Hospital newborn sessions — commonly called “fresh 48 newborn sessions” since they take place within 48 hours after delivery — are some of my favorite newborn photo sessions to shoot. There is something magical about meeting a brand new baby, and it’s an honor to be invited to document such an important family event. The parents may be tired from a long labor, but they are still basking in the joy-filled afterglow of bringing a new life earth-side and it’s a truly special thing to be a part of.

These unique newborn sessions require some additional flexibility and planning. But with the proper consideration, fresh 48 newborn sessions can be an amazing add-on for any newborn photography business. Here’s how I do hospital newborn sessions.

Before the session

1. Booking and scheduling

Once a client books a fresh 48 session with me, I put her estimated due date on my calendar. Then, when she is 37 weeks pregnant, I begin a five-week modified “on-call” period. I don’t need to be available 24/7 like a birth photographer, but I don’t leave town during this time, I work to maintain flexibility in my day to day schedule and I have childcare readily available for my own children.

During these final weeks of pregnancy, I ask my clients to keep in touch with me via email to update me with their progress from weekly doctor’s appointments. I ask them to text me when they’re headed to the hospital, and then again after baby is born. From there, we choose a time for me to come to the hospital, usually later that day or the following day.

If my client is having a scheduled C-section, I find out in advance if she’d like her session to occur on the birth day or the day after.

Pro Tip:

Some clients aren’t aware that hospital newborn sessions are available. When prospective clients contact me to inquire about maternity or in-home newborn sessions, I also send info for fresh 48 sessions. This helps get the word out. Regular blogging also helps me market my fresh 48 newborn sessions by giving my website an SEO boost.

Parents adore newborn at hospital photo session

2. Client preparation

I offer my clients the opportunity to video chat with me prior to their newborn session. This gives them a chance to meet me before the actual session so that they are comfortable with me before I enter their birth space.

During these video chats, my clients and I also talk about logistics. I let my clients know when to contact me on the day of the birth, we discuss wardrobe for mom and baby, I ask whether siblings and other extended family will be present during the session and I answer any questions I haven’t already answered over email.

My main goal for the chat is for families to develop a level of comfort with me before I enter an intimate space in person.

A fresh 48 newborn photo session

Pricing fresh 48 sessions

Like many family photographers, I’ve had a journey to sustainable pricing. I initially started offering fresh 48 newborn sessions as a mini session add-on to in-home newborn sessions, and thus they were priced as a mini session. I quickly came to realize that there is nothing “mini” about this type of session. My galleries from a hospital newborn session are large, and I wasn’t factoring in the on-call time.

My current pricing for fresh 48 newborn sessions is all-inclusive (though I use a session fee plus collection model in my portrait business). I set the price slightly higher than a lifestyle session fee plus digital collection to account for my on-call time. Most of my clients that book a hospital newborn session also add on a maternity mini session.

In recent years, I’ve also added the option for my clients to add video to their fresh 48 newborn session. Video captures movement and sound (that newborn cry!) in a way that’s just not possible with still photos alone. If my clients want to purchase a video, they need to let me know before the session.

Pro Tip:

When pricing these unique sessions, take into account on-call time, which can last for several weeks, as well as any additional expenses such as child care.

3. Wardrobe

When I talk with my clients about wardrobe, I ask mom to think about what she’d like to wear during the session, emphasizing that her comfort is important. Some forethought about clothing can avoid the new mother regretting that she didn’t have something to wear that made her feel good.

I’ve photographed many moms who wore the hospital gown, though some choose to change into a robe, nursing tank top, or a comfy dress.

For baby, I ask parents to bring any special blanket they’d like to use in photos, though I do love photographing baby in the hospital swaddle blankets as they impart such a sense of place to these photos.

Parents adore newborn at hospital photo session
Newborn baby in mom's arms

The day of the session

4. Photographing the new baby and family

I use a documentary approach for fresh 48 sessions, though I do have a loose idea of images I’d like to create. Each family’s gallery is uniquely reflective of their experience. My goal is to balance authentically documenting our time together with efficiently creating variety in a gallery so that the family can get back to bonding and resting.

Most importantly, I’m flexible with how the session unfolds. Sometimes we have structure (for example, if the parents plan for me to photograph an older sibling meeting baby for the first time) and sometimes the session flows more organically. Some new moms may have limited mobility following delivery, and may not be able to move around very easily.

I make it a point to reassure parents that they can attend to anything the baby or siblings need, such as feeding, changing, or soothing. I’ll continue photographing through all of these moments. These sessions generally last 60-90 minutes.

Sibling meets new baby at Fresh 48 newborn session

My hospital newborn session shot list:

  • Baby alone (close-up of face, detail shots of feet, hands and umbilical stump)
  • Mom holding baby (wide and tight shots)
  • Partner holding baby
  • Environmental portraits (baby in the hospital bassinet, wide shot of mom with baby in the hospital bed)
  • Siblings meeting baby
  • Other relatives with baby (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.)
  • Documentary moments (baby being weighed, doctor/nurse exam, nursing, skin-to-skin time, diaper changes, swaddling)
  • Photographic time capsule (cell phone, newspaper front page, books, etc.)
  • Documentary still life (flowers, the white board, bedside table, bassinet name plate, outside shot of birth place/entrance to ward, etc.)
dad with a newborn baby at a hospital newborn session

5. Lighting

I prefer to shoot with natural light during daylight hours when possible. Most hospital rooms have one large window, which creates beautiful directional light. I’m careful to turn off most lights in the room to minimize white balance issues. I always bring my speedlight in case I need some additional light on particularly dreary days or if I’ll be shooting in the evening.

Parents adore newborn at hospital photo session

After the session

6. Editing

My goal is to create timeless images, so I prefer a clean edit with true-to-life colors and moderate contrast that won’t be considered trendy or dated in 30 years.

7. Image delivery

Within one or two days of the fresh 48 session, I create a blog post with 5-10 of my favorite images and send the link to my client so they can share with their family and friends. They’re excited to share the first professional photos of their new baby, and this drives traffic to my website and boosts my SEO.

I aim to edit and deliver the entire gallery within two weeks of the session. My typical gallery from a fresh 48 newborn session includes 50+ images (or more if there are siblings or other family members present). I present the final images in an online gallery using Shootproof, which allows clients to order prints, other products and books and download high resolution digital files.

Pro Tip:

I include sample spreads of photo book pages in the online gallery to encourage book and album sales.

dad with a newborn baby at a hospital newborn session

My hospital newborn session gear:

Cameras: Two Nikon D750 cameras

Lenses: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G

Lighting: Nikon SB-700 speedlight

Video: SmallHD Focus on-camera touchscreen monitor

Bag: Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack

A mother of three myself, I know that the perinatal period is a vulnerable and unpredictable time. You don’t know how labor and delivery will go, how you’ll feel, or how presentable you’ll look. But my hope is that, through sharing these fresh 48 newborn sessions, women will be able to see the tremendous courage, strength and joy they possess, and want to document it as a gift for their children and themselves.

Photos by Carrie Yuan