Category Archives: Helpful Articles

6 Ways to Prepare for a Newborn Session


Hi! I’m Natalie Balen-Cinelli, owner and operator of Lolabean Photography. I’m in my 5th year as a full-time newborn photographer and, like many of you, I discovered my love of photographing newborns and children when my oldest daughter was born. I quickly became obsessed with documenting her every move. Fast forward two years, and I took the leap to build my own business, leaving behind a successful career in brand management, and I’ve never looked back. I love the completely unaffected nature of newborns and children and I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than the bond between parents and their new little loves.

Here are a few tips on how I prepare for a newborn session, during the week leading up to the session, and right up to the night before:

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The Week before a Session:

Touch Base with the Client: I’ll usually ask the client to add me to their welcome email, or to designate a close friend or family member to give me the big news – this way, I can pencil in a few options for a session date and give new parents a minute to catch their breath before contacting me. Once I connect with the client we discuss what type of images are important to them, any inspiration they’ve seen and would like to try, and a review of wardrobe options.

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Newborn Prep Sheet: I’ll email the client a brief document with tips for getting the most out of the session, including how to best prepare baby the morning of the session, as well as big sisters and brothers (especially big brothers and sisters!).

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Get Inspired: I have a flow of poses that I always keep in mind when shooting a newborn session, but I also try to gain new inspiration by searching online resources (mainly Pinterest and Instagram). Inspiration can come from various sources – art, interior design, fashion – whatever moves me to double tap! I try to find at least one new pose or set up for each session to add to my shot list so I can keep my images as fresh as possible.

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The Night Before/Day of the Session:

Make sure all wraps and blankets are neatly folded and organized for the day. Since I travel to clients’ homes with my mobile set up, ensuring all items are clean, packed, and nothing has been left behind is constantly top of mind.

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Message the client to let them know how excited I am to meet them and their new little love tomorrow; confirm time and address.

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Mentally Prepare: I try to keep in my mind that although this is what I do every day, the birth of a little one is the single most important event in their lives and I have the privilege of the capturing this memory for them. Remembering this helps me in some small way create a little of those nervous butterflies and reminds me to keep pushing, keep creating, and most of all to keep aiming higher and higher.

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As a natural light photographer, Natalie Balen-Cinelli loves working with neutrals and soft pops of color. Whether shooting indoors or out, she strives to make each session as unique as the family she’s photographing. Natalie gets giddy about her clients taking a first look at their photos, and she hopes they love them as much as she does.

For more from Natalie, and for booking inquiries, visit Natalie’s web page, Like Lolabean Photography on Facebook, and follow Natalie on Instagram and Pinterest.

Tips from the Pros: What to Wear in Your Holiday Card Photos: Pinhole Press + NAPCP

We recently asked NAPCP members to share their best holiday card outfit advice. Here’s what they had to say!


Molly Garg, of Molly Garg Photography: Try on your outfits at least one week prior to your session. I encourage my clients to try everything on and send me a quick picture. If we have time, we may make adjustments and swap out a few pieces. Trying items on not only ensures that everyone’s outfits are sized appropriately, but also gets little ones excited about their upcoming photo session. Taking this extra step has allowed clients to make adjustments on ill-fitting attire, and prevented a few wardrobe malfunctions.

Be comfortable! I tell clients, “Above all else, be yourselves!” If a little boy never wears bow ties, and you decide he will wear one the day of the session, he will likely be pulling at it the entire time. And that cute beret for your little girl? If she’s not used to wearing it, she won’t want to the day of your session either. My advice is simple: wear your normal attire, a bit elevated.

Kate Lemmon, of Kate L Photography: Layer it up! Layers create visual interest and keep you warm and cozy while you’re outside playing in the leaves or snow. Think tights, cardigans, blazers, and scarves.

Choose two main hues you love, and develop your color scheme around them. Use the brightest color – also known as the accent color – sparingly.

Don’t forget accessories! Pieces like burlap suspenders or a flowery headband for the kids will take your ensemble to the next level of cute.


Read the rest of our photographers’ tips, here (and get some fabulous photo inspiration, as well).

For purchasable outfits for the whole family, be sure to visit our What to Wear: … Family Photo Sessions post!

And for even more ways to make your holiday card perfect, visit our free digital magazine, created in partnership with Pinhole Press, The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Cards!

It’s Fall, Y’all! Tips for Your Best Apple Orchard Photography


It’s time for apple picking with family and friends. We can’t tell you how much we love this time of year. There’s nothing quite like apple picking to make your heart happy. And there’s no landscape or light that is quite like that of an orchard. In a word, orchards are magical. Apple orchards may be lovely settings for photography, but they can also pose unique challenges, with dappled light and different tones. Still, NAPCP photographers love orchard photography, and we’ve put together a few tips for shooting in fruit-filled locations – for professionals and hobbyists alike!


1. Consider living stills. The images of low-hanging fruit, or piles of apples at the base of a tree are, of course, beautiful. Think about the dynamic a tiny, reaching hand brings to a photo. Or the very moment an apple is plucked from a tree. Your four year-old daughter’s nails are painted her favorite hue, Ice Queen Blue. You catch a glimpse of the child in your fourteen year-old, as he thoughtfully gathers apples that have fallen to the ground. Other than the natural beauty, what do you want to be reminded of when you look back at these images?



2. Back up. On the flip side, while photos of ‘the details’ are on trend, don’t be afraid to capture what you see … not just what your camera is capable of seeing. Shoot some pictures that look like what your mind will remember. There was a mackerel sky above. Your family was practically alone in the orchard that day. Some of the trees’ limbs were so heavy with apples, they had to be propped (this is a common sight in Northern California!). Forget about composition for a moment, and create a memory.



3. Embrace interesting light. There truly is no light like the light of an orchard. Rows upon rows of imperfect beams, lighting a golden path. A safe bet is to shoot from where the sun is behind the trees (this will depend on time of day, etc).


Enjoy the beautiful setting, and have fun!


Special thanks to NAPCP photographers Dana MacIntyre, of Defining Moments Photography (title and first image), and Sarah Lough, of Sarah Lough Photography (remaining images), for providing the photos for this post. For more from these talented women, and for booking inquiries, please visit their websites.

7 Tips for Capturing the First Day of School Photo, by Kelly Morra, of Kelly Morra Photography


1. Be ready! Have your camera charged and ready to go first thing in the morning. The first day of school is always hectic … don’t add stress looking for a memory card, or finding a dead battery. While you’re at it, have that backpack, lunch, and first day of school outfit put together the night before, too!



2. Find the light! Scout some good photo-taking spots the morning or two before the first day. Natural light is best, especially early in the morning. Avoid indoor lights by placing your kiddo near a window or in front of a door, if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Head outside if you can. Avoid harsh shadows if the sun is shining  — a covered front porch or the shade of a tree are great options. Don’t forget the garage … it never fails to have great light – even when it’s raining!



3. Keep it simple. Your child may be full of nerves, so simple is best. Breaking out the crazy props while waiting for the bus will not fly. First day of school signs are all the rage right now, but if you want that tradition to stick, you better find something simple your child will hold a few years down the road. You may also find your child has no interest in holding a sign (like mine!), so be flexible. You can always add text while editing.


4. Don’t rush. Give yourself extra time to capture these moments. Head out to the bus early if you want to grab some pictures at the bus stop. Set your alarm accordingly. Plan those extra minutes in the morning so you aren’t yelling, “Hurry up!” No child will happily pose for a picture if they’re being rushed out the door to do so.



5. Don’t forget the details! The details are the things so easily forgotten. Take the time to capture those. The backpack he spent weeks deciding on, the gap-toothed smile, and those shoes she HAD to have for the first day.



6. Be there, too! You are there, in the moment, experiencing this milestone with them. So capture that! Don’t leave yourself and the rest of the family out. This is a big day for everyone.



7. Give yourself permission to fake it. If you think your child (or you) will be extremely nervous on the first day, it’s okay to fake it. Do it the day before, or the second day. Heck, do it the third day! Nobody will know but you, and you’ll probably forget in a few years anyway.




We love everything about this post, Kelly! Thank you.

Kelly Morra is an on-location portrait photographer specializing in the fashion-forward tween and teen of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her exclusively tween project, Kids of Pittsburgh, can be found on Instagram with the hashtag #kidsofpgh.

For more from Kelly, and to contact her, visit her website, and Like Kelly’s Facebook page.

5 Tips for Photographing Children with Special Needs, by Caitlin Domanico, of Photography by Caitlin Domanico


As a photographer who also has a Masters in Education with special education certification, I have a lot of clients who come to me specifically because their child has special needs. As a teacher, I am very comfortable adapting to and supporting kids with all abilities, and that has translated into my photography pretty seamlessly.

Sometimes, it can feel pretty daunting to plan a photography session for a child with special needs. What if I don’t know what to do? What if I don’t know how to act? How will I communicate? How do I know what the child can do?

All of those questions and thoughts are completely valid, and I can assure you they are normal! If you really think about it, those questions are the same ones that pop up when working with new clients in general – we all get butterflies in our bellies from time-to-time, because we want to do our best, to work our magic with the camera, and ultimately, to have very happy and pleased clients!

Pre-Session Consultations are a crucial part of the photo session process. If you are not yet incorporating pre-session consultations, I beg you to consider them. Just a quick chat on the phone will most often suffice. It will allow your client to get to know you a bit, which will really help them feel relaxed at the session, and this is a great time to learn more about your clients, including any special needs or insecurities they may have.






1. Ask questions. Ask mom or dad if anybody has any special needs. If they say yes, ask them to tell you more. Ask if there are any ways you can better prepare yourself or the session location to make their child comfortable, including their likes/dislikes and levels of functioning. Just like typically developing children, many children with special needs love singing and songs, but sometimes, singing songs will over-stimulate a child with special needs, and will result in them having a tantrum/melt-down, so it is best to learn in advance if there are triggers or special things that make them happy. If a child loves bubbles more than anything in the world, then you had better believe you want to have bubbles at the session! Many children on the Autism Spectrum are uncomfortable with or even unable to make eye contact, so you will want to avoid asking them to look at you, and instead, ask questions (“Is there a cow on my head?”), put a sticker on your camera, and engage with them that way, rather than “look at me”!






2. Location. Consider the location choice carefully with mom and dad. If you have a child with physical disabilities, your location needs to be accessible. If your child elopes (runs away), an enclosed spot will be a safe place to have a session. Some children become overstimulated easily, and in that case, you will want to choose a session location that has little extraneous stimuli, or stimuli that you can control for the most part.





3. Take breaks. Recognize when a child needs a break. Plan for little breaks throughout the session. Encourage mom and dad to pack water and non-meltable snacks. Bring books/bubbles/and other aesthetically pleasing items to play with – avoid cell phones and tablets, as these are harder to transition from and may be detrimental to completing the session.






4. Educate yourself. Take some time to familiarize yourself with developmental milestones in the areas of cognition, socialization, language, and physical development. Once you have an understanding of them, you will be able to begin to understand where the child is currently functioning and respond appropriately. This is not to say you will be able to diagnose a child or know everything about them within the first five minutes of meeting, but being educated will help you throughout your session, and will help you avoid placing unreachable expectations on a child, which can lead to frustration or shutting down. You want to ensure all children are safe and comfortable during the session, so knowing the ways most children develop is very important.






5. Relax and have fun. Most children will model your behavior and attitude. If you are calm, laid-back, and positive, chances are, the children will be, too! Do not be afraid to fail. If you follow your regular approach to composition, and capturing the beauty of a family, you will be able to make strong images in which the child with special needs is natural, happy, and comfortable. If you are typically a portrait photographer who relies on very precise posing you may want to consider using a more relaxed/lifestyle approach, so that you do not box yourself in to one type of pose/set-up. Remember, beauty unfolds when families are allowed to act naturally – so let them snuggle, let them have a tickle fight, and capture those loving moments!






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