“Look at those big beautiful eyes! And that gorgeous smile! I want my baby to be awake so we can get these kinds of shots!”, says every parent. Unfortunately those shots are very rare and impossible to predict. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes knowledge to give you a better idea of what happens at a session and what to expect.
The photos you see of newborns wide-eyed, looking straight into the camera and/or smiling are split-second, against-all-odds, extremely lucky, ‘OMG did that just happen?’ shots. They are soooo not the norm. I would guess in 9 out of 10 of those images the baby is actually asleep, got a little gas and opened their eyes for a millisecond. It’s very rare. And it’s very exciting when it happens!
But if you want ‘posed’ newborn photos, you can’t expect to get them if your baby is awake. You would be much better suited with a lifestyle session, with the baby in a natural environment, doing baby things, and being awake or asleep, happy or sad, etc.
If you are trying to get actual poses chances are they aren’t going to look good if the baby is awake. Even super chill babies squirm around with their arms flailing all over the place, smack themselves in the face, kick their legs out, stick their tongue out, look every which way but at the camera…you get the picture (hehe, get it? the picture?) Here are a few examples of attempts with awake babies (names withheld to protect the innocent 😜).
Now, one consolation if you just desperately want awake shots is to swaddle the baby up nice and tight. This way they can’t wiggle around so much so they won’t look like little aliens. And with enough patience, the baby will eventually look towards the camera and we’ll get the shot.
Another possibility for posed photos with awake babies is to include the parents. When you are holding the baby they don’t tend to wiggle around as much. But most likely we’ll have to take a lot of shots and hope we get one where the baby’s arms, legs and eyes are doing something that looks nice in a photo, or wrap them up again.
So let’s get these babies sleepy!
Your photographer will give you some tips on how to prepare for your newborn session. Try your best to follow these instructions. Most photographers will want a baby with a full belly. Then they will warn you that the studio is going to be very warm. They will probably highly suggest bringing a pacifier, even if your baby doesn’t regularly use one. We also want the least amount of ‘transitions’ as possible. Transitions include removing baby from the carseat; removing clothing from the baby; putting clothing back on the baby; changing diapers; being passed from one person to another; and being moved from one prop or position to another. Every one of these transitions lessens the likelihood of baby falling into a deep sleep. And all of the transitions cause the baby to burn more calories and therefore need to eat sooner or more often then expected. A pacifier helps keep baby soothed and calm during these transitions. I’m not a doctor (really?) but I’ve talked to enough nurses and pediatricians and read enough articles to know that if you don’t want your baby to use a pacifier, using it for a few brief moments during the newborn session is not going to affect them in the long term. Unless your pediatrician is very strict about it or your baby has some serious issues like a tongue-tie, I highly suggest bringing one for your photographer to use. But, with that said, I fully respect your decision if you choose not to. Follow all of these instructions, and keep your fingers crossed, and we’ll have a nice sleepy baby for the session.
tl/dr - If you want newborn photos of your baby awake, choose a lifestyle session or expect them to be swaddled. Or wish for the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket! 😂And even better, plan on coming back for a Tummy Time milestone session and get all the smiles!