A good rule of thumb for nice soft shadows and highlights is to have your baby angled such that the light flows from the top of baby’s head on down their body at approximately a 45 degree angle. Look for a soft shadow underneath baby’s nose to verify that you have this right.
Another tip worth considering for a little photo editing is to tweak the color of your shot.
Get Down Low – one key to many natural baby shots is to get down on their level. I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last week or two lying on the floor next to Xavier. It’s something I think we both enjoy anyway but it’s also a great place to use your camera.
Getting down low and getting in close (see below) does present some challenges in terms of focal length (I’m using a 24-105 zoom – usually at the widest focal length) but it means you end up with shots that feel like you’ve entered the babies world rather than you’re looking down on it from above.
Close Ups – another way to improve the angles and make your shots seem more intimate is to get in close by either physically moving in or by using a longer focal length. I’d suggest a longer focal length for the really close shots is better than getting too close as shoving a big lens in your baby’s face could freak them out a little.
Nursed Shots – some of the bests shots I’ve taken over the last month have been taken when people have been nursing Xavier. This puts him into a more upright position which makes him look a little more ‘human-like’ and opens up the angles for your photos.
Try a number of positions (over the shoulder, sitting him up, laying him back in arms, lying him on his tummy etc) as each one opens up different possibilities. Also remember that your baby is not the only potential subject – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends etc all can add context to the shot and you’ll appreciate having more than just baby by themselves shots later! 3.
A lot of shots that you see of babies in Flickr are quite amazing in how smooth and perfect they make them look. The reality is that many babies are not quite so ‘perfect’ (however much their parents think they are). Little scratches, sleep in the eyes, snotty noses, dried milk around the mouth, blotchy skin, birth marks and bumps etc are common for all babies.
Gabriel didn’t move an inch between these two shots, but look how different they are! The first was taken from the front as a nice close-up of his sweet little face and hands. In the second image, I walked around behind him, loved how the lighting looked, and took another picture from that angle. It ended up being one of my favorites!
Some things to consider shooting with your macro lens: noses, lips, eyelashes, ears, toes, fingers, belly buttons, hair, and fuzzy shoulders. Those details will change so fast as your baby grows and this is a wonderful way to preserve those memories.
I know firsthand how difficult it can be having photos taken of yourself, but please, hand your camera to someone else – your husband, an older child, or a friend – and get a few pictures of yourself with your new baby. No one cares that you still need to lose your pregnancy weight, or that you are tired, and don’t feel that you are looking your best – just do it.
The third trick probably goes without saying but make sure baby has a nice, full belly and is not hungry during your shoot.
Being outside in nature opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and creative freedom that you may not have shooting indoors. Bring along some simple props to place baby in and have fun! I have found that many babies tend to sleep more easily outside on a warm day than they would indoors in a studio setting.
You do not need any fancy studio equipment to get this right. Almost all of the photos I took of Gabriel were done either in my garage or in front of one of my living room windows utilizing natural light.
Related: 11 pictures to take of your baby in the first month
Please, for the love of all that is newborn photography, do not leave all of your beautiful newborn photos sitting on your hard drive. Print those babies out!
Another challenge with newborns is that they don’t tend to spend a lot of time smiling. In fact they don’t spend a lot of time doing anything much. Sleeping, feeding, pooing, crying….. is there anything else? Keep on the look out for those times in your baby’s life when he or she seems most settled and content. They may not smile yet but there are times in a daily routine which are better than others for photos. I find in Xavier’s day there are a couple of moments that are especially good. One is bath time (he loves it) and another is mid morning after he’s had half of a feed and when we let him have a little ‘play’ before finishing his feed off. These are times when we’re guaranteed to get wide open eyes and even a giggle or two.
Remember that you just had a baby! You need to take time for yourself to rest and recover from the childbirth experience, so please do not rush and try to do everything in one day. I have learned the hard way that this will end in exhaustion and frustration.
Most regular Digital Photography School readers are aware that a month ago I became a Dad. Our new son’s name is Xavier (you’ll get to know him over the course of this tutorial).
Experiment and have fun! When I was shooting Gabriel’s newborn photos, I kept my macro lens sitting on the table next to me so I could easily swap out lenses and snag some macro shots during each of our ‘mini shoots.’ I found this to be much easier than trying to get them all at once. If you have an extra camera body, you could leave your macro attached to it to easily grab those macro images as you go.
Don’t forget to document all of those sweet little details that make your baby unique! That little upturned nose, her rosebud lips, his crinkly little chin, those tiny toes and fingers – these are all things that you will not want to forget as your baby grows.
Look. Think. Click. Don’t Rush Into Taking Those Action Photos
In the days following birth it is especially difficult as babies tend to be kept swaddled in bunny rugs and all you end up seeing of them for 99% of the time is a little red head. Add to that the complication of the bumps, marks, scratches and misshaped heads that newborns also tend to arrive with and finding a flattering angle that will make more than just the proud parents ooh and aah can be difficult.
A challenge that I’ve faced is that it’s Winter here in Australia and that the lighting in our home is a little bleak. There have been a few brighter days than others when I’ve had some great results photographing him near windows in natural light – but in most cases I’ve needed to use a flash to some extent.
As photographers, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are more comfortable being on the back side of the camera, but it is so important for our children that we get in front if it once in a while, too. 🙂 My 14-year-old daughter, Calista, took this image for me and I absolutely love it!
In addition to having a warm shooting area, white noise does wonders for keeping baby asleep. I downloaded an app to my iPhone called ‘Sound Sleeper‘ which has a number of soothing sounds that you can play for baby while you are shooting. I would just tuck my phone underneath the blanket I was shooting on and it would keep Gabriel happy and snoozing!
Some of the sweetest and most endearing photos you can take of your new baby will be the ones you get with his or her older siblings. I set out a task for myself to get an image of Gabriel with each of his nine older brothers and sisters. I still have two to go, but I am getting there!
Instead of being invited into a home for one hour to do a photo shoot I’m presented with a never ending variety of opportunities to photograph our baby.
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While some may opt to hire a professional to photograph their baby, some of us are excited at the prospect of capturing our baby’s first days ourselves. My 10th child, Gabriel, was born on June 24th of this year, and I was determined to get some amazing photos of him myself.
These days go by so fast – before you know it, they’ll be heading off to school, learning to drive, getting married, and giving you grandbabies. I’m not even kidding! It seems like just yesterday I was bringing Clint home from the hospital, and now we are working on a driver’s license. It goes by in the blink of an eye!
I’m no lighting expert but have found that my best results have been when I’ve used my flash in a ‘bounce flash’ way – shooting it up into a ceiling so that it’s indirect. This diffuses the light a lot which leaves Xavier less washed out in the shots, and more importantly means he’s not blinded by the light from it (we don’t want to blind our little ones by our photographic obsession – I actually asked a pediatrician about camera flashes and his advice was that it wouldn’t do damage but that for a babies comfort that indirect flash (ie bounced and/or diffused flash) would be advisable. I’m sure different doctors would advise different things but I play it safe with my bounce flash – and avoid flash altogether where possible). It also gives a fairly natural looking shot.
Similarly you might also like to experiment with de-saturating the colors in your shots to a lesser extent than going black and white. Leave a little color in your shots and you’ll end up with pastel like images that again soften the feeling of the shots and give it a very different look and feel.
Older children may be able to hold their new brother or sister, while simple laying down poses are perfect for younger children. This will make your older children feel special and involved as well, which is always a bonus when there is a new baby in the house getting a lot of attention!
Whether you’re photographing for a client or for yourself, one of the things that can make or break a photo is your lighting. Think about the most natural source of lighting we have – the sun.
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Feel free to experiment – for more dramatic lighting and shadowing as in the photo of my husband’s hands holding Gabriel in the photo above, go for a more drastic angle. Have fun playing with different angles and perspectives, but do not, I repeat, do NOT up-light your baby!
You might like to keep a warm, wet face washer handy to wipe away some of these things but in some instances they will come out in your photos.
If your camera has a macro mode or if you’re lucky enough to have a purpose built macro lens use it to isolate a single body part (like a hand, an ear, a foot, a mouth etc) and use that as the complete focus of your shot.
Pictures on a computer screen are nice, but a huge 30×40 canvas hanging in the entryway of your home is even nicer. Trust me on this. 😉
I don’t mind them most of the time – I think they show your baby as he or she is and there’s nothing wrong with that. However at times they can be a little distracting and for those special shots that you might like to give as gifts you might like to do a little photoshop retouching. Most post processing editing tools will have some sort of airbrush or retouching tool – learn to use it, even if it’s just to smooth over the main marks and you’ll be amazed by the results.
Trust me. This will be a priceless treasure for your new baby as he or she grows up.
Contrary to what you may have heard about the first two weeks being the best time to photograph a newborn, it is very possible to photograph older babies in the ‘newborn style’ as well. I was still capturing Gabriel’s newborn photos when he was over a month old.
In addition to these three things, I have found that most babies (including my own) are much more cooperative and ‘lazy’ in the morning hours than in the afternoon and evening hours. Try to do your shooting between breakfast and lunch, and I think you will agree that this is the best time for most babies.
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Remember, time is on your side! Take it easy and don’t over-do it. If you pace yourself, you can capture an amazing variety of images of your sweet new baby.
Related: Less is More: Mastering the Minimalist Style of Newborn Photography
Babies change every day, especially in the first few months, it’s exponential and quite amazing to watch. However unless you’re looking for the changes you can easily miss them so it’s it’s important to take shots regularly.
The alternative is to crank up the thermostat in your house while you are shooting. Luckily, Gabriel was born during the summer in Arizona, so I didn’t need to do anything other than head to my garage. It was like an oven!
The pictures taken from your perspective, the mother who loves her baby like no other, are going to have a little something extra special about them. Just take it slow, and be sure to get a lot of rest. You just had a new baby. Enjoy your baby!
My newborn photography style is simple and organic with more natural posing, so this was not an issue for me. If you need help from someone, make sure that you ask for it. My husband has been an excellent spotter in the rare times that I’ve needed one. Remember that many of the more difficult looking poses and setups are actually composite images, and not created from a single image.
In addition to closing down, take that lens out of auto focus and try using manual focus. I had much better results with my macro using manual focus! Do not worry too much about your ISO. If you need to crank it up to avoid underexposing your images, do not be afraid of doing so.
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We all love newborn babies because they are cute and small (if only they stayed that way). As a whole they are cute but they also are made up of many little cute body parts that present a photographer with an array of wonderful subject matter – especially if you zoom in on them.
It is in the sky above us. Therefore, seeing a person who is lit from below is very unnatural looking. It is so unnatural looking that it is often seen in horror movies or to depict something frightening. We definitely do not want our baby to look like they belong in a horror flick!
Doing this accentuates the detail that is often missed in the shots many of us take – and you’ll find they punctuate your full collection of photos beautifully and can even make great feature shots.
When I had Gabriel, I would shoot for a short period of time using just one or two setups every other day or so. Not only did this keep everything low stress, but it allowed me to capture the subtle changes as Gabriel changed over his first few weeks of life.
One of the most common mistakes I see in newborn photography from pros and amateurs alike is improper lighting. If I had a dollar for every up-lit baby I saw floating around online, I’d be a very rich woman.
It’s great for dealing with the scratches, marks and blotchiness that I discussed above and significantly lessens the distractions that they bring. It is great for ‘birth shots’ or those taken just after it.
I’ve written about this before and we found that it really did work. It softens your shots somewhat. Babies are soft, cuddly little things and taking the color out in this way accentuates this.
Instead of rushing to change your setup or reposition your baby, try getting up and walking around your baby to see what unique angles you can photograph. Try walking behind your baby and shoot some pictures from the shadowed side – you may end up with an image that you love! Exhaust all of your different angles and perspectives before moving on to a new pose or setup. This is an easy way to get variety out of a single pose.
If you have a macro lens, now would be the time to pull it out of your bag, dust it off, and put it to good use. If you are having trouble getting the images you want from your macro lens, here are a few tips.
One of the benefits of photographing your own newborn is that time is on your side. Unlike shooting a newborn session for a client and having a 3-4 hour window in which to work and create a varied gallery, you have days – weeks even – at your disposal.
Secondly I guess I wanted to remind us all that having a baby is not just a photographic opportunity and that it’s important to put the camera down every now and again. If you’re anything like me you could easily walk around with your camera permanently to your eye and forget to actually enjoy the moment. Don’t just create wonderful images of your baby – create memories with your baby – balance is a great thing!
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Don’t give up though, all is not lost – here are a number of things that you might want to try to help with the above problems:
The newborn days are so precious, yet so fleeting. As photographers, we can appreciate how quickly these days go by and how important it is to capture all of the sweet details of our new babies, while they are still little.
I feel a bit hypocritical telling you this, as I myself have been absolutely horrible about printing my own images, but just do it. Do not wait to design the perfect wall display, or to choose the perfect picture. If you see a good canvas sale going on, just order something. You will love it – I promise!
Mastering Manual Photography starts 7/30 with Marissa Gifford
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This goes without saying, but please make sure your baby’s safety is the number 1 priority while you are taking his or her photos. If you are trying a more difficult pose or working with props, have someone there to help you and to spot baby.
Our baby is pretty predictable in terms of his daily routine (we seem to have got him pretty settled into one already somehow) but there are moments all day long that he does something cute, disgusting, funny and worth capturing. Without the camera handy you’ll miss these moments as they are usually fleeting. We tend to leave our DSLR in our livingroom where we spend most of our time with him but also have a point and shoot in the bedroom for other shots.
I’ve previously written about the topic of photographing babies and children from the perspective of someone who has had his services engaged to photograph other people’s babies – but the last month has presented me with a different opportunity – to becoming a digital camera wielding parent – a very different scenario.
I did get a few more ‘portrait’ like shots in that first week but then ended up being more activity based ones, often with other family members. On returning home and over the three weeks since I’ve continued to take the documentary style shots but have seen a move to take a lot more portrait style shots also. Quite a few of our friends have commented on the nice balance between styles.
Firstly timing your shots is important. Babies don’t move much but they subtly change their position and expressions in ways that can make or break a photo. I’ve had my camera set in continuous shooting mode since Xavier was born because I find that shooting a single frame often misses ‘the moment’. I’ve also ended up with some wonderful sequences of shots by shooting off three or four shots in a row.
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We’ve actually converted quite a few of our shots of Xavier into Black and White format. This has been useful for a number of reasons:
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Photographing your own newborn can be challenging but also so very rewarding.
While I had visions of taking lots of ‘cute’ shots of Xavier in his first week I found that what actually happened was that the first week of his life ended up being more like a documentary shoot. The focus of my shots ended up being of a lot of ‘firsts’. First moment with Mum, first bath, first time on the scales (he was just under 9 pounds), first outfit, first manicure (he had long nails from day one), first time meeting grandparents etc. I ended up taking a picture of him with every visitor that came (these will make nice gifts) and decided to leave the ‘cute’ shots until when we got back home and he’d settled a little more.
I am an on-location photographer and most of my work is done in the great outdoors. Who says you can’t take a new baby outside, too?
Related: 6 ways to photograph a newborn after the first 10 days
Bringing a new baby into your family is one of life’s most amazing and wonderful moments!
I would love to share with you some tips and ideas to help you create beautiful images of your own baby and to make this experience an enjoyable and stress-free one for the both of you.
I have friends who took hundreds of shots in the first few days after their baby was born but who didn’t take any shots again until he was 6 weeks old. They realize just how much he’d changed and how much they’d failed to photograph him until they compared their early shots with the 6 week shots.
Weather permitting, take your baby out of the studio and into nature – you can get some amazingly beautiful and unique newborn photos this way. I get bored easily and was definitely over blankets and beanbags, so my husband and I took a little drive and did a few images of Gabriel outside. They are definitely some of my favorites!
Close down a bit – when you are working as close-up as you will need to be to do a macro shot, shooting wide open will give you a very small depth of field. Unless that is what you are going for, try closing down to f/5.6 or even further.
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One of the biggest challenges in photographing babies that I know many of my friends struggle with is finding a good angle to shoot from.
What am I doing with all of Gabriel’s newborn images? I am making an epic baby album for him, of course. I cannot wait to order it and have it in my hands! There is NO substitute for the actual finished product for you and your family to enjoy.
There are a few simple things you can do that will ensure a happy baby and a productive photo session. The first is to keep your shooting area warm – really warm. I have successfully used my quartz infrared space heater that we use to heat our bedroom in the wintertime, but any small space heater will do.
If you don’t have a bouncable flash try bumping up the ISO setting on your camera and increasing the aperture setting – this will mean you won’t need to use the flash at all if there is at least some natural light in the room. The other strategy would be to diffuse the flash a little by putting some tissue over the flash.