When is the best time to book a newborn session? This question will likely not be one of the first things you think about when your are pregnant for the first time unless you have close friends with beautiful images of their new arrivals. There are a million other things to consider during this wonderful and often confusing time while your baby develops and grows. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, every stage was full of more questions, wondering if I was eating the right/wrong thing, drinking enough water, getting enough exercise, let alone the seemingly endless list of equipment I needed to purchase. I don’t think I really thought much beyond the birth of my baby for quite some time!
So if you’re pregnant but booking a newborn session is waaaay down the bottom of your list as something that can be sorted out later, it might be time to rethink things.
We all know that searching for something specific can take a little while even with the amazing internet these days and with something as personal as capturing your baby’s early days, you don’t want to leave things to chance. A bit like wedding photography, it’s not really something you can go back and do again if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted.
The time to do your research is now, when you don’t have a tiny baby that is demanding your attention 24/7 or you are sleep deprived and finding it hard to organise anything let alone a baby and a photoshoot. Those first couple of weeks will fly by in a blur as you adjust to life as a new parent and it may not be until a few weeks in that you realise your baby has changed already and you should have had those very early portraits done.
Here are a few things to consider when thinking about booking your newborn portrait session:
1. In home or studio session?
Theses are the two main types of newborn session. Studio newborn portraits usually involve a backdrop or some kind of set for posing your baby in, some will include parents, some just babies. There will likely be some artificial lighting and posed images involved. In-home sessions are usually lifestyle or documentary style and will almost certainly include a mix of images of your baby and all the tiny little newborn details as well as photographs of you as parents with them. You photographer will look for the best areas of your home either prior to your session or on the day and may advise you beforehand how to prepare your home to ensure the session runs smoothly. Many people feel that their homes are not ‘photo-worthy’ as backdrops for their session but talk to your photographer about it as in-home sessions are so much more personal and can include details of your baby’s nursery. Travelling is something to think about too, for studio portraits, you’ll have to pack up everything you need and travel to the studio whereas having an in-home sessions means the photographer comes to you. Sounds obvious but getting out the door with a newborn can be a military operation in itself! If you have another child, find out if they can be included in the session and how that works so you can be prepared with something (or someone) to keep them amused while you are helping with the individual photographs of your newborn.
2. Look at the photographers portfolio, do they have lots of experience of the type of session you would like?
Most photographers will have a website with a portfolio of past work, try and gauge how much experience they have photographing babies. Safety is a very important factor in this type of session and you want to be sure what to expect with regard to anyone else handling your new baby correctly and safely. There is a whole industry around newborn photography and those that photograph babies in some poses, such as having their heads propped up on their hands, should follow strict safety rules, don’t be afraid to ask a photographer about their experience and training. Lifestyle newborn and documentary sessions are becoming more and more popular as they have a more relaxed and natural approach but even these sessions should be carried out by photographers experienced in handling newborns.
3. At what age does the photographer suggest photographing your baby?
I like to photograph babies when they are around one week old. I feel this is a good balance between capturing them when they are still very new, sleep a lot and are beautifully ‘curly’ for doing certain poses and making sure mum has had some time to recover after the birth. Other photographers might prefer their client’s babies to be a little older, perhaps two weeks, I know some who offer sessions that take place within the first 48 hours of birth, not to mention the heroic birth photographers (and heroic mums!) out there, you can’t get more newborn than that! Most newborn photographers will say that after the first month or so, they are no longer ‘newborns’ and the sessions will differ slightly but it varies. You’ll have no idea how you’ll feel after the birth of your baby which is another good reason to book in during your pregnancy, if it’s all booked in you’ll have something to focus on, if you leave it until after your baby arrives, you might keep putting it off until you feel a little more together and miss that crucial newborn window.
4. What is the photographers availability like? What happens if your baby comes early or late?
Unlike other types of photography session, newborn sessions need to be a little flexible as no one can fully predict the date a baby decides to make it’s entrance into the world. There are of course, exceptions to this if a caesarean is the planned course of action which might be for a number of reasons. One of the questions I get asked all the time is ‘What happens if my baby comes early or late, will I lose my session?’. This is never the case, as a newborn photographer I keep spaces in my diary each week in case a baby has arrived early or indeed, if we have to move a session back if a baby is a little late or a longer stay in hospital is needed. There are no shortage of newborn photographers to choose from but having found one whose style you love only to find out they are fully booked for three months after your baby’s arrival would be disappointing, so make sure you get in there early.
5. Make sure you are clear about the costs involved.
Preparing for a baby’s arrival in the world has become a costly business and at a time when you may be taking maternity leave and a cut in household income, being very informed about the price of newborn photography is a vital part of your research. Most photographers will charge a ‘session fee’ which is a form of booking fee to secure your session but it will vary as to what that covers, some may include digital images or prints, some may not. There will be all inclusive packages that include several set products or an ‘a la carte’ system whereby you pay your session fee up front, then choose your other products after seeing your images. Every single photographer does things a little differently so make sure you ask for a full price list and find out exactly what is included before booking to avoid any surprises down the line.
6. So when is the best time during your pregnancy to book the session?
I always suggest that clients try and book their newborn photographer after their scan at around 20 weeks, it’s one thing less to think about later in your pregnancy and you’re more likely to get the photographer of your choice. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare and discuss any questions you might have with them as well as look at the products they offer so that you can have most of the decisions made before your baby arrives.
7. What happens after your photography session?
Make sure you ask what happens after the session. How long do they take to edit the photos? Do you see your images in an online gallery, if so, how long is the gallery live for? Do you need an appointment to see the images in person, will that be at your home or at your photographers studio? All these options differ between photographers as everyone has a slightly different way of doing things. If you are dreaming of using one of the images from your session on a birth announcement card, you need to make sure your photographer is aware of this and can have your images ready quickly so you have time to get them printed or it may be something they can do for you.
As with most things, preparation is key. That doesn’t mean to say last minute sessions don’t work but they don’t work for everyone and planning ahead will ensure the success of a newborn session and beautiful images of your new baby for you to enjoy for a lifetime.