for photographers, newborns

January 11, 2022

How I manage newborn photos with siblings

Parents have lots of concerns when it comes to a lifestyle newborn session like what to wear, the state of their “non-instagrammable-looking” home, and more than anything, how to navigate newborn photos with siblings.

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”

The great news is, newborn sessions with siblings 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.

Tips and tricks for newborn photos with siblings

1. The “anything but this” toddler

newborn photos with sibling girls 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. 

newborn and toddler sibling lifestyle photos at home
newborn photos with sibling and family at home, charlottesville va

These images may not have been their vision of a smooth newborn session with a doting sibling, 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 to 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.

newborn photos at home, charlottesville va
poses for newborn session with siblings

2. The Jumping Bean

Best news ever – I will never make your kid sit still or “smile big.”

In fact, I’ve found that doing the opposite 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 countering it with prompts like “go tell your brother where you’re going to jump next!”

newborn photographer in charlottesville, poses and games for newborn photos with sibling

For the 2 minutes we got her to catch her breath, I 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 with sibling
charlottesville newborn photographer for home newborn photos with sibling

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. 

3. What baby?

When you have several kids close together, a newborn session with siblings gets even more interesting.

They might be interested in the baby for a brief second, but really, it’s all a competition for parental attention.

Honestly, 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?

newborn photos with 2 siblings in kitchen sink

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

This sweet newborn 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 the newborn 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 photos with siblings
ideas for managing newborn photos with siblings

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. 

fun poses for family of 5 in newborn photos with siblings at home

Quick tips for photographing newborns with siblings

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 newborn photos with siblings with calm confidence.

  • Take snack and drink breaks

  • 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 your camera down and play with them – no strings attached. Think hide and seek, dolls, blocks… eventually, I’ll 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!

Are you pregnant with number 2? (3, 4, or 5?!)

If you’re pregnant and have older kids but still want newborn photos that give you the feels (but not all the stress), 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 with me in Charlottesville!

(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!)

you might also like:

The Alternative to a Cake Smash Session

4 Tips for lifestyle newborn sessions with 2 under 2

Maternity photos at home