6 Tips for photographing newborns with siblings

  • A photo session with a newborn and 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!

6 Tips for photographing newborns with siblings

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!

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!

A photo session with a newborn and 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!
A photo session with a newborn and 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!

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.

A photo session with a newborn and 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!

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!

A photo session with a newborn and 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!

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.

A photo session with a newborn and 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!
A photo session with a newborn and 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!

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. Here’s a few ways to keep them safe.

  • Have Mom or Dad with them on the bed the whole time but just out of the frame of the camera, carefully watching the baby’s position and safety.
  • 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).
  • When several siblings are involved, ask the oldest one to hold the baby while the other one is snuggling around.
  • Swaddling the baby can be really helpful too, he/she will be much easier to hold.
  • Using pillows can help ensuring a firm and safe position.
  • 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.
  • 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.
A photo session with a newborn and 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!
A photo session with a newborn and 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!
A photo session with a newborn and 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!
A photo session with a newborn and 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!

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?

A photo session with a newborn and 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!

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!

About the Author:

Lisa Tichané is a lifestyle photographer specialized in kids, babies and family photography. Based in France she is also traveling internationally for commissioned advertising projects. Her style is fun, energetic and playful with a touch of mischief. She thrives to capture real life, true joy and wild carefree moments. She is a published author and the instructor of the Capturing Joy online workshop. Visit Lisa Tichané online.
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88 Comments

  1. erin monroe Mar 22 2012 at 8:19 am - Reply

    very helpful article!

  2. Jaimi Mar 22 2012 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Thanks Lisa for the great tips! One of my husband's good friends just had a baby and I've been wanting to ask them to "play" with their kids. This answered some of my questions of how to go about the shoot with a 4-year-old, 2-year-old and newborn.

  3. Ellen K in MD Mar 22 2012 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Great post! I especially like the idea of starting with siblings first. I'll have to remember that! 🙂

  4. Heather Mar 22 2012 at 8:50 am - Reply

    I loved these tips and the pics are sooooo cute!!

  5. Janeen Mar 22 2012 at 8:59 am - Reply

    Beautiful images. Looking at them brings tears to my eyes. What fantastic tips for capturing these special moments. 🙂

  6. Jerilynn Mar 22 2012 at 8:59 am - Reply

    thank you, lisa!! what wonderful tips.

  7. Shannon Mar 22 2012 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Great tips! 🙂

  8. Jeannette Mar 22 2012 at 9:14 am - Reply

    These tips are FANTASTIC!!!!

  9. Marilyn Mar 22 2012 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Ashley Mar 22 2012 at 9:25 am - Reply

    So so helpful! I wouldn't have thought of approaching it this way but it makes so much sense! Gorgeous pics!

  11. Emily Velgersdyk Mar 22 2012 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Thank you, Lisa! I love your attitude about letting the siblings choose when they want to be a part of the photos and when they don't. I love that you understand that they may be feeling a little neglected and jealous those first few weeks. I think everyone, young or old, appreciates when someone tries to understand how they are feeling. Great blog post!!! 🙂

  12. Kim Mar 22 2012 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Merci, Lisa! :-). You definitely get how kids think! And that photo of the family holding their shirts up gave me a huge belly laugh… Love it!

  13. Candice Mar 22 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Great! I haven't encountered siblings at a newborn shoot yet, but I do have a booking for one in the summer! This is very helpful 🙂

  14. Nancy Mar 22 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Great article, Lisa! I can just imagine how full of joy a session would be with you!!

  15. Leah Cook Mar 22 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Lisa, your work is always so honest, real, and fun! it's not hard to see how much you love what you do. thank you for sharing all of these amazing tips with us!!

  16. Heidi Mar 22 2012 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Brilliant! Lisa's work is so inspiring. Wonderful, practical tips.

  17. Megan Werve Mar 22 2012 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Great tips! Thanks, Lisa!

  18. sarah c. Mar 22 2012 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Another wonderful post. Pinning away here!

  19. Bria Mar 22 2012 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Awesome article! Great suggestions and the photos are beautiful!!!!

  20. Bevin Meadows Mar 22 2012 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Some great ideas here! I most worry about the issues addressed by #3 when my next baby comes along. My (two-year-old) son has taken to loudly announcing "MINE mommy!" whenever another kid gets too close to me.

  21. Conni Marleau Mar 22 2012 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Again … awesome tips. So well written!! Thanks!

    And the example pictures are breathtaking!!

  22. Laura A Mar 22 2012 at 11:23 am - Reply

    I LOVE that belly shot!

  23. Kristi Duncan Mar 22 2012 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Safety first – always a good tip nowdays! Thanks for the tips!

  24. Rachel Potter Mar 22 2012 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I love how you can feel the love in these!!!

  25. jennifer Mar 22 2012 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Lisa, your work and advice is always inspiring, great read! I looooove the shot of mom, baby and brother playing the guitar. <3

  26. Danika Mar 22 2012 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great tips!! Those shots are beautiful 🙂

  27. Davina Gruenstein Mar 22 2012 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    beautiful work! thanks for the tips!

  28. Jo Mar 22 2012 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    These tips are so practical and easy to try . . . thank you so much Lisa!

  29. Danielle Mar 22 2012 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    very helpful!

  30. Jessica Mar 22 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Great tips Lisa! Thanks for this post, and for sharing your beautiful pictures

  31. Stephanie Mar 22 2012 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Wonderful tips and beautiful captures! I always love your work!

  32. Cary Mar 22 2012 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Great advice 🙂

  33. Jax Davidson Mar 22 2012 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this post, Lisa! Thanks for sharing all your tips and tricks and I always love seeing your beautiful images!

  34. Dana Mar 22 2012 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Great post! Thanks for the tips!

  35. Emily Mar 22 2012 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    What a great post! Such great ideas and the images are really fantastic. Looks like such an ease with all of them. I love the photo of the entire family with the shirts up looking at their bellies. Thanks so much!

  36. Kathleen Mar 22 2012 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Great shots!

  37. Tonya Isbell Mar 22 2012 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    I LOVE this!! Great blog post and some pretty great pics too!!

  38. Tabetha Mar 22 2012 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Fabulous tips! Thank you!!!!

  39. Piper Mar 22 2012 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this. I have been wanting to try more natural shots and I appreciate all of the great information!

  40. Kerri Mar 22 2012 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Beautiful images, Lisa… and great tips!

  41. Allison McSorley Mar 22 2012 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Thanks Lisa. This was a great "how-to" article. The sibling shots are always the hardest to get, IMO!

  42. Julie Mar 22 2012 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Love the tips Lisa 🙂 Your pictures are stunning!

  43. Marsha Mar 22 2012 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Great tips and lovely photos!

  44. Amy Mar 22 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Great tips. Wonderful photos!

  45. Amber Leopold Mar 22 2012 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Your images are lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  46. Amy Batte Mar 22 2012 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    great tips, thanks for sharing!

  47. Dee Mar 22 2012 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  48. Sabra Mar 22 2012 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    You're shots are always so fun and natural, really lovely. ♥

  49. Amy Mar 22 2012 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Very helpful tips, thanks for sharing. I recently did a shoot for a friend with a new baby and these tips could have helped with the two older sisters. And the images are beautiful in the article as well!!!!

  50. Michelle Sheppard Mar 22 2012 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    Fantastic tips! All the pictures are beautiful, thanks for sharing!

  51. Heidi Mar 22 2012 at 7:36 pm - Reply

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

  52. Nicole Israel Mar 22 2012 at 8:15 pm - Reply

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

  53. Colie J Mar 22 2012 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Love these shots!!!

  54. Michelle B Mar 22 2012 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Great tips! These shots are amazing!

  55. Ally Mar 22 2012 at 10:05 pm - Reply

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

  56. Carrie Mar 22 2012 at 10:48 pm - Reply

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

  57. Lisa (Tout Petit Pix Mar 23 2012 at 12:01 am - Reply

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

  58. Jennifer Vititoe Mar 23 2012 at 4:54 am - Reply

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

  59. Blair Colby Mar 23 2012 at 5:52 am - Reply

    Great article. Tip #3 especially.

  60. Mara Vaughan Mar 23 2012 at 6:12 am - Reply

    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!

  61. Tabitha Kay Mar 23 2012 at 6:13 am - Reply

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

  62. andrea Mar 23 2012 at 6:13 am - Reply

    these are some great ideas!

  63. kerry Mar 23 2012 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your tips, Lisa!

  64. Maggie Mar 23 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Great tips and amazing images!

  65. Sarah Mar 23 2012 at 10:34 am - Reply

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

  66. Ruthanne Mar 23 2012 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Merci beaucoup Lisa!

  67. Andrea Thomas Mar 23 2012 at 11:25 am - Reply

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

  68. Kellie Mar 23 2012 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Great tips Lisa!

  69. Jennifer Mar 23 2012 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Great article! Love your work.

  70. CourtneyB Mar 23 2012 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    These are great tips! Thank you, Lisa 🙂

  71. heidi Mar 23 2012 at 1:50 pm - Reply

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

  72. Katie W Mar 23 2012 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    So helpful! Especially #3!

  73. Courtney Chebat Mar 23 2012 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Great points! and gorgeous photos! Thanks

  74. Gwen Mar 23 2012 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    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!

  75. Marilyn Mar 23 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

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

  76. christina Mar 23 2012 at 5:07 pm - Reply

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

  77. Danielle M. Mar 23 2012 at 6:10 pm - Reply

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

  78. Sarah S. Mar 25 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

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

  79. jodi Mar 26 2012 at 7:11 am - Reply

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

  80. Bridget Mar 27 2012 at 8:37 am - Reply

    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.") 😛 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!

  81. cami Mar 27 2012 at 7:51 pm - Reply

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

  82. Rebecca Mar 28 2012 at 3:00 pm - Reply

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

  83. Vikki Mar 29 2012 at 5:02 am - Reply

    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!

  84. Paula Pucciarelli Oct 03 2012 at 8:49 am - Reply

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

    • Lisa T. Oct 03 2012 at 10:53 am - Reply

      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 🙂

  85. Beckie M Oct 04 2013 at 8:04 am - Reply

    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!

  86. Vera Kruis Apr 01 2017 at 5:44 am - Reply

    Great tips! I agree that you have to make the siblings feel special too so that they won’t get jealous of the attention that the newborn is getting. These tips will be really useful in my next newborn photography session. Thanks for sharing them.

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