[Editor: if you’re using a crop sensor camera, a 50mm lens will give you a similar focal length to an 85mm lens on full frame. Affordable options here include the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM or Nikon 50mm f/1.8G.] Tip #22
Try to keep speaking around the newborn, so they get used to your voice and it doesn’t startle them to hear a stranger so close to them. Keep your voice low and calm, newborns are very sensitive to noise.
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Spend a few minutes chatting with the parents before you get started on the day, to help them relax and feel comfortable around you – calming any of their nerves will really help you take the best photographs.
Ask the parents what time of day would suit their emerging routine best. Newborns tend to be happier in the morning, so that’s usually a good time for their portrait session. Avoid their witching hour at all costs, towards the late afternoon – it can take hours to settle even the calmest newborn at the end of the day.
Responding to the newborn during the portrait session Tip #9
Consider how old the newborn will be at the time of the newborn portrait session. Studio photographers often want the baby in the first week, but for home sessions the first two weeks is generally fine.
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I use a Canon 5D mark iii which has an almost silent shutter – the difference between that and the noise of the Canon 5D markk ii‘s shutter is quite remarkable.
As with any portrait session, the most important element is preparation – feeling comfortable with your game plan and with your clients will go a long way to making sure you capture those precious moments beautifully.
I encourage all parents to feature in one way or another, even if it’s just their arms being in shot holding their baby. When that little newborn is an adult, it’ll mean so much to them to have photographs which also show their parents.
Certain shots are easiest when the baby is asleep: close-ups of their tiny toes, for example, are much easier when a baby is sound asleep than when their little legs are wriggling around.
Look after the parents when they are with you. Provide drinks and snacks, and comfortable seating. Mum will be sore and they are both likely to be exhausted.
I prefer to photograph newborns 7 to 10 days after they’re born, when parents have had a chance to settle into their new life but the baby is still definitely in the newborn stage.
Guest post by family photographer Louise Downham | www.louiserosephotography.com
Are you planning to photograph the parents as well as the newborn, and any siblings? Will there be any other family members present – grandparents are often in the wings, for example.
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If a newborn is irritated by hunger, you’ll never get them settled – let the baby feed till they’ve had enough, and you’ll have a much easier job on your hands.
You are selling emotions. That is really the bottom line with newborns. The parents are melting with wonder and love at their new baby, and emotions are running their lives completely. If you can build a relationship with your clients that taps into their emotions, and leaves them feeling that you can truly relate to them and their baby, they will be more inclined to not only book you, but trust you.
Capturing these moments is a great privilege, and if any kind of portrait session deserves to be nailed, it’s the newborn photography session!
A more economical option for a portrait lens is the Canon 85mm f/1.8, or if you’re a Nikon shooter, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8.
A Guide to Newborn Photography – Preparation, … 3 years ago
I hope you find these newborn photography tips helpful – see what works for you and don’t be afraid to experiment.
The short answer is yes. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at photography, because the skills required to be safe and of a good standard as a newborn photographer are really very different than anything you have done before. If you decide to become a wedding photographer with no training, the worst that may happen is you let down a couple on their big day. As bad as that could be, no one will get hurt.
Have in mind a loose shot list of the photographs you plan to take. Will you approach the newborn portrait session as a lifestyle session, or will you give the parents guidance and suggest certain poses or set-ups?
My favourite lens for newborns is the Canon EF 100m f/2.8L – the close-up details from this lens are beautiful (and it’s also great as a portrait lens).
Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools in this genre. Mums talk, and will recommend you if they came away feeling that their baby was safe, respected and adored. The testimonials that will get you more bookings will not be the ones where mum says the pictures are good, but rather the ones where she gushes about how lovely the experience was while with you.
Photographing newborns has to be one of my all time favourites. I absolutely love seeing a family in its first weeks, the complete adoration the parents feel and their amazement that they’ve created a tiny little human.
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The more you photograph newborns, the more you’ll get a sense of how you want to go about this.
Cover the essentials – is there anything the parents are particularly looking for from their newborn portraits? Have they seen any photographs that they particularly liked?
[Editor: whilst Nikon doesn’t have an equivalent 100mm macro lens, the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 DI SP does a fine job – they also do a version for Canon here too.] Tip #20
A cheaper option for close-up shots is using an extension tube like this one with a 50mm lens – the results aren’t as gorgeous, but it does the job pretty well.
New parents can be completely consumed with amazement at their newborn – you may not be offered a drink for hours! Take a bottle of water with you just in case as your concentration levels will start to dip if you get thirsty.
All professional photography involves a multitude of skills and newborn photography is no different, with one very important exception. It is the only area of photography that involves the photographer being completely responsible for the safety and welfare of the subject – the baby. As a newborn photographer you will hold, comfort, soothe, pose, wrap, and often even feed and clean up after your subject, even with the parents present.
Bear in mind that some newborns have a natural tendency to turn their heads more to one side than the other – it’s easier to move the baby around if you find they keep ending up looking away from you.
First things first – always, always, always wash your hands before handling a newborn – they’re so vulnerable to germs and illness, you want to be as clean as possible just in case.
I’d recommend that you get as much experience with newborns as you can to increase your understanding of how a newborn might react to certain situations. There’s also reams of information on newborn development available online – spending time absorbing these articles is time very well spent.
Sleep isn’t the only issue that dictates though. Newborns are gorgeously squishy, floppy and bendy under ten days old, which, coupled with being sound asleep, makes them perfect for gently posing into those adorable positions parents love. Much after two weeks and they begin to gain muscle tone, which means they lose the flexibility that makes such posing possible.
For group shots with a newborn, a 50mm lens such as the affordable Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM (or Nikon 50mm f/1.8G) is a good choice, as even if the family’s home is small you’ll usually manage to fit the whole family in.
Keep it simple. Training will show you the basic equipment you’ll need, like beanbag and backdrop stand, as well as a small selection of throws, hats, headbands, and wraps. The most important area for your development as a newborn photographer will be developing safe handling of the baby in your early months. The confidence in posing takes time, and that is where your focus should be, not on having all the props and the biggest selection of hats. What will set you apart as a top newborn photographer will never be the amazing set up you design – it will be how good your posing is, and how comfortable your baby looks in the images.
Bear in mind the hormone crash that mums will go through on day 4 or 5 after the baby is born, and the fact that newborns will often suffer from baby acne and digestive issues from week 2 for a couple of weeks, and will often launch into cluster feeding from days 11 onward as they prepare for a growth spurt.
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Talk in a way that shows their baby means almost as much to you as he does them. Ask them lots of questions about their baby, and life since his arrival. New parents can talk all day about their baby, so showing he interests you will really endear you to them. Use emotive language on your site and Facebook page. Rather than saying “I like doing baby shoots” say “I simply adore capturing images of beautiful, squishy babies!”
[Related posts: Tips on photographing children and the best cameras for kids] Newborn Photography Tips for a Baby Photoshoot
If you’re leaning towards more lifestyle photography, a wider lens like a 35mm is great as you’ll get more of the interior in without too much distortion – just don’t photograph people at the edges of the shot or they’ll look enormous.
So in summary, I would suggest you take your time setting up as a newborn photographer. Research good training, and consider that in this area especially, you get what you pay for.
If you’ve spent time around a new baby, the constant nappy changes and feeds won’t come as a surprise – and you won’t be panicking that all the time is being used up with bodily needs, you’ll have seen how there’s a window of calm after all the excitement – that’s the moment you’re waiting for to really start photographing in.
Parents vary wildly as to whether they’d like more photographs of them all together as a new family, or mostly photographs of their newborn – some parents don’t even want to be photographed at all.
So that covers not doing a session too late, but you need to know why doing it too early isn’t good either. Newborns don’t usually look their best after birth, and it can take time for their faces to settle. Also, feeding needs to be established because until a baby is feeding well, he won’t sleep well. My advice would be don’t do a session under 5 days of age.
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[Editor: affordable 35mm lens options for full frame cameras include the excellent Canon 35mm f/2 IS or the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED, reviewed by me here. If you shoot Fuji, check out these Fuji lenses to find the equivalent one for you.
] Baby Photography Tips | Final Words
Make some suggestions as to what the parents might wear. New mums might prefer a loose T-shirt as it’s more flattering for baby weight than tight breastfeeding tops – word this suggestion carefully though, as no one’s more sensitive than a new mum!
Don’t try to move the baby until they’re in a deep sleep – when their bodies have become very still and their breathing is deeper. If you move a newborn in a light sleep, they’ll wake up!
I learnt many of these tips for photographing newborns the hard way – on the job! I’ve photographed over a thousand children now and am very in tune with babies’ moods and habits, which really helps keep a session calm.
I ask parents to take their watches off beforehand, as it’s so distracting having a big watch in the shot if you go for a close-up of a newborn lying in the parents’ arms. You don’t want to do this in the moment as a watch will usually leave a mark for a good few minutes till the skin settles.
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When selecting a camera for newborn photography, choose as quiet a shutter as you can – a noisy shutter close to a newborn’s face is likely to wake and startle them.
[Editor: Whilst newer dSLRs like the Canon 6d mark ii offer a silent shutter mode, using one of these mirrorless cameras with a completely inaudible electronic shutter is a much better option.] Tip #19
If a baby is starting to fall asleep, wait a minute or two so they fall asleep properly – even on silent mode, a clicking shutter can be enough to disturb that snooze.
For more on newborn photography and business see these articles:
This guest post on newborn photography tips is by award winning family portrait photographer Louise Downham.
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Newborns are delicate and must be handled correctly. They can suffer circulation problems, are poor at regulating their temperature, and cannot tell you when they are feeling uncomfortable, which means they are relying on you to take care of them at all times. The correct training will teach you safe handling techniques, how to spot signs of baby not being happy for many reasons, as well as general safety and other important areas.
Over the years, I’ve developed a set of tricks that help me get the most out of a newborn portrait session, and here they are.
Newborns are also sensitive to touch, and temperature – make sure your hands are warm before you touch a newborn, or you’ll startle them and quite likely make them cry.
It is because of this difference that it is so specialized, and requires the right set of skills. Not having those skills is about more than the risk of poor images – someone’s safety is at stake.
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[Editor: if you’re using a crop sensor camera, a 35mm lens will give you a similar focal length to a 50mm lens on full frame. Affordable options here include the Canon 35mm f/2 IS or the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G] Tip #23
The average session is 3-4 hours, and you will soon realize why when you have done a couple of your own. The session is taken up by everything BUT taking photos. When I do a session my camera is in my hand for less than ten minutes the entire time. The session will involve settling, cuddling, reading baby, soothing for sleep, and gentle posing. They baby runs the show, of that there is little question, and as each baby is different, so is each session. Try to rush it and clock watch, and you’ll put yourself under huge pressure, and babies pick up on stress, which could cause you to have an unsettled baby on your hands. As a general rule, most newborn specialists will do just one session a day.
You’ll likely end up in all sorts of strange positions getting just the right angle for a tiny newborn, so wear clothing that you’ll feel comfortable moving around in and stretching.
And of course, if you have an illness, postpone the session – the baby’s health is the top priority here.
So having decided it’s for you, you’ll have a huge number of questions. Here I aim to answer some of the biggest, and most important ones.
If you have children, you may well remember that newborns sleep a lot, at least through the day, and seem able to sleep through pretty much anything too. But that changes really quickly, and by week three babies are waking more easily, and spending more time awake each day. You cannot pose a baby that is awake, so a sleeping newborn is what you need, meaning you need to aim for under two weeks, and under ten days is even better.
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I follow the newborn’s lead – if they’re awake and settled, that’s when I suggest taking a family portrait. Different photographers approach this differently – many studio photographers, for example, request that the baby has an enormous feed beforehand to induce a big long sleep, for example.
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Get some experience with newborns first before photographing one – they’re quite different to young babies, and need a lot more attention!