How to Prepare for a Newborn Photography Session – Our 5 Top Tips!newborn photography training

Are you the type of newborn photographer who is always nervous or worried before leaving for a newborn session?  I know that I am!

Perhaps you frantically ran out of the house and forgot your favorite newborn prop…
Or maybe your own baby was up all night sleepless & your exhausted or you are just wondering if your newborn baby you are going to be working with will choose to be fussy or in a good mood ready for photos.

Either way, one can never have too much newborn photography training and tips to ensure proper preparation and stack the odds in your favor of having an amazing newborn session!

Today, let’s cover my top 3 tips on how to prepare for a newborn photography session!

1.  Set Client Expectations for Timing.  Timing really is Everything!

Even though you may have already mentioned: “please contact me shortly after the baby arrives” to your client, it never fails that many parents forget to do so. It’s easy to understand why.  Becoming new parents is a huge life change and they have so much on their minds in these early days of parenthood.  Even if they didn’t forget, they might think of you and then realize their Wi-Fi doesn’t work and they can’t email you or find your number but plan to contact you later which can easily turn into 7 days etc… you get the idea 😉

Here is what you should do

Make it as easy as possible for your clients by texting them a message to their phone so they can easily save your phone number.  Also, as their due date approaches, I send a nice email checking up on them; seeing how they are feeling, and letting them know how excited I am to photograph their little one.  In this email, I remind them to text or call within the first 1-3 days of the birth.  It’s also a good conversation to have because many times you can get a feel for their birth plan (whether it is waiting until 42 weeks or inducing for high blood pressure, pre-term labor, etc.).   The conversation also helps keep me at the top of my client’s minds and with my number already saved in their phone, its super easy for them to contact me.

My goal is to photograph babies by the 7th day and ever since I’ve been doing this, scheduling newborn sessions has been much easier.

how to prepare for newborn photography session

Want some other great newborn photography tips?  We have 10!

2.  Set Client Expectations for the Session

At the top of my newborn photography session prep tips is set your clients expectations.  If you are a lifestyle newborn photographer, discuss your style straight away.  If you do a mix of posed and lifestyle, clarify that as well.

During the phone consult, I also advise my clients on how long the sessions usually take.  We discuss what we will be doing at what point, how I will handle any messes, etc.  Having these conversations in advance of the session makes your clients feel so much more comfortable during the session.  If this is their first newborn session, they are probably not familiar with much slower of a pace newborn photography sessions are.

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3.  Set Client Expectations for the Gallery

This is one of my favorite tips I can give for newborn photography.  Be clear on how many many final images clients can expect to see in their gallery.  Clients used to receiving 50-100 images in portrait galleries.  When they receive a newborn gallery with only 20-30 images, there is the potential for them to feel a little deflated.

Here are some great guidelines:

  • Tell clients at least 3 times in the process how many images your newborn galleries will contain.  For me, that number is 20.  However, I shoot to offer 30 to impress them.
  • Explain why there are fewer images than a typical portrait session.  Be clear on how it takes a while to capture the images (calming/feeding/posing/etc.).
  • Explain why the editing process takes a lot longer (individual Photoshop work vs. global Lightroom adjustments).  Discuss your editing philosophy and why editing is such an important step for newborns.  This is not only interesting to most clients, but it also shines some light on the amount of time you are investing in their final product.

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4.  Create a Client Guide

Don’t just give clients these details on the phone or in a face-to-face meeting.  Send them a guide, too!

The guide can be an official welcome guide with beautiful photos of your work.  It can be a page on your website you direct clients to.  Or it can be a simple e-mail or Word document.  I’ve heard these called welcome guide, prep guides, etc.  The name and format are less important than the information.

Include all the information we’ve discussed above.  You can also cover topics like:

  • Shots with siblings or other family members
  • Shots with pets
  • Wardrobe for the baby
  • Wardrobe for mom and dad if they are to be photographed
  • Preparing the home, including warming the room, removing clutter, etc.
  • Feeding the baby ahead of the session
  • How you ensure baby’s safety
  • Instructions for communicating their ideas on props, wardrobes, etc. to you
  • Tips on bedding, decor, etc. if a lifestyle session

When I was a beginning newborn photographer, many parents spent the entire session apologizing or hovering over my shoulder.  They thought the slow pace was a nuisance and not normal.  It was such a great change once I started sending my “what to expect” document a few days before the session.  Parents became more comfortable and seemed to just enjoy the process a lot more.

Again, many couples have only experienced a professional photographer for their wedding or family/engagement portraits.  These sessions are drastically different.  Explain that to your clients ahead of time in a conversation AND your guide!

The great thing about a written guide is it reiterates your conversations and parents can review the information more than once.  A guide also helps make sure YOU have forgotten to tell the parents something.

5.  Create a Checklist

We’ve discussed how to prepare clients for their newborn photography session.  But what about how to prepare for a newborn photography session as a photographer?  How should you ensure you are ready?

Just like we created a client prep guide, a photography checklist can also come in handy.  Take a few minutes well in advance of your session to start a list of all your must-have newborn photography gear.  Write them down and save that list for future reference.  Some photographers make an actual checklist they can print out and check off before each session.

Here are some things to think about including in your newborn photography “kit”:

  • Camera and backup camera
  • Extra camera batteries
  • Clean memory cards (format them prior to the session so they are ready)
  • Lenses – wide angle, portrait and/or macro lenses (click here for our 2 best newborn photography lenses tutorial!)
  • Lens cleaning cloth
  • Newborn posing beanbag, posing pillows and/or wedges
  • Backdrop stand, backdrops and clamps
  • Space heater and/or heating pad
  • Stepstool or small ladder
  • Towels (great for rolling up under baby or cleaning up messes)
  • Wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Kids toys for toddlers or older siblings joining the session
  • Waterproof pads (to catch messes)
  • A change of clothes for me (in case of a mess)
  • Gloves (if you have cold, clammy hands that might startle a newborn)
  • Props (baskets, bowls, pillows, crates, toys, etc.)
  • Weights (for weighing down props)
  • Big blankets for layering and smoothing
  • Small swaddle blankets
  • Wraps
  • Hats/headbands
  • White noise machine or speakers for your phone to play music
  • Reflector
  • Lighting and equipment such as continuous lights, speedlights, strobes, modifiers and lightstands if you use off-camera flash
  • Business paperwork
  • Gift for the parents or siblings

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about.  Depending on your style of shooting, you might not need all of these items.  But a checklist you can use before each session will help you keep track of what you need to prep and pack.

Prep your self

Newborn sessions can be long, hot and tiring.  Try to prep your body and mind before a session.

  1. Prep your gear a few days ahead of time so you aren’t rushed the day of.
  2. Be well-rested and well-hydrated.  Take along snacks and water for yourself during the session to use when baby is feeding.  No one likes a hangry newborn photographer!
  3. Wear loose, lightweight clothing.  You can be comfortable and still look professional.
  4. Review client details before heading out.  It can help you remember names, ideas and details you might have forgotten since you last spoke with your clients!

Communicate and Clarify through Contact

Your goal should always be to impress your client at every point of contact.  Setting the correct expectations is key – especially in newborn photography.  It is drastically different than most portrait sessions and requires a different approach.

I hope you’ve found this newborn photography training post helpful.  Can you implement them into your own workflow with your clients?  Absolutely!  Want some additional tools & tips for newborn photography?  There is no better complete resource than our Newborn Photography Workshop.  With lifetime access you can easily watch and learn at your own pace and always refer back to it.  Simply click below to learn more and get your FREE Newborn Lightroom Presets!

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Do you have any tips & tricks that help you prepare for a newborn photography session?  If so, let me know in the comments!

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