John Carnessali Syracuse Portrait Studio Photographer | Tips for Newborn Photography Session

Tips for Newborn Photography Session

May 04, 2012  •  Leave a Comment




If there is one thing that I love, it’s photographing newborns. A newborn photography session can be challenging,  but it’s so very special to capture a baby’s life when they just days old. There are so many factors that have to come together for the session to go smoothly… and if there’s one thing both photographer and parent must have for the session, it is patience.  A session can go quick and be done in an hour, or it may take 2 hours or longer, but regardless it’s important for everyone involved to stay patient – the end result is totally worth it.

Here are some tips for parents to help the session to go as smoothly as possible.

1. Get them young.

Try to book your session as soon after birth as possible. I like to shoot newborns anywhere from 1-10 days. Waiting a couple days can give mom and dad a bit of time at home with their new little one.  Of course, a photography sitting can take place at any time.  As your baby gets older, they can become more fussy.  At 10 days they lose the sleepiness and the 'newborn curl'. I find that the first 24-36 hours are best, as baby is at it's sleepiest in the first 24 hours. I need to arrive at their sleepiest time – so keep an eye on their “new” schedule and we will figure out the best time to come (must be within great lighting times too) In addition once they hit 2-3 days old they frequently develop cradle cap, newborn acne, flaky dry skin, redness and patchiness around eyes/ears/nose and feeding blisters on their lips. So while I can usually get them to sleep it is harder to keep them asleep as you pose them.  Around 2 ½ to 3 weeks is when baby acne can set in too so it is good to try and get them before that happens. That being said I will take a newborn at any age. If the parents are game for trying so I am as long as they understand I cannot promise a lot of sleeping shots.

2. Keep them warm.

This can be crucial (there are exceptions) if you want a good sleepy baby which I recommend for newborn photography sittings.  Space heaters are good if you have one. If not, turn up the heat in your house (80-85 degrees). If  you have a heating pad, setting it on low under the blankets I bring can also be very beneficial. A good rule of thumb is if you are hot then the baby is probably going happy.  So please, an hour or so before our scheduled session (if at your home) please warm up the room and don't hold back on keeping the room extra toasty... this is especially true if we will be photographing your baby in the nude.  If we will be photographing your baby in the nude, please refrain from using diapers (or use natural cloth) 20 or more minutes before our schedule session since diapers can leave marks on the baby's bodies for some time.  Another, but less desirable option, is to make sure the diaper is loose.

3. Use a white noise to calm the baby.

  • If you own an iPhone you can downloaded white noise apps onto.  Two I know of are QuietNoise (99 cents) and  White Noise by TM Soft ($1.99).  There are also many free white noise apps available as well.
  • There are some white noise machines that you can buy as well.  In addition, a simple fan can help though we have to make sure it isn't too drafty.
  • I have worked with babies who don’t like white noise but will calm immediately when a familiar song is playing (like the lullaby on their swing).  In that case, I have pushed the play button over and over again so their favorite music can play and they remain calm.

4. A full baby is a happy baby.

Making sure your baby is fed just prior to the session can be of tremendous help.  If we need to take a break during the shoot to feed your baby, that is fine as well.  After the baby is full, make sure they are burped really good. Gas can take a sleepy, happy baby to an uncomfortable and irritable one in seconds.


In addition to the above recommendations,  there are some things that parents can do before the session to get things going on the right path. Here some ways that you can do to help to make sure our newborn photography session goes off as planned.

  • Newborn portraits are unique in that they can’t be scheduled months out, but you can line up a photographer months out who will build time into their calendar around your due date for your session. If you are scheduling your birth, let your photographer know that as soon as possible.
  • Call your photographer soon after you deliver so you can arrange a time for the session. Ideally the session should take place within 1-10 days after birth.
  • If the session will take place at your home (which I highly recommend) – do not worry about the state of your house. You just had a baby. I do not care if dishes are piled up the sink and clothes baskets runneth over.. I honestly do not care about how clean your house is!
  • Collect any items you want used in the session beforehand – family heirlooms, toys, monogrammed blankets, etc. I’ll go through these with you to determine what will look best in the pictures.
  • If you’d like pictures taken of the baby in the nursery, be sure all the curtains and shades are open to let in lots of natural light. No need to clean, but just try and make sure the clutter has found its way to a closet.
  • Decide if you’d like pictures taken with your baby, or if want pictures of only the baby.
  • Make sure the baby has a full belly before I arrive. Aren’t we all happier with a full belly?
  • Be patient. If the baby gets fussy or alert, don’t stress out. A baby can sense your anxiety and we want to keep the environment as mellow as possible. We will try and get the baby comfortable again, but if that just doesn’t seem possible, we’ll take a break or we’ll work with what he’s giving us. Sometimes the best pictures are ones when the baby isn’t doing what we want.
  • Be assured that if there is ever a point where you’re uncomfortable with the poses, simply let me know. I only want to do poses and shots that you are comfortable with.
  • Keep wipes handy
  • If you breastfeed and can, have at least one bottle pumped for feeding.
  • A majority of the pictures will work best if the baby is asleep so anything you can do in advance to encourage this is recommended.



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Thank you,

John Carnessali




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