Top 5 Tips for Photographing Siblings in Newborn Photography

When a newborn comes in to my studio with an older sibling/s, the sibling photo is almost always at the top of every parent’s list of “must have” images. There’s nothing sweeter than a photo of your children together – welcoming your new member of the family. But any baby photographer will tell you that, depending on the age of the sibling and their cooperativeness on the day, the sibling shot can be the hardest photo to achieve!

Here are my top tips on working with siblings – especially the under 3s (the most notoriously difficult older siblings to work with!).

Tip #1 – Engage the Older Sibling

On first meeting your clients, make a special effort to engage the sibling in a non-threatening but friendly way. You’ll gauge very quickly the personality of your little subject. They may be very shy or they may be more outgoing. If they are shy you’ll need to take your time with them a little more so you don’t scare them. Get down to their level. Make funny jokes – a favourite of mine is to pretend to guess their age and purposely get it very wrong to help them feel at ease. Remember that to a little person you are a big scary stranger in a big scary new environment. Take your time with them and let them warm up to you and the space. Also remember that they have just experienced a HUGE change to their little world – the arrival of their new sibling. No doubt they are feeling overwhelmed at the change to the family dynamic and all the attention that this new little person is having. Most siblings react really positively to a grown up showing them some attention instead of the new baby which may have been stealing the limelight.

Tip #2 – Attempt the Sibling Photo First

When a sibling attends my studio, I always make a bee line for attempting the sibling image first. Why? I find that when young children first arrive in a new space they can be a little more shy and less inclined to be running around exploring every nook at cranny of their environment. They’re usually a little intimidated by the new space, the lighting equipment, the new face (mine!) and camera. I try to take advantage of this small window of time and capture the sibling image before they get too comfortable and less interested in me and what I’m needing them to do.

I’m also mindful that it’s my goal to get the sibling out of the studio space as quickly as I can for all of our sakes! They typically find the studio environment very boring and it can be distracting for the parents (and me as the photographer) if they’re running around the studio getting in to everything. Not to mention that there are lots of hazards around – lighting equipment that can be pulled over, heaters that are hot etc etc. I also find that when the older ones leave the studio there is an obvious sigh of relief from my clients who can focus on their newborn and creating a calm space to focus on getting their photos.

With all this in mind, I usually attempt the sibling photo first. And then I do the family portrait including the sibling. If all goes well – this usually takes about 15-20 minutes. I inform my clients that they need to arrange for Dad to take the sibling home/to a local cafe or park, or a family member/friend/babysitter to come and collect the older sibling.

Tip #3 – Keep the Newborn Safe

As the photographer, you will need to gauge very quickly the type of photograph that you can safely achieve with the sibling. This will depend on a few factors such as the age of the sibling, how cooperative they are, whether they are calm and happy to follow instructions, or whether they are very active and not inclined to sit still for long. As a rule of thumb, I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to the types of sibling photographs I will attempt. The very safest newborn shot is of both the sibling and the newborn laying down with an aerial image of them both. You can take this image with the sibling cuddling the newborn, or in cases where the sibling is very young or otherwise not cooperating/very fidgety – with the sibling simply laying down next to the baby. This means that if they suddenly decide they no longer want to lay on the blanket, that the baby is not going to be harmed.

ALWAYS have Mum or Dad sitting right next to the older sibling for safety. This will also help them feel more relaxed as well by having them close by.

If you have a very young sibling under 3, or you have any concern that the sibling is going to roll on/drop/get distracted and run off – then the laying down pose is the best thing to do.

Of course, if the sibling is older or is very mature (you will still need to have parents there just in case) and calm, you can attempt other types of sibling shots which are more advanced such as sitting poses with the newborn held by the sibling. ALWAYS have a parent sitting right out of shot though just in case!

Sibling images are often the most treasured photos from a newborn session for parents. Understanding how to deal with different sibling personalities and ages is the best way to achieve success!

Tip #4 – Composites to the Rescue!

Knowing how sibling images are usually so important to our clients, we need to try our very best to get them the shot. Sometimes this means that we need to enlist the help of some Photoshop trickery to achieve this if the older sibling is not cooperating. In cases where I have a sibling who really doesn’t want to be near their baby sister/brother, I enlist the help of a favourite toy or other distraction to help. I can photograph both the baby and the sibling separately and then merge the two images together in Photoshop to make it look as though they are blissfully besotted with each other 😉

When it comes to photographing tricky siblings – Photoshop is your best friend. You can stitch together two or more images to make one sibling image for your clients. You might like to use a special toy or doll to encourage them.

Tip #5 – Bribery and Corruption

Older children are clever. They can sniff out a parent’s desperation for the elusive sibling image a mile away and use this to their own advantage. I have had cases in the past where a 2-4 year old has thrown a whopper tantrum just because they don’t want to have a photo. (Don’t be embarrassed by this if this happens! It happens to the best of us). While it’s probably not something you want to do day-to-day at home with your child, if all else fails sometimes a bit of bribery can be the difference between getting a sibling photo to treasure forever, and getting no photo at all. I always leave this up to the parents to decide if they want to partake in this. But if you’re comfortable with bribing your child with a reward for cooperating the results can be astounding. I have literally witnessed children pick themselves up from a crying, screaming pile on the studio floor, brush themselves off and lay down next to their sibling cuddling them sweetly. The power of bribery!

I hope these tips help you with your siblings in your next newborn session!

Amy Tong is a newborn photographer in Sydney, Australia specialising in natural, timeless images of babies and their families since 2012. She is a fully accredited member of the Academy of Newborn Photographers.

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    Lifestyle vs Posed Studio Baby Photography Sydney

    One of the first things you should decide when you are looking for a baby photographer is what sort of photo session you are looking for. There are 2 main types of photography when it comes to babies – lifestyle and studio. Both are beautiful but are very different types of sessions resulting in very different images. In this article I’m going to outline the two different types to help you decide what type of photography you’d prefer and to help you find a photographer to suit you.

    Posed Studio Baby Photography

    Posed studio baby photography is what I do. Sessions usually take place in a studio or another a controlled environment. This results in more formal images of your baby and family.

    Where: Sessions take place inside a photography studio where there is equipment for lighting (or natural light), props, backdrops and fabrics to make your baby’s session beautiful.

    Types of Images: Babies are usually posed in different positions (for newborn photography) resulting in more formal images. Sibling and family images are taken and are typically posed in front of a backdrop or textured rug. These images are all about your baby/family without any distractions from the outside environment.

    How long do sessions last?: Because of the nature of posed studio baby photography, sessions can take some time. A typical session will take about 3-4 hours to leave time for feeding and settling, posing and getting a variety of images in different positions & on different backgrounds.

    What does baby wear? Babies are usually wrapped in various texture fabrics or posed in tasteful nude positions to capture their sweet wrinkles and perfect skin.

    Posed or studio newborn photography results in more formal portraits of your baby. Sessions take place in a controlled environment such as a studio.
    Image taken by me: (Amy Tong Photography)
    Posed newborn photography typically features more formal portraits of your baby. Image taken by me: Amy Tong Photography.

    Lifestyle Baby Photography

    Lifestyle baby photography is a much more relaxed style. Sessions usually take place either outdoors or in a client’s home. Images are more candid and less posed. The aim of lifestyle photography is to capture moments in your environment and interactions between you and your baby.

    Where: Sessions usually take place in a client’s home or outside at a park.

    Types of Images: Babies are photographed in relaxed positions with their parents. Typically a lifestyle photographer will aim to be a “fly on the wall” and will ask you to go about your normal daily routine – capturing snapshots of your daily life along the way. The types of images you should expect to receive might include images of you settling/feeding/playing with your baby.

    How long do sessions last?: Because lifestyle sessions are more relaxed and candid, they are usually shorter than a posed session. A typical lifestyle baby session lasts around 2 hours (or a family session about an hour).

    Lifestyle baby photography is all about capturing babies in their home environment. Image courtesy: Beautiful Little Things Photography

    What does baby wear? Your photographer will typically spend some time with you helping you choose items from your wardrobe which will work well in your images.

    Should I choose posed studio baby photography or a relaxed lifestyle baby photography session?

    It really depends what sort of photos you’re looking for. As you can see – the results are so very different! Both are beautiful and special in their own way.

    If budget is a consideration, you may find that a lifestyle session works better for you. Whilst it’s not always the case, posed baby photography is typically more expensive (posed-style sessions take more time, require rental of a studio space instead of taking place at the client’s home, washing of props and fabrics, and take longer in retouching time etc).

    Ultimately, you should choose whichever style you prefer and find a photographer whose work really speaks to you. Above all else, be sure to capture as many photos of your baby as you can in their first months. They change so rapidly! You don’t want to miss a moment.

    Thank you to the lovely Bree at Beautiful Little Things Photography for supplying 2 of her beautiful lifestyle baby photography images to be featured in this blog post.

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    • BreeThanks Amy!!! ?

    When a Photographer Doesn’t Deliver Photographs

    I’m sure you’ve read the horror stories. The shonky photographers who are paid in full, and never deliver photographs to their clients. The photographers that are paid and never turn up. It’s a heartbreaking prospect – especially when it comes to irreplaceable photographs like newborn and wedding photos. What are your rights? What can you do to avoid this sort of situation?

    Tip 1: Always choose a well-reviewed photographer

    Before choosing a photographer, always check their online reviews. Make sure that these reviews don’t look manufactured (e.g. are all the reviewers new with only one review for this photographer?). Ask around for personal recommendations from friends and family.

    Tip 2: Check that they run a proper business

    Choosing a cheap photographer that’s advertised on Gumtree for an important event in your life is asking for trouble. Does the photographer have a registered business on the Australian Business Register? Are they registered for GST (this is a good indicator that they run a legitimate business and not just a hobbyist)? Are they properly insured? Do they have a proper online presence (i.e. a dedicated website – not just an Instagram page)? Are they a member of a professional body such as the AIPP or the Academy of Newborn Photography for a newborn photographer?

    Tip 3: Don’t pay upfront in full

    Never pay your chosen photographer upfront in full before you’ve had your photo session. The majority of photographers will only require a small deposit with the rest payable after your event/session or when your images are delivered. If possible it’s a good idea to pay via credit card as some credit card providers offer some insurance if something goes wrong. Don’t make the mistake of paying your wedding photographer thousands of dollars before the big day to only have them not show up and block your calls!

    Tip 4: Always have a contract

    Never hire a photographer without a clearly written contract. This is important to protect both you as the client as well as the photographer from misunderstandings and disagreements in the future. The contract should specify what should happen if either party needs to cancel, and how long you should expect to wait for delivery of your images. This is also another sign of a legitimate photography business.

    when photographers don't deliver
    Don’t get caught out by a dodgy photographer! Be sure to always book a reputable business to avoid the heartache of missing photographs or loss of money. Cheap photographers are just not worth the heartache!

    Tip 4: Be vigilant

    A common story I hear come from clients who have paid for their images/products after their shoot, only to wait months (and sometimes even years) for delivery of these from their photographer. In the news recently was a newborn photographer from WA who had multiple complaints about her for this very issue. We are all human, and sometimes photographers need to delay delivery for health or other personal reasons, but they must always be in constant contact with you and get your images to you ASAP. Waiting more than 6 months for images is just not acceptable in my opinion – no matter what the excuse. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right (or if your photographer stops responding to you), then you need to take action quickly.

    My photographer has blocked me/won’t respond to my messages/didn’t turn up to my wedding/I’ve been waiting a year for my photographs etc – what should I do?!

    It’s a terrible situation to be in and I really feel for you! If this is happening to you my advice is to make all contact attempts in writing via email/text if possible. Make every effort to resolve any dispute or issue with the photographer in this way so you have evidence that you can use later if necessary. If you haven’t heard back from your photographer – or worse still if they are blocking you, and you haven’t received what you’ve paid for, your next step would be to make an official complaint with the consumer protection organisation in your area. Within Australia we have state-run Government bodies. You will need to contact your local Fair Trading (or Consumer Affairs) Department and lodge an official complaint. It’s a great idea to attach screenshots of any email threads or text messages as well as a copy of your contract to support your claim.

    Links to Consumer Departments from around Australia

    Missing photographs of important milestones in your life is heartbreaking. I wish you all the very best of luck and hope that this information is helpful.

    Have you had a bad experience with a photographer? I’d love to hear about it.

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      Affordable Newborn Photography Sydney

      Join any Mums Facebook group and you’ll see regular posts asking about recommendations of “affordable” or “reasonably priced” newborn photography throughout Sydney. I’m always interested to read posts like these and the resulting comments. Posts like these really get me thinking though – just what is “reasonably priced”? And which photographers would be considered “affordable”? I fear that the people making these recommendations would not put me and my business in either of these categories!

      Just who is an “affordable” newborn photographer?

      I used to get upset, and perhaps even offended by these Facebook posts which would imply that any baby photographer that charges what I do is “unreasonable”. In fact, I have had potential enquiries tell me point blank that I’m “overpriced” and “unreasonable”. I used to get so upset by these comments. How could making a reasonable living from my profession be considered “unreasonable”? I have learned over the years that there are many reasons why someone would be looking for photographers like these. And it doesn’t always have anything to do with someone’s budget.

      One person’s “affordable” or what they’re willing to spend, is not the same as another person’s value of photography. While people have different levels of budget and what they’re able to spend, I think a lot of the time it extends beyond this. Some of my best clients have not been clients who could have perhaps afforded to spend more. But rather clients who really value photography and understand the importance of it.

      Does making a living out of photography make what I charge “unreasonable”?

      In truth, there are so many newborn photographers out there – each catering to a wide range of budgets. This mostly has to do with the amount of experience that a photographer has. For myself, I used to charge a very minimal amount for all the digital files. When I was first starting out and photography was not my sole income – I could afford to do this. Now that I have been a photographer for over 7 years, and have continued to improve my skills, I can no longer charge so little. I have a family to support, school fees to pay, and professional expenses of rent, equipment and insurance to cover. On top of all this, I have spent almost a decade honing my skills. I deserve to make a living out of my profession. This is not my hobby. This is my job and how I earn my living.

      affordable newborn photography sydney
      Just what exactly is affordable newborn photography? Is it just about budget, or is it more about the value you place on the quality of photographs you receive?

      There’s a baby photographer out there for every budget

      There are so many baby photographers in the market these days vying for your business. A lot of people feel very overwhelmed by just how many there are to choose from! Choose the very best baby photographer that you can afford. However.. irrespective of how much you can afford to/want to spend, please remember to always prioritise your baby’s safety! Cheaper (and typically less experienced baby photographers) may not always understand or be qualified to work safely with your newborn. (You may like to read my post about How to Choose a Baby Photographer here or about the Certified Newborn Photographers accreditation).

      Remember that these are moments you can never get back. Don’t choose someone just based on budget and later regret that you didn’t prioritise the importance of good quality newborn photos more. If budgeting is a concern for you, remember to ask if your preferred baby photographer offers interest-free payment plans to help ease the strain on your back pocket.

      As a closing post…. please don’t post on Facebook asking for recommendations for a “reasonably priced newborn photographer”. All of us “unreasonably priced newborn photographers” might just cry a little 😉

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      • MelindaThis is SO true. Also my other bug bear is when people ask for a photographer who “doesn’t cost an arm and a leg” ?

      When a baby passes away – Heartfelt Volunteer Photographers.

      It’s your worst nightmare as a baby photographer. The email or call to tell you that your client’s baby has passed away.

      I’ve been lucky. Over the past 7 years specialising in newborn photography, I counted my lucky stars that it had never happened to me. All that sadly came to an end this month when I received devastating news from not only one but TWO clients.

      It’s difficult in situations such as these to know exactly what to say to people. What do you say? What can you say? I think the honest truth about this is that there really isn’t anything that you can possibly do or say to make your clients feel better.

      As much as there is no consolation that you can give to families in these awful situations, it makes me feel good to know that there is a wonderful volunteer service that I can refer my clients to to help them at this difficult time – Heartfelt.

      Heartfelt – Volunteer Photographers for families in devastating situations

      Heartfelt is a wonderful group of photographers in Australia and New Zealand who volunteer their services to families who have experienced still/premature birth, or who have a child with a serious and terminal illness.

      Heartfelt photographers are trained in working in difficult situations and with families who are grieving. They work discreetly and sympathetically to capture images of your baby or child such that you will have a photographic record to remember them.

      For my clients who have experienced stillbirth, the call was put out to volunteers from Heartfelt who came to the hospital and took photographs of their baby and their family. They said that they found the experience a very positive one and that it has helped them grieve their baby. They have felt relieved at having images of their baby to look back on in the future and to remember their important member of the family.

      Thank you to all the Heartfelt photographers out there who do such an important job for families.

      If you’re a photographer who would like to volunteer with Heartfelt, or a family needing a photographer please visit heartfelt.org.au

      If you are looking for more information about stillbirths visit The Stillbirth Foundation or Sands, an organisation supporting those experiencing miscarriages, stillbirths and newborn deaths. Sands has a 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

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