For good portraits you must turn off your flash. Your camera’s pop-up flash does more harm than good in most photography situations, so make sure you aren’t using it when you try to photograph your newborn. Instead, find a good source of natural light, like a large window or glass door, and set up close to it. If you have enough light coming in you won’t need either your flash or your overhead lights (which are also not a good plan when taking portraits). If it’s warm enough you can even set up in your garage with the door up to allow lots of light in. Start paying attention to the light in the room in yourself with the largest window – notice when the room is bright, but you can’t see the shadow of the window on the floor in front of it (see this post for more explanation of this). That’s the time of day when you want to plan your newborn photo shoot.
Don’t be afraid to pick up your children and toss them in the air. Give your wife a sweet kiss on the check. Tell your husband how much you love him and appreciate him for being there for your family. Have fun. Laugh. Giggle. Joke. Embrace. Kiss. Snuggle. Play. Doing these things will allow the photographer to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family. Leave the stiff “cheese” faces for Aunt Marge at the next family reunion. Show your photographer who you really are, so that she has the opportunity to capture your love through her lens.
Aside from being flexible, be safe. The most important thing on this list is to research newborn photography safety before you start. Many traditional poses are actually composites with spotters and safeguards in place so the baby is out of harm’s way. Lastly, don’t give up. I remember the first time I went snowboarding when I got back before I could open my mouth, my friend said I need to do it 5 more times before I decide to give up, that the learning curve is steep and that it gets easier. The same is true for newborn photography. My first session left me feeling very defeated, but I’m glad I got back up and did it again (and again and again)…and hopefully, this list removes some of your growing pains.
Imagine there is a line drawn from each face to the next. Try and position them so that no head is directly on top of, or beside (same level) another. Make diagonal lines not totem poles. Use props to seat some people or bring some small folding stools. Have some people sit down, or stand up on something. Use what is naturally in the environment to pose them, or if you have nothing available just arrange them so the heights are staggered.
Be certain not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime. The best time for lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise. If this is a bad time for your children, talk with your photographer. Good photographers will be able to shoot at any time of day by utilizing areas of open shade that will give your skin a beautiful hue and put a sparkle in your eyes. Don’t show up to a photo shoot on an empty stomach. I meet many families who come to a photo session with dinner scheduled at the end. If this is your plan, be sure to give everyone a healthy snack before the photo shoot.
Try to add variance to your group shots by providing the couple with a few different shots. Shoot wide to include all the outfits of the people in the photo. Get in closer and ask them to talk to each other (this generally sparks a reaction of laughter). Providing a couple with a bit of variance to their group shots gives them more flexibility when choosing images for albums or to share online. Additionally, it will add to your overall deliverable opposed to just one shot of people standing, smiling at the camera.
When styling a photo session, I like to start out with a basic color palette and go from there. It can help to have one “rock star” in the photos who carries a pattern in their outfit that the rest of the group’s clothing or accessories pulls from, while keeping everyone else’s outfits more simple. You can do this with a neutral and a few colorful brights, or try a softer palette that has different tonal ranges of the same shades.