The scariest day of my life - A newborn photographer tell all

My start as a newborn photographer

I’m going to share something with you now that I am kind of embarrassed to tell, but I think it is important to share it as I know there are people out there in the same situation as I was. When I first started photography I was naturally drawn to working with children. I’ve always loved working with kids so kids photography seemed like a natural step.

From there, taking on newborns seemed like a no-brainer. I mean, how hard could it be? I've worked with kids all my life, baby sitting neighbor kids on summer break, worked as an AuPair, and even worked as a kids swim teacher for over 2 years. So how hard could it be to do newborn photography? I mean, all they do is sleep right? Well let me tell you - I was dead wrong! Newborn photography is the scariest thing you can take on if you’re not properly prepared and educated. Let me explain.

Proper education & training is paramount when doing newborn photography

When I first started newborn photography, way before moving to San Diego, I ran model calls for free newborn photography sessions. I figured the best way to gain experience would be to actually practice on real life newborns. That was my FIRST mistake.

I had watches several YouTube videos on newborn posing and I was part of so many different Facebook groups where people were sharing their images on a daily basis. And it looks so simple and sweet. The baby just laid there and slept while the photographers posed them in different position. Little did I know that so much more actually goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see in the YouTube videos or on Facebook.

My very first newborn session before I really knew what newborn photography really was or entailed.

My very first newborn session before I really knew what newborn photography really was or entailed.

Newborn Photography is not regulated

Whenever you are working with children, whether it’s in the hospital, a childcare center or anywhere else, there are regulations and certificates that need to be followed and completed. But not in newborn photography. You’d think something so important and complicated should be regulated. Sure it would cost money to get the proper education and certifications, but if you’re serious about what you’re doing, then it’s worth the investment (HINT: one reason why newborn photography prices are so high). Plus, these are peoples INFANTS you are working with.

So I decided to run a model call and had a lot of interest from expectant moms. So there I was, a new photographer who wanted to specialize in newborn photography. And I remember it so vividly, the day I realized I was way out of my league. And for the first time ever, I got really scared when working with a child.

This particular session is something that still sticks with me. I should start out by saying that the baby was totally fine and nothing happened during the session to put the baby in safety - luckily enough, but someone else who is an unexperience’s as I was may not be so lucky.

There I was sitting in a living room of a family I didn’t know and mom handed me her little baby, trusting me with her most precious treasure. This baby was only 4 days old and weighted only 5lbs. Right away this should put up warning flags if you’re reading this. You should never to a newborn session with a baby only 4 days of age (unless there are some really extraordinary circumstances). At 4 days old the baby has not had enough time out in the world to adjust their bodies to the real world. And at 4 days old they may not even have had their first visit back to the doctor to be checked up on to ensure everything is ok. So many reasons why doing a session so early is a bad idea. I recommend doing the newborn session when they are 8-12 days of age instead.

I decided to invest in proper newborn photography education

This baby was the tiniest thing I had ever held in my hands before. Not only did she only weight 5lbs, she was also tall with long legs and arms, making her feel even skinnier. As I held her I could immediately feel my heart start beating faster. What was I doing? I had no business working with such a tiny human being. What if I broke a leg or an arm - I mean they were so long and skinny.

Nervously I made it through the session and got some images that I thought were adorable (at the time at least). But as I handed off the baby to her mom again I signed of relief. Nothing bad had happened, I was lucky. I wish I could tell you this the least newborn session I did before I invested in proper education, but no, I continued shooting newborns to practice my skills while watching YouTube videos to learn new tricks.

But the more I was learning and the more I read horror stories on Facebook I realized I was doing something horribly wrong. Just like in any job, you always get trained by someone senior, someone with the knowledge and skillset you are looking to gain. So why didn’t I do that before starting newborn photography? Because there’s a price tag of course. I mean I was doing sessions for free, so how could I afford taking an expensive workshop?

Luckily I came across Janean and Alysia from Blissful Baby Workshops. These two ladies are amazing newborn photography and as luck would have it they were hosting a workshop in Faribault, MN. I knew this was my chance to get the training I so sorely lacked.

Extensive newborn photography education and training has taught me how to properly care for and position newborn babies and my newborn pictures are now so much more professional and better looking.

Extensive newborn photography education and training has taught me how to properly care for and position newborn babies and my newborn pictures are now so much more professional and better looking.

Find an educated Newborn Photographer

This workshop changed my life! With hands-on experience these ladies showed us how to properly pose a newborn baby during a session. They were telling us the importance of properly posing a baby. Think about it, a baby’s body is not yet fully developed, and if you don’t pose them properly it could cause issues further down the line. This workshop provided me with the confidence, knowledge and training I required to be able to go back home and be confident in knowing how to pose a newborn. Janean and Alysia were amazing teachers and continue to share their knowledge and expertise in our alumni Facebook group.

When I came home from the workshop I looked elsewhere for more training. I connected with another newborn photographer in Minneapolis who was doing newborn photography and I asked if she wouldn’t mind if I shadowed her for a few sessions. This was just another way for me to get real life experience in working with newborn. This girl became a mentor of mine and for a couple of years I actually worked for her doing newborn pictures as well as milestone and family pictures. To this day I still do editing for her for some of her sessions.

If you are an expectant or new mom looking for a newborn photographer for your baby pictures, I want you to consider this. Finding an experience, trained and educated newborn photographer for your session is paramount. Yes, it may cost you a little more, but in the long run, isn’t it worth it to spend more money to ensure your baby is safe at all time?

And if you’re a new photographer looking to get into newborn photography, please consider getting the proper training before you take on clients. Find someone in your area and reach out to them to ask if you can mentor with them or work as an assistant until you have the proper knowledge of working with infants. Read up on newborn safety guidelines and understand that many images are actually several images combined in to one. Let’s build up the standard in the industry so that all newborns and parents are safe and well taken care of at all times. This is why I am certified by the Photography Association community that strive to ensure proper training and education for newborn photographers.

The right newborn photographer will be able to give you timeless and gorgeous newborn pictures of your infant that you’ll treasure for years to come.

The right newborn photographer will be able to give you timeless and gorgeous newborn pictures of your infant that you’ll treasure for years to come.


Johanna is the owner of Studio Freyja, a Maternity, Newborn and Family Portrait Studio in San Diego, CA. With over 5 years of experience she’s photographed hundreds of infants for their newborn pictures. She has spent countless hours and a large investment ensuring her training and experience is up to date and proper. Newborn safety is her #1 priority always ensuring both babies and parents feels safe during their newborn photography session in her San Diego studio. If you wish to book your session with her please fill out a contact for right here and she’d be happy to plan the perfect session for you.