Everything You Need to Know About Your Studio Newborn Session With Jessica Doffing Photography, LLC
Congratulations on your new little one! I hope you are as excited for your newborn session as I am. I really can’t express how much I love what I do and I want you to love your photos as much as you love your baby. Well, maybe not quite as much, but I want you to love them a LOT.
Let’s go over some tips to help you prepare for your session and discuss all the details about the session so you know what to expect. Sorry this is a long one! I tried not to babble too much but there is a lot of information to go over. 😬
(If you are booking an in-home session check out next week’s blog post - HERE)
Book your session ASAP - Hopefully, if you are reading this, you’ve already done this step. If not, I would suggest booking ASAP. If you are in your 2nd trimester I can pretty much guarantee I will have availability. After that it’s kinda hit and miss. There are certain weeks that fill up quickly (I swear I’m going to start following the moon cycle or something to see if there is a correlation!) and then there are others that I have openings up to the last minute. But to be safe you will want to book your photographer as early as possible so you aren’t left scrambling to find one at the last minute.
Schedule session within first 2 weeks - Unless there are extenuating circumstances, newborn sessions are typically scheduled within the first 2 weeks. When you book your session I will tentatively put you on my calendar 7-10 days from your due date. Then we will just keep in touch and adjust that if you deliver early or late. Just shoot me a quick email if you have any updates (changed due date, scheduled to be induced, scheduled c-section, etc) and then again when you have the baby. Let me know within a day or two so we have the most flexibility to get you set up within those first two weeks.
Fill out questionnaire - Once the baby is here I will send you a questionnaire to get your preferences for the photos. I’ll ask for the baby’s height and weight and a bunch of questions about the little details. You will tell me your style, your favorite colors, what poses and props you like or don’t like, and if there is anything specific your are wanting. Please note, you do NOT need to bring anything to the session except for your adorable new baby. However, if you have something sentimental or extremely unique that you want included (your grandfather’s cowboy boots or a blanket knitted by your favorite aunt) , just let me know. It’ll be very helpful if you send me a photo of the item prior to the session. But please don’t go out and buy outfits for your baby’s session. The outfits I have available are designed specifically for newborn photographers. Most are made to be worn without a diaper, unlike store-bought newborn clothing which tends to be very loose and bulky. This allows us to show off just how tiny your baby is and focus on details like those chubby little back rolls and the adorable little fingers and toes. And I have hundreds of outfits to choose from! And wraps, and bonnets, and headbands, and cute fluffy things, and do-dads, and and and…. I got a lot of stuff. 😊
Avoid spicy food if you are breastfeeding - A day or two before your session - If you are breastfeeding, avoid dairy, spicy foods, and any other gassy foods for 24 hours before the shoot. The number one reason newborns are fussy is because they have upset tummies. Calm tummies = calm babies.
Keep baby on his/her regular schedule - I typically start my newborn sessions at 10am. I just ask that you keep your baby on their regular schedule. Don’t worry about trying to keep them awake beforehand or adjust their eating schedule so they eat right before the session. I’ve learned over the years that none of that really helps. First, it puts undo stress on the parents, who are already a little stressed and sleep-deprived. Second, babies need to do things on their own time, not ours, so I won’t ask that you do anything different. I will ask that you give the baby a bath (just a sponge bath is fine). Have the baby dressed in something that snaps or ties and doesn’t have to come off over their head like a onesie. We want clothing removal to be as easy as possible.
What to bring - As I said previously, there is no need to bring anything except the baby, but there actually are a few more things to bring. I often have new parents forget something because they aren’t accustomed to going out yet with the baby. So here are a few things to make sure you pack in your bag:
gauze and vaseline if you have a recently circumcised boy
a pacifier - preferably the kind you got in the hospital (Avent Soother) because they don’t leave red marks on the babies face - Please see FAQs below if you are concerned about using a pacifer
2-3 extra bottles if you are formula feeding
1-2 formula bottles if you are supplementing breast milk with formula
a drink and snack for yourself
any special mementos you want to include in the photos
Starting the session - When you arrive at the studio we will sit down and chat for a bit about how the baby is doing, where they are at in their schedule (when they slept and ate) and I will get a feel for how we should start the session. Throughout the session we will do photos with the baby swaddled, in props, posed on a large beanbag, and with parents/siblings. I’m pretty good at ‘reading’ a baby and knowing which part of the session we should do at which time. For instance, if the baby is awake but will fall back asleep easily I will swaddle her up and start with some easy prop shots. While we get those first shots she will most likely fall back asleep and then we will be able to move onto the posed shots where she really needs to be sound asleep.
During the session - Aside from having your photo taken with your baby or breastfeeding, there isn’t much else you will have to do during the session. Plan on having a couple of hours to sit back and relax a bit. Oh, and be warned, it will be very warm in the studio. Dress accordingly. The more I can do for the baby the better because it limits the number of transitions which affects how deeply the baby will be able to fall asleep. If the baby is already awake, these transitions aren’t important. But if the baby is asleep, each transition puts us closer to an awake, cranky baby. Getting out of the carseat is a transition. Passing the baby from one person to another is a transition. Changing a diaper. Feeding. Changing clothing. Moving from one prop to another or one pose to another. In order to keep the baby as comfortable (and sleepy) as possible, we want to limit as many transitions as we can. For that reason, it’s best that I swaddle and rock him back to sleep after you feed him so that I can smoothly transition him into the next position for a photo. Sometimes I will put an outfit on him, then swaddle him in a wrap over top so that when he falls asleep during the wrapped photos, I can carefully unwrap him and move into the shots with the outfit without another transition in between. I would also like to note that these transitions actually cause babies to burn more calories then usual and therefore get hungry sooner then you’d expect. So be prepared to feed your baby a little more then usual.
After the session - I love to share a sneak peek from your session on my Facebook page within a day or two. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account you can still view my page online. If you do not want your images shared online just let me know and I won’t. It will take up to two weeks to get your finished online gallery. From this gallery you will be able to download the images to your computer. I suggest you back up those files to a second location like an external hard drive or a cloud-based storage. You will also have a link to the gallery that you can share with friends and family. Professional grade prints and canvases can be purchased directly from the gallery or you can take your digital files to a printer of your choice. My recommendation is Mpix.com online or Precision Camera on Anderson Lane. If you print from another vendor I can not guarantee that the quality and colors of the images will be accurate.
Don’t stop there! Now is the time to sign up for my Grow With Me package if you haven’t already. Let’s document those first milestones throughout the year - tummy time, sitting up, and of course, an epic one year old cakesmash!
How long will the session last? I don’t really put a time limit on the session. It could be anywhere from 2 - 4 hours. If the baby is a super sound sleeper and has a full belly we can get done in 2 - 2.5 hours. But that’s kind of rare. We normally need to take a break or two to feed, clean up, and/or snuggle, so the average time is around 3-3.5 hours. If the baby is super fussy it could take up to 4 hours to get all of the images I need. If we hit the 4 hour mark and I haven’t gotten enough images I will ask that we reschedule for another time. This has only happened twice in the last 300 or so babies and those babies had serious gas and reflux issues. (EDIT TO ADD - A Petite Session will take no longer than 2 hours)
What if I have older children I want in some photos? If you have older siblings that will be involved in the photos I try to get those done at the beginning of the session. If the sibling needs more time to warm up to the idea, we may start with just the baby. After the sibling is finished with their photos I ask that a family member either take them back home, to a park, or out to lunch for a special treat. It gets reallllly boring for the kiddos. In most cases, trying to occupy a restless toddler/child is stressful and we don’t want that during your session. If taking the sibling away is not an option, I do have a small area with a tv and room to play, but s/he will need to be supervised at all times.
What if I don’t want my baby to use a pacifier? If you are adamant against using a pacifier we won’t use one. If your doctor has advised against it or if your baby has a serious latching issue or is tongue-tied, I totally understand. However, if you just don’t want your baby to use one regularly I still highly suggest you bring one. Sometimes this is the only thing that saves a session and allows us to get the photos we want. I’m not a doctor (duh) but I’ve talked to enough pediatricians and nurses and read enough articles to confidently say that using one only during the session will not cause nipple confusion or cause them to become dependent on it. When transitioning the baby from one pose to another, if they aren’t sound asleep they will likely want to suck just to soothe. This could be only 10-15 seconds long and then I pop it back out. Even if we use the pacifier for a few minutes while I rock him/her back to sleep, it won’t have any long-term effects. But, no worries, if you still don’t want to use one we won’t.
My baby has really flakey skin/bad acne/stork bites/conehead/etc. What should I do? Nothing! Don’t worry about it at all. All babies have some of these issues and they are easily (well some aren’t that easy) fixed with Photoshop. I spend more time editing the photos then I do taking them, if that gives you an idea of how much work goes into them. Don’t try to fix anything. A lot of times trying to remedy something actually makes it worse, so just let it be.
Ok, so I think I’ve babbled enough. If you have a question that I didn’t answer please don’t hesitate to email or call me. The more you know about me and my process, the more comfortable you will be at your session. See you soon!
Love, Jessica 💜