Do you get nervous before a newborn photography session? Don’t worry – even some of the greatest newborn photographers who have been doing this for years still sometimes get a little anxious before their session. One thing to ease that anxiety is making sure you are prepared and setting yourself up for success. Newborn photography, especially posed studio newborn portraits, is hard work and a lot goes into getting those sweet photos of little babies. Keep reading to learn different ways to prepare for a successful newborn session!
How to Set Yourself up for a Successful Newborn Session
Before The Session
Preparation is one key to success for most tasks! There are several ways you can set yourself up for success prior to your newborn session.
1. Setting Expectations with Clients
Setting the tone and expectations prior to your newborn session is important. Many new parents don’t know what to expect when it comes to getting their baby’s newborn photos captured or maybe they didn’t get newborn photos with their previous kids. Help your clients understand what to expect through email communication and a session prep guide. A few important discussions to have with your client (either in your email, on the phone, or things to add to your prep guide) include:
– best time to schedule newborn photos (especially if you are offering posed studio portraits)
– what to expect at the session (how long the session takes, temperature of the room, what to wear, what to bring, etc…)
– process for viewing, selecting, and receiving images (including time frame for when they will receive them)
When parents choose to book a newborn photography session, it’s a given that they’ve chosen a photographer whose images they love. First time parents, especially, come to a newborn photography studio with only a couple weeks of parenting under their belt and the bare instructions they received at the hospital. Quite often, I’m the first person to meet the new baby; even before grandparents and family. I feel a duty and responsibility towards my clients, knowing that they’ve handed me their brand new newborn. I designed my booking process to instill a sense of confidence that the session will be a success. I speak to each new inquiry in the phone (not as a scary as it sounds) to find out what their goals are for the session and answer any questions. They then receive a follow up email with the Portrait Contract, Pre-Session Questionnaire and Tips/Ideas how to prepare for their session. Right before the day of their session they receive an email with final details on what to bring and how to prepare. I want my clients to arrive at the studio, ready to place not only their newborn in my hands but also their trust.
2. Get to know your Clients and their goals through a client questionnaire
You can use a client questionnaire to help you in preparing for your session. This will help you get to know who your clients are, what is their priority for the session, their preferences for colors/props, etc… I use their answers to guide styling for my newborn sessions. Don’t forget to ask about how they plan to display their images – this can help you gain an amazing sell after the session if you offer products!
3. Plan your set ups in advance
I don’t know about you, but the more I can prep in advance the better I feel about my sesions. This means planning out my set ups for the session in advance. It is helpful because I know what colors to use from the client’s questionnaire responses, and can have everything ready to go for their session. I set up all my props I plan to use at the session (and even a couple back up options) so I am not wasting time during the session grabbing things or setting up the next prop. Time is crucial during newborn sessions, and you don’t want to waste that time setting things up when you can be taking photos or soothing baby.
During The Session
Newborns are tiny humans with their own agendas sometimes. Each baby is different – even with planning sometimes a baby will be fussier than others, or wide awake. It’s important to have a plan in place for when you get those tricky newborns. Having a variety of tricks up your sleeves to keep the session moving and successfully get your gallery worth of images is key.
I always tell my clients that newborn sessions are spent with most of our time soothing and settling baby into poses. The amount of time actually taking the photo is minimal. Knowing how to soothe a baby is important for a successful session!
A nice warm room will help create a comfortable environment for the newborn, especially if you plan on doing any unwrapped posing. Babies hate to be cold and aren’t good at regulating their body temperatures yet, so keeping the room around 80 degrees will help them stay cozy. You may also want to have a space heater to help warm the room up.
Well Fed Baby
A hungry baby is not going to be happy and will not want to be posed or sleep. A good indicator of a baby that is well fed is looking at their hands – if the hands are in a ball / fist, they might still be hungry. If their hand is open and relaxed, they are likely fed enough. Have a chat with parents and let them know their willingness to feed baby during the session will be one key to successful photos – whether they are bottle fed, breastfeed, or combination.
White noise is a great tool for soothing babies during newborn sessions. The sound mimics what they heard in the womb. There are many options for providing white noise during your session – many photographers love the Baby Shusher, but you can get any white noise machine online.
Patting / rocking
Rhymthic patting on their bottom or back is a great way to soothe baby. Some babies love motion, so rocking with them or walking around the room will help settle them.
When in doubt, swaddle! Always have a back up plan for your set ups that allows for a wrapped version in case baby won’t sleep or settle easily. Babies love to be swaddled – it helps them feel secure.
If parents are okay with it, try offering a pacifier to baby to help soothe them.
Get a yoga ball! Babies love to be gently bounced. I can calm almost any baby but very gently, with the head secured bounce on a yoga ball. Its the same movement as standing but less stress on your body. Most parents leave my studio and say the first thing they do is either find their yoga ball and buy one b/c its that good. Also learn to wrap really well because awake babies can be great to photograph if wrapped well.
Don’t be afraid to embrace their awakeness!
Some babies simply will not sleep at their session. Newborn photographer Rivka Singer suggests: “The best way to prepare for a newborn who refuses sleep is to embrace their alertness. All newborns have awake windows; they’re calm and taking in their environment. They’re not yet hungry, their diaper is clean and they’ve been burped. Capturing images of their bright eyes taking in the world is one of my favorite things to photograph. If you’re lucky, you’ll snap a funny expression or a gas-induced smile. Parents love these portraits most of all; it gives them a glimpse of the years to come.”
After the Session
Success as a newborn photographer doesn’t just stop at the end of your session! Here are a few more tips for sucess:
Remind Client of Next Steps
Don’t forget to remind clients after their session of the next steps. How long before they receive their photos, how will they receive them, how to order prints, etc… these will all be questions your clients might ask after their session. The best way to remind them is using a newborn session workflow to set up an automated email that sends the day after their session.
Surveys and Reviews
Another great step to incorporate into your workflow is adding a feedback questionnarie to an email and/or requesting a review on your Google page. This is a great way to learn what is working for you business (or not working) and how to continue improving your work.
Don’t forget to get those clients back in for milestone sessions! Newborn session clients offer a great opportunity to have returning clients when you offer milestone sessions at 6 months and 1 year. Parents love looking back to compare how much their baby has grown over the months!