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I am a sucker for newborn props. A quick glance at the photos of my studio, my blog posts, or my shopping bill will easily prove this. My personal belief is that each newborn has a different personality – yes, even at that age – and that each parent has different desires and dreams for their newborn.
I hope you enjoy this book, and that it can serve as a guide for you to hone your own craft of newborn photography. It has been a labour of love, and all my greatest wishes stem from a desire to strengthen and unite the photography community.
There is a certain joy in newborn photography that is unlike any other. It’s the baby’s first professional photograph, the expressions are uncontrolled, and the bliss of the photograph comes purely from capturing the innocence and cuteness of a baby. And they are really cute, aren’t they?
First, I’m a natural light newborn photographer. I will use a continuous lighting system in my studio on the darkest of days, but 99% of the time the only light in my photos is coming from that big fiery ball in the sky. Speaking of studio, I exclusively shoot newborn sessions at my in-home studio space. I’ve converted one of the bedrooms in my home to my shoot-space. You don’t need a huge studio for newborn photography – my small 10×10′ (3×3 meters)room with two windows gives me enough natural light and room to do everything I need to do.
For best results, combine it with the “Prop” pose, like a baby in a wooden bucket. Now, I might sound like a broken horse but that won’t stop me from saying this again – when you pose the baby in a prop, make sure that there it is stable so it won’t tilt over, and always have an adult sitting very close by to quickly take action, in case it does.
It may seem for a moment that compared to those above, this pose is relatively ‘boring’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The side poses offer considerable opportunities to customize, with the color of the blanket matched to baby’s skin tone, to dressing the baby in a wrap to contrast with the blanket, and caps/hats/crowns/pants/skirts to make the little one seem as special as he or she truly is.
Using the clone tool, the blend tool, and creating/manipulating layer masks in Photoshop, you can create exactly what you are after in a “look”. Digital Photography School has some basic Photoshop tips that are fabulous!
Before I dive right in, I want to give you some insight on my background and techniques, so that you can evaluate your style compared to mine, and make adjustments to my tips to suit your photography.
In the end, you’ll need to decide what your style is, and what you want your photos to look like. My style includes editing out the skin imperfections on the newborns, but leaving certain features on macro shots (like skin flakes, birth marks, some baby acne, etc.), but there are others in my area that leave the images as they are, with very little touching up. It’s up to you. If someone has hired you, it’s because that person loves your images and the way you edit your photos – stick with it, or try to appeal to a different base.
Photo one (left) holding the baby’s head for safety. Photo two (middle) holding the baby’s head from below for safety. Photo three (right) the two combined to make it appear that the baby’s head is resting on its hands.
This means, having the right room temperature. Not a temperature that feels good to you and the parent(s) but one that helps the little one feel the most comfortable. Remember, s/he is in her/his birthday suit; we aren’t (and thank goodness for that). We will cover this in our next post.
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There’s a reason babies are called “Bundles of Joy”, and this pose goes to prove that name. You wrap the baby snugly yet carefully in a wrap on a blanket or a flokati rug, or both. Each provides a different texture and feel to the photograph. Hands can be in or out, although the latter is a bit more tricky. You can go with what feels natural but more importantly, safer for the baby. Caution: this is very much like swaddling. So if you are a parent, it might bring back memories of that time in your baby’s life and the sleepless nights. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Like I’ve stated numerous times already, MAKE SAFETY FIRST! Natural poses are also safe because there’s very little risk involved if the baby twitches or moves spontaneously. While the baby is posed naturally, I’ll also snag some macro feature shots of the baby’s unique features like their cute little noses, tiny feet and toes, and the adorable little lips they have. Posing the baby naked, or swaddled with blankets, is something that you’ll decide, hopefully after a conversation with the baby’s parents to see what they prefer, and what photo theme they want.
About the Author: Hi, I am Harshita of Avnida Photography. After earning two Masters of Science in Computer Science and spending 5 years writing code, I gave in to my real passion; photography, especially of newborn and kids. Trained by the top 10 photographers in the country, I love capturing the experiences of life, and the love in everyday moments through my lens. Join me on Facebook or Google+ in this journey to encourage me, share ideas and teach me new things.
Second (and Equally Important) – Ensure the Newborn’s Comfort.
Here’s a tip – you don’t need a massive studio with a huge backdrop to create gorgeous images from far away. Take the example before/after photo above (sans newborn baby) – some minor editing and blending can create fabulous images you’ll be proud of. Just search for some floor/backdrop fading tutorials online for details and step-by-step instructions on how to do it.
The best solution for interacting with all parents is to make sure they’re properly informed before the session begins. Reassure them that their baby’s safety is your number one priority, go over your process with them, and make sure you openly communicate about their baby during the session. This will help ease any concerns a nervous new parent may have.
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I LOVE natural newborn poses, and I try my best to capture the precious little miracle, and show how they are naturally. I do own a newborn posing beanbag (which I highly recommend purchasing) that has curves, allowing me prop the baby up, or lay them down. There are literally hundreds of guides on the internet about how to pose a newborn, so I won’t go into the different specific poses and setups here. However, I will go over the basics, and get into some more in-depth and technical aspects. If you have no idea how to start posing a baby, start with those guides before you ever (read: ever, ever, ever) actually take photos of a newborn!
I would love for you to share this post using the social share buttons and please comment. I’d love to hear what you think and also if there is any category of newborn poses you know that is drastically different from those mentioned here.
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A hungry newborn will cry and root, sometimes shaking their heads back and forth and opening their mouths (kind of like a fish) as they look for a food source, i.e. Mommy. Another symptom of being fussy can stem from being cold. Look for tiny goosebumps on their skin to see if they’re too cold. The newborn baby may also be gassy, which can be tough to detect many times, but usually happens in a delay after a feeding. Sometimes it feels impossible to detect what may be causing the baby to be upset. I’ve found that often this is due to the newborn being just slightly uncomfortable or restless. You can calm a a fussy little one by doing some very soft rubs on their forehead or back, or some very light taps on their bottoms. Every baby is different in what they like so it may take some trial and error.
P.S. – If you prefer to edit in Lightroom, Pretty Presets for Lightroom just released their fabulous Baby Bella Newborn Workflow which includes tons of presets and brushes – everything you need to edit newborns in Lightroom!
You WILL eventually run into a fussy baby at times while posing during the session. It’s pretty rare to have a newborn that gives you no issues at all. That being said, you can prep the baby beforehand to increase your chances of successful posing. I always ask the parents to plan a feeding right before the session begins. Full belly = a happy baby most of the time. However, this isn’t the be-all-end-all solution for some newborns. I’ve been affectionately called the “baby whisperer” by many of my clients because I can typically sense what the baby wants, but I do so by using cues that the baby provides.
Another aspect of preparation for photographers working with clients, that isn’t talked about as much, is preparing for newborn parents. As a photographer myself, I have met hundreds of parents who are swelling with pride for bringing life into the world, but who are also completely exhausted. I offer my clients coffee when they arrive to let them know that this is a haven for comfort, and to trust me because I know what they are going through.
As a natural light photographer, I don’t typically manipulate the light in too many of my photos in Photoshop. I’ll make some tweaks here and there, but my biggest adjustments are typically associated with skin smoothing (although I also do some touching-up in post-processing). Slightly overexposing images helps with smoothing the baby’s skin, and shooting in RAW can help you correct any exposure or color issues along the way.
Here are some great tips to keep in mind when you prepare for the session:
You’ll also run into two types of parents while photographing newborns: “hover” parents and “passive” parents. Hover parents may clutch and grab for their baby at the slightest sign of a whimper (which is natural human instinct, by the way), and it can impede your ability to take great photos for them. Passive parents are typically those that are the opposite of hover parents, and I’ve found are usually associated with parents who’ve had multiple children and are pretty laid back about the whole process.
And last, but certainly not the least, the “We are a Family” shot. To be 100% accurate, this really isn’t a pose but rather a setup. For mom and siblings, it’s either in the arms or lying down next to each other, with their heads touching. For dad, it is holding the baby in the arms, or if he has really good ink (which is awesome for a photographer), I like to incorporate that into the newborn photographs. After all, it’s all the unique things that make up a good memory.
Alternatively also called, “How-Kim-Kardashian-sleeps-comfortably” pose. It helps the photographer strike three birds with one stone: capturing the newborn’s facial features, the cuteness of wrinkles/baby fat, and the natural curvature of a baby’s bottom. However, you need to keep this in mind: even though this is a very cute and innocent pose, some parents might not be comfortable with it, especially for little girls. So suggest it gently and watch the reaction to move forward with posing the baby.
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Warm it up! I close the door to my studio and use a space heater in the corner to warm the room up to about 80-85 degrees F (26-29c). This is usually a great temperature to keep the baby happy, especially if they aren’t swaddled.
Be sure to give any clients a heads up about the warmth, and suggest they bring light clothes for themsleves. Wash your hands. Take every precaution not to spread germs, especially for a newborn with a weak and developing immune system.
Do NOT wear jewelry. I always take off my rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. While the likelihood of your jewelry falling off is low, it’s not a zero chance. Keep it simple to keep the baby safe.
Avoid fragrances. While a newborn’s vision and hearing senses are not too keen, their sense of smell is very sensitive. Don’t wear perfume/cologne, fragrant lotions, or strong hand sanitizers. This can upset the baby quickly.
Try to create some white noise. Having some white noise can dull any thuds, shuffles, or the sound of the shutter on the camera that may otherwise wake a baby. My space heater serves to not only provide heat, but also gives me plenty of white noise.
You may want to consider an app on your phone if the space heater is too far away, or too quiet. Get all your props, backdrops, blankets, etc., ready before you take any photos. The less you have to move the baby to set up a new shot, the better.
The goal of photographing a newborn should be to capture the innocence and beauty of the child. That means capturing those cute, pouty lips, or little hands under the chin, the flexibility (some call it squishiness to make it sound more cute) when wrapped, the wrinkles or baby fat that is normal and healthy for a baby, and finally extending the personality of the baby by incorporating props. In today’s post, we will focus exclusively on 8 key poses, keeping baby’s safety in mind.
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By the way, this last line should explain my ‘shopaholic’ attitude to buying props, as I also have a large collection of hats, pants, caps, tutu skirts and headbands in my studio.
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There you have it. Eight poses that make up a big part of how we, as newborn photographers, capture memories for families for a lifetime. Now to prepare for the cake smash session!
If you like this post, I would really appreciate if you would share the link to it. Why? Because I’d love to hear comments from as many folks as possible. It benefits all of us to hear different perspectives and learn something new.
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The classic, the evergreen, THE newborn pose. They should probably name the frog pose “The You-Have-To-Do-It-Newborn” pose. It highlights the baby’s facial features and flexibility. Legs by the side, and hands placed under and cupping the chin. But definitely not for an untrained photographer. Safety of a baby is always paramount, and most photographers (I hope) do this as a composite like shown below. Get this pose right and be on your way to impress your clients.
Over the years, I’ve learned some insightful tips from interacting with parents, to posing newborns safely, and also my philosophy when it comes to editing. I want to give all of these tips to you, to hopefully fast-forward your newborn photography aspirations and take you to the next level.
And if you’re feeling frustrated when it comes to newborn editing or you feel like you just haven’t found something that matches your style or if you just want to save more time when editing newborns in Photoshop — you must try the LUXE Newborn Complete Workflow Photoshop Action Collection, you’ll be so happy you did!
While I prefer to naturally pose the baby, I will also do a few “risky” shots for variety, and that artistic touch. I put risky in quotes because these photos would be completely unsafe normally, but with composite editing in Photoshop, you can merge safe images together to create the artistic illusion you may be going for. Classic examples of this would be the head propped on hands photo (see above picture), hammock photos, or anything where the baby is perched on some object. By the way, you should never do these photos in one take – use the composite route! Just do a quick Google search for “composite newborn images” for step-by-step instructions on how to pull this off.
This pose is also known as the “Womb Pose”, that is comfortable for the baby. The Taco pose is one of the few poses that offers the benefit of showcasing the facial expressions as well as the cute little hands and feet.
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As the name indicates, the baby is posed on the his/her side, most often the right side. The hands are under the chin, and may be joined together. The difference between the two being the depth of the pose; see newborn photograph examples below.
From the family of “chin on …” newborn photography poses, like the hands on cheeks in the “Side Poses” or the “Tushy Up”, this one has led to some of the cutest moments in my studio.
Props are an excellent method to extend that personality into the physical realm, and to incorporate the parents’ desires into the newborn photography session. So, ignore those who act like purists, take names and do not ever apologize for using props. Who doesn’t love a cute newborn cowboy, a little princess in her carriage, or a newborn flying in the clouds?
A Guide to Newborn Photography – Preparation, Posing and Post-Processing
Whether you’re a photographer inviting newborns and their parents in, or you’re a parent yourself trying to capture beautiful images of your baby, the steps for preparation are virtually the same.
Newborn photography is, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding (and difficult) branches that a photographer can get into. I’ve shot numerous hectic weddings where I was physically exhausted afterwards, and had lifestyle sessions where nothing went right, but nothing has even come close to the process involved when taking photos of a precious newborn baby!
Safety is my absolute number one priority for taking photos of newborns, which I’ll talk more about later in the article. It scares me how many pros and amateurs alike don’t make this step important. While on my soapbox, if you don’t make safety an absolute priority, then you have NO business photographing newborns. Whew – I feel better now.
However, it is not easy to photograph a newborn. After conducting more than 100+ newborn sessions, my personal perspective is that there are two primary reasons why this is the case.
You could say that Froggie and Tushy Up also give this combination of three (face, hands and feet) but as I said earlier, the former requires significant expertise to perform safely, and the latter might not be preferred by all parents. As such, the Taco pose which is relatively safer – you still need to be careful as with all poses – should definitely make it into the portfolio for every parent.