Essential preparation advice for your newborn portrait session

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

A newborn portrait session is not something you can rehearse for! The window of opportunity is so short that you really do get only one chance to create images like these. That’s why I put together this blog post – to help you and your baby arrive at the studio fully prepared and ready for a relaxing, connecting portrait experience.

Book your newborn photography session while you’re still pregnant

  1. Book early to secure your time in the studio. Once baby arrives it’s going to seem like non-stop feeding, changing and late nights. The last thing on your mind then will be organising a portrait session. Also, because I want to give the very best of myself to each and every client I only do three portrait sessions per week. Considering I allow half a day for a newborn session there’s only a very limited number of them available. For all these reasons we recommend you make your booking several months before baby is due.
  2. Of course baby will come when they want, not when we plan for them to! The ideal time for the newborn session is when your baby is around one week old. This is affected by whether baby arrives early or late, their weight at birth etc. So, we will hold a ‘floating date’ for you in the studio diary, between four and seven days after your due date. Once baby has arrived, give us a ring to let us know your happy news. We’ll then amend your portrait date if necessary. Alternatively, if your due date is approaching and there’s no sign of any activity, then we can push your floating date back a few days accordingly. Just make sure to let us know.

Before the session

  1. We have a pre-session consultation before your newborn photography session. This usually happens by phone. This is my opportunity to learn more about your artistic preferences and the type of art you’d like me to create for you. We’ll discuss all the creative decisions I’ll be making in the creation of your artwork. This includes the introduction of colour into your images through the use of blankets, props, accessories and clothes. We’ll also discuss whether you’d like elements of your existing décor at home to be included into your images and how we do that.
  2. We also discuss wardrobe choices and accessories or props. Bear in mind that a newborn baby is never going to look better than when they’re in their birthday suit!
  3. If you like the props and accessories look, then a cute woolly hat often adds a little extra aaaaahhhh factor.
  4. We’ll make sure you’re aware of the selection of baskets and other props we have that you can choose from. So you can decide what, if anything you’d like to bring of your own.
  5. We’ll also talk about storytelling in your images and how to create images personalised only to you, your family and your situation.
  6. Make sure that you’ve organised anything that you’re bringing with you before the day of the session as you’ll be arriving for your session in the morning and won’t have time for shopping then.
  7. We want baby to be feeling their best for their portrait session. Avoid scheduling vaccinations for the day or two before the session.

A newborn session focusses mainly on your teeny tiny baby, but can include some family images too. If it’s just the parents, then this usually takes just a few minutes at the beginning or end of the session (depending upon whether your baby is already fast asleep when they arrive!) It’s very sensitively done, as we’re aware that nobody wants to have their photo taken a week after giving birth! For that reason, it’s not full length. Just a snuggly head and shoulders shot of you snuggling into baby and them snuggling into you. Trust me, these are the pictures that will be absolutely priceless to your little one in 30 to 40 years’ time.

We can also accommodate siblings, for a short time at least, but we don’t have huge amounts of space in the studio. If they’re young, then it would be better if someone could bring them to the session for a short time and take them away once their portraits have been captured. (We have a fun park at the top of the street.) As we allow up to four hours for a newborn session, young siblings can get quite restless if they’re here for the whole session.

On the day of the session

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, if you or your baby are ill on the day of the session, please don’t soldier on regardless. It never works! If we’re not feeling great, then we’re not going to be looking our best. And that’s going to show in the art I create for you. I want to create artwork that you absolutely fall in love with! The other thing to bear in mind, is that I work with lots of very young babies who’s immune system is yet to develop fully. I have a duty of care to all my teeny tiny models to ensure they’re coming into a hygienic and healthy environment. So it’s much better to just give us a ring and we will reschedule to a time when you and baby can take it all in your stride.
  2. Give your baby a bath on the morning of the session. Obviously, that’s not an option if their clip is still attached. In this case, give them a top to toe wipe down. This isn’t from a hygiene perspective, but it’s about keeping them awake at a time when they’d most likely be asleep. It’s really hard to sleep through somebody giving you a bath, and the more they’re awake before they’re here, the better chance of them sleeping a nice, deep sleep once they arrive.
  3. If your baby’s skin is dry or flaky, smooth on some oil or lotion after the bath, and pop some in your bag so that we can apply more during the session if necessary.
  4. Make sure that baby is wearing loose fitting clothes (and nappy!) to avoid lines on their skin.
  5. Give baby a nice, big feed before you leave your house so that they’ll hopefully be ready for a good sleep by the time they get here.
  6. Ensure that baby isn’t wearing anything that needs to be pulled over the top of their head to take it off. Something with top to toe poppers is perfect. Avoid lots of layers too. Better to keep them warm with extra blankets than with extra layers of clothes. This is so that we can reduce the risk of waking them up again when we prepare them for their portraits. Especially important if baby arrives and is already asleep. We want to be able to undress them gently and without too much pulling around! If somebody else is dressing baby on the morning of the session while you get yourself ready, make sure you pass on this piece of information. It’s REALLY important!
  7. I don’t book any other sessions on the day of a newborn session, so we have plenty of time for you and baby to settle down. If your baby sleeps throughout, the session will be finished in 60 – 90 minutes. However, many of the babies I meet are on their first journey into the big, wide, world on the day they visit my studio. And sometimes the last thing they feel like doing is sleeping! Allowing up to four hours of studio time means that we have all the time we need for feeding, nappy changes and soothing baby to sleep.
  8. We’ll have endless teas, coffees, soft drinks and cookies to keep you comfortable, but just in case we go over lunch time, you may want to bring something a little more substantial snack-wise.
  9. Wear layers of clothing. It’s going to be warm in the studio, with the temperature set for your little one being comfortably asleep, still and naked. So don’t wear a jumper dress! Wear layers of clothing so that you can peel them off as you warm up.
  10. Remember to bring the clothes, props and accessories we discussed in your creative consultation.
  11. Don’t forget to bring extra milk/formula. Even if you’re breast-feeding, some expressed milk in a bottle might be useful to get baby off to sleep.
  12. Feel free to bring a magazine or a good book.

You might also want to check out these related posts: the creative consultation – our bespoke design service and what to expect from your newborn portrait session.

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Kath Cherry

Kath Cherry

The only fully-qualified Master Photographer in the region specialising in newborn and maternity photography.