My sweet baby Alex arrived early August and the whole family is just smitten. He is so wonderful and has brought so much joy to our family. I was really worried about having 5 kids, but my older ones have been such a help and it’s actually way easier than having one or two. When I first got started with newborn photography, I sort of half-joked to my husband that we needed another baby so I could photograph him. Four and a half years later, my wish came true! I was really looking forward to practicing some things and perfecting some of these poses with my own little guy.
I am not a type “A” person. In fact, I’m probably the furthest thing away from a type A as you can get. I don’t need to be in control of everything, I don’t mind if my home isn’t perfect, and I believe in having fun at the expense of responsibility on occasion. Which is totally fine. But when I’m working? And people are paying me? I do want things to be perfect. I want to please my clients and create beautiful images for them. I decided to start photographing Alex at just 4 days old and break up the session into small pieces so I could make sure everything was perfect. I learned some really interesting things about myself and my philosophy about photographing newborns! Guess what? I didn’t want everything to be “perfect” after all. Let me share with you just a few of the other things I learned:
Now, this seems silly. Of course I really love my baby! I’ve always prided myself on understanding how new moms feel about their babies and promise to treat them like my own. But that’s impossible. Nothing compares to your own baby. Did you know that when a woman gives birth, her whole body floods with oxytocin? Oxytocin is a hormone that bonds a woman to her child and helps her love him. That hormone is powerful and strong. With my first child, I felt PRIDE. I wanted to show my baby off to everyone because I thought he was the cutest thing ever. I recognize now that it was the oxytocin talking, and that pride really was love. It’s impossible for another person to feel the same way about your child as you do. Obviously, I will always be gentle and loving with your child, but I now realize on a whole new level just how new and precious that baby is to you. I was not prepared for that flood of oxytocin and what hormones would do to me while photographing my baby! (As a side note, if you feel no emotion towards your infant, your body may not be producing enough oxytocin and you should talk to a doctor about it. It’s not your fault. They can help you! Parenting an infant is so much easier when your hormones are doing what they’re supposed to do).
This one REALLY surprised me, although it shouldn’t have. Picking up an infant and handing them back to their mother is always a “last resort” in newborn photography. But you know what? I really hated it when my baby started crying. I didn’t care about having the “perfect” pose if it meant my baby would be upset. I ALWAYS have told parents to just let me handle your baby if he starts crying. What a joke. Babies don’t need ME, they need their MOM. Hopefully I have never let an infant go too long before handing them back to their mother. Usually I can calm an infant pretty quickly without having to move them out of a pose, but I really shocked myself by picking my own baby up and wanting to comfort him even if I had just spent 30 minutes working on a pose without getting a single shot. I will now discuss this with parents before and during the session to see what their preferences are. If it means the session lasts longer or we don’t get as many poses, I’m okay with that.
Seriously. He’s darling. Just as he is. I learned that I REALLY like photos of his face and I didn’t care what it was doing. I love the scrunched up eye photos just as much as the relaxed eye photos. I loved the open mouthed, tongue hanging out photos just as much as the perfectly pursed lips. In fact, I think it’s almost more endearing because it’s something he does often. In the future, I won’t try so hard to change the baby’s facial expressions. They are what they are and they’re adorable. I obsessively took photos of his face for the first two weeks of his life.
Having open and flat fingers is a “must” of newborn photography. It is the goal because it shows how relaxed the baby is and helps them look comfortable. But you know what? My baby hated that. It’s wasn’t natural for him and he much preferred tight fists. And I LET him. If he was relaxed enough to let me open his fists, then I did. If not, I didn’t worry about it. I tried to force it on him (gently) a few times, but he just woke up and would start crying and then I’d pick him up and be back at square one. But I look at these pictures and still adore them. Very much. The open fingers really weren’t all that important to me. I was more concerned with my baby being happy and comfortable. Besides, that closed fist almost looks like he’s showing off his little guns 🙂 Again, in the future, I will let my clients decide how important that is to them. I’m happy to keep working on it, but it may mean fewer photos or a longer photo shoot.
I know this sounds so counter intuitive and it IS. But once I got a shot set up, I spent an additional 5 minutes or so photographing every single angle possible. But, honestly? Most of them look the same. It makes more sense to just have ONE photo of each pose unless the angle is incredibly different. As I’ve been going through and editing my baby’s photos, it is clear to me that I’m not going to put 5 photos of the same pose on the wall. That’s crazy. I need to just pick my favorite and hang it up. So in the future I will be providing fewer photos (In the past I have put about 50 newborn photos in an online gallery, but many are pretty much duplicates with just a slight angle change. You really only need about 20). You’re not going to hang even 20 photos on your wall, are you? Probably just a handful. Twenty photos is plenty. There were so many photos of my Alex that I simply didn’t edit because they were so similar. I just picked my favorites and I love them. I thought I would want to try the “crazy” poses that some photographers do. You know the ones. The photos where the baby is hanging from a tree branch or sitting on his own. Those photos are composite images (two or more photos put together in photoshop. Hands are on the baby at all times and then photoshopped out of the final image) and can take a while to perfect. But I found that I didn’t even want to try those. I like the photos of my baby looking sweet and comfortable on a blanket and didn’t really need anything else.
I’ve always felt like once a baby is in a pose, I need to switch out a wrap or add a hat so there is more variety to choose from. But when it came to my own baby? I really didn’t care if he was wearing a hat or not. He was perfect just the way he was. In fact, I have often gotten a baby dressed in a little outfit, and then only used that outfit for one shot. With my own baby? I really couldn’t care less if he was wearing the same thing in more than one photo. Again, I’ll have to ask my clients their preference.
7. I really like blue
This one was a huge shocker to me. I have spent a LOT of money on newborn props in a variety of colors. I always get a little miffed when boy moms just want blue and girl moms just want pink. And what color did I choose for my own baby? I totally picked blue. Not every time, but there were a few times when I didn’t and wished I had. Many photographers will not let parents choose the color scheme for their photo shoot. I do. And you can now pick blue and pink and I won’t be miffed.
8. Giving birth hurts
I’ve know this one for a long time. But I’ve never had someone else photograph my babies. 7-14 days after delivery isn’t really enough time to fully recover. Let me know if you’re hurting! I can bring you pillows or whatever to try to make you more comfortable. Especially if you’ve had a C-section.
If you honor me with the chance to photograph your precious baby, I promise that I will look at that child as the most fragile and precious thing in the world to you. I have always know that, but I understand it now with much more intensity and clarity. I hope you enjoyed these photos of my baby! He has brought so much joy to our family 🙂