Check out these five tips from Scottsdale, Arizona based Newborn Photographer Cortney Talbott…
I guarantee we have all been there at one point or another either early in our careers, or even as experienced newborn photographers. You get that comment from your client saying, “We really just want one beautiful photo of our 14 month old with his new baby sister.” Your heart just stopped for a moment, then sank to the pit of your stomach. As if newborns aren't enough of a challenge at times? Let's throw in that just over one year old whose life has been turned up side down like a Smart Car in a class five hurricane with the addition of a new baby. Believe me I have been there, and stayed there for a long time.
Most of the time things turn out just fine, and we worry way too much. but there are some tricks that can help ease the situation and the minds of both your clients and their precious little ones.
Newborn sessions can be very long and tedious. I never have my clients keep their older children at the studio for the entire session. I only have 450 square feet, which is not a whole lot, and there are a whole lot of things for little hands to get into. I always have my clients have someone else bring their children either right at the beginning of the session then let them go when they are finished, or bring them in towards the end. Many times this will depend on any napping the older children may still need, as I prefer them well rested for the task at hand.
Put yourself in their shoes. You haven't gotten a great nights sleep because this baby is crying, and you are walking into a new place where a stranger with a big black camera thing in front of her face. She is asking you to kiss this new baby that has taken over your family's life. I think the single most important things is that you make it about them! Forget that sweet little sleepy baby for a few minutes and focus on that older sibling. True, you are there for a newborn session, but the child doesn't need to know or feel that. For the most part these young toddlers (ages 1-4) are already going through so much change and are realizing that they are not the center of attention 24/7. I want them to feel like this shoot is about them!
Be prepared and do your homework. Ask mom or dad some questions about the child; what do they like to play with, what are their favorite shows; do they have a favorite snack or sweet treat. Many times I will have that special show playing on my computer for them or bring that special snack for when they are all done with pictures.
It is also key to give them some time when they first arrive at the studio. Don't expect them to jump right up next to the baby and say cheese! Let them get comfortable, ask them questions and have them “show you their new brother or sister.” I love to try to involve them into the shoot by asking, “what headband do you think your sister would like to wear?,” or “ Is there a special way you want to sit or lay for photos with your brother?” Many times if they have more of a personal connection with the process, they will be more apt to participate.
I love when I get to do maternity sessions prior to the newborn shoot. It gives me the chance to really get to know the older children and have a fun time with them playing and being silly. Come the day of the newborn session, not only do they recognize me, but they associate me with the fun we had the last session.
Make sure to speak with mom and dad about this well before the session! The more you push the more the child may resist! Clients can often get upset or frustrated with their toddlers if they aren't doing what they want during the session. Getting emotional will only force the child to shut down even more. As hard as it is, try to remind your clients to stay calm and positive and let me do most of the talking and coaxing.
Admit it, we love those beautiful shots of older children holding their baby brothers and sisters. Be safe and realistic about the ages of the children you are working with. A two year old is not going to safely hold a newborn baby, so please don't try it on your clock even if your client swears they do it at home. Include mom or dad in the photo to help support the baby or let the oldest sibling hold the baby as the others cuddle in around. Usually around the age of four I feel more comfortable with allowing children to hold their newborn siblings but always, always , always have mom and/or dad right there next to them just in case.
Two simple shots that I have the most success with over the past few years is to have baby laying down on a soft surface or if baby is still in a prop, have the sibling lean over and kiss the baby. If you have a newborn girl, ask the child to “smell the flower on her headband” which can give you that same appearance as a kiss. The other is to gently lay the children side by side on their backs. Again always have mom or dad close by just to be on the safe side in case a hand or arm goes flying towards baby. Shooting down on them I can focus on the sibling, make silly faces, pretend I'm going to tickle them and therefor they sometimes forget there is a baby right next to them.
When worse comes to worse…
Bribe! Make sure you okay it with the parents before hand, but this is where it comes in handy to know the child's favorite sweet treat! I've gone through my share of gummy bears and Smarties just to get those few precious shots. Nobody will ever know you are dangling a candy right next to the camera!
All in all, try to relax, be flexible and have fun!
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