Newborn Photography differs in so many ways from wedding and family portraiture. While every genre of portrait photography has both simple and challenging aspects, there are many things about newborn sessions that might surprise you. Here’s what you can expect when venturing out into the crazy world of newborn photography.
Before the Session
Compared to a child, family, or senior session – newborn is different right off the bat. Being that there is a small window of time to capture those perfect newborn poses, the photographer has to remain flexible date-wise because you don’t usually know when the baby is going to arrive. This could be a challenge for photographers who like to have their calendar organized months in advance. It is not uncommon for me to have to move things around at the last minute (even family obligations) to accommodate our precious newborn clients.
2. Session Preparation
Another step in the process that is significantly different is the pre-session prep. For parents, I have a two page document on how they will prepare themselves, their home (if we aren’t using the studio), and their baby for the session. For the photographer, pre-session prep is an even bigger deal. After getting to know the client’s style preferences, I make sure I have all the wraps, props, and blankets I will need for their session. Not only should photographers plan to spend a good deal of money & time on procuring their prop collection, but you will also need to anticipate having a place to store everything & keep it all organized. If it is an in-home session, I pack everything the night before and load up my car in the morning (props, blankets, wraps, heater, bean bag, camera, lenses, charged batteries, memory cards, Backdrop Stand, burp cloths, baskets, etc). If the session is in my home studio, I spend the evening making sure our home is clean and welcoming for our clients (with young children, this is not always easy).
For family, couples, and senior sessions – it’s usually a fixed date session and only prep necessary is to discuss styling & location and make sure your camera bag is packed. So – lots of big differences here.
The Newborn Session
3. Length & Pace
My typical portrait session lasts 1-1.5 hours where newborn sessions go anywhere from 2-4 hours. Another big difference is that in a family session, the majority of the time is spent taking pictures. In a newborn session, ironically, that is not the case. The majority of the newborn session will involve either feeding, posing, cleaning up messes, or getting the baby to sleep. It can sometimes take up to an hour just to get one image! But patience is key and once you get the baby asleep and posed, you can get a bunch of great images in a small window of time before you switch the pose/set-up and do it again. When I first started, this slow pace really stressed me out – I would worry I wasn’t getting enough images or that I was doing something wrong. Once you get used to the pace of newborn photography, it can be very fun and relaxing.
Another unique facet to newborn photography is the comfort factor. Because I am a mother myself, I am comfortable discussing and experiencing all things “newborn.” That includes topics like: nursing, spit up, pee & poo, circumcisions, tongue clips, pacifiers, conversations on birth stories, baby sleep, pacifiers, episiotomies, c-sections, reflux, anxiety, etc. I would imagine that this might take some getting used to if you have not previously been through the boot camp that is parenting. It might be super easy for some and harder for others – just something to think about. You want your clients to feel comfortable so it’s important to be in tune to what they are experiencing in this delicate point in their life.
An upside to the slow pace of a newborn session is that you use much less memory than you would photographing a toddler or a couple – which means less storage for shooting and less storage & backup space for archiving.
After the Session
6. Packing & Laundry
When you conclude an in-home session, make sure you factor in time to re-pack your car with all the goodies and putting it all away when you get home. Also, plan to have an empty washer so you can quickly launder & sanitize all the blankets and wraps. Sometimes the stains won’t come out of things, but that’s just part of the job. Think of it as a good reason to shop for more.
Importing and culling/selecting the gallery images will go faster than a typical portrait session simply because there are fewer of them. However, editing the images will take much longer (or at least it does for me). With family sessions, I can go through and adjust exposure and add my personal style to the images globally with presets. With newborn images, I have to edit them individually. Regardless if this is done in Lightroom Only with presets or with Photoshop as well, it will typically be more involved than a regular portrait session. I consider newborn editing to be the most time consuming part of the job. While newborns look perfect in our eyes, the camera picks up things we don’t necessarily want in our images (scratches, pink spots, skin flakes, blanket wrinkles, purple tones, etc). I spend a great deal of time perfecting each one so the baby looks as perfect in print as they do in Mommy’s eyes.
8. Packaging & Delivery
Because Newborn Sessions are a bit more of an investment for the client, try to go above and beyond in packaging and delivery of the final product. This may take extra time & investment in packaging supplies if you choose to do this as well. It is worth it in my eyes though – it’s much more impressive to receive a pretty package in the mail than to merely download images.
Newborn sessions are definitely very different than traditional portrait work, but I consider it to be so rewarding. The days and weeks following a birth can be very hazy and hard to remember. Capturing this time for families is incredible – especially when you consider how treasured your work will be, now and in the decades to come.
For a more in depth look into the business of Newborn Photography, make sure to check out The Newborn Workshop for On-Location Photographers. Also, be sure to check out the SLR Lounge Newborn Workshop with even more tips and presets – everything you need to get your started in Newborn Photography.