You get an enquiry from a family to do a newborn session. You get super excited till the part when family mentions that they would like sibling photos with a newborn baby. Especially if older brother or sister is just under two or between two to three years old. You start slightly twitching there.
I totally get you and I do get these enquiries a lot. I run a newborn studio here in Edinburgh. Mums normally would have a pretty high expectation of what they would like to achieve and how they visualise these sibling photos. Hugging, kissing angelic looks. The only problem is that sibling might have totally different idea of what they would like to do with their newborn brother or sister :)
Today I will share with you everything what I do, how I set up for sibling and newborn photos, what I communicate to families and how to set expectations. What to do when things are not working at all and what to do when you have older siblings coming in.
Preparation for sibling and newborn baby photography.
Sibling and newborn sessions come with a set of challenges. It always looks much easier in photos to be done than in reality. Preparation for the session would be key here. Let’s address key considerations here.
Tell family not to pressure their child and not tell sibling smile, listen to the photographer, behave etc. More you will tell them this, less they will cooperate. Leave this part to me and through play, we will get there.
Ask family to bring few of favourite toys, books. Something maybe they would like to include in photos? Also, ask them to bring some of my favourite snacks. Bribing material. I had cases when parents would have a new toy in the bag if the sibling does all photos. There have been different degrees of success here.
Ask parents how they feel about bribing their child with sweeties. Some parents can be reluctant to this. They might prefer more organic treats.
What outfits to wear for newborn sibling photos.
Here is what to wear video I made for general newborn sessions. These rules would apply for siblings too.
What siblings wear
Prepare at least two sets of changes. Depending on what tonality images you prefer, it would be either light or dark set of photos. Two changes are in case if siblings eat something and spill it on clothes or during siblings shots accident might happen little baby has marked them.
Change sibling in clothes only when it is needed. Siblings arrive in normal clothes and leave fancy clothes in the clothing bag so there are no creases in shirt or dresses.
Clothes should be in solid colours with no large logos. Girls dresses could have little flowers or something like that, but I always ask to make sure that there are no tops with another set of eyes on them. Like animals or superheroes etc. As plain and timeless as possible.
Sometimes there are no tops at all. This would be your personal decision.
What newborn wear for sibling photos.
Normally I would not recommend parents to bring their own outfits for newborn sessions. These would be simply too big and baggy.
I stock in studio different newborn outfits. For boys and for girls. These can be knitted rompers. Nappy cover pants. I have a few newborn size tutus or you can simply wrap newborn baby.
How to get a sibling to cooperate for newborn photos.
Play the GAME with them.
It is never easy to work with very young siblings. Especially with under two year olds. They still haven’t grasped the concept of big brother/sister and definitely are very much self minded. I mainly work from the studio and parents would always request that angelic sibling photo.
Ask parents about siblings, what they like, what is their favourite book, sweet etc. Anything that could help you to make a bond with them. Plan your session according to this. Try to get sibling photos done pretty early during the shoot. I always make sure newborn is settled and then get going with a sibling.
I find that if I wrap newborn, I can start pretty much straight away. Give them feed and wrap them up. This way I already have some photos done. Then later we unwrap and do other poses.
Over the years I have tried loads of different things and normally there are only a couple ways how I can get what I need.
Newborn and sibling photography ideas
Under two year olds
There is one sibling pose every parent wants. It is laying down on the carpet pose. Unfortunately, this pose pretty much never works as sibling simply doesn’t want to lay down. If they do then it is literally a couple of second and up. So what can you do then?
Posing sibling on the beanbag.
I place newborn on the beanbag and instead of doing tummy time for a sibling, I sit them next to newborn. It is working ok. If a sibling wants to get away, I would ask parents to bring in some bribing material. I always keep smarties at my studio and I would place them on the newborn baby and sibling would pick smarties up and we keep playing until I get what I need.
Posing under two-year-olds on the floor.
This very often would mean some sort of compositing in Photoshop. I would photograph the baby separately and then ask the sibling to walk into the shot next to the basket prop and pick up the toy or smartie from the bucket. Has always worked pretty well. More work in post-processing tho.
If you feel confident you can keep baby in the basket while a sibling is there, but then you need more helpers.
Posing two to four-year-old siblings with newborns.
The challenge here is the opposite of under-twos. These guys definitely know what they want to do and what they don’t want. So you have to play the game of them thinking that they are in charge, but at the same time, you can get the results. Success rate here definitely varies. It depends on how strongly opinionated they are. This age group can be pretty shy at times too.
Here is a great example of hyperactive 3 years old who didn’t want to do anything with a newborn baby. I noticed he really loved the car so we decided to play hide and seek with his car. I hid the car under the layer on the sofa. My goal was to get a decent expression from him and placement so I can see the face very well.
This was his reaction on the question to get a photo of him and baby :)
Here is how it worked out for us.
You can’t sit two years old next to newborn as height difference is way too much. Instead, I get them to lay down on their tummies and cuddle the baby. Normally it works pretty well. We can play the smartie game again, but this time I’m asking them to pick up smarties with their lips so it looks like kisses. I would place smartie on babies cheek or next to the ears. One more fun way is I ask them to stay in place and I throw smartie at them and they catch it with their mouth. This can result in great smiling reactions.
Ask parents if the sibling is normally smiley or pretty serious. Sometimes siblings are just serious and don’t want to smile. That is how their parents see them. In that case, there is no point to do wide smiley photos as that is not how they normally are.
Lay down on their back poses.
This one is still pretty challenging for this age group, but I would say 50/50 this can happen. I would ask dad or mum to lay down with them and it works better. Keep the gap between parent and sibling so you can photoshop parent out. For lifestyle session, you probably would want to keep them in.
Floor poses for 2-4 year olds.
I pretty always do some sort of standing or sitting pose. The thing is, two-year-olds can be super active, running around mental and all that. If I see this, then it is definitely a floor pose. We play the game of hiding a toy or sweet. They would stay next to the bucket and look for it. The baby would be photographed separately. Sweets can work too.
Four year olds and older sibling photo ideas
Here you have much more room to play. This age group responds well and follow directions. You can experiment and try new poses. Below are some ideas for you to try.
Posing newborn with groups of siblings.
I love photographing energy in group of siblings. How each of them wants to help and be important. I would normally trust the baby to eldest sibling and pose younger ones around. I have been lucky to photograph quite large groups of siblings. I actually think it is easier to work with a group than a single 2 years old. As a group, they all want to work together and younger ones copy older ones.
Safety during newborn photoshoots is the most important aspect. Always, I mean always make sure baby is safe. Pose baby safely, make sure you have both parents helping. One is looking after sibling and one is spotting baby. This is essential for siblings under 4. You just never know how they might react.
It is a good idea to wrap the baby. This way there is an extra layer of safety. If I do sit down images with sibling holding the baby, I would do ask mum or assistant to support baby from behind and take a shot with them being in and one without them so you can easily composite this later.
Few more tips for sibling portraits.
Take a mixture of sibling looking into camera and sibling looking at the newborn photos.
If you would like to evoke more reaction from siblings, maybe ask one of the parents be behind you and hide. Play peek a boo or I ask them to take a toy and we play the game of parents placing a toy on my head. I pretend I don’t like that. Kids love it.
If parents have told you what sweets kids like, buy some. Just in case if parents forget them at home.
For newborn and sibling cuddling photos, please keep the nappy on. The last thing you want is newborn doing accident on sibling and game over with big tantrum :)
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