Six Tips for Newborn Session Success

 

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

 

Lesson Info

Six Tips for Newborn Session Success

I'm going to say this right now I'm not here to say that there's anything wrong with it the trend that's happening right now with new warm photography I'm not saying that all I'm saying is that I'm going to provide an alternative for that that might actually make even if you're photographing the more traditional set up stuff of newborns this approach might make you even feel better when you're shooting because again it's all moment based and it's less pressure on you to make sure everything's perfect because as much as the labor and delivery is unpredictable newborns can sometimes be unpredictable like they they pretty much only do three things they sleep and poop but they could also be cranky and you can't just be like stop crying like it's picture time like you can't do that so um to just go into it more relaxed and think of as we're just gonna work around the baby is a completely different approach that relieves stress I think from everybody including the newborn so like what I did ...

before I'm going to give you some six six tips that I have for being able to make uh be successful in making documentary newborn pictures um always shoot at the family's home I think uh they've just brought the baby home they're getting used to the smells the sounds there um their parents are very comfortable in their own environment so babies will feed off of their parents uh energy and so that's definitely the best place to shoot also again it bring it allows context and meaning to these newborn photos because maybe the baby uh well grow up there until they're five and then the parents will move and get a bigger home so by providing photos in that home that baby always has these pictures of where they first lived this is when I was a brand new baby this is the house and maybe maybe they remember the yellow painted bedroom that was the spare bedroom and they like kind of vaguely remember that and you shot in there and then they this is this visual reminder something that they can connect to turn up the heat uh most people that photograph newborns know this anyways but uh babies just are more comfortable warmer environment environment remember they were just in ninety eight point six degrees for ten months so uh they like it warmer so I always just ask my couples usually I asked my couples hey, I'm going to come over the only thing I ask is if you could like pumping heat up or turn the air conditioning off and know we're going to be warm but the baby's gonna be a lot more comfortable be patient this is what I don't think people realize is that newborns have personalities they say that they signed to say that um that we develop our personalities in euro like that starts happening we'll talk more about that later in the next segment but that's a pretty amazing thing and so babies newborns will show you their personality you just have to be patient and you don't have to pose them they will there's things that we can dio I'm going to show you teo to make really great porch it's that also have personality is starting to come through uh get close usually thirty five don't be afraid to get close to the newborns especially when they're interacting with their parents I'm going I'm going to say this over and over again to get close, get close, get close it's important to get close with the same with er any time you're shooting well from me any time I'm doing these documents sessions I'm not using flash but as much as is important to not use flash during the laboring process is equally important to not do that with the newborns I feel because they are going to be a little bit sensitive to the light and there's no reason to do it you have lovely natural light you confined anywhere in a home all you need is a window source uh and I don't put any time limits on my shoots the reason being is I think that stresses my mom's out if I'm like okay, we're doing this in forty five minutes and then what happens if the baby just the new one is hungry and wants to feed and she's and get stressed out I'm sorry I really have to feed the baby and then so she's trying to feed the baby real quick oh dang it just puked everywhere and so you gotta clean up the baby that doesn't know good like I said that the baby's going to feed off the mom's energy so it's best to just going to relax just say hey there's, no time limit we're just I'm just gonna hang out with you guys for a little bit if that's okay and that way if you're you're doing amore doctor style newborn session if she has to feed photograph it it's beautiful it's a beautiful thing especially and you could even say hey, do you? I don't mind doing this hey, do you mind if you just feed near that window like do like sitting in that chair feeding um because I'm gonna have some great light to work with. So uh at two days ago I went with the creative live crew and we met colleen paul in london. They are one of my favorite new horn sessions like I they were wonderful to work with and she was three weeks old that's my preference actually when I'm doing newborn shoots I prefer them to be older because they're alert and I like my babies alert because I want that interaction between the baby and the parents or siblings, so if they're just got a couple more weeks on them, they're going to be a little bit more interested in their environment, and so I was there for, uh, actually think lenin monument for ways and were there for about an hour and a half, two hours with him. Um, and so we have a little teaser video that should be next, and you're gonna get to see me work with them. So I just arrived at the family's house, and I'm not going to force or make the clients do anything out of the regular everyday life, so I'm just gonna have mom and baby kind of play on the couch for a little bit and then will go hang out on the bed with mom, dad and baby, and then I'm going to do just some of the baby london by herself, but for the most part, everything is going to really casual, natural using on ly available light and just kind of create documentary style pictures. That's really represents the family and how they are right now. If she janz or makes a silly face, I'll shoot through that really fast as well, so I try and catch it, okay, so these are clues that I'm hearing him tell me so I know that this is a routine that's important to him. So without saying it to him, I know he'll probably do it again. I'm gonna photograph that. Oh, that's. What happens when you go to the moon? This is great. I'm just gonna put this down. And so what I'm gonna do is put her in this and it just kind of keeps her up a little bit. Yeah. I'm gonna have her face the light, the picture's right wakes really my long lens, not my wife and I see it. But you like your tummy time, sweet pea. No. All right, sweet pea. You're done when I'm really happy with how they're shoot. Turned out from all the lovely moments that I had on the couch with mom and the baby. Probably my favorite part of the shoot was getting some opportunity to make pictures with dad and london. Just the two of them. I know that he was hesitant when I first walked in and after I built up some report and talk to him and got his trust to be able to make some really special pictures, that meant a lot to him, because I know how close a relationship is it? Just meant a lot to me. I think the best advice I can give you is to come into these shoots with little to no expectation of what you want to meet and let the chute develop naturally so that the end of the day, you can deliver just really honest pictures to your clients. So we didn't take a look at some of these frames. Um, something kind of give you some, like, my thought process behind it, do you any questions? First, before I go into this, okay, so I'm switching between my thirty five in my eighty five millimeter, and I'm really just giving them an opportunity to play with one another. That being said, you saw him still talking in interacting and laughing that that really like, makes the mom feel at ease if I do that. Um, but what I'm trying to do is show this relationship between the parents and the kids like that's what's important to me, not for me, it's not important that there's this picture of a baby in a basket with a bow, and they're sleeping because that's, not that's. I feel like that's using a baby as a prop, and to me, even a newborn is not a prop there like a human being, and so for me, I approach it as they're just a teeny tiny little person and they have a personality and they have this connection already with their parents even though it's only been a couple of weeks. And so it's my job I feel too, really make pictures that show that connection and that's why I want them alert does that make sense? I prefer them awake um and so they'll be more awake if they're a little bit older. Um it's a little bit more tough when, right after they ve nursed because they get when I call them the milk I like they go in the la la land and then they just want to sleep. Uh and I will make a portrait of mom in the baby like knowing what what I have in mind, but then again, just putting them in the nice light and then having them interact and then I'm intentionally trying to make this picture again remember was silhouettes, you have to have the profile, so this was a little bit difficult. We worked the scene for, uh probably a good five minutes and she was getting a little bit squirmy, but I had to have the right because the baby's a little bit wobbly, I just needed the profiles for it to work I will just a tiny little photo shop thing moms are nervous sometimes about what they look like right after they've given birth and most of the time I do not do this but in a portrait situation like this I did use the liquefy and bringing her tummy just a little bit because I know that's probably what she normally looks like but because she just had a baby three weeks ago it was pretty extent extended and that's normal like she just like had a baby but I feel like I really want her to love this all the time that she looks at it and so I do make that compromise is one of the only times I do it is in a portrait situation like this where I'll just bring it in a little bit um some might say that's bad but it's the only time that I do that ah the other thing that I really focus on doing when I'm photographing in their environment is using it again like we talked about this yesterday I loved this bookshelf in she will remember that bookshelf if she's there any longer than two years she will have a little memory of that bookshelf so I loved it so much like I thought it had so much care added so much character to the house and it says something about the environment when she lives so I wanted to make sure that I made a picture that included that environment because it's gonna it's gonna have meaning to her when she's an adult to see that and it's crazy I'm thinking about that I'm always thinking about what it's gonna be like ten years from now what is it gonna be like twenty years from now? How are they gonna feel about these pictures? Are they gonna last over time rather than forcing taking pictures of the feet just ask mom to like play with the feet and then keep shooting through it until there's a really nice moment and what makes this picture for me are the herp pointer fingers are just like grazing the toes and that's probably what she does to her every day and so I just gave her a minute to like start playing with the feet until she did that same with hands letting them naturally interact um and also nursing one thing I can why then we talked about this a little bit yesterday about choosing your perspective and I chose this perspective because it's almost like I'm peaking in like this is a really quiet moment with them and by choosing to shoot this far away through the hole like the crack in the doorway which was already there I didn't move it I didn't touch it I was going in the photograph for nursing and then I noticed that I could frame her in that it's kind of like peeking in on in this really quite intimate moment and that's all about perspective and like your choice on how you're going to shoot it so I made sure to make that picture first and then I went in to photograph for nursing and we just started talking a little bit I like learned a lot about her in the small amount of time and then she said I looked at that picture and I was like oh look and she goes yeah that's my mom and me and I was like whoa you guys look exactly the same and so that had meaning by talking to your clients a lot in just having conversation you're going to be given clues as to what's important to them pick up on those and listen to those be observant so we're rehearsing yeah that's my mom isn't crazy I don't think she was saying take a picture of that or can you include me having my moment with my daughter at the same age that I was with my mom that picture I just did it naturally like I just I knew that that would be a picture that had meaning um shut backing up in showing the whole environment also I chose this frame to show you that I shoot through everything like I shoot everything the baby's gotta be changed after she eats so why not make pictures because you might find you get some of the best pictures this's one of my favorites from the session the two days ago there is a absolute undeniable connection recognition between mom and baby there and I find sometimes the changing table that happens a lot because the baby is high enough but has freedom and a little bit of independence but still is looking for that security from mom also the the hand on the head that I might have mentioned that yesterday any time uh I noticed subjects like the hand on the face or touching the leg uh that is a sign of some sort of tenderness, some sort of physical connection and so I tend to shoot a lot if that's happening I'm going to shoot a lot because it does it completes that connection right there. Um I told you life the baby's only three weeks old but has a personality you just have to be patient uh and I try and show all the different sides to the baby and here's one thing with the clues listening even though they're not intentionally saying I want you to shoot this I'm just listening their conversation and saying who back something important so the mom and dad were here playing with her and he said, I love doing this every day I put london on like down on my belly and she's already strong enough or she's pulling yourself up to my chest assumed she comes up to my chest I put her up over my head and I do it over and over again she loves it and I knew that a that was important to photograph because that's something that he was talking about, so that means it had meat has meaning to him, but also he's probably going to do it more than once, so if I missed it the first time he's going to do it again, and so I made sure to make that picture for him. I'm also looking for connections between the parents and I love how he's looking at his, um, the mother of his child like it is so lovely and loving and the connection between the three of them, they're all touching, if you see, like I'm looking for these things when I'm making pictures, this was that spit up photo it's cute it's, funny it's not gross like is part of what happens and that's when I had made the joke like that's, what happens when you go flying? Uh, gonna throw up? Um, they're people like there were people in there, they interact, and, um, they could be photographed, actually, that teary a little bit yesterday was talking about this, uh, the connection that paul has with his daughter is very rare. I haven't seen this in a lot of shoots his whole life has been changed, you can see it, and he talks about it and he didn't really want to be in the pictures like he just kind of stayed away until I was like, I start talking to him and like making connection that I was like, hey, paul, can I just take a quick grab you for a few years ago? You okay? And just a minute that he, like, picked her up and held her I was like, oh my god, they this is rare, but it's, this strong connection this early on his dad's a sometimes they don't they don't really know what to do. It's not the same connection is when a mom has a baby in her belly, so they have to learn it, but you could just it was almost like I felt like he was the forever bachelor and probably never thought he was gonna have kids and then later in life he has this daughter and everything about what he thinks about life has changed, and it was important to me that I document that like, it was so important that I make pictures of that also to bump your focus remember to do that because this picture is equally as important as this picture is the member of the reaction this is the action, this is the reaction yes, we'll question when you're in that moment, what are you doing to change your focus? Are you and you talked a little bit about backfoot and focus, but are you composing and then locking your focus and re composing and then doing the same thing when you focus on him in this situation? I didn't because she's so far in the corner, sometimes I'm afraid that I'm not going to able to move it right and then it gets out of focus, so in this situation, I think I just used my my point of focus and moved it also it was such a quick moment and I really like when I noticed her laughing, I was like, oh god, I've got to get that, so I just quickly was I didn't want to move in like interrupt or a brake the brake what was happening in that moment? So I just I think I quickly just used my thumb I make choices, especially like I said yesterday about if it's far in the corner I'd rather just use my focal point on my, uh with my thigh some importance can have personality like they get up close look at how big her eyes are I mean it's, just amazing and all that hair I hope my baby has hair um just decide that's my inside voice that should have come out theo um that I mean that's personality, that's what that isthe like somebody says you can't get it you can just have to be patient and you have to be looking for it and you have to want it I promise you they're moms out there that want this their moms out there that might think that they want the really stiff portrait but this because they haven't seen this and maybe if they see this even all their other friends have the other something really go my god, this is I like this this speaks to me there are not all parents but there I'm telling you that you can do this and have a client. It's no problem. This is mcgruder trent mcgruder twins they're much smaller because they were born early because they're twins so they're going to be much more than london is again I trying make pictures that show the balance acts that parents have twins are no joke you all like, especially when she has a two year old also so and much rather just put them in nice light there's a window light and let them interact with their brother like there's a crazy crazy connection with twins I photographed twins a lot all ages there is they can't be without each other it's amazing to me and so when I'm going into a twin shoot I really want to show that there is it a definite connection between the twins and in fact actually used a basket for this, but it was just a laundry basket. I needed something that had a little bit of depth so I could stick them both in it because I kind of want to make pictures of them what it was like when they were in the belly. So I have to make it as tight a space as possible to get him to squeeze in. I love this and what's amazing to me. I don't really like that sock thing, but grandma made it and it was really important to her. So I just put him in there something that's the one twin. This is the other twin two totally different personalities. He's. Totally like a mischief, mischievous child. Find a quieter this one time out just using one win, one light source. This window light this dynamic light coming in from the side just hey, can you just sit in that chair and just play with them for a few minutes? And you get this gorgeous light like falling on them and exposed for the highlights and then everything else will just fall into place. You just have to be patient and then remember, like, get closing it far again, looking like already there's the mischievous one on left he is also the one that is not so happy to share with you one more this is cyrus he's two weeks he was a little guy at a harder time with a personality it's harder when there are smaller began about the connection it's harder when they're sleeping but they will occasionally yawn smile doctors and pediatricians say that they're not actually smiling yet and it's just gas but it looks like they're smiling but I like it when they're awake I like it when I can connect with them when I feel like there's something yeah and it's the eyes that because eyes are connection yeah, you know and you know when they're asleep because when when I did a session with twins they were uh because they're there they're younger when they're at their older um you know what I mean? And I found a really, really hard with the sleeping stuff because I wasn't doing the posed shots and stuff like that and I think mom kind of wanted that and it and it turned out that I got all this different yeah, different stuff and she was glad that I got that so I didn't get all the you know, the posey things and, you know, I got some eye open stuff and some sleepy stuff, but it wasn't everything that she thought that I was I don't know why it was the eyes that made me think that just because the two twins were quite different in that respect one was like the naughty one you could you tell and they then nana nana unidentified twins and the characters were very different one was sleeping all the time and it seemed like the other one was wait in that situation you want accentuate that like you want to make pictures that show that difference because that will be relatable to them when they're fourteen and they're like, oh, look it you're like that right out of the chute, you know, from the minute you were born you had completely different personalities did she like them overall even though it wasn't what she inspected in the end? Yes, because she she appreciated that even though it wasn't really how she thought, you know, she thought she wanted the the posey shots and that has never been something I really wanted to do. I wanted to get the animals in there she's a big animal person I got the dog licking yeah, I know it's a big no no but the dog look in the face and then and the cats kind of like I'm not too sure about this business and you know that the thing that was mostly hard was they were not doing things on the same schedule whatsoever and and I just went with that and I said, you know, later on this is just how it you're going to see it and remember this is how it wass and I didn't get that experience when I have my child I didn't have someone can take the photos and so knowing what I feel like I missed out on getting I said, I know you're going to want this regardless yeah if the cranky face the you know you're going to want it so you just made a really good point I always say I don't have a family yet but yeah, I I make pictures I would want yeah that's really important and you should tell your clients that I want to make pictures for you that I want for my own family that makes a huge difference just to that point can speak teo, please I hear you're story just reminded me too I had a session where it was similar this family wanted me to come they had they had three kids, they had a baby, it wasn't a newborn, it was like maybe two months old maybe six weeks I can't remember exactly, but she bought the matching shirts and matching accessories and you know and I can't I mean, I prepped I was like, we're not doing that we're not going to pose, we're going it's totally lifestyle I want you guys to be natural that's what's important is is capturing your real life right now and um and I got there and that you know, they were they were doing their breakfast thing and I got to capture all that and just and do a lot of story telling but the dad looked at me he goes, we have a basket if you want to put the baby and and I just went like this and so I was fighting this expectation the whole time, you know? And she was asking me, should I put this on them? Should I do this to their hair and was like, no, no, just wow, you guys leave the room, I'm just gonna play with the girls and at the end the session she I was blown away by how much she liked them because she thought she wanted something else and I thought she wanted the post perfect pictures, but she didn't know that there's something else out there lot of them don't know that they just don't know, right? It's nothing, you don't want it, they just don't know it was a process that we have to talk through and, you know, I almost had to convince her a little bit like trust me, just look, this is what I'm gonna do trust me and I loved it awesome I think people are being very influenced about what they're seeing online right now were so overwhelmed with images and trends you know, visual trends and you know the pin tres boards and all the rest of it I think it's you mentioned yesterday that you don't like looking at other what because if it does kind of mess with that process yeah, but I think it's also the clients to that it's kind of that they're not sure of that because of what they're overwhelmed with us well they're oversaturated with visual right just visuals there oversaturated with it um I love this detail because there's a band aid on the foot so that says something about how old the baby is obviously got the first shot in the foot um again with hands like the the moving of the hands touching the face mom and dad I always try and include dad in the pictures um I can't emphasize that enough there's another alternative and if you're interested in it, you can approach shoots this way and like I said, I have plenty of clients that want this they're looking for it so you just have to put it out there get to put that work out there so people can see it um and then if they see it then they're gonna want it and they're going to imagine their baby and their faces in your photographs if you show pictures that move people that make people feel something, then they're gonna innate we want to have pictures of their own cells that makes other people feel something. Does that make sense? Do you guys have any questions? Yeah. Do you ever say anything about how they to prep their house? Because that's, how warm morning, he's, just the warm okay, because they do. You ever have people be reluctant to have you come? They're home feeling like it's, not clean enough or especially when, like, the chaos after just having a newborn. And I okay, is that I would imagine that most people that it be drawn to that wouldn't really if they're wanting you and do their environment and captured as it is that they wouldn't be concerned about that, right? I just stress, like I said earlier to them, your environment is just his important part of the shoot, as you guys, the subjects are like, and actually is his own character, like they all play. They all have their all character in the picture, and the environment is one of those because it's relevant it's, relatable, it will have meaning later, the bobby trick. I guess they didn't talk about that. Bobby trick is great. So, um, and most moms have a boppy list or not nursing, and even sometimes they have one, because they were given it was given to them, and so babies well believe it or not even a two in three weeks when you saw it they'll lift their heads they're strong enough to lift their heads if their body has propped up so if you just use the bopping put a regular don't put a printed blanket just like they usually have some sort of receiving blanket that you can lay down and if you saw a double a towel underneath because there's always paying they have there's video of her peeing it always happens or maybe pooping so just put it underneath in kate so it doesn't go into the bedspread um most parents actually don't even care but I do that for them and then you just kind of like problem in there and then they will just kind of like check out their environment without like having to force anything they'll just do it question thiss one comes from jennifer boyle photography you mentioned that you don't put a time limit on newborn shoots but what is the average amount of time you're spending with the families and these these types of shoot about two hours usually it's about two hours and I'm delivering on average about thirty five artisan at it and maybe like sixty or seventy hey extending gallery about that because with these shoots I'm not shooting the whole time um and getting to know the family we're um you know we're just taking our time I'm not I'm not shooting maybe maybe maybe and bam like when kids are running around like this is a more quiet, more mellow experience so sorry. Go ahead these often sessions you have done the birth and you've met these people before or do you get a lot of newborn sessions by themselves more by themselves then birth first? Um there's a lot of people that aren't on the birth train and that's fine lays a lot of moms just don't feel it they want it so I have less first a lot more newborn shoots um but they're really drawn to this like my client's really like this. It is a matter of once their friends see it, they're gonna want that we got you know margaret, you have to see they I loved my photos. Take a look at him. You want to get him bragging, jim, did you say there was a question? Yeah, one more this is from, uh, mary ann on dh wants to know we have to shutter speed questions what's your speed are you using to help kat like to freeze that motion with the bay? Because they're kind of jittery and move around a bunch and do the babies react to the shutter? The sound usually they don't react at all, especially that young I haven't found them to really like it thiss for them to be bothered by it or stop what they're doing they don't never stop nursing or anything as faras shutter speed you know that you don't want to go any slower than two fifty if you want absolute freezing of motion like you don't want to go into two fifty but because I shoot manual and I always I almost always assigned my aperture first then the shutter speed is going to be dependent I want my aperture is so it's going to fluctuate I don't have like a favorite aperture and I've definitely shot especially if it's the lower light I've shot it like the sixtieth of a second but they just can't be moving a whole lot most of it I try and keep it around to fifty or faster just to that yes if they bobble they're head I'm going to freeze that that motion and I'm not shooting anything less than two point eight either for my aperture because I want the eyes in focus great okay you guys good with us? Jim, I think we're done with this segment fantastic on this slide is where people can contact you when people day to tell us a little bit you're of course you're website so my website person louis photo dot com and there if you go under the info section, you'll see products for photographers and you can locate some good he's. There, I keep adding everyday goodies. And at the end of this, I'll tell you all the goodies that air in there. But you can get, uh, my instagram for anybody that's doing the contests. You gotta follow me on instagram because that's, where I'm going to post my picture because I'm also challenging myself, not just you guys, um, and then facebook, uh, that's, my business page and then twitter. I have to be honest and don't tweet as much as I should, but that everyone's been so nice on twitter, I feel like I need to start tweeting more such a weird word to treating me like I'm in kindergarten. Um, how that even became a verb. Facebook became ill. Just facebook, you it's like a verb. Now I'll tweet you, I'm gonna instagram, that it's amazing to me!

Class Description


Learn how to capture genuine, emotional images of families. In Family Photography: Modern Storytelling, Kirsten Lewis will teach you how to take meaningful documentary-style family photographs.

Kirsten Lewis takes a unique approach to family photography, leaving posing techniques and studio light at the door to capture real moments, as they are lived. In this class Kirsten will share her techniques for creating the relationships and environments that help her subjects feel at ease and open-up in an authentic way while she shoots. You’ll revisit the art of storytelling through still images and how to bring storytelling into your work with families. Kirsten will teach you the steps to developing client relationships that allow you to honestly document a family, from birth onward, while nurturing your business. You’ll learn new ways to approach composition and editing so your final product is both beautiful and true to reality.

If you want to deepen your relationships with the subjects you shoot and deliver photographs that are joyful and authentic, join Kirsten for this in-depth class on documentary-style family photography.

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