What everyone sees from all of my newborn sessions is the final product. You see the beautiful images and a darling little newborn family. What actually happens at a lifestyle newborn session? Well, let me tell you.
I picked a pretty unique session to dive into the BTS (behind the scenes) of my newborn sessions. It was my first time TRAVELING for photography. Huge milestone business-wise. In some way it makes me feel more legit.
It’s spring break of this year and I was traveling to Denver to photograph the sweet little miracle baby of two dear friends of mine.
Y’all, I’m still getting over all the layers of how special this session was. I graduated high school and went to college alongside this gentleman, and was childhood friends and college roommates with this lovely lady. As if that wasn’t cool enough, this little nugget was the answer to many months of prayers, doctor’s appointments, and tears. I watched them through their journey of bringing their daughter to the world. It was a long process. They handled the pain and the waiting with such patience and grace. And now, I get to document some of their first moments with their firstborn daughter. Photos they will keep for generations. I wasn’t kidding about the layers. I just love these people and this story.
Anyways, I woke up REALLY early that Tuesday morning of spring break and headed to Hobby Airport. I’m just hoping I make it to Denver. My flight isn’t even a guarantee. I’m flying stand by and there is a good chance I will be in my car driving home instead of on a plane to the mile-high city. I’m waiting at the gate with my laptop. Catching up on some editing. Worst case scenario this was just a terrible version of waking up early in the morning to get some editing done. I glance up at the screen of standby flyers and I’m like 10th in line for standby. Yeah, I am probably going to be waiting for the next flight in like 3 hours. In all reality, I’m probably just going to be heading home.
“Melanie Beddow” I hear faintly over the intercom.
Woah, okay. That’s me. The second I scan my boarding pass I almost felt like I needed to run to get on the plane before some airport employee jumped out to say “sorry there has been a mistake”. And here we go to DENVER!
Once I land, I’m really most excited to just see my friends. To catch up on all things parenting. As I said, we go way back. THEN as if that wasn’t enough, I get to see another photog friend (Kendra V Photography) who moved from Houston to Denver over a year ago (I think). And that is where the BTS of this beautiful session starts. I had the talented Kendra V working alongside me to capture some great photos for me.
So what actually happens? Let me show you.
Let me just start by saying that COVID has definitely changed a few things about how I conduct newborn sessions. Not that I ever wasn’t concerned about germs with newborn sessions, but it’s just more evident now. I always start by walking in and finding the best place to wash my hands. Typically the mom is just finishing up little here and there things like getting the baby fed or changed, last-minute outfit adjustments, or what have you. I take that time to get dad’s perspective on how life has been with the new little baby. Dad’s perspective is just a hair different than mom’s, so it’s always interesting to hear. Ha. But seriously, dad usually doesn’t hesitate to brag on how much of a champ his wife was/is through the birth and adjustment to the new baby.
Once mom is ready I’ll get a lay of the land. 9 times out of 10 this is the first time I have been in my clients’ home, so I always enjoy a little home tour. The home tour serves a few purposes:
Once the game plan has been established it’s time to start shooting!
I first start with some sort of outfit that exposes arms and legs, fingers and toes, and all those scrumptious little rolls. Usually, I take mom and baby photos first. Most often the baby’s happiest place is in momma’s arms (especially if the baby isn’t swaddled up yet. More on that later.)
Now, this is where it would be easy to run through my detailed shot list of images I like to get at every session. You won’t find that here. I have a general shot list loosely attached somewhere in my brain, but I just go with the flow and let my artistic eye take over. A lot of the shots are similar, but not having a solid list keeps things interesting for me, and uniquely special for you. Plus, there are so many factors at play like siblings that need special attention or fussy babies who need to be burped to name a few. Having a concrete game plan just isn’t realistic. Any parents out there know that babies don’t like plans.
This time in the session is more about the baby as a whole as opposed to the small unique features. You get to see babies full size, what their rolls looked like, or how they lay their arms when mom is holding them. One of my favorite things during this time is to have the mom or even little sibling play with the fingers and toes. I even once had a sister place the newborn feet over her eyes. Precious!
Now, I won’t meander in this stage of the session for too terribly long. There is typically a specific amount of time that the baby will allow for being unwrapped and messed with.
So, let’s wrap the baby!
I bring several swaddles in a myriad of colors. Mom can either choose her favorite of the ones I brought or we can use one that is special to the family. I have to say through the whole process of a newborn session, this part is my FAVORITE! I take my time because when babies get wrapped sometimes they are a little uncomfortable. Similar to how a baby HATES getting their diaper changed. Babies don’t like clothing transitions either (swaddles included). Now often this means that the swaddling process might take a while. And that’s okay. I am never in a hurry. Sometimes we need to stop and feed. Sometimes we have to wrap and rewrap if the baby is extra wiggly and uncomfortable. Whatever the amount of time it takes is not a bad thing. This lengthy process gives me a chance to snuggle the baby and really just connect with mom on all the details about her birth and post-partum story. I get to hear the details, and highs and lows of every unique story. Like I said before, it is my favorite part of the WHOLE process! It’s when the best conversation happens. I just really love it.
Once the baby is wrapped our options are a lot more open to the different shots that are left in the session. Baby is more portable allowing us to move around the house getting to the perfect places with just the right light. They will also drift into a heavier sleep. This makes for the perfect time for those wiggly siblings and pets to get close to the baby without fear of waking them up. For those especially young siblings, this is when I aim to get those shots with just baby and sibling. It’s just the easiest for everyone!
The next order of business is to get all the combination of family shots that I have left. Literally anything my mind can conjure up. We might be in the living room, on the floor of the nursery, in a rocking chair, on mom and dad’s bed, or even outside. This is where I just go with the flow of the family. A lot of times different shots will just appear through conversation.
Once all the family shots are done, it’s my time to have the baby for myself. I’ll prepare my basket or the spot where we are going to take the solo baby shots and nestle baby right in. I get to zero in all those small sweet features. The baby nose, the ears, the lashes, sometimes even one of those quick fleeting sleepy smiles. I’ll take shots from several angles doing my best to move the baby as little as possible. This part tends to move pretty quickly as I have so much control and there is not a ton of moving parts.
Okay, we’re done, right?
Naturally, I have to take my wraps home and this time is GOLD. Once we unwrap the baby we get the famous baby STREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTCH! I’ll instruct mom (or sometimes dad) on the best way to unwrap the baby so as to not impede how the stretch will progress. Babies have a very similar way of stretching, arms up, then rolling to the side and arching the back. The sequence of movements might be similar, but I always get at least one glance or sound or something special. You better believe I’m ready for it.