With newborn photo sessions needing to happen in the first ten days of life, there is little room for do-overs. To ensure better results, we’ve put together a little checklist of tips and tricks the pros use to make sure your newborn photoshoot is a success!
First of course, you need to decide whose doing your photoshoot. There are lots of trade-offs between having professional photographers and doing it yourself. We outlined the pros and cons of hiring a professional newborn photographer in an earlier blog, so we won’t debate that again here. We will assume for this blog that you will have someone else be the photographer, be that a friend or a pro, and you will star as the parent for this first shoot.
Once that decision is made, there are just 7 more things that you should do before the shoot to ensure you get those beautiful newborn photos you are after.
32 Weeks: Schedule Your Shoot
About two months before you are due, you should lock in a photographer. This gives the photographer plenty of time to make sure they are open around your due date. Since mother nature is an unpredictable force, realize that you are basically asking for a photographer to be on call for a month, with two weeks before to two weeks after being the expected timeframe for the shoot. You can cut it closer, but then you run the risk of your chosen photographer not being available, or even having a hard time finding one who is not already committed.
You can of course schedule your photographer later, but this amount of heads up is nicer, reduces the stress of finding a photographer, and means they have plenty of time to prepare and discuss your goals for your shoot. So while this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it is a good guideline to lower your stress level.
35 Weeks: Organize Outfits, Props And Location
Once you have secured your photographer, it naturally helps you to start thinking about inspiration for your newborn photoshoot. Of course, Pinterest is your best friend here. Don’t think you are insulting a professional photographer, or any photographer for that matter, by sending your ideas to them. Creating a photo inspiration board on Pinterest helps give clues to your photographer in a language they natively speak—pictures! With so many different styles, visual inspiration helps photographers tailor the shoot to you. It is after all, your shoot.
In fact, many photographers create shared boards on Pinterest, like ours below. This is an ongoing collection of inspirations from around the web and our own newborn photography. Feel free to add to it (you will need to ask to be added to the board), or use it to create your own board. Pinterest makes it ridiculously easy to share inspiration, and has become the defacto standard. Some new parents still choose to make Facebook photo albums, zip files of photos, or a document with embedded photos and commentary. Ultimately this is all about your preference, so do what works for you.
Going down the photo inspiration rabbit hole also starts you thinking about outfits and props you are looking to incorporate. Family heirlooms, like old brooches, hand-me-down christening gowns, your grandmother’s punch bowl or more modern treasures like guitars, your own wedding gown, or a beautiful flower crown you found on Etsy all make extremely personal inspiration for newborn shots. Start making a mental inventory of what you have, and look for inspiration on how it could be used.
This is also a time to look around for locations you want to shoot at, as they may also offer inspiration. Certainly your home is the most convenient and popular location for a photoshoot. This lets you incorporate your nursery you worked so hard on, and lends itself to a more authentic and comfortable photoshoot. However, if your house is prone to darkness, or has very few windows and only a little natural light, you may want to opt for grandma’s house. If you are set on your house or a particular room, and you recognize are concerned about the light, consult your photographer so they can prepare and bring lights to compensate.
Now that you are inspired, you need to prioritize. Narrow down the types of shots you want to do, and order them. Realistically speaking, you’ll probably only squeeze in about 5 scenes, so it is important to map it out. Scenes are a combination of outfit and location. Props that can be added or removed easily can be considered part of a scene, but if we are setting the baby up on a guitar or your wedding gown, arranging the prop as a location will take time, and your baby will only tolerate a photoshoot for so long. The art is in keeping the photoshoot moving to get more scenes and expressions in.
Day 0 to 2: Report Birth & Schedule Newborn Photoshoot
Before you leave the hospital, you must let your photographer know you are in the window for the first 10 days of life. Your photographer is on call, but there is some level of coordination necessary. The more heads up you give your photographer to zero in on a time, gives both you and the photographer some level of flexibility. It is not desired, but sometimes things come up and you may need room to reschedule. Plus, with newborn photography, the earlier the photoshoot is during the first 10 days of life, the better the results.
2-3 Hours Before Shoot: Turn Up The Heat, And Keep The Baby Awake
You need to aim to have the baby sleepy during the photoshoot. This means you must work to keep them awake for the couple hours before the shoot. You can do that by stripping them down, playing with them, and importantly, not feeding them until right before the shoot.
It is also time to start thinking about the temperature. You want the heat to be high, so the baby is more comfortable, especially if you want any naked sleepy baby shots, or plan on several outfit changes. The rule here is if you aren’t sweating, the baby is cold. We recommend having your heat set to between 80 and 85 degrees. Remember, in winter, this may take some time to warm up your space.
A space heater can be a great way to provide added, direct heat and fight any drafts. Most good photographers have one to bring, so you can request this at no charge or let them know you have one to be nice and reduce the amount of stuff they carry to you.
15 Minutes Before Shoot: Feed The Baby
Right before your shoot is to start, feed the baby. This gets them full, sending all the blood to their stomachs and away from their brains, making them nice and sleepy. Usually, both parents are on maternity and paternity leave during the first ten days of life, so it is fine to wait until the photographer arrives to start. Mom can feed the baby and dad can greet the photographer. The photographer will have some setup to do, so feeding the baby during this time will actually extend your photoshoot time.