6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings

by Lisa Tichané

When it comes to photographing newborns, my heart definitely goes to natural, unposed images. So I am always thrilled when a client contacts me for a newborn shoot and mentions that there will be siblings involved as capturing interaction and emotion is my  absolute favorite thing.

But a session photographing a brand new big brother or sister comes with its own set of challenges so you need to be well prepared.

Here are some tips that really help me make these sessions enjoyable for everyone:

1.  Meet your family before the shoot

This is the ideal situation. When a maternity session is booked prior to the newborn session, I know everything will go smoothly. The maternity session is all about big brother or sister, we have time to meet each other, to play and become best buddies… when I come back for the newborn session they are excited to see me again and they know beforehand that we are going to have fun!

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

If there is no maternity session involved, meeting them, even briefly,  during a pre-consult can definitely help. When the session comes around, they already know you and the ice will be broken even before you enter the room.

But meeting up prior to the session might not be an option for you. Don’t panic, there are still 5 more tips to help you run successful newborn-sibling sessions!

2.  Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Before any shoot I hold a phone pre-consultation. When siblings are involved in a newborn session, they definitely are the main topic of this pre-consult. Knowing beforehand how they are handling the situation, their personality, their favorite games etc. definitely comes in handy during the shoot.

However, the goal of the conversation is also to explain to the parents how I will handle their children (see points 3 and 4 below) and how I suggest they themselves behave during the shoot so that we are all on the same page.

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

3. Make the siblings feel special

This is probably the most important point.  When a tiny baby is invading your family life, your world is upside down. Big brothers/sisters often feel insecure and neglected during those first days of having a newborn at home so if they think that this session is all about the baby (again!!) they may be resentful and uncooperative.

So as soon as I enter their home, my goal is to make them feel that the session is about THEM, first and foremost.

I always make sure that I talk to big brother/sister first, introduce myself, chat a bit about the time we will be spending together…all  before I even lay eyes on the baby. This is something I will discuss with the parents during the pre-consult, so that they don’t feel like I am not interested in their newborn!

Once the ice is broken, I will always ask big brother/sister if they would show me the baby. Some of them are pleased to do so while others refuse, but I always give them the opportunity to introduce me to “their” baby. If they chose not to, I never insist and go meet the newborn on my own.

During the session, when siblings are around I will always engage them in what I’m doing, explaining my every move, or asking advice.  “Do you think your little sister would like it if we sang her a song?”  “Oh, she is crying! What do you think she is trying to tell us?”

I also love to ask them if they have their own ideas about the shoot. When I said to this little guy “Let’s take a picture of you and your little brother. What should we do?”  he immediately suggested that he  play music to him and grabbed his guitar! I never would have thought about this but I definitely love the outcome!

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

4. Let them be

The key point to having siblings to cooperate in a newborn session is to always give them the choice. If they feel forced to do anything, they will probably do the opposite of what you want them to do.

So my session workflow is entirely built around the siblings.

I usually start with the siblings shots first, because big brothers/sisters are usually more cooperative at the beginning,  but also because as I said previously I want them to feel that the session is about them. If you start the session with, let’s say, pictures of Mom holding the new baby, you are pretty sure to get jealousy issues!

Be prepare to break your own rules, though. If at the moment I thought I would do the siblings shots, big brother isn’t into it, I make sure that I don’t put any pressure on him. “Okay, you don’t want to do it now? No problem. You can go and play in your room, and come back when you’re ready. In the meantime, I will take a few pictures of your sister”.

You can be sure that most of the time, the option to be left aside while you’re focusing your attention on the baby is the best motivation to finally be in the picture. But it will be HIS choice, not yours.

This topic is also a must-discuss during your pre-consult because when that moment happens you need to be sure that Mom or Dad won’t pressure the child into cooperating and that they will be comfortable with your way of handling it.

After a few pics, especially if big brother is a young kid or a toddler, he will probably be done. Again, no pressure – let him leave the room, do his thing, and come back a bit later when he wants attention again.

Having another adult available at that moment to play with him in another room is invaluable. It will be the perfect moment to do pictures of Mom or Dad (depending on who is playing with big brother at that moment) with the baby, or pictures of the baby alone.

5.  Safety first!

When doing those siblings pictures, always have baby’s security in mind. Using a bed or a sofa (or any soft surface) is probably your best option, and make sure that Mom or Dad is standing right next to them at every moment. It is far better to spend some time cloning Mom’s hand out of the pictures in post-processing than to take any risk of baby slipping off his brother’s arms or falling down.

(For this picture, their Mom was with them on the bed the whole time, carefully watching the baby’s position and safety).

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

With younger kids and toddlers, it’s even better to actually include Mom or Dad in the picture (holding big brother and the baby at the same time, or sitting right next to them).

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

When several siblings are involved, ask the oldest one to hold the baby while the other one is snuggling around.

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

Swaddling the baby can be really helpful too, he/she will be much easier to hold.

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

Using pillows can help ensuring a firm and safe position.

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

Holding the baby is not the only option. You can pose the baby alone, safely lying on the bed, and let the siblings find their place around him/her.

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

You can also have them all laying on their backs. Make sure you interact with the older kids in order to catch sweet expressions. Again, have Mom or Dad stay very close the whole time, in order to prevent any careless move that could hurt the baby.

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

6.  Photoshoot with benefits?

Finally, the touchy topic: bribing.

I don’t usually need to do it but it is also something you want to discuss beforehand with the parents. If the kid is done but you really need that extra family pic to close the shoot, then having a little incentive to buy you a few minutes of patience can be useful.

I owe this picture to the promise of a nice piece of chocolate. And when you think about it, is that really so wrong? Having a little brother is not easy every day so why not enjoy an unexpected benefit?

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photo

That’s it! Enjoy your next newborn/siblings session, and remember that preparation before the shoot and flexibility during the shoot are the keys to success!

What are your tips for shooting newborn/sibling sessions?  We’d love to hear them – share with us in the comments!

6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings photoLisa Tichané, France
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
website | facebook | pinterest | google+ | mentoring | ask a pro | daily project
Maybe it’s because she’s “a bit silly” or maybe it has to do with her being “a child at heart” but Lisa has an incredible talent for photographing babies and children in her fun, clean and playful style with her Canon 5d mark III, 35L, 50 f/1.4, 24-70L and 135L. She is the instructor of CMU’s Shooting 204: Capturing Joy and the author of Photographing Toddlers | a recipe for success. Marseille, France is the place she calls home along with her boys where they love to play, jump, run, make silly faces contests and wild pillow fights. She does enjoy some quiet once in a while where she can browse the web with her coffee and chocolate. Laughter is a must have, though, as she states, “a day without a good laugh is definitely a lost one for me.”

Read all photography tutorials form Lisa Tichané.

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88 Responses to “6 tips for photographing newborns with siblings”

  1. Mar 22 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Awesome tips. I've definitely struggled with newborn/sibling shots. Can't wait to one day put this knowledge to use. ;) Thank you!

  2. Nicole Israel
    Mar 22 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    Perfect timing! I have a newborn / family shoot tomorrow. Thanks Lisa / CM!

  3. Colie J
    Mar 22 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Love these shots!!!

  4. Michelle B
    Mar 22 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Great tips! These shots are amazing!

  5. Mar 22 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Great tips. I have a newborn / sibling shoot on the weekend. Beautiful shots Lisa!

  6. Mar 22 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Great tips! and as always, lovely images!!!

  7. Mar 23 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Thank you so much ladies for the amazing feedback!! It means a lot to me!!

  8. Jennifer Vititoe
    Mar 23 2012 at 4:54 am #

    The whole fmaily looking at their bellies is adorable. Great tips!

  9. Mar 23 2012 at 5:52 am #

    Great article. Tip #3 especially.

  10. Mara Vaughan
    Mar 23 2012 at 6:12 am #

    I love this article as well as the pictures! They are very natural and fun – and I think, more interesting to look at than just posed newborn shots (although those are beautiful, too) because they tell the story of the entire family and the love they share.

    My tip is to take pictures even during transition times – like diaper changes, Mom and Dad calming the baby before the next series of pictures, etc. I recently had my first newborn "session" (taking pictures for a friend) and the baby ended up being fairly fussy for the second half of the session. I am so glad I took pictures during times when they were just trying to get the baby ready/ settle him down or I may not have had so many good ones!

  11. Mar 23 2012 at 6:13 am #

    It seems like every photog I blog stalk is posting this week! Love your work and thank you for the amazing tips!

  12. andrea
    Mar 23 2012 at 6:13 am #

    these are some great ideas!

  13. kerry
    Mar 23 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Thanks for sharing your tips, Lisa!

  14. Maggie
    Mar 23 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Great tips and amazing images!

  15. Sarah
    Mar 23 2012 at 10:34 am #

    I love this – wish I could remember my HS french so I could read your blog!

  16. Ruthanne
    Mar 23 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Merci beaucoup Lisa!

  17. Mar 23 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Great article! So many wonderful ideas for getting those difficult sibling shots!

  18. Mar 23 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Great tips Lisa!

  19. Jennifer
    Mar 23 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Great article! Love your work.

  20. CourtneyB
    Mar 23 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    These are great tips! Thank you, Lisa :)

  21. Mar 23 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Lisa's work is sooo pretty! I need to get more snaps of my newb with his bros!!! TFS!

  22. Mar 23 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    So helpful! Especially #3!

  23. Courtney Chebat
    Mar 23 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Great points! and gorgeous photos! Thanks

  24. Gwen
    Mar 23 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Love these tips! I find that toddlers definitely have a short patience level with newborns, so timing is everything.

    And I love the little boy playing guitar, too cute!

  25. Mar 23 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    this is my second time through this article. thanks again for sharing.

  26. Mar 23 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    wow — wonderful tips and beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing Lisa. I always love your work :)

  27. Danielle M.
    Mar 23 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Lisa's work is so beautiful! And she definitely seems to understand how a child's mind works :) Thanks for all the tips!

  28. Mar 25 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Perfect timing! I have a newborn/sibling shoot next Saturday that has me a little nervous. Your tips are great. Thanks!!

  29. Mar 26 2012 at 7:11 am #

    these are great tips, lisa! i just adore your fun and candid family work!

  30. Bridget
    Mar 27 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Thank you for this article! As a parent either photographing my own children (ages 2 years and 2 months), or being the Mama of the photographed children, I can identify with the tips AND the difficulties! My children have taught me MUCH about photographing them, and what works/what doesn't. For instance, this morning's cell phone pic of the kiddos on our bed just "happened," b/c R was up there doing his usual thing, tucking himself in, playing with blankets. I quickly slipped a pillow behind him, set his sister down, gave him a blanket and asked if he'd like to lie next to her. (I'm working on teaching him, "NEXT TO, not ON TOP OF.") :P I have a few new ideas today, due to what I learned from him this morning. Center the shoot around something he already has done, or enjoys doing. He loves to "teach" his sister, using books or toys. I'm foreseeing a shoot along those lines…and of course it's hard with the infant, b/c they can't even sit up. It all has to be lying down, or someone holding them. And a hearty "AMEN!" to your safety tips!

  31. cami
    Mar 27 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    Love the pictures! Love the article! Lisa has a new fan! Thank you for sharing.

  32. Mar 28 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    This is great Lisa, thank you so much for the tips!

  33. Vikki
    Mar 29 2012 at 5:02 am #

    Thanks so much for these great tips. I think they're really useful even for regular family sessions that don't include a newborn. I will definitely keep these in mind!

  34. Paula Pucciarelli
    Oct 03 2012 at 8:49 am #

    hi i iove your photo and great info too! can you tell me what lens your using in these images? thanx :)

    • Oct 03 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Thank you so so much everybody!!
      Paula, I mostly use my 50mm 1.4 with newborns, but when shooting inside in tight spaces my 24-70mm 2.8L is very often a lifesaver :)

  35. Oct 04 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Lisa, Thank you so much for sharing! I have my first newborn session with siblings tomorrow morning (third newborn shoot ever). These tips help me feel so much better prepared!


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