There are so many things people don’t even think about when looking for a newborn photographer. After seeing this article on MSN, I was inspired to put this post together with my own questions every parent should think about when looking for a newborn photographer. I have kept a few of the same questions but answer from my own point of view and experience and added a few of my own to the list as well 🙂 I hope you enjoy reading this and even more I hope it helps you to think about these items when choosing your newborn photographer!
Newborn photography has become very popular in the past years. It is an amazing way to document your first few days with your new addition(s). I will admit that before I started doing photography professionally, I had no idea that there was so much involved in newborn photography! It is something that I regret not hiring a professional to do for my own children. As an amateur at the time, I thought I could do it myself. Looking back I really had no idea what I was doing and, while I never even attempted a more complex pose, some parents may try these not knowing that there are so many safety measures that are involved with a single photo.
As a deal seeker myself, I can understand the desire to find a few photographers who’s images you like and look for the cheapest one. There are, however, many other factors you should consider when choosing! Here are just a few of those factors:
1. Have you taken any workshops or had any training in posing newborns?
I have seen many Facebook pages and websites of professional newborn photographers displaying photos that have a baby’s half buried in a blanket or a baby with bright red or purple feet. Unless the photographer educates themselves on proper newborn safety and posing, there are many dangers in trying to replicate a pose. As all of my newborn clients have seen at their sessions (and many have commented about), newborn photography takes a LOT of patience. Much of my 3 or so hour sessions is spent either soothing baby or slowly and gently putting them into a pose and waiting for them to relax. Sometimes a baby just won’t go into a pose and it is so important to just move on, regardless of how badly the photographer may have wanted to do that pose.
There are a number of exceptional online and in-person workshops put on by the world’s top newborn photographers available to those who really want to learn. There is a huge difference between reading about newborn posing and safety and actually seeing a professional demonstrate not only how it should be done, but some common mistakes photographers may make not even knowing it. Education in newborn photography is priceless, so you want to find a photographer who has been willing to take the time and money to invest in keeping your baby safe and happy.
2. At what age do you prefer to schedule newborn sessions?
A newborn is most “womb-like” in the first 2 weeks of life. The best time for photos is 5-10 days old when they still love to curl up and are flexible enough to get into those adorable squishy poses you love (and are comfortable being in them!). They also sleep a lot more and very soundly during this time, so it is easier to transition them from pose to pose and prop to prop. There are some poses that can only be done when they are 100% sound asleep for safety reasons (so they don’t flinch or jerk like they do when in a less sound sleep) and this rarely happens after the two week age.
I have done older babies, however they were much more fussy and more interested in what I was doing than trying to sleep. They also want to stretch out all the time and have no interest in getting into those adorable squishy poses. This isn’t to say that your newborn can’t be photographed at this age though! Many photographers (myself included) would recommend a more “lifestyle” approach rather than a posed session.
3. How long have you been working with newborns?
When starting out, I figured that having two children of my own very recently would really help me work better with other newborns. But it goes so far beyond that. While being a mother of 2 certainly helps on a comfort level (and I am not at all phased by accidents lol) I have learned that all babies are so different. A professional needs to be comfortable handling and soothing a baby, and also needs to make the parents feel comfortable letting them do this. Babies are extremely sensitive to stress and tend to know when the parents are nervous or unsettled and will absolutely respond to that. Make sure you feel comfortable working with the photographer you choose. And most important, make sure you feel confident that your photographer is experienced and comfortable with your newborn.
4. Do you have props (blankets, baskets, hats, headbands, etc.)?
There are so many resources for newborn props, and it is really easy to go overboard collecting them. But beyond having a good variety, you want to know that your photographer hasn’t price-shopped for the cheapest item. Posing props especially need to be SAFE for your newborn. A professional should not have items with sharp or rough edges. Any wood crates should be finished smooth, wicker baskets and knit items should not be falling apart and coming loose and any posing bean bags should be firm enough so there is no danger of baby sinking down and suffocating. This is an investment on the photographer’s part and should not be skimped on.
Make sure you look through your photographer’s portfolio to see if the props they have appeal to you too. Do they have a good variety of colors and textures? Do the items fit the babies well? And you should also make sure to let them know if you have specific items of your own that you would like to use so they can plan for it in the session.
5. Do you do composites for difficult poses?
I have had countless surprise reactions from parents who have no idea that certain poses are actually made up of two (or more) shots! The most common composites are anything with a newborn appearing to hold their heads up (like the head in hands pose) and photos of the newborn hanging in a sling. A parent or assistant should be spotting the baby AT ALL TIMES. One photo is taken with someone holding baby from one side and another photo is taken while holding baby on the other side. The two images are then brought into an image-editing software and combined to create the final image you see.
This is something that EVERY professional newborn photographer should know, and they should NEVER try to re-create an image without the proper safety measures in place. Also a photographer should not even attempt these types of shots if they are at all unsure or uneducated about to do so safely. Aside from the composite shots, a newborn should never be left alone ever. The photographer should either have everything they need within arm’s reach or ask a parent or assistant for help.
6. Do you do a lot of post-processing?
Take a look through your prospective photographer’s portfolio. Are the babies all plastic looking? Or are they blotchy and covered in acne? Your photographer should be able to strike a balance between fixing skin blemishes (VERY common, by the way) and making the babies look like dolls. Post-processing (or “Photoshopping”) should not be used as a crutch to fix a photo due to lack of knowledge on lighting, depth of field, etc. It should be used to enhance the photo like fix small issues like blemishes, stray hairs, an undesirable wrinkle in the blanket.
7. Do you have a studio or will you travel to our home?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of this question. The real question is really which do YOU prefer?
A studio setting will be ready and waiting for you when you arrive. It should be temperature-controlled and well-lit with either natural or artificial lighting (another personal preference question). You will most likely have full access to all of the photographer’s props and accessories. There should be an area for you to comfortable feed and tend to your newborn and also to relax during your session. The obvious disadvantage here is that you have to travel and there may not be an area for older children to play during the session.
An in-home session lets you relax in your own home. If you have older children, they will be more relaxed and can play in another area until they will be photographed (if they will be included). Because you are relaxed, chances are baby will be relaxed as well. And no chance of you forgetting something since it is all right there. The disadvantage to in-home sessions is that the photographer may not be able to bring all of their props and accessories. If this is the case, make sure you look through their portfolio and take note of the items that you love and don’t live and let them know! They will also need to look around to find the best lighting (which, many times, is in the dining room or living room) and possibly re-arrange your room to accommodate their set-up. But if being in the comfort of your own home is important to you, than a little furniture moving is not a big deal.
8. Do you allow parents in the room while photographing baby?
I know this sounds like a crazy question, but some photographers prefer parents to relax either in a different part of the room or another room while their baby is being photographed. Some reasons are that the baby can smell Mom and may constantly want her if they sense her presence. Another reason is that your photographer will be moving all around your baby making sure to capture different angles, near and far, and you do not want to get in their way, especially in a tight space (as in-home set-ups can tend to be). Some parents will want to take cell phone pictures of the session and wake baby up with their flash or shutter noise. On the flip side, some parents look forward to a couple hours of relaxing in an adjacent room. It is a good idea to know if your photographer has a preference either way so you can plan accordingly.
9. Do you have insurance?
This is a fantastic question, and EVERY professional photographer, newborn or other, should carry business and liability insurance! (Hint, if you see someone offering a 3 hour session and a disk with 200 images for $100, chances are they are not licensed or insured). You should also always have a signed contract detailing what both sides can expect before, during and after your session. I would strongly advise against handing your baby over to someone who cannot provide these at the minimum.
10. Are parents and siblings included in the newborn session?
Some photographers that specialize in newborns will not include parents or siblings in photos. Others may specialize in a more “lifestyle” approach including family members and not do posed newborn photos. Many will do a mix of both, but make sure and do your research by looking through their gallery and asking this specific question. This way you can plan to dress up or down and know what to expect for your session.
And, because I know you all want to ask this question…
11. Do you sell digital files?
There are many photographers who do not offer any digital files, and many that will only offer the CD of your images. Why do photographers want to hold your digital files hostage? The truth is that we really don’t, but deep down inside we are terrified that you will invest in beautiful photos, get the digital files and run to your nearest drug store and print off a huge canvas or a hundred prints only to have them come back with the colors off and just looking terrible. Many professional photographers calibrate their monitors with the pro labs that they use to ensure what they (and you) see on the screen is what you will see on your print. And the prints and canvases sold are typically of a much higher quality than a general consumer can get. Plus you don’t have to worry about a machine auto-cropping your newborn’s foot off of the photo. Photographers know that you all want digital files, so many do offer them in addition to prints to ensure you get the best of both worlds and everyone is happy 🙂