Gettin’ Down and Dirty: The Truth About Cornwall Newborn Photography Sessions

father holding mother baby sleeping

As I take on increasingly fewer newborn sessions, I still get to treasure a few quiet hours with some of our city’s newest residents. While I love that I’m gradually transitioning into full-time lifestyle and documentary newborn sessions because I absolutely adore them, there’s still something about working in the peaceful quiet of my own studio with my lights and props and these beautiful, brand-new little humans that I just love.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about how, as a photographer, I should make a newborn session as magical for the parents as possible – and I promise you, I do try to make it as relaxed and easy on them as I can – but I’m calling “bull” on that. I think that the best way for parents to be relaxed and to feel like everything is going well is to know what really happens in newborn sessions. Nobody wants to tell you this because it might ruin the magic. Baloney. I’m going to let you in on a few secrets. They aren’t pretty, and they may kind of act as “newborn photo spoilers”, so if you love looking at those sleepy newborn images and don’t want to know about the behind-the-scenes realities, look away now. Go on. Close the page – I promise I won’t be insulted.

Okay, here are some things that every parent planning a newborn studio session should know.

  • This session is not your baby’s idea. It’s yours. There’s no magical way to make the baby “cooperate”; that little human being of yours will do whatever he or she needs to and that’s great.
  • It’s not always peaceful and quiet. There’s going to be crying. They look so calm and peaceful and sleepy in the photos, right? Well, they’re not always that way. Babies cry. It’s a part of life. My job is to deal with the crying and get my babies back to being comfortable as quickly as possible. Since Mom (and Dad, but especially Mom) represents everything safe in babies world (including food), I’m also going to try to do the soothing myself or I may not get baby back from Mom.
  • It’s not always clean and tidy. In fact, it’s almost never clean and tidy. Newborn sessions usually involve a bit of downright dirty work. There will be poop, pee, or spit up – or, most likely, a combination of at least two of the three. Sometimes on me; almost always on my fabrics. That’s okay. You take a diaper off a human being with no need for bladder/bowel control and you’re asking for it. Trust me when I say that I laugh about it, change my clothes if needed, and shuffle things around so that we can keep going. Parents: make sure you bring a change of clothes, too. Sometimes these little darlings wait for the perfect moment to unleash the beast.  And by “perfect moment,” I mean “family photo time.” I promise I’ll try to not laugh too hard when it happens, but I also promise there will be laughter. And paper towels.
  • They don’t always sleep. Sleeping babies are generally significantly easier to pose (they’re less interested in showing off their new-found toes/knees/knuckles/fingernails when they’re asleep), which is why photographers try to get babies to sleep as quickly as possible. It sometimes takes awhile. A loooooong while, in some cases. Just hang out and chat with me; there’s no rush. Your session is three hours long for this reason. And if that just doesn’t work…. BIG spoiler alert: Babies blink. A baby who refuses to sleep can be caught mid-blink. Suddenly that baby is “sleeping” on-camera. *Gasp*
  • Beware of fakes! Those images of babies sleeping with their chins on their tiny little hands? What newborn have you ever met who can do that? That image is called a “composite” – it’s two images layered together so that you don’t see the hands of the parent holding baby’s hands and head in place. I don’t do this pose (or that shot of the bundled baby magically sitting upright) because I don’t love the idea of creating composites. I want my shots to be as real as I can fake them. I mean, make them.

So there you have it. Your little newborn-photo world may be shattered – OR you may feel like you’re better prepared for your own session so that when your little one fusses, cries, poops, or needs to feed mid-session, it’s not going to feel like you’ve failed, the baby has failed, or the whole session was a waste. I’m hoping for the latter. I’m hoping you’ll arrive at your session ready to operate on your little one’s schedule and know that your little baby is doing everything that he or she should be doing. That’s all we ask of any child, at any point in life, so why not ask that in the first two weeks, right? I can work with that.

(*Disclaimer: photos chosen for this post were not used because the newborn suited the category in question. I just love their little faces and wanted to share them with you. )

dad holding baby with one handchubby baby in green wrap holding faceblack and white baby in cocoon


I’m Ang – a Cornwall, Ontario-based photographer with a passion for finding light and documenting real life for families in Cornwall, Ottawa, Montreal, and around the world. I welcome new families to come for portraits in my photography studio year-round. Please explore more of to see more samples of my work.