The age of the babies can sometimes make a difference in what type of poses you are able to position them in and whether they will like it or not. All babies are different, and it’s not to say that one baby will be easier to pose over another one merely based upon age, but generally speaking, the age of the baby can dictate how the session will run.
Younger babies tend to go into certain curly poses much easier than older babies and don’t mind much about having their clothes off if they are kept warm.
Babies Younger than Two Weeks
Typically, I schedule all newborn sessions between five and ten days after birth. Although I will schedule newborns at any age, I strongly encourage parents to schedule sessions when babies are at least under two weeks of age. At this age, they are more likely to curl up in “womb-like” poses, stay asleep longer, don’t mind being unclothed, and usually have their feeding schedules set to at least every two hours.
The best time to schedule sessions for newborns is a week after the mother’s due date. I do leave room in my schedule to make adjustments to session dates once the baby arrives. Of course, babies will arrive on their own terms, but at least we have a guideline to go by of what the session day will be. From there we can adjust the date once the baby is born. Tell the parents you have a set date, but that they should call you the day of or the day after the birth so you can make schedule adjustments if needed. Scheduling newborns can sometimes be a juggling act, but if you stick to this general rule, the shoot date should be around the five to ten day mark the majority of the time.
Scheduling babies less than five days old may create some issues around their feeding. It usually only affects nursing babies due to the fact that it typically can take up to five days for the mother’s milk to increase in volume. If the mother’s milk hasn’t increased, babies eat more often because they are not getting fully satisfied. They can also be more fidgety at this age, which makes it difficult to keep them in certain poses.
A seven-day-old, newborn girl sleeps soundly as she allows me to pose her so sweetly.
ISO 400, 1/800 sec., f/1.8, 50mm lens
Photographing newborns under two weeks of age rather than babies older than two weeks has its advantages and disadvantages. The younger they are, the more apt they are to stay asleep and curl easier, whereas the older they are, the more awake and personable they are.
Babies Older than Two Weeks
On occasion, you’ll have clients who want to book a session with their baby who is older than two weeks of age. That’s OK! Don’t turn them away. Just inform the parents that babies older than two weeks might not curl up as easily or like their clothes off. When you have a session with an older baby, you’ll need to focus more on images of the baby dressed, awake, nicely tucked in a basket, or handheld shots. Not all parents are concerned about getting the early, curly poses. They just want photos of their baby. It is best to let them know not to expect those types of poses, but that you are happy to create beautiful portraits for them!
I never cancel a newborn or baby session merely because the baby has missed the “window of time” for the curly shots. Instead, I’ll refocus the session on the fact that the baby may be awake most, if not all, of the session. Be prepared and plan your setups accordingly. Wrapped shots, above shots, and handheld shots are the best for babies who are awake. Assure the parents that they will walk away with gorgeous photos of their baby no matter what the age.
This little sweetie is Nora, my youngest granddaughter. She was seven weeks old at this photo shoot and wanted nothing to do with sleep. Sometimes awake shots can make the most compelling photographs.
ISO 200, 1/200 sec., f/2, 50mm lens
Don’t be afraid to reschedule a session if the first one didn’t go well. Although this should not be a regular occurrence, if it does happen, take some time to evaluate what you can improve on before the next session. Review the instructions with the mom one more time, and make sure she is following them without making her feel badly, of course. Gently remind her of what you need from her. The reason for the failed session could have been that the baby had a bad day because of an unsettled tummy. It could also have been a number of other things. Usually, the next day the baby will be completely different; so don’t be afraid to reschedule if you need to.
When you’re scheduling sessions for boys, be sure to ask the parents if and when they plan on circumcising the baby. Advise them (if they can) to schedule the procedure right after birth or after their photo session because the baby will be more comfortable. It takes five to seven days for a circumcision to heal. Don’t schedule a session for a newborn boy for at least five days after he has had a circumcision because it can be too uncomfortable for the baby when you’re moving him on different blankets and fabrics. You want to ensure the best comfort for the baby, so keep this in mind and discuss it with your clients ahead of time.
Being a newborn photographer is one of the greatest jobs in the world. And being able to hold and cuddle sweet little miracles every day is heaven. Baby safety should always be your number one priority. Everything you do, including beanbag poses, handheld poses, and even prop shots should all be done with safety in mind, no matter what!
- Baby’s reflexes are quick, and in an instant they can roll or lunge. Don’t take chances; be safe!
Keep a close distance between you and the baby at all times. I am never farther than a foot away from the beanbag, and I have my eyes on the baby at all times. At anytime I need to walk away, I ask one of the parents to come and sit by the baby. If I’m talking with the parents while shooting, I place my hands on the baby while I look away and speak with them. Baby’s reflexes are quick, and in an instant they can roll or lunge. Don’t take chances; be safe!
At times you will have parents request poses and/or props of which you either have no experience doing or don’t feel it’s safe for the baby. Listen to your gut. Just because the parents want it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Always think about safety. If you have any doubts at all for any reason, don’t risk doing it and don’t be afraid to say “no.”
Make sure you always use a spotter when you’re doing any type of prop shots. I always have a parent sit on the floor next to the baby at all times. The parent is instructed to keep an eye on the baby, not on me, and not to be afraid to jump in my shot if the parent feels the baby’s safety is at risk. Babies can startle and move very easily, so make sure you are prepared and ready for any rapid movements. For more details on the characteristics of a newborn, see Chapter 5, “The Anatomy of a Newborn.”