Newborn Portrait – Session Guide

How to Prepare for a Successful Newborn Portrait Session in your Home

If you are thinking about planning a newborn portrait session in your home there are a few things you can do and things you should know that will help the session run smoothly. While every baby is different, here are a few tips that I have found help every newborn portrait session go even better.

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1. Keep visitors & new experiences to a minimum
Everything is new for your little one, and exhausting, and that includes the strange sounds and movements during a newborn portrait session. So do your best to keep new visitors to a minimum the day before (and day of) and try not to schedule a doctor’s visit the same day as your portrait session. It also helps to have your baby in one of the outfits you want photographed, or mostly nude, when the photographer arrives so you can change their clothes as little as possible.

2. Stick to your routine
You may not have a solid routine established in the first couple of weeks but it is best to keep things as normal as possible and try to schedule the start of your photo session after a feeding when your baby is more likely to sleep (which is perfect for most poses). This is why most newborn portrait sessions are 2 hours or more, so there is plenty of time to take breaks or wait for the nap to happen.

3. Warm & Noisy = Calm & Happy

You want the house to be warm, around 76-80 degrees. This is not just because newborns like to be warm but also because a lot of newborn portraits are nude or mostly nude and we want them to be comfortable & stay asleep. Plus, newborns are used to being surrounded by the loud sound of your heartbeat so having a sound machine with white noise or a heartbeat can be calming for them.

4. Prepare a little ahead of time
You have A LOT to do when you first come home from the hospital, which is why it is nice to have a newborn portrait in the comfort of your home where everything you might need or want is close by. But it is easy to forget even the simplest things when you are sleep deprived so it is a good idea to compile any outfits, blankets, or other props before your baby is born so you don’t forget anything you really wanted to be included in the photographs.

5. There will be a family photo, or two
My biggest regret with my son is I did not do a portrait with him. I was bloated from the IV fluids, exhausted, and don’t like having my picture taken even on my best days. But I did take a few selfies of us and those photos are far more meaningful to me than the posed newborn shots because you see how much I loved him, and not a hint of how bad I felt. Keep it simple, all you need is a black t-shirt or plain dress and be comfortable. And have something ready for siblings too!

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Photographing twins can be challenging but a lot of fun!

6. Retouch BEFORE the portrait session
Different photographers have different skill sets when it comes to retouching photos, but every photographer appreciates a little help so that fewer hours of retouching are needed. If your baby still has some dry or flaky skin – use a little lotion ahead of time. Trim their fingernails a couple days before to help cut down on little scratches around their faces, rinse their hair so it will be soft & fluffy, and be sure to let your photographer know if you want them to minimize or remove baby acne or birth marks.

7. Don’t worry about getting EVERY pose
There are a lot of cute newborn portrait poses out there, but in the end you are more likely to treasure the shots that capture what they do naturally. It’s ok to buy a few swaddles or wraps because you really want THAT picture but embrace all the nuances that make your baby unique.

For my newborn portrait sessions, I always arrive early so I can try to find an area to set up my backdrop and fake floor (if requested) that also has a lot of window light available. I have lights that I bring along but don’t like to use them too much since flashes can startle newborns and sometimes upset them. And I personally like to capture pure, natural moments whenever possible so I will photograph a feeding or sleeping baby (wherever they might be naturally sleeping at the time) and these are typically the first photos I take.

If you haven’t read about newborn portrait safety, please check out my newborn safety guide HERE for additional information and examples of safe poses for newborns and links.

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Using your own props like blankets and baskets along with a simply black backdrop makes for a personal & unique photo session in the comfort of your home (and very little prep needed by you!)