Have you ever researched newborn photography? Whether you’re planning to book a session with a photographer, want to try some on your own, or even if you’ve just scrolled Pinterest looking at baby photos to make your ovaries scream; you’ve probably noticed a couple of things. One, the babies are REALLY cute. Two, they’re pretty much always asleep. It’s my professional opinion that photographing sleeping babies is the way to go!
One: Babies are cute. This one is a given- I don’t think I need to talk about it!
Two: Babies in newborn photos are almost always asleep. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, however I would say 95% of images are with baby asleep. This particularly applies to very posed images inside things like buckets or baskets.
So let’s answer the why of this: As I mentioned above, babies are easily maneuvered into a pose when they are sleeping, especially in those first 2 weeks(Thats why at our newborn studio in Lucknow we always aim to book your session in the first 14 days). Posing and photographing sleeping babies is much simpler and safer. If you have ever spent time with a newborn you know they don’t have much control of their head. However that doesn’t seem to stop them from launching it to the side of backward given the chance! This is definitely not something we want to have happen during a session as it can be unsafe. Instead when your baby is asleep, we use a variety of supports inside the props and under the blankets to keep your baby’s head supported in a comfortable spot. This way there is no head launching and I can get the perfect angle!
Another reason it is ideal for baby to be asleep is that they are content. Wakeful babies at such a young age don’t stay content for long. An awake baby often wants to be fed or snuggled by mama. This can make a session take much longer if baby is awake and needing a snack or a snuggle over and over again.
Lastly, a newborn baby doesn’t have the ability to focus on the camera like you do. So wakeful images can often look like there’s a disconnect because your baby isn’t looking at the camera. Think about a family photo and that one kiddo who doesn’t look at the camera or at anyone else in the frame. It totally changes the feeling of the image, that’s what wakeful newborn images would tend to feel like.
Ok so full disclosure- this question isn’t really the question I am going to answer! Generally speaking, shooting a session with a baby who isn’t asleep isn’t something I do. Instead I have about a 100 tricks up my sleeve to make sure your baby sleeps! My first trick is all about timing:
Most newborn sessions happen in the first 14 days of a baby’s life. 14 days doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule. In fact at our newborn studio we have successfully done newborn posing with babies up to 6 weeks (Thank you C*vid lock downs!) However it is sooo much easier to successfully create a beautiful gallery with lots of variety when your baby is less than 14 days old. There are 2 reasons for this. One is that babies at this age naturally need about 16-18 hours of sleep in a day.
And secondly at this age babies are still content to sleep through lots of movement and touching. They spent the last few months in an ever shrinking space. They slept through the noises of being on the inside. Also, always encroaching ribs and hips of mama! So when they are snuggled in for their newborn session and I need to adjust their head or move their legs they don’t really mind. So long as they toasty warm and their belly is full, they will usually sleep through quite a bit! As your baby gets a little older, even just 3 weeks, they get less and less okay with that kind of movement. That manipulation can cause them to wake up easier. By booking your session in those first 14 days you increase the chance of a sleeping babe!
Another timing trick is that I try to book sessions at 10am. This gives you lots of time to wake with your baby. You can give them their first big feed of the day, get ready for your session, give your baby a snack and they are ready for a solid sleep at the time you arrive for the session. Booking a session at a time like 5:00 pm (a notorious wakeful time for newborns) would be much less successful!
The atmosphere of the studio is also an important part of getting your baby to sleep. The studio is a little dark (which is perfect for our flash), it is very quiet with a lovely white noise machine and it is VERY toasty. By keeping the studio warm and dark and quiet it is the perfect environment to make your baby nice and sleepy (it certainly doesn’t help parents stay wakeful either!)
You’ll notice a lot of images of babies all wrapped up like little burritos, that’s another trick I have. I tend to start my sessions with baby all wrapped up in the most perfect swaddle you’ve ever seen. I then slowly unwrap to different layers and outfits as we progress through the session.
Lastly if baby is indeed wakeful, we can always stop for a snuggle and a snack and see if we can get them settled to sleep. I always tell my clients that your session has no time limit. We will take the time we need to ensure baby is content and sleepy for their photos. Finally, I do in fact take a few wakeful photos of baby, usually near the end of the session, just for some fun! And they are definitely beautiful too!
I hope this helps!