The truth of babies is that some babies are just tricky. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason. Just like we all have different personalities – some adults are more sensitive, or fussy; others are easy-going and relaxed. The same is true for newborns. While the vast majority of babies co-operate for their newborn photography session. Every now and then you come across a baby that’s just tricky.
If you’re a baby photographer, no doubt you follow your photography idols. You know the ones – you look at their Instagram feed and you can feel your confidence shrinking with every image. “HOW can their photos be so perfect?” “They make it look so EASY!” “Do they ever get tricky babies?!” “Is it me? It is something I’m doing wrong”. We’ve all had those questions (or at least I know I certainly have!). Tricky babies do rattle your confidence. You’re feeling good about your photography and have a run of “good” babies, then suddenly you get just one baby who won’t sleep, who doesn’t like to be touched, who cries a lot. It can be deflating!
The good news is that with time and practise, you will gain confidence in sessions with babies who don’t want to go with the flow. Sure, it might not be your best session ever, but if you follow these tips you’re sure to get a gallery of images the parents will be happy with.
- Tip #1: Tricky babies follow their own rules
Babies (and particularly) tricky babies, run to their own rules. As adults this can be a hard lesson to learn. We are independent beings that are used to being able to have control over our lives. This goes out of the window (somewhat) with newborn photography sessions. If you go in to a session with concrete ideas about what images you will get and in what order, you’re set to fail. Newborns don’t follow your plan – particularly the tricky ones. They’re going to do what they want, when they want and they’ll be vocal about it if they’re not happy (and this doesn’t make for a pretty picture! haha). It’s important to follow baby’s lead. If they need a cuddle to feel safe, give them that opportunity. If they’re hungry, they need to have a feed. Follow their cues and they will cooperate with you much better. Making your session flexible might mean that you go in with a rough idea that you’re going to start with beanbag shots, and then move on to a basket shot. If you have a tricky baby that won’t sleep, this might be reversed. Don’t let it phase you. Remember to go with the flow.
- Tip #2: Find out what they like
Just about every newborn has something that they like. You can usually figure it out pretty quickly (but if not, don’t forget to ask the baby’s experts – their parents!). Some are “sucky” babies – they love to suck their fingers or a dummy. Others hate feeling exposed and just want to be wrapped up. In cases like these you need to find out what their “thing” is, and try to use it to your advantage. In the case of sucky babies, I encourage parents to bring along a dummy if they’re using one. It can really help to settle them down. I set them up for a shot, and quickly whip out the dummy with one hand whilst taking the shot with my other hand. Then I replace it before they get the total cranks with me taking their beloved dummy.For babies that like to be wrapped, you just have to be imaginative with your wrapping. I have come across babies who will not let me unwrap them at all for any shots at all. In these cases, I tend to get a lot of variety in galleries. Basically, when you have a tricky baby you need to find their thing and stick with it! For some great tips on settling upset babies, be sure to check out Dr Harvey Karp’s ‘Happiest Baby on the Block’
- Tip #3: Get as much as you can
When you have a tricky baby you’ll need to get creative. Moving them around too much and fussing with them will make them upset. You’ll need to think on your feet to get lots of variety for their gallery. You can achieve this by using different colours (try adding additional colours over the top instead of completely re-wrapping to save upsetting them), using different textures, different angles, macro shots and wide shots. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can get! 99% of the time when I have a difficult session, the parents are overjoyed when they see their gallery. Often they are worried that their baby isn’t cooperating and don’t think we can get much for them at all.
- Tip #4: Don’t get disheartened. It happens to all of us!
I get a lot of emails from beginner newborn photographers looking for reassurance after a difficult newborn session. We’ve all been there. When you have a difficult session it can really rattle your confidence. I remember in my first couple of years as a newborn photographer I would get home and cry and be too scared to look at my images for fear that I hadn’t got anything at all. The good news is that if you are creative during your session you will almost always get enough. In the 5 years that I’ve been a newborn photographer, I’ve yet to have to re-shoot a tricky session as the parents have always been happy with the variety of images I managed to capture. Remember that despite our best efforts, babies are their own little people and sometimes they just don’t want to go along with what we want to do. This can be a hard lesson for new parents too who desperately want to capture a particular pose or image. It’s good practise to prepare parents before their session that their baby will lead the session and that some babies just won’t be happy to do certain poses. That way you can feel less pressure to get particular images for your clients.
Sometimes you will come across a baby who will be trickier to photograph. Don’t worry! It happens to every newborn photographer. Even your idols!
I hope this helps you! I’d love to hear what you think 🙂
Amy Tong is a multi award-winning newborn and baby photographer in the Sydney Inner West suburb of Balmain. She has been specialising in newborn and baby photography since 2012.
- Tip #1: Tricky babies follow their own rules