Being a newborn photographer is one of the most challenging genres in photography. Mostly because, not only do you need to be thinking about a million things at once (angle, light, composition, exposure, how the baby is positioned, getting your wrapping on point etc etc I could go on and on), but in addition to all of the above, you have a brand new little human who is your subject and brand new little newborns have a pretty bad reputation for being unpredictable at the best of times! So.. on top of having to master all of the above things (and having to think about all these things at once while under pressure to get beautiful images for the generations to come! PHEW!), you also need to relinquish full control to a tiny little bundle who despite all your best efforts can make you leave a session walking on air, or leave you a crying mess feeling like a failure (and yes, I’ve been there too). Whilst we can’t really control what these tiny bundles want to do during a session – there are a LOT of things you CAN do to keep newborn babies calm during their session. And a calm baby makes for a much more pleasant session for you and the parents, and more likely you’re going to get better photographs for your clients.
Tips to Keep Babies Calm During A Photo Session
Tip #1: Make sure baby is physically happy
Newborns are sensory little bundles. The great thing about them is you don’t have to worry if you’re doing something they don’t like, or if they’re uncomfortable, hungry etc. They’ll be sure to let you know! The first things you need to ensure are that baby has a full tummy, they haven’t got any gas bubbles in their belly (sometimes this can be difficult but encourage Mum to keep baby upright for a little while after feeding), they’re warm, they’re not wet or dirty. These should all be a starting point as until you fix these issues, they aren’t going to cooperate with you for their session.
I encourage my clients to give their baby a feed (or at least offer a little top up) just before they come to my studio so that they don’t need to feed when they first arrive and we can usually get straight in to the photos. I find this is a better use of time. Of course if baby wakes up and wants to feed during the session we always do that. A content baby is a happy baby!
Tip #2: Make sure your studio is warm
If you do posed newborn photography with baby partially (or fully) naked, you will need to make sure that your studio area is nice and warm. Newborns inside the womb are used to being all curled up in a nice cozy uterus which is about 37 degrees C. If you have any sort of cold draft blowing on your baby, you’ll find they’ll wake up and be rather cranky about the situation (I would be too!). I use a small heater on my beanbag which blows warm air on a low setting to help keep baby happy. Sometimes the adults in the room can find it a little too hot (Mums in particular can struggle a little – probably because their hormones are all over the place right after birth), but happy baby, happy us!
Tip #3: Play white noise
Inside the womb is a noisy place. There’s Mum’s heartbeat, the lungs constantly breathing in and out, the gut gurgling, talking etc etc. I always play womb noise during my sessions to help babies stay asleep. I find that if I don’t, the noise of the shutter going off when the room is dead silent makes babies startle and can wake them up. Funnily enough the noise often sends the Dads in the room to sleep on my lounge ;).
I’ve used the same track for the past 6 years (and both my kids still like to have it at night when they sleep): Natural Womb Sounds by Joe Baker It’s my favourite as it is from an actual womb – not a creepy vacuum noise (but I’m sure they work just as well too haha!).
Alert baby photos are some of my clients’ favourites. If the baby you’re photographing is very awake and showing no sign of nodding off, be sure to wrap them up and capture some beautiful awake photos. Wrapping is also a great way to calm an upset baby as it helps them feel secure.
Tip #4: Wrap!
Babies love feeling curled up and secure just like when they were inside the womb. If your little baby model is feeling a bit unhappy, wrapping them firmly can often help. Wrapping is also a great thing to do if you have an awake baby who is showing no sign of feeling sleepy. By wrapping baby you can get some beautiful photographs of the baby awake (minus crazy arms moving everywhere).
For some more tips on keeping babies content and happy, be sure to check out Dr Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block for more tips on calming newborns. I use his tips for every session!