When any of my clients ask me what my favorite newborn photos are from their session, I always respond, “the family photos!” I just adore seeing the emotion on the parents’ and siblings’ faces! I also think it’s really important to show, not only how cute the baby is, but how much the baby is loved. How priceless it is for their baby to have those photos when he or she gets older!
Let’s face it, though, the older sibling isn’t always thrilled about their new brother or sister. To ensure we still get at least one sibling photo, here’s how I approach it:
1. I do the parent photos first, starting with just one parent. The older sibling can then see me working without needing to take direction from someone they’ve only just met, and the other parent that’s not being photographed can help him/her get adjusted and find something with which to play. I have lots of toys nearby so they usually get to work checking them out straight away. That can also backfire since they sometimes don’t want to leave the toys when it’s time to take their photos, but we can usually entice them away, even if it’s by bringing the toy with us and hiding it out of sight. 🙂
2. We do a family photo next. After we get a picture of the two parents with their newborn, we scoop up the older sibling (depending on how small he/she is) and bring them into the photo.
Next we’re onto the sibling-only photos!
3. I swaddle the baby. Newborns love to be swaddled, so the baby will be most comfortable (and won’t mind getting moved around as much) when they’re swaddled up. Not having to worry about adjusting the baby’s arms and legs frees me up to work with the often-wiggly older sibling.
4. I offer incentives. With the parents’ permission, I offer doughnuts, M&Ms and/or Dum Dum lollipops to the children. I’ll often even hold the edible prize in my hand just by the lens so that they’ll look my way, and then turn it over to them when we get the shot.
5. For the very youngest older siblings, we do the “upside down” pose first (see below). Because the baby is lying flat on the rug, I don’t need to worry about the older sibling dropping or pushing the baby off of him.
I recently traded in my wool flokati rugs for super-soft sheepskin. Not only do they photograph beautifully, but they’re so soft that it’s often harder to get the older children to leave the rug when they’re done than it is to get them to lie down! LOL!
5. Depending on how well the older sibling did the above pose, I may try for a second. If we feel uncomfortable having the older child hold the baby, I’ll just have the older sibling roll onto their belly and get some pics of him/her looking down at their baby brother or sister (not pictured).
7. An alternative would be to ask the older sibling to sit up and lay the swaddle baby’s head or body in their sibling’s lap. If the child is many years older (at least 5 years old), they can safely hold the baby in a traditional cradle hold.
For all of the sibling photos, I keep the parents very close by to help and ensure both of their children are safe. They’re standing just out of frame or are edited out of the photo afterwards.
If it seems like the older sibling is having a good time and isn’t in too big of a rush to get back to playing with the toys, I’ll ask him/her if I can take a few photos of them by themselves, too! It’s nice to give the older siblings some special attention since they can sometimes feel jealous of their baby brother or sister.
After all of those are done (all of the above goes pretty quickly! It usually takes around 10-20 minutes to do all of the family photos), we go on to do the solo newborn portraits. So I might as well show those off, too! Here’s little Gus!
Yay! How sweet! They are such a beautiful and fun family!!
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