When I first started taking on clients, as a new photographer I thought newborns would be my favorite. They seemed so easy, lying around, ready to be molded into any pose I desired, nothing to it. Fast forward five years and hundreds of dollars later, they are still my favorite, but I’ve wasted a lot of money, sweat, and tears trying to figure out how to do it correctly. If you are just starting out, either with new clients, or your own baby, this article is for you, before you throw away a lot of money.
Last year I read a photography article called, Less is More. It opened my eyes. It struck me that the baby is the art, not the props. The props will probably date your photograph (have you seen the photos that are black and white except for a red rose in color?). But a baby, on a simple background, with only the simplest of accessories, will be stunning, because of the baby. That is why I’m here to tell you, save your money, especially if you’re just starting out. You can achieve phenomenal photographs of babies with only the very basics, and it’s so much easier than trying to fit her into that basket while trying to keep her asleep!
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If you’re interested in having a newborn as your subject, you can follow the “10 Days Rule.” This means your baby should be 10 days old at most, but the ideal age is 5 to 10 days old. During this short time frame, babies spend most of their days sleeping and curling up like they did in their mother’s womb. After two weeks, the babies start to stretch and become more active, so it can be a little more difficult to make them pose in small baskets and beds.
I remember when I first began photographing newborns one of the very first errors I made was how I used my light. I was prepped with the blankets and heat and lessons on posing, but … I faced the beanbag and baby right at the window! What resulted were flat-light, very one-dimensional looking images.
The more comfortable they are, the easier they’ll be to shoot!
It helps to have an experienced baby photoshoot photographer or assistant who knows how to carefully move the baby into a variety of comfortable poses without waking them up or having them fall over. It’s also important to make them feel snug and warm at all times. You may want to have a space heater near the baby and play soft music (or even white noise) to help keep them sound asleep.
I am so thankful to Courtney for letting me write for her on this fabulous site! Especially because she said I can write about newborn photography! This is certainly a passion of mine, and I love to chat about this genre of photography any chance I can get. Mostly because with each conversation, new tips and bits of knowledge can be gained … for the photographer just starting in this specialization to the seasoned professional.
The one thing that you can expect from a baby photoshoot is that you can’t always expect it to go smoothly. In many cases, babies take a while before settling and falling asleep, and they may even take a dump in the middle of a shoot. And since having diapers on can ruin some of the shots, the baby will most likely be naked, which can result in some truly messy situations.
Having been a Newborn Photographer for 2.5 years now, I know that there is so much to know in order to have a successful session. And I should mention; a successful session, to me, isn’t just a beautiful gallery. It is a session in which the baby sleeps well, the parents are relaxed, and we all leave the session feeling excited about the entire process.
Once you’ve gotten that establishing shot of your newborn and the setup, get close or use that zoom lens to capture little details. Take photos of the baby’s tiny little fingers and toes, or maybe even those long eyelashes. If you’re lucky, you might even catch the baby smiling in their sleep. The baby’s parents would love to have photos that show just how tiny their baby’s feet and hands were at the time, so you may want to incorporate some props for size comparison. For an added artistic touch, keep that aperture wide open!
Good luck, and remember it’s the baby you’re trying to capture, not the props. Don’t forget those long eyelashes, those tiny toes, and those perfect pouty lips.
Newborn Photography Tip #3: Pick the best timeframe for the shoot.
The stack of blankets help the baby to sink down a little bit if you want her to, and I also bought a stack of white washcloths from Costco, that I bring with me to roll up and stick in between the blankets and the baby to get her propped and curled exactly how I want her. A boppy (feeding pillow) under a blanket may be a good way to get some of the poses you want, and I’ve found that if you can’t use a boppy, another good option is a neck pillow like you’d use on the plane. I actually prefer that to the boppy because it’s small, and perfectly sized for a baby’s body, so it helps keep the baby propped in place if you lay her on her belly with her arms and head resting on the pillow.
I know you’re thinking “but doesn’t that only come with experience??” To a point, yes … but so much can also be achieved through watching videos, studying poses, taking classes or mentorships, and asking tons of questions on your favorite photography forum. I gained so much confidence before my very first session by watching a video of a well-known photographer working with a newborn.
Of course, last week I forgot to load it in my car for a newborn session. I got to the house and realized it was missing. They didn’t have any ottomans of their own, so instead I pulled the two large bottom cushions off their couch and stacked them on top of each other. For both the cushions and the ottoman I layer multiple blankets on top of each other. In between the blankets I have a few layers of waterproof sheets that are leftover from my own children, and a heating pad. The multiple layers of blankets make it soft and pliable, and the top few layers are the various backdrops I use to photograph the babies on, so I just keep removing layers for the different backgrounds (see below).
There’s absolutely no reason not to include the baby’s parents and/or siblings. You may want to suggest and encourage their participation, in case they didn’t think of it early on. Having a young brother or sister with the baby in the photo can make the sweetest portraits. Photos with the parents can be traditional, or they can try holding the baby in different positions for added drama.
And then again a day or so before the session, send reminders for what the parents can do to prepare for their experience and what they can to to ensure it is the best experience possible.
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August 9, 2017newbornnewborn photographyphotography tips4240Views
Newborn baby photography may sound like an easy feat, but for those who have actually tried it, it’s usually one of the scariest, most difficult tasks that any photographer has done on the job. After all, unlike adults, babies obviously don’t follow instructions and handling small and fragile babies require utmost care and experience.
Many newborn photoshoots take 2 to 3 hours to complete, and you won’t be able to take your winning shots until the last half hour. For this reason, many parents go for photographers who charge per session instead of on a per hour basis.
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Newborn Photography Tips: Keep them safe and comfortable. Use safe lighting. Pick the best timeframe for the shoot. Plan your poses. Create an adorable setup. Move in closer. Involve the family. Be flexible and patient.
Be confident and assuring. Don’t mind the gear… much. Newborn Photography Tip #1: Keep them safe and comfortable.
I hadn’t yet grasped that the direction of the light, when hitting the subject is very important! Angling thing beanbag set-up and positioning the baby at an angle to the light source creates soft shadows which add critical depth to an attractive portrait. Also, I most often keep the baby’s head toward the light, to achieve shadowing I prefer.
First of all, you need something to put the baby on. If you are working on posing the baby (versus lifestyle photography which requires no posing), you need something that is slightly malleable. Many professional photographers buy expensive beanbags, but you don’t need that. I actually use a leather ottoman we have here in our house, and when I do sessions at client homes I bring it with me.
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Keeping babies safe at all times should be the number one priority. Remember, these are tiny infants who have not been out in the world for too long. They have little to no control over their own bodies and have fragile skulls and bones. It’s not uncommon for them to be propped up on tiny bassinets a couple of feet above the ground, but the props should always be weighed and tested so they won’t tip over or fall once the baby is placed on it.
I had a fake wood floor that was made of paper so I also had a pull out shelf from our armoire that was big enough to support the fake floor on the carpet. I had heaters, and backdrop stands, and so many blankets and backdrops they over took me. Every time I read an article about a photographer and what gear she used to get ONE specific photo, I would hunt down those items for myself. They mentioned she used rolled up receiving blankets under the baby’s head? Fire up Amazon, I need to get myself some of those. When would I be satisfied? I wanted to spend money on lenses, and photography classes, but I was so sure one more prop would produce the most amazing baby portrait, so that’s where all my money went.
I like a continuous look for my backdrop, so I use the same material under the baby and stretch it up to create the background behind the baby. I own a stand that I bought for the purpose of holding up backdrops (or you can make your own), but you don’t need one of those. Invest in some heavy-duty clips, and you can pin up the material or blanket to anything above the baby. I’ve used bed frames, chair backs, stepladders, tables, etc., it’s just a matter of looking around you to see what will work. When I’m at a client’s house I pull stuff from all over the house to use during the session. I always put it all back the way I found it, and no one has ever had any issues.
But I’ve also found that warming the spot on the beanbag where they will be posed is incredibly helpful too, particularly on the first blanket I’m working with. A heating pad works great for this!
In regards to blankets, I have learned how much I benefit from layering many blankets on my beanbag, in the order I want to use them and clasping the entire stack to the backdrop stand. I benefit during the session from doing this because it makes the transition from one blanket to the next extremely quick and fluid, and during post-processing because the layering helps make the blankets a lot smoother.
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Make sure to physically, mentally, and emotionally prepare yourself for the photoshoot—and bring along a huge pack of wet wipes while you’re at it.
To sooth the baby while posing, I have found that a very loud ‘SHHHHHH’ goes a long way! I hold my warm hands firmly on their body, often one on their head and the other on their tush, and say ‘SHHHHH’ in their ear. Sometimes I have to raise my ‘SHHHH’ to an awkwardly loud volume, but it helps greatly in calming when they start to stir. And speaking of ‘holding’ … when I mold the baby into a pose I don’t just get them there and then snap the shot. I will keep my hands on them as I feel them relax into the position.
I hope that some (or all!) of these tips will help you toward your goal of successful newborn sessions, as much as they’ve helped me!
I started out working with a teardrop shaped beanbag that I cinched on the bottom with a rubber band to make it more full and solid feeling. But ever since I purchased a puck-style beanbag and filled it with a couple extra bags of bean my posing has become so much easier. The wide, flat work area lends itself perfectly to posing in order to see the baby well and working more easily with their legs, arms and face, rather than battling with them sinking into a too-soft, too-small, beanbag.
Also, explain why you suggest these things … why is a pacifier helpful at the session? Why should the baby be given a very full feeding right before, kept awake for a bit prior, and then photographed in an 85 degree room? A well informed client is a trusting, relaxed client and that goes a long way toward a successful session.
Newborn photoshoots can be pretty unpredictable, so it’s best that you plan the poses ahead of time. Collect samples or pegs of newborn poses on your phone or tablet. Or, for an even easier time, hire a professional baby photoshoot assistant who has had experience in handling babies and making them do a variety of poses.
However, if you ask any professional baby photographer, it’s always best to use ambient lighting. Go for natural light, like soft sunlight coming in from a nearby window, or indoor lights that can be modulated to your desired lighting. Constant white studio lights are also good options, so the newborn’s skin looks less red and warm.
In addition, when stuffing rolled up cloth diapers under the blanket to properly pose the baby, it really helps to stuff them all the way under the bottom blanket for a very smooth, not lumpy, look. In between those blankets? Lay down a potty pad! And lastly regarding blankets … thick, textured blankets are just so much easier to work with in post-processing because they are not as prone to wrinkles.
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This is mainly a tip for handling the parents. If the parents aren’t included in the photo, it can sometimes be hard to keep them away from the set. They might constantly want to be around and be stage parents (literally), especially when the baby starts crying. It’s your job to make them feel comfortable and to let them know that you’ve got this. If you haven’t done many baby photoshoots yet, take the time to educate yourself with tutorials, videos, workshops, and poses. Learn how to handle babies, especially newborns. You’ll have a much easier time once the parents feel that their newborn is safe in your hands and in front of your lens.
So I mentioned lifestyle photography. It’s something that is becoming ever more popular. Essentially, it’s about capturing photos without posing the family too much. Of course you will set the scene. You might move some furniture around, lay a blanket on the ground, and tell the family members where to sit or stand. But beyond that, you let them sort of do their thing. The photos are natural, realistic, and lovely. But I think lifestyle alone is not enough when we’re talking about newborn photos. Of course they are easier, and require almost no additional props at all, but most people want at least two or three posed photos of the baby alone.
Just seeing how she handled the baby opened my eyes to what was possible with posing a sound asleep newborn. I also observed a number of soothing techniques that have proved to be so helpful … so much so that I wish I knew of them with my own babies! True, there is nothing like true, hands on experience, but studying and watching other experienced photographers work can prove invaluable.
I not only want this for each and every one of my own clients, but for every Newborn Photographers’. I’ve studied, practiced and learned a lot in the past several years and am excited to pass on to all of you, five tips that positively changed my newborn photography experience.
I figured to get the cutest newborn portraits I needed lots of hats, bows, blankets, and baskets. Then I needed colors that worked for boys, and ones that worked for girls. I bought tiny cribs, and big wooden letters to match the baby’s first initial of his or her first name. My house was so cluttered with photography gear we weren’t able to house our guests in our guest room, and I’m not even done.
7 Tips for Photographing Newborns without Becoming … 5 years ago
Depending on the size of the window, intensity of light and distance of the window to floor, I generally keep my beanbag around 3 feet from the window and my set-up at about a 60 degree angle to the window.
Then again, if you want to have more control over your output, you may want to invest in quality lenses that have been proven to be useful in newborn photography. As for your flash, you’ll only need to find an external one and maybe an accompanying diffuser so as not to disturb the sleeping baby.
But personally sending them details about the age range you prefer for the newborn, where the session will take place, the length of the session, environment temperature, and your hope for the parents during the session, starts your trek toward accomplishing the shared goal on the right foot.
I can’t emphasis enough how important this is, even though it seems so obvious. Your goal for the session is the same as theirs, but they don’t often know what it takes to accomplish that goal. Right from the point of their first inquiry, inform them of your approach to your sessions. Likely, this information is readily available on your website or blog.
Typical newborn poses include having them on their tummies, propping their heads on their arms and elbows, or allowing them to just lie comfortably on their backs. Some babies are easy to move while others are just happy with curling up into a ball. The key here is to never force the baby to do a pose that they’re uncomfortable in and to always support the head, neck, and body when changing their positions.
I only shoot on black, white, and cream. I have gotten away from colored blankets, but that’s my choice. I used to have colored blankets as well, and you may still want that, but don’t buy the expensive options off of etsy, use blankets you already own. I do recommend neutral colors though because bright reds, pinks, and greens can cause colorcasts on baby’s skin.
Allow the decor to add a unique story to your photo set. But of course, remember to keep them realistic and safe!
Now for the accessories. Again, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on this stuff, and believe me, it’s easy to rack up a pretty big bill once you start purchasing. My favorite backdrop is a stretchy knit fabric that when smoothed over my blankets, has no wrinkles. I bought it at a craft store. I also bought an extra, smaller piece of the same fabric to wrap the babies in. I love the continuous look. But if you don’t want to buy anything at all, look around – you probably have some scarves, shawls, or small baby swaddling blankets you can use. I’m not a huge fan of big bows, but I do like small tiebacks. You can purchase one of two of them, or make your own with some twine and pretty beads.
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Once you start looking around at what you already own, I bet you can find many different options for positioning, backdrops, and wraps. To add some variety you can purchase some scarves, head ties, or small pieces of material at the fabric store that won’t set you back a lot of money, but will bring the needed variety in your photos.
It’s true that more professional cameras can take higher quality photos and help you achieve your exact desired image. However, you don’t have to worry too much about having just a point-and-shoot camera or even a good smartphone camera. Many professional photographers have attested to the fact that lower-end cameras are also capable of capturing super adorable newborn photos, as long as you have sufficient (and safe) lighting for your subject and setup.
Basic photos of just the newborns make very adorable portraits, but many now prefer to dress them up in the most adorable clothes or with just a couple of accessories and have them pose (or sleep) in a very creative setup (or two!). Props are often included to add a super cute touch to the overall image. Go ahead and seek inspiration online, or ask the parents for their desired output.
More little details that make a huge differences in my sessions! We all know that heating the space you’re working in is crucial … I have my space heater going the whole time and if I’m not sweating, I know the baby isn’t warm enough.
Babies have very sensitive eyes and cannot be exposed to harsh lights until after several months. When shooting baby portraits, photographers shouldn’t be using pop-up flashes. External flashes are a much better option, as long as you let the light bounce from the ceiling and keep the power low enough to avoid blinding the baby or waking them up.
Newborn Photography Tip #10: Don’t worry about the gear… much.
During this time I may be shushing into their ear, while still adjusting the pose slightly or smoothing a blanket with a free hand. But whether it is a finger that keeps wanting to curl under or a foot that wants to pop out, holding the newborn in place will comfort them a great deal and bring the pose into perfection.
This week on dPS we’re featuring articles all about different kinds of people photography including portrait, event and travel photography. See all the previous ones below, this article is the last one in the series.
However, it can be also be one of the most fun and fulfilling projects for any photographer. Here are a couple newborn photography tips that will help you—and the baby—have an easier time on set.