Posed or unposed? Which is the best approach for you and your baby?
When it comes to picking your newborn photographer, the most obvious step is to choose a photographer who specialises in the style you like most.
The style of the final images is of course a huge part of making your decision, but it's the photographer's approach and the techniques they use that should be equally important; you may be surprised to find out what actually goes on behind the scenes - exactly how does a photographer get certain shots?
A quick Google search for "newborn photography in my area" will usually bring up the current, very popular “posed” style of images that most people associate with newborn photoshoots: sleeping babies perfectly wrapped up in multiple swaddles, posed into the most photogenic positions and often placed into containers. The babies are usually under a month old, most often 2 weeks or younger.
When done safely and photographed well, posed newborn photos are beautiful and the babies become works of art. However, my advice is this: if a posed newborn photoshoot is what you are interested in, first do a quick YouTube search for any "behind the scenes" videos from real posed newborn photoshoots so you know what to expect during a session.
It takes a lot more than simply popping a baby onto a beanbag to get shots like that, and some of the techniques the photographer needs to use to keep your baby calm and in the correct pose might surprise you.
If, like me, watching a behind the scenes video from a posed newborn shoot makes you feel a little unsure, you are not alone.
Luckily for us, there is an another way!
...or not to pose?
Unposed newborn photography is exactly what it sounds like: newborn photography without posing.
Here are six things that make an unposed newborn photoshoot different:
The session is totally baby-led
That means if your baby is upset, we take a break; there is no need to keep them calm in the "right" position just to get the shot. If they need to be picked up, you pick them up; need a feed? Go for it. Nappy Change? As many as you like.
Babies are comfortable and free to move
I do of course advise you where to hold or place your baby so they are in the best light, and might suggest a certain angle or general position (e.g. having them on their back, their front, their side), but I let their little hands stay loose and don't "mould" them into unnatural positions. "Froggy pose"? No thank you.
The most I will wrap a baby (although now due to COVID-19 I will ask parents to do this) is in a very loose swaddle, with their arms out if they prefer. No tight, multiple layer "potato sack wrap".
No dummies, no rocking, no patting, no shushing
Lots of parents might be surprised to see a posed newborn photographer rock, pat and shush their baby, or give their baby a dummy at every little stir, until he or she is fast asleep again.
The reason posed newborn photographers use these settling methods is because they work, and babies are often back to sleep in no time.
As useful as they are, I don't feel comfortable using these methods, especially as parents may be actively trying not to use them at home. Also, because I don't need to "mould" your baby into position, he or she won't need to be asleep anyway. Winner!
This is similar to the above points, but I personally don't believe newborn babies should be treated like props or dolls. They deserve to be treated as whole people, no matter how tiny.
That means I don't place them inside or on anything that we wouldn't normally place a baby in. Here's a handy guide:
Moses basket? Yep.
Flower pot? Sorry.
Tool box? That's a hard no from me.
Sessions are shorter
Posing a newborn takes patience. I have so much respect for these photographers who get peed on, pooped on, deal with crying, tame flailing baby limbs and spend hours just to get that perfect pose. Incredible!
Because of all the work that goes into settling and posing a baby, posed newborn photoshoots can run up to 4 hours. Speaking from experience, that's a really long time to be out of the house in your baby's first 2 weeks of life.
Because I don't need to wait for your baby to fall asleep to take my photographs, my sessions are usually less than 2 hours.
You are the only one who is in charge of your baby
It's one thing to be out of the house for 4 hours, but also having to hand over your new baby to be settled, dressed and held by a stranger for almost the entire time is another thing to consider.
Before COVID-19, I would only handle your baby to maybe move one of their little hands out of the way, or move their leg etc. I might also have held them for you and helped dress them or placed them down how I wanted to photograph them. Particularly if you had other children with you.
Now, I avoid touching your baby as much as possible - and if you'd prefer I won't touch them at all. It seems safer to instruct parents on how to lightly wrap them and where to place them on the bed.
In my newborn photoshoots, your baby is either placed gently down on the beanbag/bed, or in your arms - exactly where they need to be when they are tiny!