11 Things I Learned While Photographing a Newborn & Siblings, on Location.
If you know me and are familiar with my work, you will know that people portraits are not my cup of tea. Oh, I do them for family and sometimes for close friends, mainly for the experience and because I love them, but I am primarily a nature & landscape photographer.
Well, I recently took my first newborn (actually a one month old baby) portraits for a friend of mine. I also took some of the baby with her older siblings. Boy do I have a lot to learn! It was a humbling experience for me. I didn’t feel as prepared as I’d hoped. In fact, I was a little overwhelmed. It didn’t help that during the shoot, we got news of a friend who had suddenly passed away. That made the rest of the shoot a lot harder.
The siblings ended up being more of a candid shoot due to the younger one not being in the mood for pictures and me not being used to working with younger kids for portrait pictures. I managed to get a couple cute shots with genuine happiness, though, so I consider my first attempt a success of sorts.
Well, on to the photos...(scroll down to go straight to the 11 Things I Learned)
These are the precious children I was honored to be able to photograph. This is one of the more posed shots using a fluffy off-white piece of material draped over their couch, for a clean background
We moved to the floor for this next shot. The cutie on the left was not really in the mood for having her picture taken, so this idea was a last ditch effort to get some smiles out of her. "Hey, want to lay on the floor and take pictures?" She went for it. After throwing another blanket on the floor, I was able to get several happy/candid shots this way. When we were finished, I thanked them and gave them each a "big sister" gift which kept them quiet and busy for a bit while we photographed their baby sis.
The mother had some letters spelling out BABY, so I incorporated them into this image.
The mother's friend made this cute mermaid tail for the baby, so we were sure to use that. I brought the props like the crate, fishing net and some shells to add to the scene and used different colored materials to suggest the water and a sandy beach. As expected, (due to being a bit older for a newborn shoot) the baby didn’t stay in positions very well. She kept flopping her arms straight out, but in the end, it did make her look very relaxed. This is my favorite of the mermaid shots.
And now...11 Things I Learned While Photographing a Newborn & Siblings, on Location.
1. Try to visit the location ahead of time. WHY? This will give you time to check out the location for lighting options, space and what props, backgrounds, etc… you may need to bring the day of the shoot.
2. Plug in a space heater in the area where you’ll be photographing the baby, as soon as you arrive on location. WHY? Baby will be more comfortable, especially if he/she isn’t wearing much clothing. Be sure you wear light clothing so you aren’t too hot; especially if you’re prone to hot flashes. (I mean, personal summers, tee hee)
3. Don’t forget to have the parents fill out and sign the model release or releases before the shoot. WHY? This prevents you from having to go back or mail them in a stamp-addressed return envelope and waiting for them to be signed and returned. Yep, I forgot this. The animals and landscapes I usually shoot aren’t normally required to sign. lol
4. Go ahead and take the time to set up lighting if you brought it. (try to use them, even if the space is small, especially if there’s not much available light and/or you are used to using natural light rather than flash) WHY? To help maintain faster shutter speeds with unpredictable and moving subjects, like children usually are. Yep, I got a few images with motion blur at this shoot.
5. Set up a background stand, if there's room to eliminate the background of the environment, unless you’re intentionally including it, and simplify your shots. WHY? When you decide you need it, you won’t have your assistant or worse, the children’s’ mother, (or both) holding up the material. Nope, I didn't set one up, do to the small space we were working in. Too bad I didn’t take a BTS (behind the scenes) picture of the situation, you’d get a good laugh. If I had to do it over again, I would have tried to make it work.
6. Take time to connect or reconnect with the children you’ll be taking images of, if you haven’t seen them in a while,. Make them smile and laugh if you can. Ask about their school, friends, favorite subject, favorite toy/doll, etc... Also, don't be afraid to act silly to get our of them what you need. WHY? It should help them be more cooperative. I did this, but not as much as I should have.
7. Wait until your set is ready before adding the subjects. WHY? Young children aren’t as patient. They will most likely tire quickly and be ready to go play or do something else in a very short amount of time.
8. Have two separate times to photograph the newborn by himself/herself and another time to photograph the baby with siblings. WHY? This will give more time to devote to each type of shoot, especially before baby gets hungry or needs a change. It’s also less overwhelming, at least for me it would have been. If you’re used to newborn and sibling photography, you may be fine doing them both at once, but then you probably aren’t reading this blog post.
9. Try to photograph the newborn within maybe 5-14 days and don’t do any post you don’t feel comfortable with. WHY? Baby is sleeping deeper and longer and is easier to pose (and keep in the pose) in those fetal positions that are so cute in newborn photographs. There was a pose the mother wanted, but I/we were having trouble posing her and we didn’t push it, just to be sure we kept baby safe. The pose may have worked fine a week or two before.
10. Bring an assistant, or two, if you can. WHY? Setting up and taking down all the equipment takes time and you don’t want to impose on the young family too long. They can hold up the background if you didn’t have time or space to set up the stands, too. I took my husband, he’s a great assistant-but he was newer to this type of shooting than I was. I suppose with practice, things could run like a well-oiled machine like I saw in some Youtube videos before the day of the shoot. Speaking of Youtube videos…
11. Do your research. Learn all you can about photographing newborns and siblings before the big day. WHY? This can help prepare you for what you will be doing. Although most of the videos did show that well-oiled machine of pros for whom this type of work is their bread and butter, it can still inspire you and give you ideas.
I took this last shot by putting the material over the front and shoulder of the mother and had her hold the baby. An easy, no fuss, set up.
Are you new to newborn/sibling photography? What have you learned that may help myself or others next time? I'd love to hear about it!
Keywords: babies, children, girls, lighting, location photography, mermaid, newborn photography, on location, one month old baby, people, photographing siblings, portraits, siblings, sisters
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