It must be really amazing to look at newborn baby photos as an outsider. So often when I tell people that I’m a newborn baby photographer they say – “how great, that must be so easy since they just sleep the whole time!” As any photographer who has ever tried it can attest – photographing newborns is one of the most difficult types of photography out there! Any new parent who has attempted these priceless photos can also attest: getting babies to sleep and pose sure isn’t as easy as it looks.
There a a million reasons why newborn photography is tricky: posing their little hands, getting the temperature right, moving them in between sets without waking them, using natural light so that their sensitive little eyes are not hurt by flash, and of course balancing their tiny heads on their folded hands or with their hands propped under their chins…. however, the number one trickiest part of newborn photography is getting those babies to fall deeply asleep. Over the years I’ve learned a ton of tricks that I coach my Pod Moms with, plus we have spot heaters that hang from our ceilings and follow the babies from set to set to keep them toasty, warm and sleepy. But if all else fails – we go back to basics and just keep feeding them until they are so milk drunk that they can’t help but sleep.
I’m often asked why a newborn baby has to be asleep during their newborn session. I’m a big fan of open eye shots and love to capture some in the few seconds between sleep and fussing… because fussing always comes very quickly, and no one wants crying shots of their new little bundle! If you think about it, at this precious young age a baby is really only happy when they are being held and swaddled. A naked baby with no control over their arms and legs plus a weak neck and no stomach muscles isn’t going to smile and coo when I stick them into a plush basket – and they certainly will not tolerate their little hands tucked under their chins in all those cute newborn poses! There is a whole lifetime of open-eyes photos in a person’s life, and the beauty of newborn photos is in their delicate posing and sleepy state.
That being said – this little baby did not sleep. The family arrived at 10 am and they didn’t leave till 3pm. We swaddled him, we fed him, we rocked him, we put him in the car seat, we fed him some more… but he was too interested in the new environment to give up to sleep. Then, about four hours into the session we finally got this guy! It is very, very rare that a baby stays awake for this long. I suspect the reason in this case was that he was born two weeks late and so gestationally he was much older than our typical 5-10 day recommendation.
By looking at the photos you would probably never know how hard we worked to capture these gorgeous baby photos – but in the end it really doesn’t matter. There’s only ever one shot at capturing newborn baby photos and so we always give it everything we’ve got to ensure that every baby’s photos are amazing. After all, in 10 years no one will ever remember that it took the majority of the day, how tired and sleep deprived everyone was or how bad the traffic was – the only thing you see and remember are the beautiful, priceless images of your baby as art during their first few days of life.
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We love our Santa Monica families and are so excited to document their newborn baby portraits.