THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF AMBER SILVA OF AMBER TIFFANY PHOTOGRAPHY
There is no denying the absolute magic that newborns possess. With their adorable little cries and wrinkly feet, it’s enough to make your ovaries ache! It’s no secret that Fresh 48 sessions will forever have my heart! There’s something so exciting and special about arriving at the hospital for such a beautiful reason. The sterile smell wafting through those sliding glass doors, walking down the tile hallways to end up in a room with the cutest new addition to the world, only hours old. Fresh 48’s celebrate life and are long-awaited by many. Our job is to freeze all those little details to where memory and time cannot ravish it. So in this article, I am going to share with you my own experiences and tips that I have learned on my own Fresh 48 adventures, and hopefully help you with yours!
As amazing as this event is, some preparation needs to be done to have a successful session. Most births aren’t something that you can schedule but don’t let the unpredictability intimidate you. Communication is key! Keeping in touch with your parents to be is a simple yet essential step to ensure that everyone is on the same page for this memorable moment! I always ask parents to message me when mom is in labor, how she’s progressing and finally when their baby is born, that way I have some heads up to arrange my schedule as I have children of my own. The first 48 hours after birth are so important, so be sure to explain any significant details before your session that way when you arrive, your session flows like a well-oiled machine! It is important to do your homework on the hospital you’re shooting at. My local hospital observes “quiet time” to where they don’t allow any visitors in the room for a couple of hours in the early afternoon whereas the hospital about an hour away that I shoot at doesn’t have any stipulations.
I shoot all my hospital sessions in natural light, most of them being in the morning! Most parents don’t have a problem devoting your recommended time for their session so I have found it helpful to encourage them that this time frame is the most beneficial. But what happens when this time frame won’t work or it’s overcast/raining outside? Don’t fret! The afternoon light is fine too, and overcast days can offer unique and moody light that bright mornings cant, so don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO to help! You can harness the light you have to work with and make beautiful images! You’ll also want to consider your gear, hospital rooms are relatively small so you want to make sure your lens can cover the shots your envisioning! I typically shoot with the Canon 6D Mark ii and the Canon f/2.8 24-70. I like the versatility of the lens! I can get my close-ups as well as my more backed out shots! What’s in your bag? Evaluate your set up!
The windows will be your best friend! Ask dad to declutter the room before you arrive because you will want to take advantage of all the natural light you can. It will also help your images look better when you don’t have trash, suitcases or what have you in the background of your images so keep an eye out! Don’t be afraid to rearrange the room if need be as you can always put it all back together. You may want to move things like the rocking chair and bassinet more towards the window for the good lighting! Something I struggle with is getting those higher angled shots I need or the hovering over shots of the baby, the reason being that I am vertically challenged. What I want to share with you is to do what you need to do to get those shots! I have climbed up into window sills, hospital beds, stood on tables and couches. I admit that it looks a little crazy, but it’s worth it, always have your hands on your camera and your strap on! Safety always comes first!
Another thing I encourage is for the parents to not have anyone in the room while this session takes place other than themselves and siblings! Their sessions are only an hour, so being able to devote that whole time to the clients makes it intimate and easy to direct focus to what matters most, the newest family addition and capturing their first moments as a new family unit. If not, you may have to wait for family members and friends to finish passing around the baby like a hot potato, which eats up time, affects the number of images and gives the room a cluttered and overrun feel. In short, it can be a distraction. I come from a huge family, so I understand that family is important and a lot of people will want to be involved! If parents are wanting any special shots with family or anyone important, I ask my clients to invite those people to come at the very end of the session. This way everyone is happy and no one feels left out!
For me, the shoot doesn’t start when I arrive in the room, but the moment I park my car. I want to capture the outside of the hospital, what color the sky was, what the hallway looked like on my way to the room, the room number.. those little details that may seem insignificant now, but later down the road, they will enjoy the sense of nostalgia reliving that day when their baby was just hours old. When I get there, I always greet my parents and offer my congratulations! We swoon for a second over the baby and then I go wash my hands! I ask mom how she’s feeling, as she’s worked very hard to bring this new life into the world, whether it’s by natural birth or cesarean! She’s a rockstar and we want to make sure to not push her past her comfort level. I also ask her if she’s breastfeeding and if so, would she like some breastfeeding pictures. I never like to assume each mom is breastfeeding because it isn’t right for everyone so better safe than sorry!
Let’s talk about some of the must-have shots. Are you capturing the sweet moment of siblings meeting for the first time? I would recommend that if there are any siblings involved to get the siblings shots done first. Siblings meeting for the first time can either go really well or really bad! Their emotions can run high adjusting to the new family dynamic and may not have the patience towards the end of the session, so it helped me to get those pictures out of the way first! You will want to play this by ear as kids are unpredictable, for those siblings who lack the interest in meeting the baby that is making them share mommy and daddy, you can have them looking into the bassinet, lay the baby on the bed with sibling looking at them (you can get some hilarious mean-mugging faces here) or snuggling up to mom or dad while they hold the baby.
I would use this time to also grab your family shots now!
My favorite shots though to get are the detail shots of the sweet little bundle. I have a serious obsession with baby feet, they are just so tiny! Anyone else feel me there and have a favorite feature? I start by wheeling the baby in the bassinet over to the window in just a blanket and diaper (baby is normally swaddled) and get a few overhead shots, then from there, I unswaddle the baby to expose all of their adorable little features and move from their head to their toes. I want to cover every square inch of that baby! Especially since their features will change so fast, I don’t want to miss a thing! I tend to do a 360 ̊ around the bassinet to get all types of different angles and be sure to use a strap to ensure safety while you do so! Be sure to get the information tag that is often located at the top of the bassinet as well as their name bands if they have them on. I will also occasionally have the baby be put on the bed to change up the scene maybe even in a new outfit. This will add more variety to their gallery! So ask mom if there is anything special she wants to incorporate into the shoot.
At this point in the session, the baby may be needing a feeding break or a diaper change so keep your camera clicking and go with the flow! The baby runs the show anyway! I always like to ask the parents if they would be more comfortable with one of them carrying the baby or if they want you to. If they are comfortable with you holding the baby (score, baby cuddles) WASH YOUR HANDS before touching them! As always, be careful and talk to the parents about what you’re doing next. It keeps everyone at ease. If the baby’s needs are met, I would want to get pictures with the baby individually with each parent. You will also want to take into consideration how the mom is feeling as some moms will be bed-bound, and others will be comfortable enough to walk so have ideas planned for each!
Some of my go-to images to get with mom are those breastfeeding pictures, mommy snuggles and mom playing with the baby’s tiny features. There’s just something so sweet about the way a mom studies and touches her brand new baby. She’s able to finally able to kiss those little footsies that have been kicking her and stroke the hair that the old wives tales said was the reason behind the heartburn. Those days that she swore she was going to die from overdosing on Tums or the sleepless nights from having to pee for the 20th time once she was finally got comfortable are now insignificant. If mom can walk, I will also ask her to stand by the window and get some sweet close-ups and then ask dad to join in, this way dads already there and the changeover is seamless between parents. This will work whether mom is in bed or anywhere in the room. For the dad, I am always in awe of just how small the baby looks in comparison to how big the dad’s hands are. The baby always just fits so perfectly and I melt, especially when the baby wraps all 5 little fingers around his one big finger. It’s such a special moment for the dads when they can finally hold their baby and love upon them as they are tangible and oh so delicate. After your shots with the parents, this is when I ask if there are any family members here that would like to be apart of the session. If so, we invite them in and if not, I ask the parents for any last-minute requests and wrap up the session!
We all know that time moves fast, and thanks to sessions like these… parents will never forget just how small, how precious and how perfect their baby was at that moment in time. So here’s to you, the photographer reading this. Go out there and immortalize these images, let life stand still and let their story unfold because these sessions are as sweet as they come.
This article was featured in Summerana Magazine | January 2020 issue