There is so much to prepare for as you await the arrival of your baby, oftentimes photography is the last thing on your mind. Wedged between all the doctor appointments, nursery decorating, making sure you have all the things in order for when baby comes home. Newborn photography ends up being a bit of an afterthought. Sometimes, people don't think that newborn photography is something that they even want so they don't have it on their priority list at all. That is until they have spent a week or so with their new baby and start to notice how quickly that new, tiny baby changes, then they scramble to find someone to book with. Us newborn photographers field a whole lot of "OMG my baby is changing too fast, and, I really want newborn photos now, but my baby is over 2 weeks old, can you get me in NOW?!" questions. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work out to schedule!
So, if you're newly pregnant or close to delivering and thinking that you do want to have a newborn photography session for your baby, what do you need to do to plan for that?
Similar to wedding photography, do your research! Pick a photographer who's style matches your own. Look through their portfolio on their website or images posted to their social media and make sure that you see consistency in their images. An experienced photographer should have enough variety of images that they have shown they are able to replicate their work time and time again. Not only do you want to make sure their work is aligned with your own standards but you want to make sure that they have experience with handling babies correctly, safely, and what to do when a session isn't going as planned! Cause they don't always sleep!
Do you want to do a posed newborn session or a lifestyle newborn session? Posed or studio style newborn sessions typically include backdrops, baskets, headbands, props, and possibly lighting. Sometimes parents are included and other times parents opt-out. Studio/posed newborn sessions can take place in a photographers studio or (if they're like me) they may travel right to your house with all of their supplies. Lifestyle newborn sessions are going to be more documentary type & take place in your own home with natural lighting and without all the props.
Another thing to think about is travel, if your photographer does only studio sessions you will be traveling to them for your session. For some, this is a great chance to get out of the house after having a baby. For others, it is absolute torture to think about leaving the house, in the morning (that's when most of us schedule newborn sessions), with a newborn, OR a new family of MORE than just one kid to get out of the door! Some types of newborn sessions can take up to 3-4 hours, so sometimes, being in the comfort of your own house is beneficial, especially if you have older (toddler) kids who need entertaining (or naps!).
Now, you have decided on some photographers that you like, you have an idea of the type of session you want, how old does your photographer suggest your baby be for their session? You will get a million different answers to this question depending on which photographer you use. I personally prefer them to be somewhere around 4-14 days, BUT, I NEVER STICK TO THIS!! I get referrals all the time from people who have missed some magical window that is set in stone with different photographers. I have photographed three-day-old babies, I have photographed babies who are nearly a month old, sometimes when they are born prematurely I haven't even gotten to photograph them until they are two months old. My point is, all babies are different, yes typically from day 4-14 they are going to be doing a whole lot of sleeping (well eating, sleeping and pooping) but, that doesn't mean you can't have just as much success with an older baby as you do a five-day-old baby! Older babies sessions may look a little different, less curled up sleepy poses and more wrapped awake baby but they are still manageable.
What does your photographer's schedule look like and how do we plan for a newborn anyway? What if my baby comes early or later than the date we originally picked? Every photographer is going to have different times that they are available and different times that they set aside for newborn sessions. For me, I work a full-time job in addition to my job as a photographer. That limits me to shooting newborn sessions only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Which usually works well for clients!) When a client contacts me, I recommend a session date (as close as I can to fit my schedule) around a week after the baby's due date. MOST of the time this works out, occasionally I haven't heard from mom yet around 5 days (if she's a first-time mom, three if she's an experienced pro) before the session date and I will contact her to let her know if baby hasn't arrived yet that we will need to pick a new date for the session. I leave space in my calendar for these potential reschedules. If baby happens to arrive sooner than planned, I ask my moms to contact me as soon as possible so we can decide whether or not we will need to bump up that session date. There are of course the exceptions of scheduled cesarean births where we can set a date in stone. If your baby is born and needs to have an additional hospital stay we will reschedule your session for when the baby is able to come home. Because of how we schedule newborn sessions, and because of my limited availability, I can only take on 3-4 newborn sessions a month, this means sometimes I book up quickly and I have to turn away inquiries for newborn sessions that attempt to book later. There is no shortage of newborn photographers but make sure that you don't miss out on booking your favorite because you didn't get in there early.
Costs! Make sure you know the costs involved with your newborn session! Don't be surprised if you find out that the first fee you pay just covers the sitting fee and you have to still purchase images that you were unaware of. Every photographer has their own way of doing things, some are all-inclusive and the price you pay covers the session and prints, or digital images. Others require a sitting fee and the purchase of images separately or in packages at an additional cost. Some photographers are going to deliver you your images online and others are going to require an in-person viewing to order. Don't just assume that the cheaper session is going to be cheaper in the long run, and please don't base your photographer solely on price alone! Get a quote from your photographer so that everyone is clear on costs. No one likes to be surprised by hidden costs they weren't planning for! Also, if price is an issue and you are in love with their work, ask if they have a payment plan. Scheduling ahead allows for an easy breakdown of payments to make something a little easier on the wallet!
So when is the best time to get this thing booked? I book my schedule as far out in advance as I can, this means sometimes people book their session during their first trimester, but most commonly and what I recommend, is booking during your second trimester, after that 20-week ultrasound scan. This gives you plenty of time to plan ahead, ask any questions you may have, and likely find plenty of spaces left on your photographers schedule.
Lastly, make sure you have a contract that covers what is included with your session, and what your photographers turn around time is to get your images back to you. For me, this time frame is around 2 weeks from photographing to delivering your gallery.