How I handle sibling challenges in newborn photo sessions

sibling-challenges-in-newborn-sessions

Parents have lots of concerns when it comes to newborn sessions in the home, like what to wear, the state of their “non-instagrammable-looking” home, and more than anything, how the kids will act.

Some of the comments I’ve heard regularly from parents leading up to a newborn photography session at home are:

  • “She hates pictures, so we’ll be happy if she even engages at all.”
  • “He is pretty wild – good luck getting him to sit still!” 
  • “She really wants nothing to do with the baby”

And since those are all based on the sibling(s) behavior in relation to the baby, I also get things like this about the baby that make parents nervous for scheduling a newborn photoshoot:

The great news is, newborn sessions at home are already PERFECTLY SUITED for all of these uncertainties and concerns.

But if you want proof, check out a few case studies from some of my recent Charlottesville newborn photo sessions.

1. The “anything but this” toddler

baby girl with toddler sibling in nursery

The first 5 minutes of this session were calm and glorious. We photographed in the nursery, which was a tight fit with just one window, but we got some sweet moments of the girls together and of the baby by herself.

Then it broke down. Sweet toddler girl wanted nothing to do with me or anyone. 

baby and toddler lifestyle session at home

These images may not have been their vision of a smooth newborn session, but they’re full of story and rawness. They may not be funny yet, but in 15 years when these girls are older, they will have a whole different vibe.

I ended up getting one set of everyone together by keeping bunny grahams in my pocket and making them hop out and surprise her.

We did breakdowns of baby with each parent (ah those serene moments) while the other parent took one for the team and fielded the tantrums.

Finally, a change of scenery outside was a game-changer. There’s always something you can do.

When asked at the end if she had fun, big sis said “YEA!” with enthusiasm.

  • Super frequent feedings
  • Colic-y baby who cries a lot
  • The generally wild uncertainty of sleep/wake/feeding/changing schedules 
lifestyle newborn photography session in charlottesville
charlottesville family newborn session at home

2. The Jumping Bean

Best news ever – I will never ask your kid to smile or sit still.

In fact, I’ve found that doing the opposite and inviting often leads to family engagement much more authentically. This little lady was a jumping bean, so we alternated between letting her do silly things, and then countering it with prompts like “go tell your brother where you’re going to jump next!”

newborn photographer in charlottesville, at home with sibling on bed

For the 2 minutes we got her to catch her breath, we conveniently laid brother beside her and gave her challenges – “can you kiss his ear!?” “can you kiss his forehead soooo soft he doesn’t even feel it!?”

Simply by lowering my voice to a whisper, I often can get even the rowdiest kids to lean in for some gentler moments.

toddler jumping and playing during newborn session at home
newborn session details, charlottesville photographer

Bonus challenge for this session – it all took place in one room. The family was literally moving to a new state that week and their entire house was upended aside from this spot. It’s possible, friends. 

(this is another example!)

3. What baby?

When you have several kids close together, they might be interested in the baby for brief seconds, but really it’s all a competition for parental attention.

And really, I don’t need them to be interested in the baby to make photos that have warmth and tenderness.

I just need parents who are interested in playing with and loving on their kids. Which you all are!

The idea of sitting calmly all looking and smiling…yea, we’re going to let allllll those expectations out the window mmmk?

The love was just oozing from this family, tickle fights, car races, full laps and all.

newborn photographer in charlottesville, session with 2 older siblings
newborn session with 2 older siblings
newborn photography at home with toddlers

4. The baby tank (and other baby-related challenges)

This sweet girl was nursing about 75% of the session.

We made beautiful photos of that interaction, but I was also able to make fun portraits of the other siblings while baby and mama were busy!

The older girls literally got out Guess Who to play on the bed in the middle of the session because baby was just nursing non-stop, so we just rolled with it and those are some of my favorite shots!

newborn session at home with 3 sisters, charlottesville newborn photographer
3 sisters laying on bed, newborn photoshoot
lifestyle newborn photos with 3 sisters

In-between feeding, baby was often crying– likely because we needed her to stop eating for at least a few seconds… but we were still able to get lots of really special, intimate, and fun images that speak to the heart of this family’s dynamic. 

newborn photos for family of 5 at home

RECAP FOR PARENTS: 

  • I won’t judge you or your kids because of how anyone behaves during one hour of an unusual situation. I have kids , too, and I get it. Grace overflowing in this season of life.

  • Having the session at home already puts you ahead in the stress and management department. Well done. 

  • Next, manage your expectations – this can go a lot of different ways, but perfectly posed and quietly gentle probably won’t be one of them. That’s okay. That’s real life. 

  • Trust me. I’ve seen it all and handled it all. You don’t have to worry and you won’t regret doing this. Pinky promise. 


RECAP FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS:

Add these quick tips to your toolbox to try the next time a newborn session at home isn’t going so smoothly. I use these strategies often to reset the scene and manage any situation with calm confidence.

  • A snack or drink pitstop

  • Go outside

  • Let them play in a different room either individually or with one parent (keep electronics out of it – there’s no coming back from that) – do other breakdowns during this time!

  • Pretend sleeping game (gets them cuddled close or laying down with everyone) and surprise waking – hilarious to them every time and only requires the “stillness” for a moment with built in relief.

  • Put my camera down and play with them no strings attached (hide and seek, dolls, blocks… eventually, I transition to letting whatever toy we’re playing with sit on top of my camera and redirect the kid back into the family grouping. I’ve had stuffed animals, pacifiers, and large trucks all “take a picture” on my camera)

(Want more insider tips and photography advice from shooting to running your family + newborn photography business? This is for you so we can dig in more!)


BOTTOM LINE

If you’re expecting and want newborn photos that give you the feels, I’m your girl.

If you have older kids who make you think “there’s no way they’d go for this…” HI, also here for that.

Families are my heart and soul. Every kind and every way. You deserve photos that bring you back to a place of love, even on the hard days. Let’s make it happen together.

Reach out here to plan your newborn photos in Charlottesville!

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1/11/2022

How I handle sibling challenges in newborn photo sessions