If you are like me and you photograph newborns, you probably spend a lot of time on education.
There are a lot of rules when it comes to photographing newborns (as there should be!). Especially in newborn photography, rules help create a safe working environment. There are guidelines for the environment to set for the baby, posing safety, how to prepare parents for a newborn session, etc. A "rule" you may or may not have heard or read is, "Never offer newborn photos for a baby older than a week old," or similar. Depending on how busy you are, or whether or not you have a job outside of photography, you may have also found that this can be tough to achieve.
I'm here to tell you that your skill at managing a session is much more important than the age of the infant you're photographing! Learning to keep babies asleep, lull babies back to sleep, and how to keep babies happy should be your priority. You can learn all there is to learn about lighting and safe posing for newborn photography sessions, but it won't matter if that sweet babe is screaming the entire time.
Photographing a newborn within that 1-2 first week(s) of life window absolutely has it's advantages, don't get me wrong! You will not find me saying that this guideline should be thrown out with the proverbial bathwater! I will say to work with your circumstances and don't panic.
If you are photographing a newborn after the first week of life, here are a few ways to help that session go more smoothly:
Provide Your Clients With a Session Guide
I believe a session guide is an important piece of any session, but it is especially crucial when it comes to photographing older newborns. Your clients need to understand what is required in order for them to receive the images they want. Relay to your clients that these guidelines are important and, in general, they will do their best to do what you have asked of them!
Swaddling and wrapping are not necessarily equal. There are many ways to get creative with baby wraps, and there are so many guides available to help spark ideas. Wrapping the baby is also a great way to get many images from a single, beautiful pose.
Become a Professional Baby Whisperer
Babies can cry for any number of reasons. It is vital to be able to read an infant's body language. Every baby is different but there are many different soothing techniques that work for most babies. You can look up different books or resources and find guidance that works well for you.
Outside of books or online resources, my advice is to not rush the baby into any particular pose. Take the time to ensure the baby is comfortable for the duration of the session. A crying baby is stressful for parents and photographer alike so of course you'll want to avoid being the cause of the fussing! Sometimes, no matter what you do, crying is impossible to avoid completely, but invest in learning about the things you can do help keep the baby cozy.
A Warm Baby is a Happy Baby
Especially when a baby has crossed that 1-week threshold, they can become amazed and distracted by what's going on around them. Warmth can help with this. The thermostat of the area you're working in should be set to around 80 degrees F. A warm room helps keep the baby comfortable and sleepy. You might have to work yourself up to shooting in this warm of a room but it's the cost of getting lovely posed photos with a slightly older babe. A warm setting is important for all newborn sessions, but especially those taking place a couple weeks into life.
Purchase a White Noise Machine
Hopefully you know this by now, but if not, hop over to Amazon and Prime a white noise machine right now! There are white noise apps or tracks made for your phone, but having a small machine is nice. I suggest purchasing a sound machine that has a continuous option -- this way it's up to you when to turn it off and you don't have to worry about turning it back on during your session. Again, this is something that is helpful when photographing any newborn but it is especially important when it comes to sessions with older babies.
I have found that when I stick to the guidelines outlined in this blog post, I am able to work with babies who are beyond the 1-week point. Of course, making every effort with your clients to schedule the baby for a session as early as possible can keep you from having to worry about this! We all get those late bookings from time to time, though, and we want to be able to work with confidence.