If you are currently pregnant or have just had your baby, you might be searching the internet for a newborn photographer to capture your new bundle of joy. Simply typing “London newborn photographer” into a search engine will bring thousands of results, so how are you supposed to decide which photographer to hire?
In this blog post I’m hoping to help you decide what’s the right style of newborn photography for you, when to schedule your newborn photoshoot, and what to look out for when booking a newborn photographer. So read on!
What Are The Newborn Photography Styles?
There are three main newborn photography styles that you’ll come across: posed newborn photography, lifestyle newborn photography, and documentary newborn photography.
Because I’ve been a family and newborn photographer for over 8 years now, and have tried my hand in all of these at one point or another (if you’re curious, my progression went from a combination of posed and lifestyle newborn shots, to only lifestyle newborn sessions, and now I predominantly photograph newborns with a documentary, or photojournalistic, approach). So I think I’m pretty well qualified to talk about different styles of newborn photography to help you decide which one is right for you.
Posed newborn photoshoots are the ones you will most frequently see, as they became popular thanks to artists such as Anne Geddes. They typically involve positioning baby on a beanbag, and using a variety of props, from different colour blankets, to hats and headbands, to baskets, or even set ups made to look like bird nests.
During a posed newborn photoshoot, the photographer will usually ask you to feed the baby and then will spend some time – anything from 30 minutes to an hour – rocking, shushing and wrapping the baby, waiting for them to go into deep sleep. The room is usually kept at a very balmy temperature to make sure the baby is extra sleepy, and when the photographer and the baby are ready, they will start positioning the baby the way they envision. These photoshoots can take as little as 1 hour, or as long as 6 hours, depending on how fussy the baby is and how many set ups you want to capture.
Lifestyle newborn photoshoots usually happen at your home and incorporate your space into the photographs, making them a lot more meaningful and unique to you. The photographer will still take some posed photos of both the baby and yourselves, but it is typically a lot more fluid and doesn’t involve props the same way a posed newborn photoshoot does.
The photographer will usually start by looking around your house searching for the best available light, and then will direct you to stand, sit or interact in a certain way for the best results. In a nutshell, a lifestyle newborn photoshoot will aim to capture images that look natural while still requiring a fair bit of direction from the photographer and planning and preparation on your part.
A documentary newbornphoto shoot involves no posing or direction at all. The aim of a documentary newborn photoshoot is to capture your family as you are right now, and to document how it felt to bring your new baby home, and what those early weeks and months were really like. It’s an amazing memory to have as the children grow and you want to relive the time when they were so little. I have written before about some of the newborn photographs I wish I had when my baby was little, and I encourage you to read it, as that blog post has the benefit of the hindsight.
An experienced documentary newborn photographer will look out for and capture the emotions and connections within the family in a beautiful and engaging way, all without asking you or your older children to strike a pose or smile on demand. It’s especially useful if your newborn baby has older siblings, or if you have a hesitant spouse that is not keen on the idea of posing for the pictures. You need to be prepared to let go of control and embrace chaos, and a documentary newborn photoshoot would be the perfect fit for you if you are a bit of a rebel and like to do things in your own, unique way.
When Should I Have My Newborn Photographed?
The time frame for having your newborn photos done will depend on the style of newborn photography that you mostly gravitate towards.
Photographers specializing in posed, fine art, newborn photography will usually advise that the newborn photoshoot takes place within the first 10-14 days of the baby’s life. That is because the baby still needs to be super sleepy and curled up to achieve those signature poses. The older they get, the more difficult it becomes to pose them and keep them asleep.
For lifestyle and documentary newborn photoshoots, the age of the baby doesn’t matter as much, and it mainly comes down to your personal preference, and how well you are recovering after birth.
Some lifestyle newborn photographers will still insist on photographing the baby within that two-week window, and that’s usually because they will incorporate some element of posing the baby into their photoshoot.
As a documentary newborn photographer, I don’t have a hard and fast rule about the age of the baby for their newborn photoshoot, because there’s no posing involved. I’ve photographed babies as young as 5 days old, and babies who were a month old or more. While I think it’s really important to capture those first few days of bringing your new baby home, it’s also important to consider how comfortable you might be post-birth, especially if you have had a C-section or any complications during the delivery. If you’re in a lot of pain or very uncomfortable, the last thing you’d want to do is to get dressed and put your make up on for when the photographer arrives!
What most photographers would do when booking you in for a newborn photoshoot, is pencil your newborn photography session in for your due date, and then allow a two-week window on either side of it, and ask you to get in touch as soon as the baby arrives. You can by all means ask them to allow for a bigger window post-birth, if you feel like you need a little more time to recover. Because newborn photoshoots can usually take place on a weekday as both parents are off work in the first few weeks, that’s usually not a problem in terms of scheduling, even if the photographer is really busy.
If you have already had your baby and only now realise that you want to book a newborn photoshoot, chances are you will still be able to find a photographer. Even if their website says you must book your photoshoot while you’re still pregnant, it’s still worth getting in touch with a photographer whose style you love, and seeing if they have availability. As I mentioned earlier, with documentary newborn photography approach, it often doesn’t matter how old the baby is, and you should still be able to book a newborn photoshoot, even if the baby is a few weeks old. After all, it’s all about capturing your life with the new baby, and a couple of weeks won’t make a huge difference to how precious the images will be to you!
Newborn Photoshoot Location: Studio or Home?
When deciding on which newborn photographer to hire for your photoshoot it’s important to consider whether the photoshoot will take place in their studio or at your home.
While most photographers will travel to your home for any type of photoshoot, if a posed newborn photoshoot is something that you are really keen on, having the photos done in the photographer’s studio has its benefits. The photographer is likely to have a large stock of different props that you could choose from, as well as all the right equipment in one spot, cutting down on the length of the photoshoot (trust me, unloading beanbags, props and other paraphernalia from and into the car can take a long, long time!). In the studio, the photographer will also be able to control the light better resulting in more consistent images. Some will even have an area for you to relax while they are photographing the baby!
If you hate the idea of traveling to a studio with your new baby, then a lifestyle or a documentary newborn photo shoot at your own home will be the right fit for you. Not only you don’t have to travel a few days post-birth (and let’s face it, it’s usually the last thing you want to do!) but the baby would usually be more content among the familiar sounds and smells of their own environment. You will also be able to incorporate any personal items into your photoshoot, or have your pet join in!
How To Go About Choosing Your Newborn Photographer
Once you’ve settled on your preferred photography style, you can narrow down your Google searches or Facebook recommendation requests from just “newborn photographer” in your location (which is likely to bring up mainly photographers working in a posed style) to “lifestyle newborn photographer” or “documentary newborn photographer”. That should then show you only the photographers who specialize in the style and approach to newborn photography you are most drawn to.
That would still leave you with hundreds of websites to look through, so how do you choose? Here are few things to consider:
Do you like the pictures shown on their website and blog? Don’t assume the photographer will be able to change their style to accomodate your requests, so make sure you like what they produce on a regular basis.
Can you see a couple of full newborn photoshoots on their blog or in their portfolio? It’s really important to make sure that the photographer can deliver a gallery of quality images, not just a single hero shot.
If you’re looking into posed newborn photographers, have they had appropriate training in handling newborns safely? Most of the popular newborn poses are achieved using Photoshop composites and the babies are never placed in a position where they have to support the weight of their own head, or placed up high on shelves, chairs or swings. If you’re unsure, ask them what training they have had.
When you enquire, ask the photographer to send you their full price list, so you are aware of all the costs involved. Most established photographers charge a session fee that covers only their time and talent, and you will purchase digital images or products after the photoshoot. Make sure you understand their pricing structure and you’re comfortable with the level of investment before booking.
Beware of the cut-price photographers. While everyone will have different budgets, remember: if it’s too good to be true then it most certainly is. Professional newborn photography is a business, and one that’s not cheap to run at that, so anyone offering you a session and all images on a USB stick for £50 is either cutting corners, or not experienced enough, or is likely to be out of business in the next year or so.
Book a telephone or a Skype consultation with the photographer before committing to the booking. Make sure you click with them and you like them as a person. It’s a lot easier to relax and feel comfortable if you know the photographer a little, and if they are able to put you at ease with their personality.
And finally, relax and let the photographer take control. They will have had photographed many families and many babies before, and they will know what to do and how to present you in the best possible light, whatever style of newborn photography session you’re into.
Hello and welcome! I'm Antonina, an award-winning documentary family photographer, specialising in the authentic and meaningful photography for families in London and Surrey. I'm also available for commissions further afield - please get in touch for more details.