Thursday, April 17, 2014

April A to Z Blogging Challenge Day 14...Today's Blog Brought to You by the Letter "N"

Newborn portraits is one of my favorite types of photography!  I loved it so much that when I got an email in my inbox one day from a job search company for an opening doing newborn hospital photography, I jumped at it.  I was called for an interview and met with the supervisor.  I brought my portfolio and the supervisor said that I had some of the best pictures he had seen, better than many of his veteran photographers.  He did a "group interview"--interviewing me and another woman at the same time.  I don't think the other woman had done many interviews because she was not very good at it, joking about inappropriate things, such as drug use.  The photos she brought to show her skill were mediocre snapshots.  I felt pretty good about my chances, except that he was doing other interviews that I wasn't privy to.  However, I got the call that I was offered the job.  I was so excited!  It was my dream job to cuddle babies all day and take pictures.  The job was advertised as two days a week and every other Saturday.  But, I got the bait and switch and ended up working four days a week.  I quit my other job and went full-force at this one.  I wish I could show you pictures from those precious babies!  I was blessed to be able to photograph three sets of twins, including one set belonging to a pro football player, and many other beautiful little ones.  I've been called the baby whisperer (my best friend calls me "the Anne Geddes of Raytown") many times because moms that thought their babies were too fussy for pictures, I was able to calm down and take some nice photos.  I can't say I succeeded 100% of the time, but very often.  I had to quit when my son was expelled from summer school, but I miss that job often.  I thought I would offer some tips for photographing newborns.  Whether you are a photographer or a mom, hopefully you can find something you can use.

* Keep the room warm.  A warm baby is a calm, happy baby.
* Feed baby just before photos.  A full baby is a happy baby.
* Don't use a busy background.  It detracts from the focus of the picture: the baby.
* Outfits are great, but parents have the rest of baby's life to take pictures of outfits.  For newborn photos, naked or in just a diaper or a plain onesie works the best.  At this age, it is more about what that little one looks like and remembering what they looked like brand new than about clothing.  Simple props of headbands or a hat can be enough.  If a parent insists on an outfit, limit the clothing changes--changing babies makes them very grumpy.
* The best time for newborn photos is between five and ten days old.  They are very sleepy and compliant at that age.
* You don't need a big setup to take great pictures--a white sheet and a couple of well-placed pillows is enough of a set.
* Try to talk parents out of pictures with a large stuffed animal.  It is hard to arrange and takes up too much of the picture.  If insisted upon, try to arrange the baby ON the animal--it makes for a better composition and a sweeter pose.
* In just a few minutes and a few moves, you can take several different photos.  Start with baby on her back.  Take a full length picture, then a head and shoulders shot.  If baby is barefoot, you can place mom and dad's wedding rings on the toes and take a close-up.  Move yourself to the left side and take a photo of baby's profile at an angle.  Then grasp baby's left hand and roll her gently onto her left side with left hand under her cheek.  Take picture at an angle.  Flip her completely on her stomach and take both a full-length shot and a close-up.  In a matter of minutes, you have taken seven different poses.  Ideas for adding in the parents: place baby in dad's arms, feet toward his chest, head in his cupped hands.  Take a close up of baby in daddy's hands.  Then move out and ask dad to get nose to nose with baby and take a profile shot.  For mom, you can have her put baby on her shoulder, head facing you at mom's side and take a profile shot.  Or, you can place baby in the same position as in dad's photo, but take the picture facing mom, with mom's hands cradling baby's head in the foreground.  Mom can be blurry if she isn't interested in being in pictures.  There are many more pose ideas and I have a Pinterest board just for newborn posing.
* I prefer sleeping newborn pictures, so I keep it dark in the room and sometimes play womb sounds.  If you want to see baby's eyes, sometimes talking to them will cause them to open their eyes and look around.  Try tickling a foot.  Open the curtains to make it bright.  Sometimes, though, they are so sleepy that nothing wakes them up!
* When soothing a fussy baby, try swaddling them with a warm blanket that is heated in the drier.  Lightly apply pressure to their midsection with your hands or with a blanket--it gives them a secure feeling.  Bounce baby lightly.  Walk around the room, holding baby.  Speak very soothingly and quietly.  Make "Sh, sh, sh" sounds.  Ask the parents to talk to baby and let her hear their voice.  Snuggle baby.  Be confident because if mom becomes anxious, the baby will pick up on that.  Soothe mom as well.  Let mom feed baby if none of the other options are working.  If the parents use a pacifier, you can try a pacifier, but be warned that when you go to gently pull it out before your shot, baby will likely have a puckered lip face.  If all else fails, try putting a sheet over mom or dad and using them as a backdrop and comfort.
* Try to keep your photo session short.  I am the worst at this because if I have a compliant baby, I take advantage by posing their hands and feet and taking shots from multiple directions or changing props.  However, even the sweetest, sleepiest baby is going to get tired of being handled and moved and get hungry.  They are often done before I am!
* Posing baby's hands can give you an endless supply of cute material, if they are totally asleep and pliable!
* Moms, if you are offered hospital portraits, take the offer!  The nationwide company that I worked for took the pictures for free and offered coupons and samples and gift cards as a thank you.  Baby got their own webpage with their portraits and stats for sharing with friends and family.  That alone makes it worth the time, even if you know a photographer or ARE a photographer.  The photographer does work off commission only and has numbers they are expected to maintain.  But, there are packages and gifts to suit any budget, and often sale deals.  There were items as low as $17-20 in our catalogs and for a while we had a sale for a $5 8x10, which you can't beat anywhere.  Yes, packages and announcements can be expensive, but after I started my own photography business I realized how much time and money and materials went into it and then those prices didn't seem so unreasonable anymore.  The reason I say to take the offer even if you don't buy them is that you have the option later.  You don't have an option if you don't have them taken.  My trainer told me once about a baby she had photographed.  The parents didn't order anything, but less than six months later, both parents were killed in a car wreck.  The grandparents bought the pictures of the baby with her parents because it was the only ones they had.  And you may intend to get other photos taken, but life happens and sometimes it doesn't work out.  This is a time when the photographer comes to you.  Even when I am commissioned to take newborn photos, I encourage my moms to get hospital portraits done as well.
* Closeups of details can make great memories.  When baby is growing up, mom can look back and remember what those cheeks, hands, feet, and eyes looked like.
* Take pictures of non-perfect moments.  A crying baby can still have a cute face and still be a precious memory.  A yawn is adorable.  The only truly bad picture is no picture at all.  Once that stage is past, you can't get it back.

That's all the tips for now.  Subscribe to my page for future posts and tips!

~ Robin ~

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