Preparing for your session
One of the best things about going on-location is how easy wardrobe decisions are. I ask mom to lay out a few choices and send me a photo so we discuss what works and why before the session. If you’re incorporating the home and nursery, choose an outfit that compliments their decor. If you’re going for traditional portraits against a solid background, you’ll want something simple so nothing distracts you from your faces.
Some general tips – I suggest choosing a colour palette & dressing everyone around that colour scheme. Mix it up & layer on some accessories & textures. Neutrals & earthy tones are classic & timeless. Jewel tones, pastels, & pops of colour always work well. If you’ve got a throw rug that matches, bring it along!
What to avoid? Cringey matchy-matchy outfits. Avoid logos & large branding images on t-shirts. Avoid ugly/tired shoes. Try not to wear crazy patterns that might clash. Red, white & loud patterns will command attention in your final photos, so avoid these if you want the focus of your portraits to be your beautiful family faces.
It’s a good idea to leave things like sun glasses, wallets and anything else like that in the car. I’m going to be shooting all the time as we walk etc. I find the in between shots are often the best and I want you guys to be holding hands and interacting with each other… so bags and things in hands just hinder all that good, natural interaction. I can hold onto your keys and one mobile phone if need be. But I’d love everyone to have empty pockets, hands etc…
If getting a bit of a pamper beforehand is likely to make you feel refreshed & most beautiful, then I encourage you to book in a hair styling session, a good massage, & a make-up appointment. Whilst these may seem counter-intuitive to the ‘raw & honest’ everyday approach of lifestyle photos, I want you to feel & be your best selves… if those things make you feel confident that will show up in your general disposition.
Above all else, I want you to feel comfortable in clothes you’re happy to sit in, and that allow you to move freely. We don’t want your body language & memory of the session to be a memory of how uncomfortable you were in your clothes!
The last thing I want clients to be worried about when doing a home newborn session – just days into parenthood & sleep deprivation – is the chores. That said, there are a few places I do tend to do your home sessions & small adjustments around those areas can help alleviate the anxiety you might feel about the tidiness of your home.
When doing home sessions I tend to walk in & find the best window light & clean bright walls in the home. Knowing where that is helps me determine where to shoot a lot of my imagery. I will often shoot family shots by the big windows, in the parents bedroom, on the family couch or in the nursery, so these are the areas I would suggest hiding away anything you don’t want photographed. Make the bed, de-clutter the side tables & stage these areas to your personal taste. Anything else in the home, I can move, IF I think I need too. Most of the time I will compose my shots & choose lenses to avoid any obvious clutter in your photos.
Newborn babies are fickle little humans with their own personalities, & sessions can take a little longer than you may expect. I allocate 3hrs for these sessions & have a workflow that includes photographing the siblings at the beginning before they get too tired & lose interest in me or the baby. I offer both lifestyle & minimalist, posed/skin2skin so we will discuss your ‘must have’ shots before the session date. It’s important to note, that you can expect less images from these sessions for the time I invest – usually around 20-30.
My goal is to photograph babies within the first 10-14 days, as this is when they have generally settled into feeding and are the sleepiest & easiest to curl, however lifestyle images can be done at any age.
Many babies will have a time of day where they seem more unsettled than others, so we’ll work around any of that and sibling nap times. I am flexible with all newborn session so there’s plenty of time for cuddles & feeding & the inevitable mess. However for a session to be successful we need a well fed, non-windy tummy & we’ll need to ensure baby isn’t recovering from recent vaccinations or surgical procedures.
I encourage you to give baby a deep warm bath, gentle massage & good feed about half an hour before your session, to get them extra relaxed & sleepy. Even if your baby has just finished eating, almost all of the babies want just a little bit of a top-up after being moved, to help them fall deeply asleep. If you have your heart set on sleeping baby portraits, flexible feeding times is one of the most important factors.
In the winter, Ill ask that you turn up the heat and in the summer, the air conditioning off in the morning before I arrive to avoid any cool drafts. As soon as I’m done with the session, you can adjust your thermostat comfortably! My studio is also temperature controlled for your session. I will use white noise to help assist settling.
Dress baby lightly in an outfit that can be easily unbuttoned to remove & won’t need to be pulled off over their heads. Depending on your must have shot’s we’ll sometime undress & wrap baby up in a blanket with just the diaper on so I don’t have to undress baby at all once they’ve fallen asleep. I recommend that any chosen newborn outfits fit baby well, are simple colours & expose babies feet as they can look a bit ‘potato sacky’ in an oversized, footed outfit. Details shots are also more difficult if the feet are covered up & baby is more unsettled.
I make no promises that I will get any single particular shot in any newborn session. I have a general ‘shotlist’ that I aim for which includes parents, siblings, individual portraits & details shots. I will persist to get those shots while everyone seems to be coping okay. I will call the session & reschedule if I don’t feel it’s going well. It’s super important to me to NOT add to the stress of ‘newborn life’ and that I deliver a quality gallery of images.
A big thing I want to express is to try not to take your photos too seriously. I don’t want you stressed out about the shoot & the kids behaving for me—it will be casual and simple, and the more relaxed & down to earth you are, the more relaxed your baby and the rest of the family will be, too. Enjoy this opportunity to bond and start out a lifelong tradition of captured moments.
Please note that ‘golden hour sunset sessions’ are often quite late in summer daylight savings season (around 9pm) and may not be possible if your kids are likely to become irritable around this time of the evening.
One of the main tips I can give you is to plan the session to coincide with the time of the day when the children are in the best mood, or with an activity they will actively participate in. Children do get tired quickly and it is nearly impossible to bring them back to contentment once they get to that stage. When a child is protesting or doesn’t want to cooperate and just wants to do their own thing we go along with it. Sometimes, children are simply not willing to cooperate and participate despite everything. If we’ve tried exploring, sung their favourite songs and nothing is working, often just giving them a break from the session and focusing on the parents can make the kids come around.
Snacks can be great for a session reset, but I suggest you avoid bribing your kids. This usually comes from a good place, however in my experience it often sets kids up to anticipate the END of a session. They will ask me ‘how much longer’ & will be just biding time with fake smiles to get their ‘reward’. Candy bribes also tend to end with messy faces or with kids seeking repeat treats & losing interest in the session. Devices can be very distracting, so pull them out with caution. Children are incredibly curious and playing to that curiosity is going to help me get those in-between moments. I prefer to engage in play, so come armed with songs they love & be willing to get a little bit silly and playful.
Disciplining you kids with care – Telling your child off repetitively for not smiling & following instructions can quickly break down our session. Letting children play and explore is part of the fun, and giving children a little bit of time to get a feel for their surroundings can make all the difference in their participation. The word “no” usually makes children shut down or protest, both behaviours we want to avoid. I encourage you to have a ‘NO’ free session – In other words, parents cannot say “no” to the children during our time together. On the other end of the spectrum if your kids get over-silly, I have tricks to work through that too.
During your session we want to encourage natural smiles, not forced ones & it’s my job to engage with your child to get natural reactions, to read the room & help find ways to make that happen without the pressure.
Whether home, boudoir or simply outdoors, body language is EVERYTHING in these sessions & I do help guide couple poses to show as much love & connection as possible without the awkwardness. This means, hugging, kissing, belly cradling, romance & lots of genuine, fun, playful moments. If you’re not up for a bit of loved-up-ness, then these sessions simply aren’t for you.
Home & studio sessions are often skin 2 skin, non-suggestive sessions. Its my job to gauge you & your partners comfort level throughout the session, but the more open, relaxed & trusting you are, the better.
Do give yourself a pamper, get your hair & makeup done, choose clothing & lingerie that makes you feel your best self.
Do co-ordinate your clothing with your partner. Choose styling that is reflective of you & your partner, not necessarily the current trends.
Do come as you are! Don’t come to your session with a list of body flaws that you want photoshopped. You are beautiful as you are, even with all the new & temporary curves. I want you to be able to see the moment, beyond the physical assets.
To prepare for these sessions, we first need to establish a theme or any styling ideas. Because I need to source a lot of these props & backdrops before your session choosing an idea as early as convenient really helps give me time to get organised. We’ll discuss your idea & work collaboratively to bring those to life.
You will need to supply a cake yourself (or fruit if you prefer a fruit smash). If you need details of cake suppliers, please contact me for recommendations.
One thing to consider when booking these is whether you want these images in time for a birthday party or invitations. If you do, then we may need to consider booking much earlier than 1year to allow time for editing & designing invitations. If you don’t, then as close as possible to their first birthday is encouraged to accurately reflect that stage of babies growth & development.
Young children have a fairly short attention span & can often become overwhelmed by having to sit in front of studio lights for any prolonged period. if your babe is an early walker than they won’t want to stay ‘on set’ for very long. I have a workflow and we’ll play games that helps us combat this. It’s always handy for mum & dad to be prepared with songs, toys & games baby loves, to support with interaction, & to be able to physically help bring bub back on scene.
It’s not uncommon for babies to be handed a cake with free will to touch & play, & be completely uninterested. If this is your babies first time eating cake, this will especially be true. Whilst some babies can be prompted, others are completely overwhelmed. You’re likely spending good money on a cake & the cost of your session, so it can be really disappointing to have your baby refuse to eat it on the day. One way you can help prepare your child is to do a trial run at home & introduce them to cake before your session, or chose a food option that is likely to get them stimulated.
Ultimately the cake is only a tool we’re using to get some natural curiosity & smiles from your session, so it is a good idea not to hold on too close to expectations of baby stuffing their face with cream. I will discuss it with you & move on if any activity is causing your baby to become too upset, rather than forcing anything.
Babies usually LOVE splashing in the bubble bath at the end of the session. I supply bath tools that match the set, clean towels & will use a baby safe soap in the water. If your child has any allergies to products or foods please advise before your session. You are welcome to bring your own supplies in place of any of mine.
SKAI SKORUP-MATTHEWS - PHOTOGRAPHER | LIFESTYLE + BIRTH + FAMILY DOCUMENTARY | WHYALLA, SA