8 Tips for Newborn Sessions from Specialist Cortney Talbott

Newborn photographer Cortney Talbott of Scottsdale, Arizona makes newborn photography look easy. Sweet, sleeping babies, gently cradled in crates, baskets and vintage prams, grace the walls of her studio and the homes of her clients. But it’s not as easy as it looks. Newborn photography can be a messy business and it requires lots of patience, a gentle demeanor, and impeccable care and safety. Showiteer.com asked Cortney to share her best tips for a successful newborn session. Check out Cortney’s tips below…

Cortney Talbott Photography Newborn Session StudioBodily fluids on yourself and every prop, tears of joy and exhaustion on the face of a new mother, the strength and tenderness of a tiny baby cradled in their daddy’s hands; newborn photography is constantly surprising.  One of the things I love most about photographing newborns is the challenge.  They truly are all so different. Those of you that don’t photograph newborns may think that they are just babies that sleep all the timebut there are many tricks that we have up our sleeves to getting those beautiful sleepy poses.  Yes, from time to time I will have a baby come in and sleep perfectly through an entire 2-3 hour session, but most of the time that is not the case at all.  I’m always amazed at how a less than one-week old baby can make me work so incredibly hard.  Below are some basic tips to help with getting the most from your newborns.  I’ve found some things that work for me, as well as a consistent shooting flow. Just like those babies though, what works for me may not work for all.

1. Keep baby warmBabies are used to being in the warm environment of their mother’s womb.  It is a cold, cold world and we want to simulate that womb as much as possible to keep baby asleep.  I prefer to use small space heaters in the studio.  Due to safety reasons, I don’t encourage the use of heating pads because they cannot be monitored like a space heater can. I also keep the studio a warm 75-78 degrees, so always warn your clients to dress for the heat!

2. Attempt to keep baby awake prior to the session.  If you have been around a newborn, you know that is much easier said than done!  Babies like to sleep. I encourage my clients to try their best to keep baby awake the hour or so before the session so that when they come to me they will be ready to sleep!

3. Feed baby right before the session and get them FULL.  I always say I am going to be the bad guy the morning of a session that wants my babies to come to me hungry and tired. When my clients arrive at the studio, I have them undress baby to a loose diaper and feed baby there. That way, we are ready to shoot when baby is finished.  also ask that my clients pump a bottle or bring formula with them, if they are comfortable with that, just in case.  A hungry baby is not going to sleep soundly.  This is something that I talk to my clients about prior to the session, but it can be a very touchy subject, especially with mothers that are strictly breastfeeding.  I could go on about how I handle this subject, but it could be its own post.

4. White Noise.  Babies are not used to a totally quiet environment, in fact, most seem to like a bit of noise.  Between the slight noise of the heater and a good white noise machine, it’s a perfect combination.  I have a small one from Babies R Us, but I know there are also a lot of great apps out there for white noise.  I love the womb sound.

5. Start in a secure prop.  While we love those sweet full body shots on the bean bags and fun curled up poses of baby on their backs, I always prefer to start my babies in something more secure like a basket or bucket.  This way they feel more secure and will hopefully fall into a deep sleep there before we move them into other props.

deep bucket shots
6. Be over prepared.  This can be a bit more challenging when traveling to clients homes to do sessions vs. having a set studio.  It never fails that almost all of my clients will forget something the day of their session, especially first time parents.   Keep a bag of emergency items handy!  I always keep new bottles, formula, new pacifiers, diapers, warm wipes, burp clothes, Vaseline, diaper cream, breast feeding pillows, breast pads, hair brush, nail clippers or filers, and I’m sure I am forgetting something.  For me it is all part of the experience, so they don’t have to stress if something is forgotten.
7. Motion vibrators and movement.  Okay, don’t get too excited here.  I discovered this just a few months ago.  I was at that giant store that carries everything for babies searching for a new breast feeding pillow for the studio. This pillow came with a small circular shaped vibrator that goes inside the pillow.  It is the perfect size to stick in a bucket or basket for that slight movement that babies love.  Another option is to move or rock your babies into poses.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to get those little arms up in front of a baby, as they naturally like to pull back into their fetal position.  Try keep baby moving while you move them. Just a little rocking back and forth as you slowly wiggle that arm up under the chin can work wonders as baby feels he/she is being rocked vs. posed.
products8. Bring your patience. Babies feed off of your energy as the photographer, and also that of the client.  If your newborn isn’t settling in quickly, parents can get very antsy and nervous.  They have every right to, as they have paid good money for these beautiful photos of their baby.  I send very detailed instructions to my parents prior to the session so they know what will happen during the session, and just keep reinforcing that a newborn baby is most likely not going to stay awake for the entire session. I always set aside more time than I will need for the session just in case.  
As time goes on and you get more and more experience with babies you will find what works best for you and see very quickly what techniques are going to work on different types of babies.  Don’t forget that safety is always first with your precious little ones.

tummy shots

Cortney Talbott is a professional photographer specializing in newborns. Her studio, Cortney Talbott Photography is located in Old Town Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona. Visit Cortney’s Showit website at www.cortneytalbott.com and read her blog at www.cortneytalbottblog.com.

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