Tip 8. Use Window Light and reflectors for Newborn Photography
The more comfortable they are, the easier they’ll be to shoot!
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.
You certainly don’t need to get too fancy with the lighting. All you need is a large window for your main light and a Westcott 5 in 1 Reflector to help fill in some of your shadows. Below is a screenshot of the setup we often use.
Newborn photography can seem like a scary field of photography. It’s one thing to photograph landscapes or pose adults who take instruction, but working with something as fragile and unpredictable as a newborn baby can bring out the anxiety in even the most seasoned photographer. Here are a few newborn (baby) photography tips to get you started.
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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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!
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.
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.
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.
You should be able to get amazing newborn and baby photography results with almost any camera and lens if you simply learn the proper lighting, creativity, and camera angles for newborn photography. Though a professional camera like a Canon 5K Mark III, a full frame camera, will give you better overall image quality than an advanced point and shoot camera like a Sony NEX, a camera like the Sony NEX will likely be sufficient for capturing great images of newborns. Below is a quick side-by-side showing images from the two cameras mentioned above with the Canon 5D Mark III image on the left and the Sony NEX image on the right. For more on this, be sure to check out our Newborn Photography Workshop.
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.
Allow the decor to add a unique story to your photo set. But of course, remember to keep them realistic and safe!
Introducing personal elements is part of what makes some of these creative props for newborns so great. However, guitars aren’t the most stable surfaces for newborns so a spotter is enlisted. With the camera on a tripod, the composition of the image does not shift. One photo is taken of just the guitar (left) and another picture is taken with the newborn on the guitar but with someone securely holding the baby in place (right).
With a little Photoshop magic, the images are merged and you have the composite image that you see in the first picture. (Above photos used with permission from Bree Franklin Photography).
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.
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.
Newborn Photography Tip #3: Pick the best timeframe for the shoot.
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.
Your newborn baby has his or her own schedule. When they get fussy, be sure to take your time and wait it out. Sometimes you’ll spend 3-4 hours on a shoot with the baby crying the entire time and finally, in the last 20 minutes, you’ll get everything you need. It’s not going to be easy and be sure to plan sufficient time or the shoot. Your shoot duration will vary depending on the number of wardrobe changes and scene setups, but in general be flexible. If you’re doing this professionally, consider charging per session, per image, or per scene rather than charging per hour.
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.
Take a look at this adorable picture below of a newborn and a guitar.
So any time you see a picture of a baby hanging from a branch or resting on a basketball or in any other precarious position, understand that the images should not be attempted without proper safety and composite techniques for newborn photography.
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.
Note: If you’re new to Photoshop and/or Lightroom, you can also consider outsourcing your post-production and retouching to companies that specialize in editing newborn photos.
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.
Creative props can be the difference between a professional photo and an amateur one. Newborn props don’t have to be expensive and you can find most of what you need at home or a local crafts stores. Other recommended locations are Beautiful Photo Props and Etsy. For ideas, consider incorporating the parents’ hobbies, their culture, their favorite colors, or their overall personalities. We came up with the concept below for Ellie because her mother used to live in Paris. For more inspiration and to see how this scene was shot, please see our Newborn Photography Workshop.
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.
We recommend planning your scenes using the website Kuler by Adobe. On there you’ll be able to find complementary and analogous color combinations that work well together. Being able to see the colors together visually prior to going out and looking for the props and backdrops will save you hours. On Kuler we arranged the pink and yellow combination you see in the left image below prior to searching for actual newborn props and accessories.
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.
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.
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.
Being creative is a large part of being a newborn photographer, but so is making sure you get the basic, must-have shots. You should always start with the basics and move towards the more advanced photos just in case the baby gets too fussy and you have to call off the shoot. Below are some of the basic shots you should get before introducing complex, time-consuming, and difficult photographs. For more info on Newborn Posing, please see our Newborn Workshop on DVD.
In newborn photography, you are generally going for two looks, peacefully sleeping or awake and happy. If the baby is uncomfortable, you run the risk of him or her being fussy, potentially crying, and overall causing a difficult time for everyone involved in the shoot. Consider wearing gloves if your hands are cold. Use Heating pads, and consider space heaters if the room is not nice and warm. For a full list of non-photographic accessories for Newborn Photography, see our Workshop.
Safety should always come first when it comes to newborn and baby photography. The list can get quite extensive for tips on newborn safety, but in general, use your common sense. Never bring in any hard or sharp objects as props. Never place your newborn on high or unsteady surfaces without a spotter. And realize that some of your favorite photos of newborns are actually composites. Below is an example.
For more newborn photography tips and tutorials, please see our Newborn Photography Workshop, a full guide to baby and newborn photography, teaching posing, lighting, planning, and post production for newborn photography.
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.
August 9, 2017newbornnewborn photographyphotography tips4247Views
Tip 10. Learn Proper Post Production for Newborn Photography
Your magic window for Newborn Photography is within the first 14 days of birth. Newborns are easiest to work with during this time because they are sleeping for most of the day. They are also the most easy to adjust during this time-frame. Consider taking your baby’s photos after his or her umbilical cord has fallen off (which is typically after 5 days or so).
Part 2 of our Newborn Photography Workshop covers post production and includes newborn photography presets.
Your post production for newborn photography will generally be more light and airy than other types of photography. Consider using fades, tasteful black and white effects. Also consider brushing up on advanced Photoshop techniques like Frequency Separation and other advanced retouching techniques.
Newborn Photography Tip #10: Don’t worry about the gear… much.
Though newborn photography may seem daunting at first, it’s like any other form of photography in that the more you practice the better you become. Take your time, be patient, and don’t second guess yourself. With the proper planning and research, some creative and personalized props, in addition to careful and safety-first execution, you should come away with at least a few good images on which to build your foundation. For more newborn photography tips and tutorials, please see our Newborn Photography Workshop, a full guide to baby and newborn photography, teaching posing, lighting, planning, and post production for newborn photography.
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.