Overhead photo of a newborn born in his crib, his pose reminds us of superman

The Newborn Photography Checklist for Parents

So you’re thinking about getting Newborn Photos! That’s great! I’ve created the ultimate newborn photography checklist for you, which you can download for free at the bottom of this page.

But first, here are a few things that I very strong believe:

  • You deserve to be captured just as you are.
  • You’ll never regret investing in newborn photos.
  • Parents belong in the frame with their kids.
  • Your photo session can be fun and relaxing.

As a Newborn and Family Photographer, I hear from my clients that there is a period of anxiety between booking your photo session and having your photo session. That comes from not knowing exactly what to expect, and maybe never having done this before.

On top of that, if you’re about to have your first child, then that alone can bring about lots of mixed emotions.

But I’m here to tell you to take a breath… everything is going to be okay. Hopefully you’ll find an amazing photographer who will guide you through the whole process. But just in case, I’ve made a handy checklist pdf guide with “10 Tips for a Successful Photography Session,” which you can grab below!

How to Prepare for your Newborn Photo Session

When it comes to at-home photo sessions, here are the main things to think about. I divided them up into two categories: practical things versus mental things. 

Practical:

  • Hire a photographer
  • Pick outfits
  • Prepare your home

Mental:

  • Focus on your own mood and disposition. Stay light and relaxed so that your baby and partner can take your lead.
  • Be flexible in your expectations. Babies are somewhat unpredictable and they need what they need when they need it. Get ready to roll with the punches and be open to curveballs.
  • Think about specific moments you want to capture. 
  • Think about any boundaries you’ll like to set. 

Notice how there are more mental tasks than literal ones. That’s because having the right attitude will go a very long way. Soon, with the arrival of your baby, life as you know it will change. But no matter what, it will be a special moment worth documenting.

Frequently Asked Questions from Parents about How to Get Ready for a Newborn Session

How do I find the right photographer for me?

Check out this blog post for my complete answer! Or watch the introductory video below to get a peak.

Some things to consider are: the photographer’s style. Are they a portrait, lifestyle, or documentary photographer? Are you clear on the difference?

What do they charge? Does their pricing fit your budget? Are you willing to invest in your experience as well the actual photos?

Do you want an in-home session or would you prefer to be on location? Not every photographer does both.

And finally – are you interested in digitals alone or would you like to purchase some print products (such as individual prints, framed prints, acrylics, photo albums?) Does the photographer you’re considering offer the products you’re looking for?

Check out this blog post to see more!

When should I schedule newborn photos?

The short answer is: ahead of time. I would recommend booking a photographer around your 6th or 7th month of pregnancy. 

Why? For two reasons. First of all, most photographers will book up 2-6 months in advance. Busy seasons for newborn and family photographers are usually Fall and Spring. So if your baby is due around those times, book early to guarantee availability. 

Secondly, you will be BUSY once your baby arrives and have lots to worry about. Your schedule will be very different from what you’re used to with around-the-clock feeds and sleep deprivation. You might not have the mental bandwidth to look for and book a photographer during that hazy period. 

A new mom shushes and rocks her newborn baby as they stand in the middle of a messy living room, filled with baby toys and accessories.

When is the best time for a newborn photography session?

There is no wrong age for newborn photos. The decision will vary from person to person. But here are some things to consider:

  • After giving birth, you’ll have an adrenaline high for about 4 days. That makes day 3 or 4 post-delivery a great time for a session!
  • The remnants of the umbilical cord will fall off your baby’s belly button about 5-14 days after birth. If seeing it in photos bothers you, then it’s safest to schedule a session around 2 weeks postpartum or later.   
  • If you have older children, they might need some time to adjust to life with a new baby. Some kiddos take a little longer to fall in love with their new sibling.

What time of day is best for our newborn photo session?

If we’re talking about at-home photo sessions (which is what I personally offer,) mornings tend to work better. Babies are usually in a better mood in the morning and parents will have more energy at that time.

In terms of lighting, lifestyle and documentary photographers are trained to be flexible and work with available light. 

With on-location or studio sessions, the photographer might have specific requirements or recommendations which allow them to achieve their signature look. 

Overhead image of a sleeping newborn baby in his diaper resting on a pillow over mom's lap, dad's hand reaches in from the side.

What should we wear during our newborn photography session?

As a documentary photographer, I tell my clients that these photos should feel like a real day in your life. Not the day the photographer came over.

We accomplish that by making sure the outfits reflect, to some degree, something you might actually be wearing on a given day. Additionally, we want clothes that don’t create any kind of distraction that will take away from the emotion of your photos.                                                                                                           

Finally, the idea is to keep the aesthetic cohesive. Not just amongst all family members, but with the look of your home. Everything should work in harmony.

Check out my blog post: “What to wear for a newborn photo session” for a more complete answer!

Family of four together at home, all wearing neutral tones that complement each other providing the perfect example of what to wear for a newborn photo session.

Do we need to worry about posing the baby?

During your newborn photo session, the baby will typically be in one of three locations:

  1. In your arms
  2. In their crib/bassinet
  3. On your bed, either with the whole family or on their own – in which case you would only be an arm’s length away. 

When it comes to my own way of running a newborn session – I don’t use props or accessories. I don’t move or position your baby. But I will give you guidance on how to get a variety of images for you to pick from and make sure each parent and sibling have their own moment with the baby. 

To me, the most powerful images of your family will be the ones that capture moments of real love and connection. That’s the priority. Those are the images that will elicit all the memories and emotions when you look back at them in a month or in 10 years. 

Close up image of a newborn baby girl lying on mom's chest and sleeping comfortably, mom watches her happily.

How do we keep our baby calm during the newborn photoshoot?

Newborn babies have very simple needs. (Eat, sleep, poop.) The best way to keep a newborn happy is ensuring those needs are met – starting with a belly full of milk.

Burping them after a feed is essential. Their bodies are still learning how to digest milk, so any gas trapped inside can become increasingly uncomfortable. 

A dirty diaper won’t bother them too much at this stage since they just spent close to a year relaxing in a jacuzzi. But it’s always a good idea to make sure they are clean. 

In the context of your photo session, I recommend respecting the baby’s schedule and putting their needs first. A relaxed and happy baby will give you the best results.

Don’t worry about disrupting the session to see to your baby’s needs. If you’re working with an experienced newborn photography, they will know to be flexible and collaborate with you to get the best photos.

Dimly lit image of a newborn baby breastfeeding while doing skin-to-skin with mom.

Should I do the photo shoot at a studio or at home?

As a documentary photographer, I exclusively offer in-home sessions. I do this for several reasons, which you can read more about on my website.

But here’s the gist of it – Here are the advantages of an in-home session:

  1. You’re in your comfort zone. It’s your space, on your schedule, with all your favorite things around you.
  2. There’s no need to pack everyone up to be somewhere by a specific time.
  3. You get to document your home, where you’ll be spending most of your time with your newborn, and where all the memories are being created.

Deciding where to have your session is a big consideration when finding the best photographer for your family. If you’re on the fence or confused about the difference kinds of photography available for newborn photos (portrait, lifestyle, documentary) check out this blog post where I break everything down and help you determine which style works best for you. 

Should I invite the grandparents to the photo session?

Absolutely! Especially if members of your extended family will be active caretakers, I think it’s a great idea to include them.

However… they do not need to be present throughout the whole session. When my newborn clients bring extended family, we invite them to join us for the last 30 minutes or so. That ensures that the majority of session focuses on your nuclear family – whatever that might look like – but there is some space for extended family as well.

As a result, you should see the same when you look at your photo gallery. Most photos will feature just you, with a few extra shots with other family members.

What To Do Before, During, and After Your Newborn Photo Session

It’s a good idea to step back and look at the full journey you’re taking from finding a photographer to receiving your final photos and (possibly) products. 

BEFORE your newborn session…

The most important decision you’ll make when it comes to your newborn photography session is picking the right photographer for you. 

There are a lot of photographers out there so finding the right one can feel overwhelming. 

There are several things to consider:

  • What style of photography am I looking for? Options are portrait, lifestyle, and documentary photography. 
  • How much am I willing to spend on newborn photos? Do I want to have a VIP experience or am I only concerned about the final results?
  • Would I like a session at home or on location? What is the benefit of each option?
  • Am I interested in print products such as loose prints, framed prints, and albums, or do I just want digitals?
A newborn baby is playfully snuggled by his father.

If you’re still in the process of finding a photographer, check out my blog post that will walk you through all the options and help you answer some fundamental questions on the subject.  

Once you’ve found your person, look to them as your guide to show you the way. Here is what you can expect from a photographer before your photo session. 

(Keep in mind the list will vary depending on the photographer’s price point and intended client experience.)

  • They will have you sign a contract and ask for your due date. 
  • Some photographers might collect a deposit or charge the full booking cost upfront. 
  • A preparation guide with all the relevant information you need to know in order to prepare (what to wear, how to prepare your home, etc)
  • A questionnaire to learn more about your family.
  • Some back and forth communication where you have the opportunity to make your expectations clear (what specific moments you’d like to capture, if there’s anything that’s off-limits,) and talk through any concerns with them.

LEADING UP TO and DURING your newborn session…

The two main things to consider leading up to your session are: deciding what to wear and tidying up your home. These tasks can be stress-inducing, so my recommendation is to not take it too seriously. 

The main objective with both of these is to eliminate distraction. 

If someone’s outfit has a large, recognizable logo – that will create a distraction. If there’s a laptop computer in the middle of the room with lots of cables and hard drives around it – that will create a distraction. If your partner shows up in a lime-green sweater – you guessed it! It’ll create a distraction.

Remember, the focus of your photos is YOU! The people! Your new baby! So avoid anything that will keep you all from shining in the images. 

And here are some things to remember during your session:

  • Focus on your own mood and disposition. Stay light and relaxed so that your baby and partner can join in. 
  • Be flexible with your expectations. Babies are somewhat unpredictable and they need what they need when they need it. Get ready to roll with the punches and be open to curveballs.
  • Bring up the specific moments you want to capture with your photographer. (Details in the nursery, a photo of just you and your partner, etc.)
  • Remind your photographer about your boundaries, if you have any. (No photos in the kitchen, no breastfeeding photos, etc.) 

AFTER your newborn session…

Hopefully your photographer will have communicated clearly about what to expect after your session. You should know ahead of time how long it will take to receive your images and what everything costs. 

The actual delivery system will depend on your photographer’s business model. If they have an all-inclusive model, for example, they might send you a downloadable folder with all your photos. 

If they have a service + products model, you will likely receive images through an online gallery and be offered different packages. 

If your photographer provides a more personalized, boutique, experience, they might offer print products as well as digitals. 

If you’re not sure about whether or not you want print products, then here’s why I think you should invest in them:

  • You already have thousands of digitals on your phone. And that number is going to grow very quickly once your baby is born.
  • High-quality print products will last for years, possibly decades, and will only increase in value over time.
  • Your kids will love seeing photos of themselves all over your home. 
Overhead picture of a photo album with an image cover of a 6-month-old baby with yogurt all over her face. A hand reaches over from the side as it to flip through the album.

Top 10 Tips for a Successful Newborn Photography Session (PDF Below!)

Now we can take all that information and boil it down to the ultimate checklist to ensure you have a successful newborn session.

Don’t forget to grab you pdf copy!

  1. Make sure you’re working with the best photographer for your family. Are you clear on their style? Portrait, lifestyle, documentary? Does that suit your needs? Have they made you aware of their pricing beforehand? If you need some guidance, check out my blog post on this very subject!
  2. Establish open communication with your photographer. You should know ahead of time: how long your session will last, what will happen during your session, when you will receive your photos, their business model (all-inclusive vs service + product, etc.) Ultimately, you should feel prepared for your session before it comes along.
  3. Respect your baby’s needs. They don’t have many (eat, sleep, poop) so prioritize their routine to avoid letting your newborn get cranky. 
  4.  Be flexible with your expectations. Beautiful images are a given – of course. But leave room for things to happen naturally without feeling forced. You might be pleasantly surprised with what unfolds!
  5.  Focus on your own emotions. Having a newborn is a lot! Whether or not this is your first child, a new baby is a huge adjustment. You will not be able to control other people in your session (your baby, your partner, siblings,) so bring your focus inward. If you are happy and relaxed, others will take the lead.
  6. Don’t stress over a messy house. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to pick up every last thing. Think about the rooms in your home you’ll want to be in, (nursery, your bedroom, living room,) and focus on those. And remember – a little mess won’t ruin your photos!
  7. Take some time to think about outfits. A great way to start is to look around your home. What colors do you see? Are there any items in particular you’d like to include in photos? Keep things simple but make it cohesive. For more help, check out my blog post on this subject!
  8. Set aside extra outfits. Be ready for spitting up, dripping milk, and leaky poops. You’ll find nobody manages to stay clean for too long, so be prepared for some wardrobe changes!
  9.  Think about specific moments you’d like to capture. If you have specific images in mind (breastfeeding the baby, the nursery decor, baby in their diaper) make a list and discuss it with your photographer. 
  10. Think about any limits you want to set. You might not want breastfeeding photos, or a certain room in the house photographed. Take some time to consider this beforehand and make those limits known to your photographer.
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