CELEBRATING 15 YEARS OF NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY IN SAN ANTONIO
In 2005 with a camera, a reflector and a lot of hope I started my newborn photography business. I was one of a handful of photographers who even did newborn and maternity sessions (and one of the only ones in client’s homes). The blankets I used were whatever I could find around their house. Backdrops were either their bedding or a cream blanket I bought at Target. There were a few Etsy shops then selling hats and backdrops but not many). Social media was in its infancy as well, so my clients were all word of mouth and displays. Newborn photography had just begun its popularity, with everyone starting to realize that these tiny moments were ones that could never be replaced. In 2015, Vogue cited the Rise of the Newborn Photo Shoot as a mainstream type of session. But, in my experience, we were already well into the phenomenon much earlier than that.
1,200+ newborn photography sessions later I can say that in some ways I’ve changed (thank you lighting and baby wrapping workshops!) but in many, I’ve stayed the same. My goal will always be to create beautiful memories of your precious little ones that are artistic yet real. I create photographs that will stir your soul and take you right back to those early days. I want you to have those memories of your newborn’s crinkled nose, their expressions, their tiny toes and hands and even their sweet, flaky skin.
As I see new photographers come and go, I remember those first days…so excited that ANYONE would want me to take their pictures and even more excited that they’d invite me into their home to celebrate the growth of their family with newborn portraits. Through the years, I have gained the confidence to truly be able to handle any lighting, rowdy toddler, fussy babies and crazy pets. But, without my first clients who truly trusted my unique vision, I would never have gotten to that point!
So what is different about newborn photography than other types? Why would you not just call your wedding photographer or BFF who just started their family photo business?
Many photographers are skilled in lighting, posing and, hopefully, how to use their camera. But, with newborn photography, it takes much, much more than just these basic skills to be successful. Newborn babies are just days old and are tiny. They are very new and require a lot of patience and skilled hands. Safety is of the utmost importance, and the photographer must be able to focus on the newborn while also composing the image, utilizing their equipment and, of course, capturing the emotion. There is also a lot going on with the family being photographed during a newborn session. Parents may be adjusting to becoming the parent of more than one child, or to becoming a parent at all. Siblings are unsure of who this new little person is (and are they sticking around?).
EXPERIENCE IS THE KEY
I can’t tell you how many clients have said to me during or after the session, “That was amazing, newborn photography is a lot harder than I thought!” Here’s a secret – it’s not hard for me because it’s what I do and it’s what I love! But, here’s another secret – working with days-old-babies is VERY different than older kids, even babies. Newborns are touchy, tiny and have needs (like, now!).
Good newborn photographers can “read” the baby (they send us signals, you know!). They can judge when baby needs to eat, be wrapped up more (or less), doesn’t like a pose, needs a cuddle from mom, etc. These are LEARNED skills that are honed over time by handling and being around newborns. Newborns can easily be startled and need confident hands to soothe them back to calmness. Newborn photographers also have tricks up their sleeve to help with soothing young infants (my favorite – the Baby Shusher).
Newborn photography sessions last longer than regular sessions. Sometimes 2-3 hours to leave time for feeding, snuggling and clean up. A newborn photographer must be patient, never in a rush and ready for anything. Your baby will probably cry, pee and poop, these are things that newborns do.
Newborns also require some finesse in the retouching (so they don’t look too plastic-y or splotchy). Be sure if you are choosing a company that you ask if the work that you see on their website is by the same person who will be photographing your baby and doing the retouching.
Newborn photographers should also be safety trained in baby posing, newborn handling and should be fully vaccinated and insured.
NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY SESSIONS AT HOME
When you were young, you may have memories of going to a chain store or a studio to have your picture taken. While this is still an option, you should consider having your newborn photography session in your home. At home, you can keep baby warm and germ-free. You don’t need to pack up and drag dad and big brother along for a ride. Your home becomes part of the story, which is an amazing way to be able to look back and remember the exact moments your baby arrived home. And, for baby, to see what their home looked like when they were born.
WHEN SHOULD WE DO THE SESSION
It makes me so sad when I get a call from a frantic mom who is worried that her baby is “too old” for a newborn session. No baby is ever “too old” for a newborn session!
Yes, it’s true that babies are more likely to stay curly and sleepy within their first two weeks of life. But, there are many instances where this is debatable. If a baby is born early, they are generally sleepy up until and a little past their due date. If a baby is 7 pounds or under, they are usually sleepier for a few extra days after they are born. Formula fed babies are often easier to get to sleep as breastfed babies usually want to eat more often (but may be calmed easier if it’s comfort they are seeking). If a baby has had a procedure (circumcision or tongue tie procedure for example), they may need a few days for recovery. If a baby takes a pacifier or loves to be wrapped, you may be able to get the “newborn” look for a little longer. Sometimes, babies just have a little personality that is not very sleepy (this can even be seen in a 1-2 week old!). Let’s celebrate your baby and listen to them during your session, no matter how old they are!
Here’s the good news about the period past that first two weeks after your baby is born. They will have filled out a little, and are usually on a better feeding schedule, mom feels better, and siblings may feel more comfortable holding (or even looking) at them.
And guess what, even if they stay awake the whole time, they are still adorable, and you will still never get that time back!
It is true that it’s best to have your newborn session set up a few months or weeks before your due date. But, babies are on their own timetable so don’t let that hold you back from setting up a newborn photography session.
HOW TO PREPARE BABY FOR THEIR PHOTO SESSION
I’ve gone back and forth with this over the years, but have found that general common sense and a low-stress level are the best preparation.
Most newborn photographers agree that there are a few keys to a successful newborn session:
Babies love warmth! Not hot, not chilly, just right. Wrapped babies are happy babies (for the most part, you may get your little Houdini now and then!). For the unwrapped portions of the session, some photographers may use a small space heater (not too close to baby) or a heating pad (to warm the props, NOT touching or near baby). Want to know the best warmth source? Being held against a parent’s arms or chest.
Babies love white noise! If you’ve been using a white noise machine or keep music on in your home, do that during the session. Or, see my recommendation above for the Baby Shusher. These noises mimic the womb and can be reassuring to baby.
Babies can feel your stress! A calm, relaxing environment is best for baby. This means no yelling at toddlers, no running around like a crazy person trying to clean up, just calm attitudes and a baby-centered focus. Think ahead of time how to reduce your stress level. That could be having someone come to do your hair or inviting Grandma over to wrangle older children. Consider having your newborn session as your only appointment that day. If dad has a tight schedule, be sure to communicate that ahead of time so that the session flows smoothly and he’s not worried about when he needs to leave.
Babies love milk! Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, making sure they have a nice, full tummy before the session is key. Taking breaks during the session to feed/nurse is part of a normal newborn session. If nursing, you may think about a bland diet the day before to help with baby tummy troubles. If bottle feeding, the day before your session may not be the ideal time to try out a new formula. Whatever the case, feeding and burping just before the session is ideal. If baby is in a growth spurt or just needs comfort, stopping for a feed is always welcomed by your photographer.
WHAT’S NEXT – AFTER YOUR NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION
This is the fun part! What are you going to do with your beautiful images from your newborn portrait session?
All professional photographers “cull” the images they take during a session. What that means is that they cut the ones that are blurry, not flattering or duplicate. Then they select the ones that are the very best to show to you.
Some photographers “shoot and burn”. This means that they take the culling one step further and go ahead and retouch the ones they like, put them on a disk (or in an online gallery) and send them to you. Then you take the files and are responsible for printing, making books or whatever you want. This is all great IF you actually take the time and have the knowledge to do this. Here’s the tough part – all printers/labs print differently. You really don’t know WHAT you are going to get.
What happens later when there are no more CD drives (already happening) or your computer crashes (I’m still trying to get the pictures off of my iPhone 3!)? A print can always be scanned; a file may not always be able to be printed. Even the way digital files are preserved is changing, with the JPEG being challenged by new technology such as the HEIF format(used in the new Apple iOS 11).
So why is printing so important? In her article, “Lost Generation”, Julia Smith quotes “an estimated 631 million photographs each year, around a third of the total taken, will remain forever on accounts to which we’ve forgotten the passwords, or on obsolete hard drives, making them inaccessible to us and future generations.”
Kids LOVE looking at pictures of themselves as a baby, and they love to see you in the pictures (I’m talking to you, mamma!). There have actually been studies done that show that when children see pictures of themselves on the wall, they feel that they are a valued part of the family (I solemnly swear that those studies were NOT done by a photographer, although the article is on a photography site). And guess what else they like seeing? They love looking at the family that’s right there in the pictures with them.
So, get newborn photos done. Include family and your surroundings. Then, take those photos and do something special with them. Leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren. You won’t regret it!