Guest Blogger: Newborn Pullbacks & Tips by Arden Prucha Photography

This week, please welcome Arden Prucha Photography who is so great for sharing her newborn pullbacks and tips with us. I always find it so useful to see how other photographers do things. Follow Arden on Facebook.

Recently, I have captured quite a few more newborns than normal.  I did some behind the scenes shots with the help of a friends to help share what a real newborn session looks like.

I do not currently have a studio and am still in the process of deciding if it would be an asset for my business.  For now, I go to my clients’ homes which really makes it easier on the new parents AND the tiny baby; they do not have to get out and about, they are with all of their things, and it is a lot more comfortable for them.  However, it is a lot more work for me since I have a BUNCH of props and equipment that I bring on a newborn session.

I am here to share some tips from beginning to end that have been helpful for me in the process of newborn photos.  I do not photograph newborns exclusively so I do not have all of the answers but I do love capturing these babies and have two and a half of my own!

Communication: Once a client emails me about the session, I let them know that I like to capture the baby within the first seven days.  This is due to their sleepiness.  Once they get older they are more alert, awake for longer spurts and restless.  Parents have to know that we will be shooting very soon after birth. It is our job to get them mentally prepared early enough, so that it’s not a question after the birth.  This session is also longer than my other sessions.  Babies need a lot of feedings, changings, and comforting. In addition, props take time to set up. I know it would be easier in a studio space and you could have everything prepped prior to them arriving.  My newborn sessions usually take 3.5-4.5 hours, due to all of the setting up and keeping baby happy and sleepy for the majority of the time. I am a perfectionist and will not leave if I feel I don’t have enough set ups.

Communicating that with the parents is key, so I give them a prep list prior to my arrival.  It looks like this:

  • I need to arrive at their sleepiest time – so keep an eye on their “new” schedule and we will figure out the best time to come (must be within great lighting times too)
  • We will be shooting in the room with the most available natural light so make sure the room is clear and clean
  • Have that room warmed up with a space heater and/or turn your air up so that the room temperature is nice and warm
  • I will bring a heating pad and white noise machine should you not have one
  • Please have some music picked out and turned on in the room (I like white noise and music for as much ambient noise as possible so that nothing disturbs baby)
  • Try to feed baby (if schedule allows) 30 minutes or so prior to my arrival
  • Baby should be only in a diaper when I arrive, that way we do not have to disrupt him/her by undressing them
  • Have all items that you are interested in using in the shoot out and ready for me to sort through:  baskets, blankets, hats, headbands, etc.
  • Make sure nursery is nice and tidy, should we do photos of baby in there
  • If you would like to be in images with your baby, make sure to look nice and wear colors that compliment your setting.  I suggest beautiful light colors for a soft and gentle look.
  • I don’t always have an assistant available so I may need help. It would be great if Dad is around – I don’t want Mom to be working too hard.
  • Be prepared for explosions of all kinds.  Poop, pee and spit up may go flying or spraying on anything around. (I get peed on a lot! ) Let’s have burp cloths, wipes and clean up stuff out and ready!
  • Get ready to LOVE your baby even more, watching them sleep is such a beautiful thing. However, don’t be surprised if it takes them a good while to get into “baby model mode.”  They aren’t used to being handled this much! (I hear a lot of, “They aren’t usually like this.”  Well, they aren’t usually picked up every few minutes and posed on props.  Eventually they get so tuckered out, they don’t notice.

Get Organized: Make sure you have all of your goodies in totes and broken down as much and small as possible.  Can you fit props within props or stuff blankets in vintage suitcases?  Last time I shot, I was going to a fourth floor so I utilized my stroller frame.  Luckily my tote fit perfectly inside the stroller frame and other items fit nicely on top of that.  I also utilized the Dad – I am five months pregnant so toting all of this is far from easy!

Find your work style: It’s easy to want to shoot like the big newborn photographers – they have GORGEOUS and amazing work, but we should all be unique in what we create.  Use props differently, find different angles, utilize funky textures, BUT never put baby at risk. Sometimes I pull my flash out – put it in a soft-box or umbrella and get some more creative shots. Don’t be scared to step out of the box! Create YOUR look… create ART!

Learn BABIES: You may or may not be a baby natural.  I have had people tell me, “Thank you for your newborn advice, I am not a mom and am not sure what to do with the babies – your post really helped me in my newborn session.”  It’s very necessary to get into a newborns groove and learn what makes them comfortable.  I have shot enough now that I know how to calm them – if it’s something other than milk!  I make a shushing sound very close to their ear, I pick them up and hold them tight, sway them,  and sometimes singing helps too!  When posing them, I really hold their body tight and limbs in place.  Often times if I put their legs or arms in a spot that they don’t want, I press that area (gently), like a swaddle.  Eventually they relax and their hands or feet are in position.  They really like that swaddle feeling.  You can see this in some of these images.  If you don’t like capturing newborns or have tried several times and haven’t gotten it, it’s no big deal! We all have our gifts, our pleasures and just because we photograph, doesn’t mean we photograph EVERYTHING!  So keep that in mind if you get super frustrated, newborns are not easy subjects.

After the session: I do not do too much artistic enhancements on newborn shoots.  Sometimes an image looks better with a color tweak, but I keep it fairly minimal.  Once I am finished with my images, I post them in an online gallery for parents so that they can view, share them with friends and family and they can also order straight from their computer.  I do not do in session proofing, but if I did – I would come to them.  It’s courteous (in my opinion) to be mindful of their lack of sleep, their birthing pain, and keeping the baby in the house.  I also do a wonderful blog post and tag images on Facebook – for easy sharing!

Well, this is the way I work behind the scenes!  Perhaps you gained some knowledge or you just thought it was neat to see inside another photographer’s brain!  Thanks so much to Inspire Me Baby – for allowing me to write a fun post for them!

I would also LOVE to answer any questions about this post or newborn sessions, so please comment below and I will be sure to answer!

Behind the scenes photos by:  AnneMarie Waschka Zimmerer and Shawna Martin.

Suggested Equipment in this article:

For additional equipment recommendations see our post on Newborn Photography Equipment & Tips
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