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Planning the Session

A few days before the session, I start planning the setups and poses I’m going to use. Keep in mind what the parents look like so you’ll have a general idea of how the baby will look. If the parents are dark skinned and have dark hair, plan colors that best complement their coloring. You might want to use dark or bright colors, whereas lighter colors work well with light hair and fair skin. There’s really no right or wrong color, but there are certain colors that can complement hair and skin color more than others. Refer back to the notes you took during their pre-consultation about their preferences to begin planning the session.

If the parents are adopting a child, ask the ethnicity of the child so you can get a good idea of colors and props that would work well for the child’s skin and hair color.

Choose Your Accessories

Once you’ve pulled your ideas together, you can start picking out your fabrics, hats, headbands, wraps, and props that you plan to use. Typically, I’ll set up three blankets with two on reserve, and have two props ready to go. I like to layer the blankets and fabrics on the beanbag with a SHOOT BABY! waterproof pad in between each fabric (I use three pads in between each fabric). If the baby pees or poos on the top blanket, the fabrics below will be protected. Layering the blankets helps when I’m transitioning the baby from one fabric to the next so I can move quickly and efficiently without disrupting the baby much.

Because my style is to use neutral colors, such as white, cream, gray, and tan, these are the colors of props I use the majority of the time. But if a client requests another color, I’m happy to use it if I have it.

If I plan on using prop setups, such as baskets or bowls, I get them ready to go ahead of time by tucking the blankets, weight, and neck pillow inside.

Final Preparations

Set up your beanbag, props, and all your baby tools so you’re ready to go and can easily move from one setup to the next. Keep in mind that most likely you won’t get through all the setups you have planned. You’ll have more ideas in your head than you’ll end up doing, but that’s OK. At least you have a plan and are organized and prepared. Assume that the baby will be asleep when the family arrives, but be prepared with a wrap setup just in case. I’m happy to begin with awake shots, because they are very compelling and parents always buy them. Once the baby is wrapped up tightly and you have time to shoot a few awake shots, the baby will calm down and go to sleep, and you’ll be able move on to the curly poses.

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Click to view larger image

I love selecting different wraps and scarves in my work. The babies are kept nice and warm, and you can achieve a variety of looks.

ISO 400, 1/800 sec., f/1.8, 50mm lens

My Cheat Sheet

At the beginning of my career, I would get nervous and have a mental block, forgetting what poses I had planned for the day. So I decided to start writing out a cheat sheet and leave it on the floor under the beanbag. Just knowing it was there helped me stay focused. And when I forgot what I wanted to do next, it was easily within reach to grab a sneak peek at it and carry on.

Selecting Color Schemes

As mentioned earlier, during the preconsulation I like to discuss the color and décor in the family’s home. Is their home decorated with dark brown and orange colors, or bright white walls? The reason is that white, pink, or soft blue colors might not go well with a darkly decorated home, yet white walls will render just about any colors as long as they go with their decor. It helps to know what the interior colors of the home are when you’re preparing your shooting color schemes and the props you’ll be using the day of the session. By taking detailed notes at the preconsultation, you’ll be able to refer back to them and be prepared ahead of time when the session day arrives.

Another idea is to have the clients take some photos of the areas in their home they would like to display their portraits. This can easily be done with a cell phone so they can bring them to the preconsultation session.

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