• Elton Cilliers

Never work with animals or children

Updated: Dec 13, 2019


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I have lost count of the number of times I have had this ‘advice’ from photographers. So the curiosity got the better of me and I arranged my first ever newborn shoot.

A newborn boy lays on his side

A model that I have worked with a few times agreed to allow me to shoot with her baby once he arrived which I was very grateful for.


The problem with babies


They are unpredictable! I have two sons of my own, and what I remember of them at this age is pretty much eating, pooping and sleeping, repeat. So this was my mistaken assumption of how things would be with this baby. I was wrong!


The baby was wide awake when I arrived having just woken from a sleep. So I took my time setting up the ‘studio’, choosing backdrops and props etc. Set the lighting up, do metering and be ready to rumble when the baby fell asleep.


Fast forward two hours. Baby is still wide awake. I attempt a wrap in the hopes that being snug will entice him to sleep. Nope! He was a strong little bugger and kept fighting his way out of the wrap! Is it normal for 15-day old babies to be able to lift their heads, when lying on their tummies? I don’t recall my kids being able to, but it is some time back now.


Eventually, almost 2 and a half hours after my arrival, he doses off. For all of 5 minutes! The images shown on this post were pretty much all I was able to snap in the time he was asleep. I tried posing him when he was awake, but as I say, he seemed incredibly strong for his age and would kick himself out of poses or push himself up on his arms!

What I learnt


Yes, it was challenging. Yes, it was nerve-racking trying to wrap the baby (this I’m sure will become easier with practice). But dammit, look how cute he is!


I learnt that you have to be prepared for anything. It was my first newborn shoot and already I feel a lot ‘wiser’. For instance, I will now be using ‘white noise’ as an aid in my next attempt. Having done some post-shoot research I’ve seen several accounts of photographers using white noise to lull the baby to sleep.

Have loads of blankets and wraps with you, especially if you’re going to pose baby nude! I got wee’d upon twice. Pleasantries aside, the blanket also got wet but I had prepared for this, fortunately.


Be prepared to be with your client for 2 – 3 hours. Sure, you may encounter a baby that is stone-cold out from the minute it arrives and doesn’t wake whilst you change/wrap/pose it, but I have a feeling this is the unicorn of the newborn photography world.


Don’t expect to get several poses out of the shoot! I arrived with so many ideas and left with pretty much 2 poses. None of them the planned ones. But here’s the important thing, once you have a baby in a pose, shoot from varies angles. Full body shots, head and torso shots, face and close-ups. Remember though, DO NOT shoot UP babies nose or bum area, it’s not very flattering. And ALWAYS focus on the eyes. From one pose, you should be able to get at least 8 – 10 unique angles. So make the most of each pose you do manage to successfully get baby into.

Conclusion


Well, I really enjoyed the shoot, despite the frustrations and unexpected watering. In fact, I have lined up a further 2 in the next few days. So I can cross newborns off the checklist and as far as ‘don’t work with children’ goes, I haven’t personally encountered any issue thus far. I have shot with 2-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 17-year-olds and everything in between (including a newborn now) and can honestly say I’ve only enjoyed the shoots.


Perhaps it’s because I’m a father myself and am comfortable with children or I just have more patience than other photographers, I couldn’t really say.

If you are a newborn photographer, I’d love to hear from you with some hints and tips?


Book your shoot now!



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