Outdoor Newborns with Blair Phillips
I can only imagine the amount of pain and emotional stress involved in giving birth. We should cater to new mothers any chance we can. It is a lot to ask of a woman who just gave birth to traipse around outdoors for a two-hour newborn session. Keeping Mom comfortable and stress-free during the session is just as important as creating great images.
I always have cool bottled water, light snacks and something sweet on hand for the new mother. Standing around in the bright sun is not generally exciting to someone who just gave birth. Keep an umbrella around to shade her. You want her to have a memorable experience so she will share it with friends. She is likely to remember the many comforts you provided during the session.
Women experience a sea of emotions throughout a pregnancy. Somewhere in all those thoughts, unique newborn images come into play. Bringing a child into this world begins the biggest responsibility of one’s life. A newborn photographer should pull out all the stops. This happens only one time.
I’ve enjoyed creating newborn images for nearly 12 years. While each shoot is similar, the approach is different for each. I spent a large portion of my career photographing newborns indoors. They’re so delicate. They must remain indoors in a controlled environment, goes the common wisdom. One afternoon several years ago, I decided to stop listening to that and created a whole new style for my newborn clients. I ventured outdoors with a newborn and discovered a new world.
A 4-foot by 6-foot scrim is my favorite tool for these images. I use different layers of diffusion panels, depending on the sun. The more direct the sun, the stronger my diffusion panel. The scrim attaches to a light stand, and is easily adjustable. A sandbag holds everything in place, allowing me to work without an assistant.
No matter where you are photographing newborns, you are very limited on time, so I have all my props and locations put together and ready. This way, I can place the baby, make adjustments, capture the image and move on.
Generally, the more people you include in a newborn session, the more opportunities you have to sell images. When I photograph newborns solely indoors, I find it challenging to get the family interested in participating—mostly due to the chaos they just endured, I imagine. Offering a more casual outdoor opportunity seems to be a little more inviting for me these days. Casually adding groupings of children and families is much more inviting and less stressful when shooting outdoors. New parents are sometimes on edge when they have to bring their other children along when it is indoors. Being outdoors is less stressful to parents with rowdy children.
Newborns are quick to let you know when they are uncomfortable or the least bit unhappy. A screaming, irritable baby makes for a tough sale. It is your job to bring whatever’s needed to ensure their comfort. A portable battery pack is a very important tool for an outdoor newborn shoot. I plug in a heating pad and place it underneath the baby if it’s cool or windy. On hot summer days, a portable fan can be a savior. Babies tolerate heat well, but they can also overheat easily.
Depending on your location, noise could be a factor. Consistent and constant noise is a must when photographing newborns. An old hairdryer set to blow cold air is one of the loudest, cheapest and most effective noise machines.
Over the years, a lot of my newborn clients have been small business owners. Anytime you can incorporate a newborn with a business or profession, you have a guaranteed moneymaker. This is one of the many reasons you ask a series of questions when someone calls to book a session. It is all in the way you market these sessions. Show sample images of how you tie in professions with newborn images.
Half the battle is getting clients’ minds wandering and imagining. People often don’t know what they want until they see it. I always ask the families to bring heirlooms. Heirlooms are one of the best ways to add instant emotion to a newborn image. The more emotion you bring to the table, the more money you put into your account.
Hobbies are another way to tack on high numbers to an outdoor newborn session. For sports-loving dads, incorporate sports equipment into the session. It’s best to use the items in a way that puts them in both the foreground and background of your images. It looks cheesy when you simply put them behind the baby.
Newborn photography can be one of the most challenging and rewarding forms of photography. There will always be a market for indoor newborn images, but parents are going to continue to want more creativity than what’s offered by studio images. Things are forever changing in our industry. You can make adjustments to remain current or do the same things year after year, and become a memory.
Photographing newborns outdoors is a guaranteed way to get people talking about your work. Bear in mind that not everyone is open to taking their new babe outdoors. Those clients who want my outdoor work are generally more open, creative and hungry for images that are less ordinary.