After 12 years as a newborn photographer, I’ve become a bit of a baby whisperer. After all, you want those sleepy, sweet shots of your newborn, and it’s my job to make sure I capture them. With hundreds of newborn shoots under my belt, I’ve learned how to keep your little one calm and sleepy throughout their shoot, and now I am sharing these tools and tricks that you can use at home to do the same!
Before you come in for your newborn photo shoot you will have already done some preparations at home to do your part in ensuring a calm start to our photo session. While you’re at home getting ready for your shoot, I am in the studio getting things ready as well.
First off, I assemble all of the items that I will be using for our photo session, in the order I will be using them so we can easily move from set up to set up without wasting too much time in between. (Look for a separate blog post on how I select items in the coming weeks!)
I also make sure I wipe down all hard surfaces and vacuum the floors before a new baby arrives to make sure everything is sparkling clean. Then I go to work creating an environment that is conducive to a sleepy baby.
I always encourage parents to dress in layers when they come to the studio because part of making baby comfortable is keeping them very warm and what may be considered warm for us isn’t always the case for them. Your baby will be undressed for part of their session and they can definitely get chilly pretty fast if it isn’t warm enough. That’s why I turn up the heat to about 73, but I also have two space heaters to make sure the space is nice and toasty.
I also have a white noise machine that I put on the highest setting to lull them off to dream land. Some babies also enjoy womb sounds. In those cases I use the White Noise Baby Soother app. Lastly, I turn on the baby shusher which all of my babies seem to love. You can also find apps that will make shushing noises as well. Both of these have become lifesavers as I used to spend the entire session making shushing sounds myself!
If you find your little one is having trouble sleeping, the noise machine and baby shusher are great little tools you can use at home as well.
After all of this preparation, everything is ready to go for when you arrive at my studio! My biggest piece of advice at this point is to let me guide you through the next hour or so.
I will take baby out of his or her carseat as gently as possible to keep them asleep. It’s always wonderful when babies arrive asleep and I’d say 90% of my newborns do.
I then get them undressed on my lap. The key to this is being slow and patient because that startle reflex is a strong one and can wake even the littlest of newborns instantly. If they start to stir, I use gentle pressure to hold their arms and legs until they settle again.
Once they’re undressed I transfer baby to my posing table and put on our first planned outfit or accessory. I slowly move them into the position I want. Some babies do better than others with this but again, patience is the key.
Everything I do, I do it very calmly because babies are smarter than we think and they can absolutely sense if you are stressed or tense.
If they start to stir I’ll once again rely on gentle pressure to make sure they know I am there and that they are safe and secure. I also will gently rub the space between their eyebrows as this helps them feel relaxed and comforted. It will also often help if they start to open their eyes a bit. Finally, I whisper little words of encouragement to them as well.
You can do all of this at home too, it really works!
Lastly if baby just needs a little extra effort to settle down I will bring out the magic word: the soothie pacifier. I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me that their baby doesn’t like a pacifier. While they may not rely on a pacifier on a daily basis, during a photo session, they like it … trust me!
In other cases, I will have a baby that just is unsettled for whatever reason. If I’ve tried everything and nothing else works first I will make sure it’s not because baby is hungry. If that’s not the case, my secret is to swaddle, swaddle, swaddle! It works every time.
Again, newborns like to feel safe and secure, and WARM. In my experience, even if they seem like they might not like getting swaddled, once they’re wrapped up they settle right down. Just a note, while I do a fair bit of swaddling in the studio, so much so that I’ve become a master at it, I wouldn’t suggest that you swaddle your baby as tightly as I do when you’re at home.
Hopefully you have a better idea of how I work my magic in my studio during my newborn sessions, as well as picked up a couple of tips and tricks to use at home as well.
I know it can be stressful and sometimes intimidating as a new parent when your baby just won’t relax, but try to stay calm and know you are doing a great job!
Now that you know how I nail those sleepy baby photos, click here to learn about the packages I offer for newborn photography.