Your Guide to a Natural Newborn Photoshoot

This month we chat to the wonderful Hanna Ali, award-winning Newborn Photographer and Visual Storyteller. We adore her natural style of newborn photography and we want to deep-dive into how she creates it. We cover everything from the art of capturing those truly unique, organic moments; when to book; what to prepare, and her absolute must-haves for any natural newborn shoot.

Hanna’s top tips for your newborn photoshoot:

  • The "perfect" age doesn't exist: Newborns can be photographed beautifully from 3 hours old onward. If your baby is a few months old, you haven’t left it too late. The photos will be beautiful and memorable at all stages
  • Make it unique to you: Great photographers will have lots of suggestions about the colour palette and styling. Remember, these are your family memories so make sure you feel comfortable with the ‘vibe’ of the shoot 
  • Choose a space where you feel comfortable: For a relaxed and natural newborn shoot, consider an in-home session. Wonderful moments often happen when mother and baby are feeling at ease in their own space
  • Pick timeless and beautiful outfits: Great newborn photographers will have a selection of their own clothing that you can combine with your own in a way that feels most meaningful to you

What is your favourite thing about photographing newborns?

"Newborns symbolise new life, new hope, and an optimism for the future which I think you don’t ever feel with anything else in your life. The endless possibilities of how their life may unfold never gets old and seeing the love and delight in a new mum and dad’s face is awe-inspiring. Equally, watching the dynamic shift as you bring another child into your home and heart and seeing your first baby become a sibling is unmatched – it is just so wholesome in every aspect"

How far in advance should I book my newborn photoshoot? What is the best age for a newborn shoot?

"I have clients who have booked me literally on the day of their 12 week scan (which is so lovely because it's usually the first scan and it all feels so real and something to look forward to!) and I also have clients who book me after their 20 week scan - the most important thing is to book when it feels right for you and ideally before 36 weeks. 
For a newborn session I always book clients in using their due date as a placeholder with them contacting me as soon as the baby arrives. There is honestly no perfect age for a newborn shoot; the industry says within the first 2 weeks and yes, in theory that is when they are the sleepiest and certainly the smallest that they'll ever be, but there is also a great deal of magic in waiting a bit longer until you've bonded more and settled in, and hints of personality start to peek through. I've captured babies at 3 hours old (in hospital), 3 days, 3 weeks and bang-on 3 months - the first 12 weeks all have their wonderful stages, and you will never have left it too late even beyond this. If you are reading this now with a 4, 5, 6+ month old, you have not left it too late and you don’t have to wait until their first birthday – this is still your tiny baby that is not yet on your hip and you will absolutely never regret capturing their baby months"

What should I/baby wear? What do I need to do/prepare before the shoot?

"I have a very detailed and comprehensive style guide that I send to families after they book which advises them on clothes, colours, palettes, and 'vibes' so that they can take from it what they need. It's really important to me that the advice I give on this is taken as needed because it's a session for your family memories, and you being comfortable and wearing what feels like you is a beautiful way to honour your own family history. I dress my newborns almost exclusively in Isla & Fraser and have a wide range of their gorgeous clothes that I bring to a session" 

What makes your sessions different to other newborn sessions? 

"I prioritise nurture and connection over everything – I’m not the photographer for you if you’re more interested in getting very specific poses for your baby that you’ve perhaps seen elsewhere or are into using props. For me, a baby-led session that is full of capturing the nurture and connection between a mother and her baby is at the core of the experience with me. I really value letting moments unfold naturally which they will if caring for the baby comes first rather than focusing on getting ‘the shot’ – in fact, the shot is that moment itself and when it’s undirected and unposed, it’s utterly divine"

What are your essential outfits or accessories for a newborn photoshoot? What materials do you like working with?

"When working with newborns it's important to me that the materials I use are sustainably sourced, organic and utterly soft to the touch. It’s also important that it’s made of very good material that can sustain being washed more than usual and long-lasting. Isla & Fraser knitwear ticks all those boxes. I just love the entire aesthetic of the brand beyond the gender-neutral tones; there is a delicateness in each touch point of the brand and as a small business owner myself I recognise that, and I think it resonates with a lot of new and expecting mothers too. As a mum myself, I know that I want clothes for my own children that feel timeless and can be passed down to the next generation as opposed to just looking good and falling apart easily and Isla & Fraser have truly, in my opinion, created clothing that lasts as well as it looks. For a newborn shoot, the rompers and bloomers are essential, and my clients always struggle to choose between the gorgeous clothes I bring from their selection. I always remind them that it’s a good problem to have!"

Can you share your go-to Isla & Fraser photoshoot must-have item?

"The cable-knit collection is always a hit whether it’s a baby girl or a baby boy, the texture photographs so beautifully and parents are always drawn to at least one cable-knit romper or bloomer in a session"

Tell us more about your philosophy 'An ode to motherhood'

"Whilst many newborn photographers place the baby at the heart of the story, my approach is slightly different in that I place the mother at the heart of the story – an experience with me is one that puts the mother in the frame, upfront and centre and not behind the camera as we often are as a mum, and that bond between mother and child is one that I am very passionate about. An ode to Motherhood for me means that my work in essence is between myself and the mother and those who love her deeply – her baby, her children, her partner, her parents, anyone she considers her world. This is an ode to her motherhood, to be celebrated as art"

What is your most loved/treasured photo ever captured? What makes it so special?

"It’s impossible for me to choose only one most loved newborn photo as I’m so lucky I get to meet so many babies every month and sometimes I’ll re-visit a session and fall in love with a whole different image that I perhaps didn’t pay too close attention to the first time. I would say, at this moment, one of my favourite images is one of my newborns, baby Hunter, at only 9 days earthside, wearing the gorgeous footed baby dungarees with the little suspenders – it was the first time a mum had opted for it without anything underneath and it is just so precious!"

What drew you to photography? Did you do anything different before?

"Photography and literature (especially poetry) was my entire personality growing into my teens - I was that emo Pisces teen with a photography Tumblr blog and I worked really hard to save up enough to buy my dream DSLR camera - It was a Canon 350D and it cost a whopping £800 which felt like a million as a teenager and it never left my sight. Before venturing out to start my own business, I was an academic, I wrote a short story collection book, I worked in the arts industry as an Artistic Director in London, and I used to present my own radio breakfast talk show in the middle east in my early 20's. Good times! I've always been involved in the creative and artistic world as both an artist and as one who champions them so this feels like a culmination of everything I love... 17-year-old me would be floored to know I got to grow up to have such a fun time and get paid for it"

All photography featured in this article is by @hannaaliphotography

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