Everything You Need to Know About Your In-Home 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 a studio session check out last 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 you are are wanting. Please note, you do NOT need to buy anything for the session. 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. I have hundreds of outfits to choose from and I will bring a variety for you to choose from based off of your preferences.
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). Particularly check their little toes and make sure there isn’t a lot of fuzz stuck up in them. 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.
When I arrive (if we are doing posed portraits) - We will take a few minutes to decide the best place to set up camp. I do not need a large space for my equipment. A small bedroom or office is ideal. I also bring my own lighting equipment so a darker room is best. I have a small beanbag system that I use for posing the baby on and I will have bags of blankets and wrap and clothing and other things. It’ll kinda look like I’m moving in. :D It will take me 15-20 minutes to get everything set up so this is an ideal time to feed the baby if needed.
When I arrive (if we are doing lifestyle portraits) - We will take a few minutes to check out the room we plan on shooting in, usually the master bedroom, nursery, living room, or outdoors. In most cases we will use natural lighting for lifestyle photos but I will determine if additional lighting is needed.
What to have available - If we are doing a lifestyle session we will use your baby’s own clothing or swaddles. I suggest parents and sibling be dressed in neutral clothing (no loud colors or bold prints and no graphic tees or logos). For the posed newborn photos I bring everything needed. I also highly suggest having a pacifier on hand, even if you don’t regularly use one. The best kind is the one you usually get 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 pacifier.
Starting the session - If you have older siblings that will be in the photos we will usually start with them first. Once they are finished with their photos they can go about their day day playing, eating, napping, etc. Then we will continue with some parent photos. If we will be doing posed newborn photos we will move on to them next. If we are doing a full lifestyle session we will move on to the candid/lifestyle photos.
During the session - For lifestyle photos I will follow you and your family documenting your interactions with your baby. Feeding, snuggling, bathing, snuggling, changing, snuggling, etc. For posed photos we will make sure the baby has a full tummy and is sleepy before we start. I will usually start with the baby swaddled up in a prop. This helps the baby get into a deep sleep so that we can work down to a cute outfit or naked shots posed on the beanbag.
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 2.5 - 4 hours. If the baby is a super sound sleeper, has a full belly, and we are doing a full lifestyle session we can possibly get done in 2.5 hours. Doing the posed portion adds time to the session because I need to set up and break down extra equipment plus 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 four years and those babies had serious gas and reflux issues.
Do I need to clean my house? No! You have so much going on there is no need to stress about cleaning your home before I come over. I’ve seen it all! :D If you are doing a lifestyle session you may want to straighten up a bit. A big one is your bedside tables if we will be shooting on the master bed. But any straightening up that really needs to be done for the photos can be done right then and there….just scooting some stuff around so they aren’t in the shot. But please, don’t stress about cleaning up!
Can we do an in-home session if we live in an apartment? Yes, for sure. Lifestyle photos may be a little more restricted but posed photos are no problem at all. I don’t need much room at all to set up. And if the lighting isn’t ideal for lifestyle photos I can always supplement with studio lighting.
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 💜