How to prepare siblings for newborn photos

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Family photos are such a beautiful way to document milestones and a new baby is a big one! However, with all the attention on the baby it can be challenging for some older siblings. Often it can be chaotic when a new baby comes home – new routine, responsibilities and dynamic for all family members. Remember that a photo shoot is a new experience, too, and it’s a good idea to prepare yourselves just like you had to prepare before the newest bundle entered your family’s life. To make your newborn family session run smoothly, I’ve decided to share some tips, strategies and advice for how to prepare older siblings for a newborn session.

Tell me about your family:
With all the focus on the new baby, some older siblings feel left out while others embrace their new role with authority and pride. It is a great idea to let me know a bit about your family and child(ren) prior to our session. (An informed photographer is a happy photographer). You’ll want to tell me about the family dynamics and about your children’s personalities aside from just colors and props. I will want to know how they are dealing with their new family member, a bit about their temperament and even their favorite color, activity, game or program.

Make it about them too, not just the baby:
I like to talk to the siblings before I even get my hands on the baby, that way they feel like the session is about them too and not just their new family addition. I like to chat them up, talk to them about how the session is going to work and find our common ground. Eventually I will ask them if they’d like to introduce me to their new baby brother or sister. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t and that’s okay – children are unpredictable and if you are a parent I don’t need to tell you twice!

I always like to capture images with siblings first because then it’s about the siblings right away and their patience hasn’t been worn too thin. It’s also important to make them feel involved. I will ask their opinion and advice throughout the shoot such as “Which hat do you think will look best on ___?” or “What do you think the baby is crying about?” As a mother of four, I’ve learned that it is invaluable for cooperation if children feel like they are involved, that their opinion matters, and that they are cared for.

Practice makes perfect:

Try a mock shoot prior to your newborn session or have your family practice posing. Ask your child(ren) to lay next to the baby on the bed, lean in to kiss the baby or have older siblings practice holding their new brother or sister so that they are comfortable and confident. Not only does this encourage your child’s competence with the baby, it gets them ready to be in front of the camera (if they’re not already).

Plan ahead:
Newborn sessions can last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (also depending on which type of session you have booked) and patience is not always part of the package with toddlers or even five year olds. Therefore, I always  suggest planning an activity or have another family member available for the older siblings after their portion of the session is complete.

Planning ahead may also include a reward. This is completely up to the parents but sometimes it is helpful to have a little incentive for the siblings. You know your child best so deciding on what that may be is up to you but a little ice cream, game or other small token of fun can do the trick to secure some good family photos.

Go with the flow:
From crying hungry newborns to impatient toddlers it is easy to get frustrated or apologetic. Don’t! I (and all newborn photographers) know all too well that newborn sessions are dictated by the newborns and their siblings. This is okay. Remember to breathe and try to laugh and remind your family to do the same.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and I can’t wait to meet your little ones for their newborn shoot!

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