Step One: Plan Your Session
Steps to planning your session, this is so important. We talked a lot about preparing our families, right? Now we're gonna prepare ourselves as well, okay? 'Cause we need to be prepared. Let's do this. We're gonna talk about session details, 'kay? We're gonna talk about planning for your client, guiding the client, light and room choice, and then last but not least, troubleshooting okay? We will be troubleshooting low light situations. And like I talked about earlier, we did do a live shoot in the home, which we will be showing later on, and at that point we will be going into detail about shooting in low light, okay? So hold that thought with the low light, 'cause I'm gonna show you how to shoot it and how to edit it, because you're gonna have to need to know how to do that, because not all homes are light and bright, 'kay? The majority are not, okay? Okay step one, prepare your clients for the session. Call your client, we went into that in full detail earlier, 'kay? Pricing, remind ...
them your pricing. We've talked about this, keep reminding them your pricing. What to wear, we're gonna go into what to wear for each person, and then we're gonna go over session details. 'Kay, what to wear. Now moms, moms are the most important person of the session. Always, okay? Moms are the ones that feel self conscious, okay? Typically they've just had a baby and they're, I mean, mommy photos are important. Moms aren't always in photos so this is a really important time for her where she's going to be getting photos of herself taken. So you need to always make mom feel beautiful by the way that you're interacting with her, by the way you're talking with her, you need to kinda be mindful of that, no matter what, okay? Some moms just don't wanna be in the pictures and you need to do your best to convince them to be, okay? I do my best. A lot of moms just don't wanna be in them and I'm like, "Just do one, I won't share it with anybody, "just have it for yourself okay?" Some people don't wanna be in pictures because they don't wanna share it on social media. Tell them, "If you don't want me "to share your pictures on social media that's fine, "but please for the sake of mommyness, "take a picture with your baby 'kay? "Just for them to have, 'kay?" Neutrals are timeless but it depends on the family, okay? So when you start, when you look through your questionnaire, you need to look and see, are my family like, hipsters? Like Pacific Northwestern types? Or are they like, flyover country Missourians like I live in and we're all very like, you know, chill and like, kind of not as exciting, okay? So you need to dress, I mean some of us are, you need to dress everybody for how they are, okay? Don't try to convince somebody that they're gonna be, you know, a preppy individual if they're hipsterish. You know, you need to dress for them but you can guide them. You wanna be their ears okay? You need to be there for them to bounce ideas off of. Even moms that really, really know what they wanna wear, still wanna bounce ideas, okay? Suggestions help and don't feel bad for suggesting things, they're gonna embrace it, 'kay? Avoid logos, I tell people no logos at all. Avoid logos, that will date the photos, okay? Words, et cetera, there are some times where, you know, like you might see a little boy with a big brother t-shirt and they want that in there, but I mean, I don't know any two year olds that'll stay still enough to photograph it. But you know, if they really want something that's fine. My son had a shirt on that said like, something with love and it was funny, or big dreamer it said and that's just his personality. He has a very big personality and I left that on for our photo shoot, but that was a decision that I made and I wanted it in the photos for later. So you need to bring all of these things to their attention. A lot of people don't think about that and especially with like, workout clothes that little boys will be in, those kind of things. Just you know, let them know about that. Let them pick, okay? Let them pick out a few things and then guide them, m'kay? Guide them into making the decision, what you think is gonna photograph best on them and in their home. Dresses, Maxi dresses are wonderful for moms. Layers, 'cause then they can cover up anything that they don't feel good about. You know, right after you have a baby you don't feel your best, and texture. Texture photographs beautifully in newborn lifestyle sessions. We talked about this with the family that we did the photo shoot of that you guys will see later on, the live shoot. She wore a textured top and the way that I edit is a little bit grainier for some lifestyle sessions, depending on the house, and with that grain pulls out the texture. It just looks so awesome in photos and it gives it some like, interest to a photo. Some people say, "Oh, wear whatever as long as its neutral." It's not true okay? Outfits are huge and it makes a big difference in your photos, okay? Earth tones photograph awesome for moms and you just, you know, they need to feel comfortable in something. So this mom in particular, this was a throw that she had. I told her to get some layers and she asked, she's like, "I have a layer that has some like, "flowers and stuff on it, would that look good?" I'm like, "Yeah, pull it out", and I saw it there and I thought it was beautiful. She had this like, this room was really, really dark. You can see the grain, which I love, on the photo. We're embracing the grain, 'kay? And it was kind of a blueish gray wall. It's kinda hard to tell for you live audience, but I thought it just blended really well, right? It kind of matches the whole tone of that. So don't be scared to use patterns. The thing that I like to tell people to avoid, don't wear stripes, and then somebody else wear circles, and then somebody else wear plaid, you know? I mean kind of use your sense of a little bit of style, even if you're not super stylish, you kinda know those don't go together. So make sure you use that, okay? M'kay, oh let's go back to all the, what to wear. Okay so let's go over dad, dads are tricky. So dads I typically say, "Wear jeans and a neutral t-shirt", right? Gray t-shirt, brown t-shirt, blue t-shirt, or if they wanna wear button up, but I tell them don't button the top button, and if you want to, roll your sleeves. You know, try to be more laid back, not so formal when you're in the homes. So moms get dressed first and dads can compliment them. The biggest thing with dads is you have to remember, with me, I infuse, remember we talked about this, we infuse the baby into the lifestyle session. So what are dads typically doing in lifestyle sessions? Moving, throwing around their toddler, right? They're not just snuggling their newborn. They're also the one that's having to entertain the two year old, 'kay? So they need to be in something that, A, they're not gonna sweat in, okay? 'Cause that'll show up in photos. So a color that will be okay with that like white, you know, black, if they're the sweating type. It's something that they can throw their kids up in the air and have fun in, okay, and look natural. You know, dress shirts don't tend to allow for that, so a lot of dads will wear dress shirts for part of the session and then we'll switch a t-shirt on, onto the top of it, okay? Babies, onesies. I always ask, "Do you guys have a onesie?", and if you don't, I bring one, 'kay? Short sleeve onesie, I like to see the rolls, okay? Sometimes we'll do the long sleeve onesies. I prefer the short sleeve 'cause we can see their roll of fat, 'kay? If you can, so bring a white onesie okay? Any neutral wraps, I bring neutral wraps you guys will see. We have the family in the studio today. When we head over there we will, I'll show you the wraps that I tend to use. It's a little boy so I'll show you that and I will always bring with me, to a session, a handful of wraps and like a bonnet or two, just to throw one on. Just in case you wanna have some interest, maybe in the crib, which we'll show, and I'll bring a pair of pants. So I've got some white like, lacy pants for girls, and then I have jeans for boys, like, little boy jeans, they're cute. Just in case mom doesn't have something that she really wants to have the baby in. A lot of times people don't know what the sex of the baby's gonna be so I have a lot of gender neutral things, you know, prepared, and then when they find out we kind of bring everything so... Siblings, if you wanna have fun, if you wanna have color brought into your session, siblings are a great way to do this. Little kids are a great way to put on fun clothes. Little girls in like, pink dresses and crazy tights are adorable, right? But some families might want their little girls in a white dress and that's fine too. So if you feel like you wanna bring in some color and mom's not a color person, you know, a lot of us moms like to kinda stay away from some of the color. Bring it in on the kids m'kay? Be mindful of little girls, make sure they have bloomers on, or something covering up their diaper if they're a diaper age child, because when I do my sessions without fail, dad will have their kids up, or up on shoulders. We are playing, we are having fun, you don't wanna worry about any of that with little siblings, okay? And things they can move in, 'kay. Session details, time of the day. So we talked a little bit about this but let's go into some more detail. Time of the day, we aim for the morning. As a rule of thumb, unless the windows dictate otherwise, I start my shoots at 10 A.M. That being said, it's because it's not as, if you have a house that's facing east, it's not totally directional at that point. It's starting to go up a little bit, right? You know like at 8 A.M. when the sun comes up, if you have an east facing house, which is what happened to us in the live shoot, you'll see how I deal with it later on in the show. But we want that sun to be up a little bit, okay? Not only that, babies are happiest in the morning. Their witching hour doesn't start until later, right? So we wanna get them when they're happy, the kids are refreshed. Now, depending on the toddler's age, right? Some kids will nap at 10 and at one, those are kind of like the nap time, and if that happens then I'll tend to push it to about 11: so I'll arrive when the toddler's still sleeping and starting to wake up. I'll get all of the mom shots done, I'll do the baby shots, and then dad will feed 'em lunch or whatever they need to do, and he'll see me there, and the siblings will see me there and get ready for me, then we'll move into the family, dad, and sibling. We totally go with the flow. I have my flow that I try to start with, never happens, m'kay? But if you have a plan going in, you know what to jump to if something's not actually working and doesn't come to fruition, okay? What they need to have for you in the home. I have a big list of what to expect on your newborn session that I send to my families. Within that list I have things like, if you can, grab some fresh flowers. A lot of times in babies' nurseries, their brand new nurseries, parents have just decorated them, if they've even decorated them at all. They may just have a crib, they may just have a dresser, and they may just have a chair, right? We need something to add some visual interest, some interest to the photo, fresh flowers always work, okay? So most of my sessions I get there and they, the moms give these lists to the dad, and there's like six vases of flowers, they're like, "Which one do you want?" I'm like, "You, I love you, can I take 'em home?" But they all, and then we like, put 'em in different rooms and there'll be times where we'll go through the whole session and we forgot to use the flowers, and the husbands will be like, "You didn't use my flowers." So if you ask them to get something, try to remember to use it, 'cause some houses don't need the flowers but you never know, and fresh flowers just kind of liven things up for me. They just seem happy, right? So I always recommend getting fresh flowers. Another thing for their home is I tell them to move the diaper container, whichever brand they have, out. M'kay, we don't want those in the photo. I tend to tell, any breast pumps, any of that kind of thing that parents tend to have next to the bed, out, okay? Another thing that parents will have next to the bed are those big giant cups with water that the hospital gives you, out, okay? Anything that you don't want in the photo. I tell parents, "If you can just move some of that stuff "before I get there, that would be great. "You know, if you don't have time that's fine, "when I get there we're gonna be walking the house anyways "and we'll just shove everything in a closet", or a lot of times we'll just shove it all in the bathroom and close the door, right? So just kind of let them know all of those things before you come. So you can make a document of what to expect on your newborn session day, m'kay? And I used to have this up on my website and the parents would forget it was there, so now I just, I send that in my email, 'kay? Feeding the baby. They will always ask you, "Do you want me to feed the baby now, or when do you want me to feed the baby?" I always say, "If you can, have the baby fed when I arrive." Lifestyle newborn sessions are not dependent on sleeping infants, 'kay? Remember this because as a trained newborn photographer, what are we trained to do, get the baby to sleep, right? You don't have to, you lose the connection, okay? There's so many times where, how many times have you done a pose session and they're like, "Oh I wish she would open her eyes, "she has the prettiest eyes", right? And they don't, okay? So we're gonna like, embrace the fact that these babies are a little bit more awake. Back to what they need in their home. I have told the family if they can to have the heat up a little bit more then they typically would. If they have a space heater to get them out, just in case, 'cause we wanna keep the baby calm. 'Cause we will have the baby, you know, swaddled in stuff, but don't stress out if the baby is awake for the full session, 'kay? That happened in our live shoot, you will see that. Lots happened in the live shoot, you guys are gonna see how I dealt with all of it 'kay? I'm glad that all happened 'cause that's real life, 'kay? So, and I tell mom, "Feed the baby and if you need to "feed her right when I get there, that's fine." Because when I get there, I wanna bond with the sibling, okay? I always try to get the little guys to be my friends. I'll have them take me to their room, like, "Show me your room", then say, "I'll leave my camera at the door", you know? So they don't feel like I'm intruding and I'll let mom go off and feed, and that's a really good time too to ask mom if she's gonna want nursing shots. Some moms do and some moms don't. We'll get into that during the shot list, but that's a good time to do that, okay? Timing of siblings, family, and baby. Now we kind of touched on this but the siblings I try to do towards the end, but there's a lot of times where we'll do them at the beginning depending on their nap schedule. So those are all things that you're gonna have to kind of talk to mom about before you arrive, but know when you get there, it's probably gonna change anyways, and be okay with that. And tell mom, "You know what, I know we talked about "getting these shots first, but let's just "give him a little bit of a break "Maybe he can go have a snack, watch some Mickey Mouse, "whatever, and then come back" and then bring him back into the session. So you just need to be really mindful of siblings and you will see that in the live video. I sent him away for a little bit, I had him go get a hat 'cause we needed some time with mom, okay? The baby shots, without fail I try to do those first, 'cause we get there, mom's typically fed the baby, the baby's calm, not gonna eat, so if I can I try to start with those baby shots first okay? Are we good? Any of this information, if you want to, include on your website. It's not a bad idea to reference back. You know, you could have a newborn section. This is what I used to have and I may very well add something similar back, but under the newborn session page it said, what to expect on your newborn session day. And within there it said things won't go the way we plan, you know, and it said what to expect in all of these things, okay? Alright, time of the day, so let's go back. Aim for the morning, make decisions based on which room you'll use and when siblings are at their best. Have a phone conversation about this and have your client send you photos of your room. Okay let's talk about the direction of light. This is critical for your session. We said that we wanted to have a newborn session at 10 A.M., what happens if you have a client that lives in an apartment in a city, and they have an east-west facing row home, and every single room that they like is west facing? Do you think you're gonna have a good session in the morning? No, m'kay? All of these things have to be talked about. So you need to talk about, number one, what rooms in your house are you gonna want photographed? Okay, so the nursery right? Typically, if they have one set up, some people don't. The house that we're shooting in later had it set up in the master bedroom so it was a hard shoot, so it's really good that we're showing this. The master bedroom, which tend to have the most light, the one we shot and had no light. It's a good learning experience. The family room, 'cause the family rooms tend to have a lot of light, 'kay? I like to shoot in kitchens because I like to do weird things, we'll go over that, and I love to shoot in the siblings rooms okay? So what I want you to do is you talk to each client, and you say, "Which rooms do you want photographed?" And then I want you to have them send you a picture in the morning and in the afternoon of each room, if you guys are having a really difficult time deciding the time of the day. Most of the time you can kinda figure it out on the phone, but if you're not sure, then have them send it to you. Now, to throw a wrench in all of this, what happens if they have a room in the front of the house they love, and in the back of the house they love? So they have a west facing room and they have an east facing room. Two things, shoot them at what? Noon, okay? So that will mimic the north-south facing type of lighting situation, okay? However, some houses at noon don't have enough light. So you need to talk to the parents and say, "Which room is the most important to you?" And, "What I want you do is start looking at "all of the rooms in your house. "You notice when it's a overcast day", I would say overcast 'cause that's the worst situation right? "An overcast day, a real dark day, "which room do you like the best? "That's the room we're gonna photograph in "and that's the time of the day "we're gonna base your shoot around, okay?" And there's gonna be monkey wrenches with the siblings naps, and this and that, but you have to do your best to balance between, are you better off having a really crabby two year old, or are you better off picking the room they really want? So it's not easy with lifestyle, you know? I see a lot of newer lifestyle photographers show up at 10 A.M. and they're like, "It's a west facing house and I didn't even think about "to ask which way the windows faced", right? But it can make or break your session if you're facing the wrong direction. If you have a north-south facing house, wonderful, you're good. You know, it's constant light all the time. So just be mindful of which way the windows face. Yeah, okay. What clients should have in their home. I kind of talked about this, put on the website fresh flowers, swaddles. Make sure they have swaddles at home and if they don't, bring some. I have a stack of girl, boy swaddles so I will always bring white swaddles, and then I will always bring a fun swaddle, either boy or girl, okay, one. Space heater and then you need to bring a change of clothes, at least change your shirt, 'kay? You get peed on a lot, okay? And have the parents have a change of clothes, okay? A lot of times families will only plan to have one outfit, and what happens if mom's changing a little boy? Hm, okay? You might need to change your clothes, okay, so make sure she has a backup plan. Backup plans are good, 'kay? So she had this, see this yellow swaddle? I wanted to incorporate something fun, and we're gonna talk about this in a minute, into their session, 'kay? They filled up their sink with bubbles. Do you note, what's on the left hand, what's on that side over there? Flowers, see? Didn't it add a little bit of visual interest, right? It kind of brought your attention over there a little bit? I had 'em buy those flowers, 'kay? And I let them pick the flowers because there's some homes I'll go into and they're gorgeous and neutral, and they'll buy neutral flowers, right? 'Cause that's what they love. They're not a color pop person and that's fine. I don't wanna infuse my personal style onto them. I can direct them and give them guidance but I don't wanna be like, "You gotta neutral house, you need some hot pink", 'cause they might hate hot pink right? So you just need to be mindful of that when you're doing your sessions. Have the baby fed and then talk to your client about if they want nursing photos. We went into this but I just wanna reiterate it. Be flexible with this, okay? These are the really good times to get all of the detailed shots, if mom's nursing the baby. I have a handful of nursing shots and none of them have given me permission to share, so that's why I don't have any in this. 'Cause I would never obviously post any of these without written permission okay? That's another thing with nursing photos. Just because a family has signed saying that they're okay with social media, nursing photos are a little bit different, 'kay? Make sure you're always asking before you post any nursing photos. I have not had one client want me to post a nursing photo. Not one and I've done hundreds, 'kay? So that says a lot. Ask when the siblings nap and let clients know the order you will photograph, a loose schedule and they will feel better.