The first thing I should tell you is: “Don’t do it”. Don’t be a fool and hire a professional photographer.
Newborn photography is such a challenging discipline: the first challenge is that the photos need to be taken during the first weeks after the baby is born, ideally between the fifth and the tenth day of the baby’s life. You can imagine that your body is not at its very best a few days after giving birth… Added to the lack of sleep and all your baby’s needs, the last thing you want to do is to stand on a stool in order to take a zenithal shoot of your little one. Besides, the main problem of doing your own newborn session is that you won’t be on the pictures. And the sweetest photos in this kind of session are the ones where the baby is with his or her parents, brothers and sisters.
I knew all that before giving birth and I know it even better right now, after having gone through the experience. BUT, as I am as stubborn as a mule –and a little bit of a masochist, I must say– I was determined to do my own newborn’s session with Théo.
If, like me, you want to try the experience, here are a few tips that can help you manage your own newborn’s session and not die trying. I followed some of the tips myself and they were a must, but I’ve added a few more based on the problems I faced during my own session.
As I’ve already said, newborn photography is a very specialized photography discipline and it is hard to improvise. The more you know on the subject, the better prepared you will be to face the session.
A few months before delivery, I enrolled in the Hello Baby course from Hello Creatividad which I highly recommend. The teacher is Jessica Davey, one of my favourite Spanish newborn photographers. You won’t be disappointed as she gives advice on absolutely everything you need to know on this type of photography, from the equipment needed to photo editing. Be prepared to get a little bit emotional watching the course videos.
Practicing beforehand also helps. But how many newborns do you actually know? That’s the challenge… And would their mothers allow you to practice photography with them? You may be lucky and have a friend or cousin giving birth before you. In that case, ask her if you can take a few pictures of the baby!
Get everything you need ready before delivery
Personally I don’t like a lot of props for this type of pictures. However, as Jessica explains in her course, you will need a few things you won’t be able to buy after giving birth.
If you have everything ready, it will be easier to take the time to do the session within those critical 10 first days.
Ask for help
Despite my insanity, I was aware that I wouldn’t be able to take pictures of Théo, comfort him when he was crying, breastfeed him, prepare everything, etc. (I’m used to multitasking, but that was too much!). Besides, it was clear to me that I wanted to be on some of the pictures too!
That’s why I asked my talented friend Philippe Maly (@phil.maly on Instagram) to help me. It was the first time Phil was doing a newborn session, but he’s an excellent photographer and I knew it would be extremely helpful to have him by my side.
Even so, after the session, it appeared to me that I would have needed help not only with photography, but also with the baby! It was exhausting to deal with the session, change his diapers, comfort him… Ideally, the father’s assistance would have been much appreciated, but he had to look after Inés.
Do not take off the diaper until the last moment
I’m sure you are totally in love with naked newborn pictures, sleeping peacefully on a spotless blanket. Well, the truth is that type of photography requires such technical expertise that not everybody can make it. It is not easy to position the baby so that he’s cute and asleep. This means that by the time you succeed, he or she will probably have relieved him/herself a few times…
I bet you won’t own as many props as a professional photographer. If you undress the baby too soon, he or she will probably spoil the only beautiful blanket you have.
Don’t be too picky on the poses
As I was telling you before, it is not easy to place your baby in a box or a basket, keep him or her calm and stay in a photogenic pose. In fact, it is rather tough.
If you don’t succeed, choose less technical poses: covered with a blanket, in your arms… Ultimately, the most important is the memories you are creating of those first days that go by too quickly when the babies are so cute.
Don’t panic regarding the perfect time to do the session
This was something I was wrong about. I was so afraid of missing those first days to do the session that I even started to take pictures of Théo at the hospital.
The reality is that those first 10 days are extremely important when a professional photographer is doing the session as he won’t be able to spend more than a few hours with you, for obvious reasons. But you will spend 24 hours a day with your baby and will have plenty of time to take pictures. Take advantage of his/her naps, when you are alone with him or her. That’s a good time to try the poses you didn’t manage to get during the first session.
Enjoy the moment
Théo was born 5 months ago and, whenever I see a newborn, I can’t believe he was just like that a few months ago: those tiny hands and nails, the downy hair over his body… It’s such a unique moment which slips away so quickly… That’s why it’s worth capturing those first days on a photograph.
Those are the things I would recommend if you are thinking of doing your newborn’s session yourself. I really hope you find them helpful and please let me know if you give it a try. I want to see the photos!