A lot of our previous wedding clients have recently become parents, which means our sessions have shifted from maternity to newborn photography. Photographing newborns can seem like an overwhelming field of photography to capture. Working with something as fragile and unpredictable as a baby can bring out anxiety in some of the most seasoned photographers. However, if you’re preparing to photograph a newborn baby (or are a new parent yourself), here are a few newborn baby photography tips to get you started!
Safety should always come first when it comes to newborn and baby photography; always 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 (two images merged in post-production). 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.
If you are doing the session in the client’s home, posed newborn sessions require nearly the same amount of prep as a wedding. You need quite a bit of “stuff” and it is easy to forget something, so pack the night before and use a checklist. Some of the items you pack should include:
* Camera and backup camera
* Formatted memory cards
* A few loud and funny kid toys (if there is a toddler that will be joining the session)
* Newborn posing beanbag
* Backdrop stand and clamps
* Space heater
* Step stool
* A Boppy pillow (for posing)
* Waterproof pads (to catch messes)
* Props (baskets, crates etc…)
* Big blankets for backgrounds
* Small swaddle blankets
Don’t focus on gear
You should be able to get amazing newborn and baby photography results with almost any camera and lens if you learn the proper lighting, creativity and camera angles. Though a professional camera will give you better overall image quality than an advanced point-and-shoot camera, most entry-level DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras will be sufficient for capturing great images of newborns.
Check your aperture
With newborn photography, many of the baby’s poses can have extreme angles and you’ll often have better luck with your depth of field and sharpness by shooting around f/2 & f/2.2. It will be rare that the baby’s eyes are on the same plane of focus all the time and by closing down the aperture, you’ll get that little bit extra of depth of field that is often needed.
Parents love to capture close ups of the baby’s toes, little bits of hair, pouty lips, etc. These close-up detail shots are not only adorable, but they are great accompanying images for photo albums. Because of the sensitive focus on a macro lens, the best time to get these images is when the baby is very still (in their deepest sleep).
Select the right time frame for the session
The best 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 to different poses. Also, consider taking your baby’s photos after his or her umbilical cord has fallen off (which is typically after about 5 days). The focus in this type of session is on shots of the baby looking perfect, usually in blankets, wraps, hats, & headbands. The session can last up to 4 hours with feeding, potty breaks and posing. When capturing lifestyle newborn photography, you’ll be photographing the wonder and amazement between the family members. Memories of this time-frame often become fuzzy for new parents and that is precisely why these types of shoots are so important.
A newborn baby has their 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, so be sure to plan sufficient time; your shoot duration will vary depending on the number of wardrobe changes and scene setups.
Keep your newborn comfortable
In newborn photography, you are generally going for two looks: peacefully sleeping and awake/happy. If the baby is uncomfortable, you’ll run the risk of them being fussy, crying and possibly causing a difficult time for everyone involved in the shoot. If your hands are cold, consider wearing gloves; if the room isn’t warm, use space heaters or heating pads. There are plenty of ways to make the area comfortable for your tiniest client.
Get your basic poses
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 start with the basics and move towards the more advanced photos just in case the baby gets too fussy and you have to reschedule/postponed the session.
If the baby has older siblings, make the sibling shots your first priority and then let them go play while you finish the session. Toddlers don’t have the attention span to sit quietly and wait for you to call on them for their picture, so get their poses done first while they are curious and excited about your visit.
Use creative props
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 local crafts stores. Consider incorporating the parents’ hobbies, culture, favorite colors or personalities.
Use window light & reflectors
You don’t need to get too fancy with the lighting, all you need is a large window for your main light and a 5-in-1 reflector to help fill in some of your shadows.
Your post production for newborn photography will generally be more light and airy than other types of photography. Consider using vignettes and black & white effects.
If you simply take your time and realize the miracle of life that is in front of you, you’ll be able to capture some amazingly sweet and unique images to document a loving, growing family.