photographing newborns can be challenging, making photographing newborns with siblings just a tiny bit stressful. not only do you have to worry about the newborn’s schedule, but you have to incorporate siblings within that timeframe so that everyone is happy and cooperative all at the same time. that being said, photographing newborns with siblings is my absolute favorite! it allows me to really get creative and spontaneous with my photography, while capturing some genuine emotion.
yes, it can be a little stressful trying to get everyone happy at the same time, but it makes for a really fun session because the end results are always unique. every sibling is going to react differently to their new baby brother or sister, and it is our job to capture that emotion. the next time you book a newborn session that includes older siblings, keep these 8 tips in mind to help minimize your stress and make your session a successful one.
need some tips on how to approach a lifestyle newborn session? check out my 10 tips for photographing a lifestyle newborn session to get you started.
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8 Tips for Photographing Newborns With Siblings
Pack the Right Gear
before we get into the tips, let’s make sure you have the right gear in your camera bag for photographing newborns with siblings. because there are going to be more people within the frame, i always carry my wide angle lenses, the sigma art 24mm f/1.4 lens and the nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens. having a wide angle lens allows me to fit more of the surroundings of my clients home, as well as more people, inside of the frame. the purpose of lifestyle newborn sessions is to document families within their home, so having a wide angle lens is a key factor in doing that. i also bring my sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, as it is perfect for both family and individual portraits. it’s low aperture also allows me to get some detailed photos of the baby, surrounded by soft bokeh. because i photograph my lifestyle newborn sessions with more than one lens, i carry two camera bodies, my nikon d750 and nikon d610 so that i can have a lens on each camera body and reduce wasting time by switching out lenses.
lastly, i find it helpful to bring a tripod. this allows me to set up my shot where i would like it, while allowing me to run back and forth between my clients and my camera. when photographing newborns with siblings, i find that i am constantly running towards the client to get my older sibling posed just right, then running back to capture the moment. having a tripod helps ensure that my shot is always set up where i want it, despite my movement.
1. Photograph With Siblings First
i always, always, always, get my family photo taken first. i do this because a photo of their entire family is the photo that the client truly wants and at the beginning of the session everyone is a little nervous and very cooperative, so it’s naturally a good starting point. when arranging my session, i make sure that i take all of the photos that include siblings at the very beginning. let’s be honest, sometimes newborn sessions take a long time because we are waiting for baby to calm down, to be changed, or be fed. we cannot expect siblings to have the same patience that we have. by photographing newborns with siblings at the very beginning of the session, it ensures that the sibling will be done within the first 20-30 minutes and can go play while we move onto photographing the baby with parents and individually. while photographing siblings, be aware of attitude changes and build in breaks when necessary.
one of my main sources of posing inspiration is the design aglow posing guide for family portrait photography. it’s a wonderful read!
2. Play Games
playing little games with siblings can help lighten the mood and encourage cooperation because…they are having fun. once my families are posed together, i like to play, “look at the baby. now, look at me!” as the families go back and forth between looking at the baby and looking at the camera, they laugh and have fun which allows me to capture some genuine emotion. if the sibling is comfortable and willing, i also have them kiss their new baby sister or brother on the forehead and then look at me, and repeat this a couple of times. i always make sure both the parents and sibling are comfortable doing this and never make the sibling do something that they don’t want to.
3. Give Them Choices
one thing that is really important to remember about siblings of newborns is that they have just experienced a lot of change in their life. they now have a new brother or sister and have to share their parent’s attention with them. this can be a little overwhelming, and confusing to them. be sure to give them choices throughout the session, allowing them to feel like they have some control. this will help them not only feel special, but they will cooperate more with you if they feel like they are making the choice to. when getting ready to photograph the entire family, allow the sibling(s) to choose where they would like to sit and pose everyone around them. most of the time i ask, “do you want to sit on mommy or daddy’s lap?” once they make the choice, i have the other parent hold the newborn and pose them accordingly.
4. Just Go With It!
there are a lot of times when i honestly just let the sibling take a little control and i simply go with it. listen, that is the beauty of lifestyle newborn sessions…you are photographing life as it is. as photographers, i think we get so caught up in getting “that perfect shot” that we forget we are working with really young kiddos who are essentially in control of our session. being able to allow them, within reason, to take control of the session and step back and document it in a beautiful way is so important. be willing to go with it and have fun too. don’t let a little one scurrying off the bed intimidate you, but inspire you to grab your camera and photograph the moment.
5. Give Them Attention
because my lifestyle newborn sessions take place in the clients home, it helps older siblings feel comfortable because they are in their own territory. i like to increase that comfort by giving them special attention during the session, like having them show me around their house, show me the nursery, show me their favorite toy, etc. again, siblings of newborns are experiencing a lot of change and sometimes, by no fault of their parents, are feeling a little left out. sometimes giving them a little extra attention goes a long way. it creates trust between you and the child which will encourage cooperation once it is time to bring the camera out and start the session.
6. Get Over Looking At The Camera
my favorite photos are when my clients are looking at one another instead of looking at the camera. and honestly, my clients adore them too because they are real, honest, and capture genuine emotion. yes, you are going to want to get a photo of the newborn and sibling looking at the camera as well, but then get over it once you have gotten it. photograph siblings simply interacting with their new baby brother or sister, your clients will love you for it. capture the way they look at them, taking in their tiny features. have them look at their baby brother or sister and find their eyes, their nose, their mouth.
it’s important to remember that not all siblings will be willing to hold their new sister or brother, and that’s okay! never force a sibling to hold a baby, sometimes they are simply not ready for it and it’s important that we respect their preferences and comfort level.
7. Lay Them Down, Photograph From Above
most of the time, siblings are willing to hold their baby brother or sister but they simply aren’t strong enough. and sometimes parents simply aren’t comfortable allowing them to hold the baby just yet. in moments like these, laying the siblings down together on a bed or soft surface is a wonderful way to pose them for a portrait. have the older sibling lay down first, put an arm out, and then lay the baby in their arm. this allows you to get them close together. because you will be photographing from above, it is very very important that you wear a camera strap while taking these photos to ensure you do not drop your camera.
8. Do What You Say
sometimes siblings just want to know what the schedule is going to be, so tell them! if i notice that i have a sibling that is hesitant, getting silly, or squirmy, i will tell them exactly what five pictures i want to take with them and it helps them know what to expect. in their world, their is a lot of change occurring so sometimes letting them know exactly what is going to happen will help their comfort. by easily saying, “let’s get a picture of you with your family and a picture of you and your baby,” you are telling them exactly what is going to happen. by also telling them you want a picture of “them with the baby” and “them with their family” you are making it about them, instead of about the baby…which they love. also allowing them to take a peek at your back of camera is very encouraging. they love to see themselves and it’s instant gratification. not only is it fun for them, but it allows them to see themselves!
on the flip side of this, you have to do what you say. if you tell them you want to take 5 pictures, take 5 pictures. don’t take 10 more, it will increase frustration.
photographing newborns with siblings is a lot of fun because no two sessions are ever alike and you can get really spontaneous with the photos you take. by keeping these tips in mind and understanding the change that siblings are going through, you will be sure to have a successful session. remember, clients simply want to remember the moment that their family grew by one more. yes, you definitely want to get a great portrait but be sure to also document all those other little moments in between. some of my favorite photographs ever taken were between shots.
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