’s not uncommon during parent posing for me to invite dad to step outside for a breather because it gets steamy.
Now I do have to admit that I have modified a thing or two since my early days. I used to jack my studio up to 80 degrees and just plan for a shower afterward because ugh. Now, though, I warm the room up to about 75 degrees and then I keep a personal heater fan close to my posing table. This keeps baby (safely) warm without putting the rest of us at risk for a stroke!
Tips for Photographing Newborns: Wrap That Baby
Another one of my tips for photographing newborns is specifically for lifestyle (in home) newborn sessions and that is a happy baby is a wrapped baby. Let me elaborate. Babies are born with a primitive reflex called the Moro reflex. This is when a baby who is startled will throw both of his arms and legs out and flex his neck and then pull his arms and legs back in to his body.
A peacefully sleeping baby doesn’t (usually) exhibit this startle response but a baby who is not in a deep sleep or one who is awake will startle often, given the slightest provocation. A great way to inhibit this normal response is to swaddle the baby snugly so that his arms and legs don’t even have the opportunity to flail.
Now, I typically like to have baby unwrapped during at least part of a lifestyle session because I like to capture tiny hands and feet for mom and dad to remember this precious life stage. However, sometimes a baby doesn’t settle unless she is wrapped (and then we try to let baby get into that super deep sleep before unwrapping to capture details).
I have a swaddling tutorial in my Instagram highlights that I refer all my clients to in case they want something a bit better than the pre-fabricated swaddling blankets solutions.
Tips for Photographing Newborns: Soothing An Upset Baby
Sometimes during a session, baby will get upset. Shushing and rocking and swaddling and soothing all have their place but one tried and true method that has never *not* worked for me is using a gentle up and down motion to calm a crying newborn. With one hand supporting the baby behind his neck and the other holding him under his bum, I slowly and gently raise and lower the baby to gently quiet his crying.
The most I’m moving him is a range of motion that is as far apart as my waist from my shoulders. This isn’t a fast motion – baby didn’t come for a roller coaster ride! It’s just a gentle up then down and repeat until the baby is calm and soothed. Parents just stare when I do this. It works every time. (I learned this from a long time pediatrician who swears by the method and just had to include it in my tips for photographing newborns.)
Tips for Photographing Newborns: Change It Up
My father *loves* babies. When my own babies were tiny, he would be content sitting and holding them for hours. However, his “holding” was static, not dynamic. He’d cradle those babies and that would be it. Well, my babies liked to be more upright so things would start out fine but, within short minutes, they’d be fussing.
Now, if my mom or my sister was holding that baby, they’d change the position of their hold and things would go back to being fine. Not my dad, though. He’d be confused Every Time. And I always felt so bad that he loved holding them so much but each snuggle session ended in the kid wailing. And that’s when I learned this one thing about holding babies: If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something different. Works every time.
These tips for photographing newborns aren’t groundbreaking, earth-shattering tidbits but they are helpful to anyone who is a novice in the game!
Featured on Subkit, Liz Viernes Photography is based near Sandy Spring, MD, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.