Boise, ID photographer
Newborns • Families • Maternity • Couples • Education

Hannah Mann

Making the most of your session :: the official newborn session guide

January 16, 2017

Newborn sessions are one of my all time favorite types of sessions. Truly, it is an incredible privilege to be able to document the welcoming of a new person and the celebration of new life. No other life event holds quite the same mixture of joy, exhaustion, and completely overwhelming love!

Newborn sessions are – aside from weddings of course – also the type of session that my clients have the most questions about and that can be the most stressful to head into without enough information. It is SO important to me that all of my clients feel relaxed leading up to and during their sessions, but especially families who have just welcomed a new baby. The postpartum state is not one that needs any hint of stress added to it!

While most of the other types of sessions I photograph are essentially met with two questions (what should we wear and where should we do our session?), I think newborn sessions deserve a more comprehensive guide. So here you go. 🙂

{P.S. Did you know that you can book a half price maternity session with me if you book a newborn session as well? Get in touch for more information!}

Scheduling Your Newborn Session

Ideally, your session will take place when your baby is between 3-10 days old. This gives the family time to come home from the hospital and begin to settle into their new routine, but is soon enough that baby is still very much in the ‘newborn’ stage – tiny, sleepy, curled up, and snuggly. Once you have welcomed your baby, contact me at your earliest convenience and we will pick a date for your session. Generally, mornings are best for baby’s schedules (and other siblings’ moods) and for the brightest light in your home. However, this is not the case for every family. Keep in mind the patterns of your baby and the rest of your family, and when the light is brightest in your home, and that will determine what time of day will be best for you.

Note: Sometimes circumstances prevent scheduling a session in the 3-10 day timeframe (such as a NICU stay, a difficult delivery or recovery, etc.). While I wish wholeheartedly that your little one’s arrival is as uncomplicated and easy as possible, do not worry if your session must be scheduled for a later date. Even as babies begin to outgrow the newborn stage, your photos will reflect the same love and joy that you have felt all along. The session should take place at a time when you are ready to enjoy it, not at a time when you feel pressured to fit it in to an overwhelming season.

Day of the Session

The session itself will typically last one to two hours, based on the number of feedings and changes that take place, and if there are other siblings to work with. We let baby determine our schedule, and the pace is relaxed and natural. Above all, I want my clients to feel peaceful and to enjoy their session. Babies are uncooperative at sessions just as often as they are well behaved, and our time is built to allow for that. Spit up, dirty diapers, dirtied outfits, crankiness, etc. – none is reason to stress. As a mother of almost three, I have had all my good planning ruined too many times to count! And as your photographer, I want your session to be a sweet memory of a special time, no matter what baby throws our way. This is not a time where you need to put on a show; it is a time for you to enjoy the ones you love most.

And please, please keep in mind that your house does not need to be clean for me. The last thing you need to worry about is having a clean house for me! If we need to, we will move things as we go. I want you spending time with your baby, recovering and resting, and getting yourself ready for our session. I am well versed in the struggle to keep a clean house (for me this is always, not just after having a baby!), so just relax. 🙂

What to Wear

First and foremost, you should be comfortable in whatever you choose to wear. Your clothes should reflect your taste and who your family is. Within that overall principle, here are a couple of recommendations for you to help ensure the most beautiful photographs.

– Avoid bright or dark colors, for the whole family. Your baby’s skin is delicate and the tone is easily affected by the surrounding colors. Instead, stick with light colors, neutrals, and pastels, as they will not overpower your little one. Think snuggly, cozy, and soft.

– Plan your wardrobe ahead of time, even before the baby is born. Once baby arrives, getting together a wardrobe or making a last minute shopping trip will be the last thing you’ll be up for doing! And while a mama’s belly will shrink after giving birth, her general size won’t change much in the first week or two, so it’s safer to stick with something that can be worn pretty late in pregnancy and that is a forgiving fit and style. Most of all mamas, make sure you feel good in what you’re wearing! Loose fitting shirts, tunics, and dresses in soft colors will look perfect. 

– Dress baby simply and comfortably. Think soft cotton clothes – onesies, a swaddling blanket, or simply a diaper with or without a cover. Accessories such as hats or headbands can be a sweet way to add personality and style without overpowering a tiny person, but keep them somewhat small and simple. Definitely stay away from stiff clothing like jeans, fluffy dresses or other more formal attire because it distracts from baby’s soft skin and delicate features – these types of outfits are best for an older baby or toddler.

A note for mothers: I know firsthand the temptation that too many women face to feel self conscious or critical about their body’s postpartum state. While some women love the changes they have experienced with pregnancy, others simply see the extra weight, the lingering bump, and the fatigue. If you are in that second set, please know that no matter what you think you see, you are beautiful! You have just been part of the greatest miracle – bringing forth life – and there is nothing so beautiful as that. I always take care to pose clients in a natural and flattering way, and I encourage you to not waste a moment of your time worrying. Instead, I hope you can relax and celebrate the amazing job you have just done, and know that you are in good hands!

Frequently Asked Questions

– What is the best location for my session?

Almost all of my newborn sessions take place within my clients’ homes. This is usually the most comfortable and convenient spot for a family with a new baby. Your home does not need to be amazingly decorated or immaculately clean – in fact, please don’t spend time cleaning before our session! You have plenty of other more important things to be doing in these first days after welcoming your new child. If you have a simple couch, bed, or nursery setting – even a blank wall with a clean floor – we can easily work with that setting. My favorite images are often of the family snuggled on mom and dad’s bed or simply standing near a window. Which brings me to the most important thing your home needs: n atural light. While you don’t need huge windows to get good lighting, every once in awhile a home has small windows, lots of surrounding shade, and dark decor, and this may not work well. If you have any concerns about your home environment for your photo session, let’s talk! Do note that good artificial lighting does not work well for a session – I typically turn off all lights and open all windows for the most beautiful results.

If you do not want your session to take place in your home, or if your home does not seem well suited to a session, we can pick an outdoor location, a friend or family member’s home, or any other location that feels right for your family.

– Do you provide props and/or backdrops?

The short answer to this is no, I do not, with the exception of a simple muslin swaddling blanket. While there are talented photographers who specialize in newborn studio photography with fancy baskets, special wraps, miniature beds, etc., I am passionate about lifestyle newborn photography, where the family as a whole is celebrated. There is nothing more special to me than the family that a precious new baby is welcomed into, and photographing newborns in their families’ arms and in their new world is what my heart loves to do. I still absolutely ensure to capture photos of your newborn on his or her own since these are very important, but they typically take place in baby’s crib, on mom and dad’s bed, in a family member’s arms, etc. Our environment isn’t a backdrop, it is real life, and real love.

– What kind of retouching do you do?

Every one of my photographs is individually edited and inspected in detail. My goal in my art is to show what is real, in its best and most beautiful form. In light of this, my general rule for retouching is that I remove things that heal (such as blemishes), and I leave things that are part of a person’s wonderful individuality (such as scars, birth marks, moles, etc.) I never manipulate a subject’s size or shape – including slimming down a belly or arms or a double chin. I ask my clients to trust my posing and artistic vision, and my sensitivity toward the things they may feel uncomfortable with.

Most newborns have scratches, tiny pimples, or other imperfections that stand out in a photo if not retouched – their skin is so sensitive and delicate in the early days. I generally edit out these types of marks, as they will not stick around more than a week or two in most cases, while I leave birthmarks unretouched. If you have individual questions or concerns about what may or may not be edited about your newborn, please feel free to speak with me to address them!

– Do you offer nursing photos?

I do! For clients’ privacy, I do not display these images online without explicit permission. However, breastfeeding is a beautiful relationship between mother and child, and I am happy to capture images of it if you are interested.

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i'm hannah

I'm a photographer and educator based in Boise, ID, where I live with my favorite guy ever and our two boys + two girls.

Since founding my business in 2014, I have relentlessly honed my craft and the experience I offer to each client I work with. My commitment is to always deliver industry-leading artistry and quality. READ MORE...