Newborns are the toughest for me and generally not my favorite–though I do adore that cute baby stage. I know from the start that it is going to a) take a while and b) require patience in knowing that. Because I do this part time and often on Saturdays, I am all too conscious of my time away from my family.
The best time for newborn portraits is in the first 2 weeks of life. My personal preference is within the first 5 days. Before noon, most babies seem to be happiest. I plan to be there for 2 hours, but I usually finish in one. I used to have a backdrop set up at my home, and have clients come to me, but I have stopped doing that. This is the only type of session I actually enjoy the look of a backdrop, but still prefer the backdrop of the home. The only downside to that is new parents often have a little bit of a mess, but I try to mention ahead of time that I’d like to use the nursery of somewhere in the home in the shots.
I really enjoy the photojournalistic side of newborn sessions and like to include mom and dad in the shots as well. Most moms won’t love the way they look, but I think it is important to include them, if only a brush of their face, or part of their hand. It is also fun to include elements in the home such as the crib, a rocking chair, dresser, or rug. I like to freeze the moment in time and capture the scene to tell their story at that time in life.
I often bring a handful of blankets with texture, solid black furry blanket, and beanbag. I will also throw in a few diaper covers (crocheted or cloth diapers), hats, etc. but I like to use the special blankets or hats that the parents have bought for their child instead of using mine and then leaving with it. But I do provide it as an option. A Boppy pillow is also a great place to set the newborn with a blanket inbetween. I also tell parents to wear solid colors (prefer black) to be a makeshift “background” as they cradle the baby. Long sleeves are best. Unless there is a lot of colorful home decor, I often show the majority of my images in black and white. There is something so pure and simple about that look, and often the baby skin has blemishes that are hidden with black and white. Keep it warm! I often suggest to crank the heat up in the home so baby will be cozy and happy. Have them fed (and happy) just before the shoot, but if crankiness occurs, I just plan to sit and chat while they are fed–and am constantly reassuring the parents that this is normal. Binkys on hand are great, white noise, but I am regularly rocking and shushing (in a rhythmic way) the baby myself and will place them in the spot I have in mind.
Eyes opened/eyes closed. I like both. I do not have the sleep-baby-posed-just-so-with-hands-tuck under-chin pose down. There are videos on you tube, I’ve seen people do it, but I guess I don’t try enough because it isn’t my thing. I often bring my bean bag as close to a window as I can with the baby facing it, grab a kitchen chair to stand on, get above the baby and shoot down below. Great angle. Great Light. The above shot is just that.
I am not a big fan of “baby outfits.” You have newborn portraits taken to see that fresh new baby-ness, not the cute little outfit you bought with just a head poking out. I like to shoot partial nudity. Naked with a diaper/diaper cover on. It is a good thing to discuss ahead of time with the parents so it isn’t an awkward thing there. If they are completely against any form of nudity then I love the clean look of a white onesie. If possible, strip them down to the desired look well before the shoot/before feeding and wrap them cozy in a blanket so as not to disrupt that peaceful phase as you being shooting.
I take close ups of the feet, and often cradled in mom or dads hands to show the size difference.
Pee and poop is inevitable. Embrace it, friends, and laugh with it. Those can be fun shots, too! I also like to capture a little cranky face. Seems sad at the time, but I enjoy viewing that raw emotion later. This is such a beautiful time of life. The new addition to a family, the joy, the love. I do my best to capture that emotion and tenderness. To see more Newborn images, this link Kristen Duke Photography will take you directly to my newborn blog posts.