Maternity + Family

Encouraging Mothers To Be in Newborn Portraits

May 22, 2019

By Sandra Coan

© Sandra Coan

Just about every woman I work with thanks me for getting images of her with her baby. "Ah ha," this mother told me, "now I see why you insisted we get in front of that camera. I’m so thankful you did! I cherish those photos already, and I know even more so in 30 years. "

I have exactly one photo of myself with my twins from when they were babies. One.

A friend of mine snapped it when I was sitting on the floor in my living room, unaware of her camera. 

If I had been aware, I probably would have told her not to take it.

I wasn’t ready to be in photos yet. I still had too much baby weight. I didn’t like my hair that day, and the babies were cuter than me. Take their picture, not mine.

You see, my pregnancy was not an easy one. I went into labor the first time at 22 weeks and was put on hospital bed rest until I delivered at 36 weeks. Being in the hospital for that long saved my babies, for which I’m eternally grateful, but it wrecked me. My muscles atrophied. I gained over 100 pounds. I was scared and depressed.  

Once the babies were born, I wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital until I could walk on my own around the hall. It took me a week to get there.

By the time I got home, I didn’t recognize myself. I was weak, exhausted, heavier than I’d been in my life. And I didn’t want my picture taken. I didn’t like the way I looked postpartum. And I didn’t like the way I felt. My pregnancy had been hard. And it left me with a lot of emotional pain that I saw when I looked at photos of myself.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I get it when my clients tell me that they don’t want to be in any photos during my baby and newborn sessions. I completely understand. I know how they feel. But I encourage them to do it anyway.

And I think you should do the same.

I encourage my moms to look at the baby instead of at me. Looking away from the camera takes the pressure off and produces a more “candid” moment as opposed to a formal portrait.
I encourage my reluctant moms by letting them know that they don’t have to do anything with these pictures if they don’t want to. They don’t have to print them. They don’t have to include them in their albums. But at least they’ll have them. If at some point they do want to pull them out, they’ll be there.

See, the photos we take are not for our clients. They are for their children.

And when those children grow up and look at the photos we’ve made, they are not going to see that their mother looks tired or heavy or that her hair wasn’t perfect that day. They will see their mother, who they love. That’s it.

There is no perfect, especially when you’re a parent. But I believe that the imperfect deserves to be photographed too.

I have exactly one photo of myself with my twins from when they were babies. And I regret it. Don’t let that happen to your clients.  

When they tell you that they don’t want to be in the photos, let them know you understand, but urge them to do it anyway.

Remind them that these photos are for their baby, not for them.

And then you can let them leave, knowing that you’ve done you job.  

They may not love the photos of themselves now, or even in a year or two from now, but someday, their children will cherish them. And chances are, they will too.

Sandra Coan is an industry educator and award-winning newborn and family photographer specializing in studio portraiture, artificial lighting and fine-art film photography.


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