I had what I consider my first “real” maternity session a couple weeks ago. I call it my “first” because at the real first one I didn’t give any direction at all on what to wear and she came dressed in a black lace top with matching lace fingerless gloves! EEEK! Not exactly my style or what I wanted to show in my portfolio. But this time I was much more certain of the shots I wanted and was able to tweak the client’s prop ideas to get what she wanted and, secretly, what I wanted as well.
You don't want to be in the position as the wedding photographer of needing to fight the client after the fact (or during!) with what they have and have not paid for.  Before the event, clearly communicate to them what services you are prepared to offer for the price they pay.  Do you include digital files?  How many hours of work will you shoot?  Are you going to shoot the reception too?  Is there a travel charge?  What prints are included?  Will you do an album?  Provide answers or face the wrath of bridezilla. (Thanks Gaelene Gangel)
Beg, borrow, hire or steal an extra camera for the day – set it up with a different lens. I try to shoot with one wide angle lens (great for candid shots and in tight spaces (particularly before the ceremony in the preparation stage of the day) and one longer lens (it can be handy to have something as large as 200mm if you can get your hands on one – I use a 70-200mm).
If you have a dSLR and any lenses with wide aperture capabilities (like a 28-70 2.8 or even a 50 1.8) I’d recommend using one of those lenses and keeping your aperture open fairly wide, around 2.8. That will help to blur the background and make the photographs look a little more professional. If not, don’t sweat it – turning off your flash will force your camera to use the widest aperture it’s got (using the portrait setting will also help here). Your camera may have a harder time keeping the shutter speed high if it’s not very bright in your house, so consider using a tripod if you have one. Better equipment sometimes makes for better photos, but knowing how to use what you have is really more important. If you have a few months before your baby is born, spend a little time getting to know your camera. If you don’t have time to practice, following my tips will still help you improve your photos.
One of my biggest mistakes, when I was starting out, was that I brought all my props/wraps/blankets/headbands to every single session.  When I got set up, I would have a mini panic attack because I had no idea where I should start.  Now I plan 3-4 different setups (based on the client’s preferences and expectations) and that’s all.  I am often inspired by something the client owns as well, such as a blanket knitted by Grandma or something else that’s special to mom and dad, so it is not uncommon for me to not even use everything I bring.
(Above) Balloon Engagement Photo Pose Ideas: There’s something about balloons that just makes everything feel whimsical and filled with joy! Add a dash of whimsy and an extra dose of joy to your engagement photo’s by using a few regular sized balloons or one large giant balloon each as photo props. {Left image by Thousand Crane Photography here, right image by Claire Thomson Photography here.}
Prior to the big day, your photographer will likely ask you for a wedding photo list, which will outline specific family wedding photos you and your soon-to-be spouse want to be sure and take during the wedding. Thanks to WeddingWire's wedding day timeline generator, you know that you have about an hour allotted between the wedding ceremony and reception (or following the first look) for wedding family photos. A complete wedding family photo list will help you and your photographer make the most of these 60 minutes.
Lisa Felthous Photography aims to tell the story behind every portrait. The photography studio, based in Sachse, shoots newborn portraits, maternity portraits, child portraits, adult and couple photos, family photos, senior portraits, and corporate headshots. Lisa Felthouse uses a spontaneous and passionate approach toward her photography. Clients have praised the photographer for her eye for detail, inventive photos, and hard work to get the perfect shot.
The ability to bounce a flash or to diffuse it is key. You’ll find that in many churches that light is very low. If you’re allowed to use a flash (and some churches don’t allow it) think about whether bouncing the flash will work (remember if you bounce off a colored surface it will add a colored cast to the picture) or whether you might want to buy a flash diffuser to soften the light. If you can’t use a flash you’ll need to either use a fast lens at wide apertures and/or bump up the ISO. A lens with image stabilization might also help. Learn more about Using Flash Diffusers and Reflectors.
You may want to ask around about student photographers, especially if you are anywhere near a fine arts school. I know a few lovely people who have done a lot of discounted work (as in anywhere from covering travel cost to $150) to get the experience and possibly further their portfolio. Just keep in mind that student/amateur does not = terrible all the time, ask to see their previous work.
You never know where your next big referral will come from, so you have to be prepared! Make sure to add those stunning newborn baby pics to your online portfolio, so prospective clients can see your infant photography skills. The more amazing newborn photo shoots and newborn photos you have on your portfolio, the more folks will want to hire you to shoot their little ones!
If you are doing the session in the client’s home, posed newborn sessions require nearly the same amount of prep as a wedding.  You need quite a bit of “stuff” and it is easy to forget something so I make sure to pack the night before and use a checklist so I don’t forget anything (I’m a mom with a very limited memory).  To make your life a bit easier, I’ve made a print ready checklist you can use which is included in the newborn photography toolkit – one of the FREE limited time bonuses included in our online Newborn Photography Workshop.
What are you willing to invest in getting the images that will bring you (and your kids) back to this moment? Are you willing to save up for the perfect experience? Are you willing to make payments? Or do you have other things that you have to prioritize and you’ll have to make compromises in one place or another? Of course we all have to manage a budget, and this may be a place where you make it a priority, or a place you are ok with making a compromise.
Step away from your point-and-shoot and ask yourself this: Are the 200 photos you took on your baby's first birthday sitting in the same desktop folder as shots from the neighborhood block party -- from, ahem, three years ago? Have you broken countless promises to your in-laws to share last year's family vacation pics? Did the most recent photo you printed out come from your college graduation (a picture that's now collecting dust in the attic)?
Set up a work schedule. This will largely depend on your client's needs so you'll need to be organized and prepared. When setting up a schedule, consider how long the shoot will need to last and how much time you'll need to edit photos before delivering a product to your client. Realize that some types of photography will demand specific schedules. For example, you'll probably work lots of weekends and evenings if you shoot weddings.[13]

If the baby has older siblings, I try to make the sibling shots my very first priority and then let them go play while we finish the session.  Toddlers simply don’t have the attention span to sit quietly and wait for you to call on them for their picture so get their poses done first while they are curious and excited about your visit.  By the time the session is over, they are usually open to participating again and that is when I try to get some lifestyle sibling shots.  If they don’t want to participate, I’ve found promises of ice cream & candy have magical powers! (as long as that’s ok with Mom & Dad).
That I have been called many times…lol but no worries, it happens! This is completely natural for babies to use blankets or props as there own personal potty. Please don’t feel embarrassed, I reassure you it happens more times that I can remember. Know, I have two young boys on my own so not long ago, it was there never ending mission to make mommy there own personal potty! Have a concern about sanitation? Don’t worry I wash all used props and blankets after each newborn session with non-scented detergent.

I find the family photo part of the day can be quite stressful. People are going everywhere, you’re unaware of the different family dynamics at play and people are in a ‘festive spirit’ (and have often been drinking a few spirits) to the point where it can be quite chaotic. Get the couple to nominate a family member (or one for each side of the family) who can be the ‘director’ of the shoot. They can round everyone up, help get them in the shot and keep things moving so that the couple can get back to the party.
Knowing the reason why you want the photos, it’s easier to choose the style of photographer you will look for. You already know that you want a family photographer (or newborn, birth, birthday’s party, etc). Then you can start by searching on Google, Instagram, or Facebook along with the name of your city. You will have a good idea of some options that you will have.

If you already know that you want your photo session to take place in your house, or you’re positive you want it to happen at a park your family loves, you’ll want to find a photographer that shoots on-location, and is willing to travel to the spot you’re considering. Likewise, if you know you want indoor portraits that are more formal, consider hiring someone who has access to a studio.
Swaddling a baby is the easiest way to pose her for newborn photos at home. Simple wrap her up tight and lay her down on a pretty blanket of piece of fabric. I usually save swaddled photos for the end of the photoshoot, when the baby has woken up. Newborns love to be swaddled and will usually stay pretty calm if they’re wrapped tight enough (check out this post on swaddling if you don’t know how).

Annie, Thank you so much for this post. I found this delightful and amazingly informative post on Pinterest. I’d been on the for hours looking at how to style family portraits. I’m going insane, we have pictures tomorrow and I still don’t know what I’m wearing. I have my husband and the 4 kids (boys age 17, 16, & 11 and our girl age 10) clothes picked out but not myself. Deep breath….. I’m going to try again to find something conducive. Wish me luck
×