Newborn safety is of the highest priority in any session, and every baby is so different. Some babies will be much more comfortable on their side, or on their tummy, some babies will sleep an entire session, others will stir with every adjustment. The trickier poses such as the hanging poses will only ever be attempted on a baby who is very calm, occasionally an attempt will be made when this isn’t the case, but it is an extremely specialised pose and shouldn’t be conducted without at least some hands on training in either a workshop or mentoring session. (I am holding workshops in Melbourne, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast and the U.S.A this year.)
It’s not a glamorous job either, though the rewards far outweigh any messy newborn accidents. With every session there’s spillage or leakage (to put it politely) and more often than not, it’s on the photographer. If you’re posing a naked newborn chances are you’ll get messed.
The simplest poses are the beanbag poses, and where I would recommend all photographers looking at specialising in newborns start. It’s so easy to get swept up in cute props, but less is always more. Remembering the preciousness and sweetness of the newborn is the most unique part to any session. Start with a few wrapped poses with bub completely snuggled (I use a little purpose made posing nest under the blanket layers, but a rolled up towel in a circle would work just as well – or even a door snake.) this snuggles bub in beautifully and securely as you adjust the size for the baby.
After getting a few shots I then slowly get bub’s hands out and slowly position them, I do the same with the feet. Slow, calm and deliberate movements when adjusting and posing a baby help, any jerkiness will upset most babes. The same goes as you unwrap a baby, keeping the room warm and the movements slow ensuring minimum disturbance to bub. Remember however babies ARE squishable, and ARE quite robust… a sleepy relaxed babe will bend into most classic newborn poses… You can Google images for inspiration, and start from the simple. My biggest tip… if you don’t know HOW to get a certain pose, ask. There is a large community in the World Wide Web that can help; you just have to find them. (Facebook has a plethora of photography communities and forums.)
The more advanced poses, including props and hanging poses are not always as they seem… a hanging pose for example always done under the strictest of supervision, only inches over a beanbag and with at least one spotter watching bub with hands ready in case he or she jerks and slips out of the sling. This is similarly the same situation in some of the more upright poses in baskets as bub can jerk and push with their legs and almost launch out of the basket. After shooting the images either a separate shot is taken to blend the two images or the bean bag and spotter is cropped out of the frame in shooting.
Location sessions bring with them a whole variety of other factors also, with having no control over the weather a particular detail has to be applied to the session, again with baby’s comfort and safety being paramount. Only certain weather conditions will lend itself to this style, and in most cases an extra set of hands is necessary to ensure baby’s safety. Keeping the baby wrapped or covered between images is generally required, and during shoots as well. It is always well worth checking baby’s feet and hands during any outdoor session also, keeping in mind baby’s temperature and comfort.
Newborn posing is an art in itself, one that you learn from with every session. Each session will offer a new learning experience, each session will bring confidence, keeping it simple and trying one or two new poses or ideas per session is by far the best advice I can offer. I still begin every session in the same way I have for the past two years. And each session has offered me a new opportunity to try a new way of wrapping, a new way of posing a hand or a foot… and then there’s getting the macro out for all those little details, but that’d be a whole other blog post. J