It’s been nine joyful, exhilarating years taking photos of beautiful new babies. As a newborn baby photographer, I love my job and the fact that every session is different – you may not believe this, but I remember every single baby I have ever photographed.
I also love working with new parents. I love to witness the kaleidoscope of emotions, from exhilaration to concern, from tiredness to mad, mad love. I was there once and honestly, I have so much respect for those of you who are surviving on a handful of hours of broken sleep every night, and still manage to find the energy and determination to organise your new baby’s portraits. With my first baby, I didn’t even get out of my dressing gown for the first two weeks post partum 🙂
Chatting to new parents, either at the point of booking a newborn baby photo shoot, or at the session itself, a handful of questions crop up time and time again. Mum and Dad are sometimes sheepish when asking, almost embarrassed. But of course, there is no such thing as a silly question – and these actually happen to be very on point and pertinent to the challenges we might encounter on the day of your newborn photo shoot.
So, being the straight-talking mama that I am, I have compiled a list of these great questions, and the candid answers they deserve. So, without further ado…
Seven Things About Newborn Photo Shoots You’ve Always Wanted to Know (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)
1. My newborn baby loves going au naturel every time I take off his nappy. What if he “goes” all over you / your blankets / studio walls?
This may have happened before. Not once or twice. More like, probably nine sessions out of ten. There is something about babies that simply *compels* them to let it all flow free the moment that the fresh air hits their tush. There is nothing that your baby can do in that respect, that I haven’t seen many times before – from the explosive poos that hit everything within a 3-ft radius, to the wee-wees that require a complete change of clothes for me or Mum/Dad.
It may be a bit messy, but none of it is EVER a problem, so don’t let it faze you. A baby photographer is like a scout – our motto is to “Always be prepared”. There is nothing that wipes, mop & bucket and a washing machine can’t fix. And with plenty of clean wraps and blankets to hand, the show just goes on without a hitch.
It’s only a split second to go from this…
2. I see all these babies sleeping blissfully. Mine hasn’t slept a wink for three days in a row. How are you going to get her to sleep for her photo shoot?
It’s hard to predict how a new baby might feel on the day of the photo session. While usually babies sleep more soundly in their early days, I’ve met plenty of seven-day-old babies who were very awake and alert, and older newborns (up to 8 weeks even!) settling with complete abandon. As far as I am concerned, I LOVE awake babies and I make a big point of getting awake shots whenever the opportunity arises. When choosing a newborn photographer for your baby, you may have been drawn in by the curled up sleepy shots (and who wouldn’t, they’re totes adorbs). But I can guarantee you that you will also pine for photos of your baby with their big eyes open.
This gorgeous older newborn baby told me earlier that sleep is over-rated.
So don’t worry – a big part of my job on the day is to make sure that your baby is comfortable and happy. If she happens to be awake for half or more of the session, that is absolutely fine – the idea here is to capture her emerging personality, and if being wide-eyed and bushy-tailed is part of that personality, that is what we will document. Besides, trust me – in the warmth of your home or my studio, with milk on demand and soothing white noise in the background, every baby eventually succumbs to that sweet, sweet sleep. Even if just for a 125th of a second (yes, blinks count too).
Think I am sleeping? Think again.
3. Do babies *actually* bend that way?
I know what you’re really thinking. “Is it safe?”. One thing that reputable and established newborn photographers have in common, is that we will always operate with your baby’s safety as our highest priority. That being said, the final look of a posed newborn portrait can vary greatly from one artist to the other. Some pros aim for a stylised look with more involved posing; others take a much more natural approach. I am proud to belong to the latter category.
My philosophy on posing newborns is that a little goes a long way. I don’t work from a “big book of newborn poses” and I feel like I have achieved my aim when I can produce an image that is graceful and natural. Your baby’s initial positioning is just a starting point; I like to observe and capture how he settles, stretches and kicks of his own accord. Bearing that in mind, remember that they’ve been squashed up inside the world’s most cramped studio flat for nine months 🙂 While they definitely love stretching out in their new found freedom, they are still very flexible and, for a few weeks yet, they may well surprise you with bendy postures worthy of the most experienced yogis.
Some love to curl up, others like to stretch out.
4. My eldest doesn’t like being anywhere near the baby. How on earth are you going to get a safe photo of the two of them together?
The sibling portrait is on every parent’s must-have list. Very often, it is also the one shot that your newborn photographer will work hardest to get. There are no guarantees as to how your eldest might feel towards the new arrival. They may feel a little resentful at the loss of their exclusive reign over the household (and your affections). They might even refuse to touch or be too close to the baby for fear of “breaking” her. So, what’s a newborn photographer to do (other than having a well-masked panic attack) when the whole situation is just one big giant “NOPE”?
A pro worth their salt will think on their feet and decide the best approach based on the child’s age and personality. I like spending time getting to know the older sibling, gaining their trust and creating a sense of complicity with them. I like finding out about what they think about the new baby, what they like best about them, and what they don’t like so much. I often ask for their help in setting up the shot, or promise them a go on the big camera once we’ve taken the picture. Nine times out of ten this works and we are able to get the perfect, happy photo that my clients have set their heart on. And if it doesn’t? We all have our tricks… Some of mine involve the inconspicuous placement of consumer electronics or treats, and great timing. But shhh… You didn’t hear it from me.
The sibling shot: sometimes it’s easy…
5. I am a week postpartum, I feel like I’ve been run over by a lorry most days and I haven’t slept since Wednesday last week. Do I really *have* to be in the picture or *shudder* take my CLOTHES off??
Disclaimer: I will not armwrestle you to be in a picture that you don’t want to be in. I will also not tear the clothes off your back for the sake of art 🙂 I completely respect your personal boundaries; pushing a baby out is no joke and I totally get how it can make you feel out of sorts for a while after.
That being said, I urge you to consider some of the reasons why you would like to book a newborn baby photoshoot. It is true that most of the images will be about your baby and how tiny and precious they are. But you, the parents, are very much part of this story, too – and these photos won’t just be for your benefit. One day, when your baby is an adult, they will be able to look back at these photos and I can guarantee you that they won’t be looking for perfect hair, make up and styling. They will be grateful for these timeless images of their beautiful, loving parents in their prime.
As for the skin-on-skin (aka the *gasp!* “naked” photos) – they are completely a matter of personal preference. I personally love placing baby on Mum or Dad’s bare skin as it conveys a powerful sense of bonding and intimacy. But some parents prefer to be fully clothed, and that’s ok too – there is no right or wrong way. Whichever option suits you, your portraits will always be tastefully crafted to portray your unique family dynamic.
Newborn and family portraits: fully dressed, skin-on-skin… or maybe somewhere in between.
6. Help! My baby’s skin is still a funny colour / spotty / flaky. He definitely doesn’t look “perfect” like the other babies on your site! Can it be fixed?
Very few babies actually ever turn up at their newborn photo shoot with perfect, flawless skin. Those first few weeks are rife with milk spots, dry flakes, redness or jaundice. Not to mention the little scratches – for some reason, babies can’t seem to resist digging their teeny tiny baby nails deep into their own teeny tiny baby faces 🙂
Unless you, the parents, specify otherwise, most of these imperfections are taken care of during the editing process. But we don’t want to go overboard – “plastic babies” is not what we’re aiming for here. Your photographer’s talent lies in knowing where to stop with the smoothing, making sure that the detail in your baby’s skin is preserved. Besides, I believe that some things are best left untouched. Newborn baby feet are a personal favourite. They are peely and new, and I love them just the way they are 🙂
Before and after the retouch magic wand.
Peely, peely lovely: nothing quite like newborn baby feet.
7. Will I have to sell a kidney to pay for my baby’s newborn portraits?
Aaaah. How long is a piece of string?
Let’s face it, you’ve been shopping around. And you’re baffled. Why do some photographers charge £100, while others charge upwards of £1000? We all do the same thing, right?
Well, right AND wrong. We may all take photos of babies, but we all have different degrees of experiences and different ways of operating.
What does your newborn photographer’s work look like?
Are they masters of their craft, or “just ok”?
How does their work stand out from others’?
If you’ve fallen in love with a photographer’s work, chances are that it’s not just a happy coincidence. They will have poured many years of dedication and a substantial financial investment in their (continuing) education, to build enough experience to produce such evocative images.
Some other, material considerations also come into play. Does your photographer work from a studio? If so, they may have higher overheads in the form of rent, utilities etc. Do they come to your home? Lower overheads perhaps, but they will need to account for travelling times and the additional effort to transport props and equipment, on top of the time taken by the session itself. (True fact: before my work took a more natural turn, I used to carry an ENORMOUS suitcase on the train and the Tube on the way to my central London newborn photoshoots. It was full of blankets, props and equipment and it just weighed a ton. Sometimes I had to lug it up five flights of stairs on my own. It was brutal.)
Some more boring but necessary details – do they have insurance? Is their equipment of a reasonable professional standard, and serviced regularly? Do they pay tax on their earnings, or is it all a bit “nudge-nudge-wink-wink”?
Has your photographer provided a pre-consult in person or by phone, to get to know you and your requirements, and to make you are a good match? And when it comes to the actual photo shoot, how long will your photographer spend with you – is it going to be a quick session using a number of pre-determined set-ups? Or is it going to be a longer affair, fully bespoke to your family?
And then there’s what happens after the session…
Will your digital images be fully retouched or will you receive just a basic edit?
Will you receive a personalised viewing and ordering service, where your photographer will listen to your requirements and help you design a solution that fits your needs…
…or just a USB stick in the post?
And, like many of my clients, you may well want to order some tangible products alongside your digital images. Will your prints, albums and wall art be of a high professional standard? Will they be checked personally by your photographer for quality, and hand delivered?
Time, quality and ability are all valuable assets, and if your photographer can offer all three, you may reasonably expect to pay a little more for your images.
The truth is, not everyone wants or needs bespoke, full-featured, 360-degree (read: more expensive) photography. Only you can determine how much of a priority a premium photography service is to your family. Budget, of course, is a deciding factor for many of us.
But, before you write off high quality newborn photography as “too expensive”, I would ask you to consider the value of a newborn or family portrait, particularly in relation to the many commodities that form part of our lives. I cannot think of many items that appreciate in value over time, in the same way that a great photograph does. Luxury cars, phones, clothes and accessories can cost tens of thousands, but eventually they *will* give up the ghost and end up in landfill. Not so, a beautifully crafted and well preserved baby portrait – a priceless and irreplaceable family heirloom, whose cost will be easily offset by the years of pleasure it will give your family.
So, when you’re shopping around for a newborn photographer, don’t just compare cost, but value as well. You might find that your investment has a larger return than you thought possible.
About Cristina, UK Newborn Baby Photographer
I am a specialist newborn baby photographer, based in the South-East of England and covering Winchester, Southampton, Reading, Newbury, Guildford, Farnham, London and cities and towns inbetween. My work is all about the simplicity and beauty of family love and connections. Find out more about my photo sessions at home, in the studio or at a beautiful outdoor location near you; read about all the stunning ways you could display your family portraits, or simply contact me now to book your own, unforgettable family portrait experience.