When photographing the wee little newborns its more about capturing the season and the size of that brand new arrival. Once babies are growing they are hitting milestones, experiencing life and photographing them becomes more about capturing these moments. I have a plan for all my sessions, a flow for what I'll capture in the most convenient order to keep baby happiest and it works. Most sessions do go as planned, we keep the baby content throughout and are able to achieve a variety of poses and looks.
But let's get real these are babies and there are many times in a session where the thought crosses your mind "ohno, this baby is fading fast". Its good to have a backup plan and some tools on hand for those moments. You know what I am talking about, baby is rubbing his eyes or outright fussing, he probably is getting close to a nap or lunch, maybe even teething but you need him to hang on for a bit.
So what do you do?
When a baby is starting to show the signs I usually ask parents if he may be close to a nap or feeding and just get an idea of where we are. I typically recommend giving baby a dry snack, have a parent pull out a cheerio and see if that helps perk him up. Then keep shooting, sometimes a cheerio makes it to the final round of images and thats ok too :) Next thing, if needed, I'll have a parent sing or play with him, this is a perfect time for family shots. Their helping the baby stay happy and you are getting your gold as they all interact and look at each other smiling, laughing, singing...just prepare and be sure their in ideal light.
Some other tools I have (or have parents bring) for troubleshooting in a session are:
- a bright glittery pinwheel to wave around
- a sound machine - sometimes the bird sounds can be interesting enough
- a silly parent to jump around - I don't know why but this is usually Dad
- funny random noises - usually it is me making these but a squeaky chicken can work too
- a favorite toy or lovey
- a bottle or breast (not mine, Moms of course!)
If you are still needing images and have worked through your fussy baby arsenal of goodies now is a good time to head outdoors. If you have been working in the studio or in the baby's home just seeing the trees and getting some sun can recharge the unhappiest of babies.
So how do you know when you are done?
I never base sessions on any amount of time, all babies are different, sometimes it takes 30minutes others an hour. Generally, babies in their first year do not last much longer than 45 minutes to an hour in front of the camera. So either the baby has already let you know their done and they are sleepy and/or inconsolable or you have a full collection of images. The definition of a full collection will vary, for me it is enough to create a beautiful coffee table book, 25-35 unique images.
Having a plan or a vision for the images you will capture is key, then once you "got it" you can move on to the next set-up or shot. Do not waste too much time on one set-up, your image variety will surely be lacking if you do this. Have a few tricks up your sleeves and remember you have a limited amount of happy baby time. Make the most of every moment and capture them!
About the Artist:
Rita Lawrence is a professional baby photographer specializing in the season of newborn baby portraits to the one year old birthday milestone. Through her baby photography workshops she also teaches photographers how to start and run a profitable Baby's First Year business such as hers. Workshops are in a small group setting and offer curriculum for business, session/model experience, and post-processing.