Newborn session guide for parents how to prepare for a newborn photo session

Planning to do a newborn photoshoot? I have photographed newborns since 2010 and would like to share with you this little Parents guide on how to prepare for a newborn photo session. It will cover the most aspects to consider prior to coming for the photoshoot.

If you are still on maternity stage, don’t forget to check out my DIY Maternity Photos at Home guide HERE.

1. When should you schedule newborn photos?

When to book newborn photos. When should you schedule newborn photos.

Many photographers will advise booking newborn photos as early as possible, usually after your 12-week scan. I generally recommend waiting until the second scan – around the 20-week mark.

Newborn photographers tend to book up pretty far in advance. Some photographers provide an incentive to book the session early, like half the session fee off. I’m flexible – I shoot almost every day, I often get last-minute appointments and most of the time I can accommodate these.

Some people are a little superstitious, wanting to wait until the baby has arrived before booking the shoot. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide when you’re comfortable booking in. Just keep in mind that you’ll get more choice on times if you book earlier.

2. Should you do newborn photos?

This is obviously a personal choice. Have you seen these sleepy curled up squishy newborn baby photos before? Are you mesmerised? Or are you repelled, wondering why anyone would want these? That’s probably your answer right there.

Some parents really don’t understand why you’d want to take baby photos when they’re asleep. Especially during those first 10 days. They want awake baby photos when the babies are full of character. These photos should usually be taken after the four-week mark.

Which of these baby photography stages do you like?

Parents guide how to prepare for a newborn photo session. 1
When should you do baby photos? You choose.

When my first baby arrived we simply couldn’t manage photos in the first couple of weeks. My wife had to stay for a while in the hospital and our life became a blur. We were so exhausted that newborn photos were at the bottom of our list. We finally managed to get professional photos, but only after week three.

3. When should I get newborn photos taken?

This can be a controversial topic. There are so many factors that can affect the timeline of when newborn photography should be done. This answer could be a whole blog post on its own.

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On most of the newborn photography websites, they outline the magic number – you need to get your photos done within the first 10 days. I used to have the same rule. As I progressed though, I realised there is no such thing as the perfect time.

What if your baby has arrived four weeks early? I’ve had parents calling me, worried they will miss the window to capture newborn photos. For this group, I always recommend waiting at least three weeks, or often until their actual due date. If the baby is under five pounds (2.2kg), I suggest waiting until they put on a bit of weight.

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Newborn baby is so small to fit in your hands.

What if you’re really struggling with breastfeeding? I always suggest waiting until feeding is well established. A hungry baby is not a happy baby in a studio. If you’re having difficulties, perhaps wait two weeks and plan the session in the third or fourth week.

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Week 14 is perfectly fine for baby photos to be taken.

I’m also perfectly happy to photograph older babies. I’ve done styled/posed newborn photos for babies up to six weeks. If you’re planning a candid home session, then you have even longer to get these images done. You could probably wait until the baby is around five weeks as they will be reaching and looking at you a lot and as a result you’ll get some really cute interaction shots.

4. What age is considered newborn?

From a photography perspective, I would say the newborn stage is up to around six weeks. But this depends if the baby arrived on time or was premature. It doesn’t really matter, but I’d photograph a newborn up to six weeks and the next stage that is particularly good for baby photography is around 14 weeks when they begin to roll on their tummy and start lifting their heads.

5. Is it safe to take photos of newborns?

Newborn photography safety is the most important thing to consider before booking a photographer. You should make sure that the photographer is safety trained and knows what he/she is doing. You will be trusting your baby to a stranger, so please do your research, ask questions. Do not look on Pinterest and start experimenting with poses yourself or ask a photographer who is inexperienced to replicate complicated set-ups. 

Is-it-safe-to-take-newborn-photos
Is-it-safe-to-take-newborn-photos? You have to choose a photographer who is safety trained.

6. Is the camera flash bad for newborns?

I get this question a lot. Parents look on the internet and find all sorts of stories. Mostly these ‘don’t use the flash’ stories are related to the fact that someone has literally placed a camera next to the baby’s face and flashed it. I’m not sure why anybody would do that.

In a photography studio, the flash is never right next to the baby’s face. In my ten years’ experience I have never come across this as a problem. Sometimes babies are startled by the flash, but that’s about it.

You can read research on this topic here

Newborn photographer Edinburgh

7. Managing your expectations

If you’re considering getting your own newborn photos done, you have very likely looked at loads and got a few ideas. Parents send me all sorts of poses and ideas grabbed from google or Pinterest boards. My take is very simple: whatever we want from the photoshoot is not necessarily what the baby wants.

Newborn head on hands pose or frog pose. Manage exceptions from parents

You should never force a baby into a pose. Indeed, it’s best to walk in with the expectation that you will get some nice photos, but not a list of specific poses. Have a chat with your photographer, find out how experienced they are and what kind of photos they are comfortable doing. I’ve done all sorts of things, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend that parents try these complicated set-ups at home.

Prepare for accidents and pauses to clean up or calm down the baby. A lot depends on baby feeds and calming techniques, whether we are doing a simple candid session at home or a more styled session in the studio.

8. Know what kind of newborn session suits your particular needs

Decide whether you’d like a candid home session or a styled photo studio session. These will look quite different and have a very different feel, so it’s best to work out what suits you and the baby. If you’re doing a home photoshoot, you of course don’t have to leave the house, which can take a load off, and you’ll end up with a very natural intimate scene.

Newborn and sibling sister cuddle for the studio photo in Edinburgh
Studio newborn session
newborn photography at home with siblings
Home newborn session

If you’d like something a bit more fancy and styled, the studio session may be for you. Here we can use props, a variety of different poses and different background photos, possibly all during one session.

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Styled Newborn baby photoshoot on the horse saddle

Some photographers can bring studio equipment to the house, but this would entirely depend on how much space you have for lights and posing. Lighting is a very important factor, so if the house doesn’t have a good daylight, then the studio may be the better option.

I have also made a DIY guide for parents who want to take better photos on their phones. Check it out here.

9.Plan for the end result

This is an often-overlooked point, but one that is nonetheless very important. It is very wise to think about what you want to do with your photos before you create them.

Plan how you will display newborn photos on your walls.
Plan how you will display your newborn photos at home.

Most people only think about the digital photo side of things, then after getting the photos, they may realise that either the colours are off and they don’t match the room’s colour scheme, or it is hard to hang these portraits together as the colour tonality varies too much.

Will you be hanging portraits on the walls or making an album? In the album you can mix dark and light tone photos. On the wall, you may want to keep a cohesive collection of colour tone – light or dark. Which walls would you like to use, do you want light or dark photos there? Is there anything on the wall already? Do you want to match it? For example, if you are using dark wood frames, do you want to continue the wall design in the same way? 

newborn photos planned in the frame.

How is the lighting in these locations? Will it be window light, or are you planning to install interior lighting to get the best results from the portraits? 

Do you want to match a particular colour scheme in the house? If the wall is a particular colour, say grey, do you want the image tonality to be the same? You may want photos in black and white, with grey frames etc. 

I offer a bespoke service to my families and can help with these decisions. I always ask parents about colour schemes and if we are creating light or dark tone portraits. I would not recommend mixing them. Darker tone images will always be much stronger than the light ones. 

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10. What do you take to a baby photoshoot?

I always send the following checklist to my clients. The checklist is focused on families who come to my studio for my usual three-hour newborn photoshoot.

  • Bring a snack and water for yourself and any siblings. The photoshoot will be long and you are in the warm room.
  • If siblings are coming, bring some entertainment for them. Don’t forget some bribing material for cuddly sibling shots.
  • Bring at least two changes of clothing, one for the official family photos and one just in case any accidents happen. I have a clothing guide on what to wear for newborn sessions here.
  • Bring a couple of wrapping blankets for the baby, to keep them warm during feeds.
  • Bring everything for changing and feeding the baby, including any creams you use or special eco materials.
  • If the newborn has long hair, bring a brush.
  • Any toys or props you would like to add into the photos.
  • This one can be a bit controversial, but I always suggest bringing a dummy (pacifier). I know many parents are moving away from using these, but if chaos breaks loose and the little one doesn’t want to cooperate, the dummy can help us get through the session.
  • Try to keep your baby awake on the way to the session. Good practice is to arrive, feed and get going with the session.
newborn baby girl holding shoes during photo session.

I hope you enjoyed all the information here. Did this guide make you think a bit more on how to prepare for your newborn photo shoot? You can also check out my guide on how to choose your newborn photographer and what to ask.

Thank you all and keep an eye here as I will keep bringing out more guides for parents.