Newborn Photography Tips for Great Baby Photos

Ask SLR Lounge November 4th 2013 8:11 PM 15 Comments

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.

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.

Tip 1. Safety First for Newborn Photography

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.

Take a look at this adorable picture below of a newborn and a guitar.
baby-photo-tips

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).

newborn-photography-composites

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).

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.

Tip 2. Don’t Focus on the Gear for Newborn Photography

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.

newborn-photography-equipment

Tip 3. Keep Your Newborn Comfortable

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.

Tip 4. Select the Right Timeframe 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).

Tip 5. Get Your Basic Poses First for Newborn Photography

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.

The Back Pose for Babies

newborn-pose-back

The Side Pose for Babies

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The Tummy Pose for Babies

newborn-pose-tummy

The Small Details

newborn-poses-closeup

Tip 6. Get Creative Props for Your Newborn Photos

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.

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Tip 7. Use Color Coordination in your Scenes

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.

newborn-photography-colors

Tip 8. Use Window Light and reflectors for Newborn Photography

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-lighting

Tip 9. Be Flexible and Work With Your Newborn

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.

Tip 10. Learn Proper Post Production for Newborn Photography

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. Part 2 of our Newborn Photography Workshop covers post production and includes newborn photography presets.

newborn-photography-presets

More Newborn Photography Education

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.

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Hanssie

About

Hanssie is a Southern California based wedding and portrait photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, shakes hands and kisses babies for UNDFIND and is the Managing Editor of SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures as a single gal “In The In Between.” Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssietrainor.com. Email her at:
Hanssie@slrlounge.com

15 Comments

  1. Kimberly

    Great article! These tips are very helpful and will use them in my next sessions.

    3
  2. Faby

    hey
    i have a question for u…i ve saw in one of your photos that the photographer has a glove :)
    i ve been searching for gloves to wear in day time for years
    can u tell me pls
    what gloves are that ?
    thanks and thanks again for your cool advices

    2
    • Christopher

      I’m not sure of the exact product link but they are running gloves purchased off of amazon … As long as they are touch screen compatible and soft, you should be okay

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  4. Chris

    Thanks for the tips, I will be shooting a newborn later this month after the mother delivers :)

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  5. Anthony

    Definitely safety first, agree. The problem I have with most newborn photography, especially with props is that they all look alike. I could take photos from 20 different photographers and put them up and I couldn’t tell you which one is the signature look, their style. I am not sure I found the solution, but I just focus on the baby interacting with the parents, and if props are brought it in, they have meaning to that family, not some basket or luggage I brought. Still am working on my own style for that, but just a point I wanted to share and see other folks’ take. Thanks.

    3
    • Christopher

      I think there is definitely some truth to what you are saying. Much of the “issue” (though I don’t think it’s an issue at all) stems from the need to satisfy clients and produce images that they want. The result is that many images do tend to come out very similar.

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    • Nico Socha

      That is soo true, I try to avoid this. Nearly every baby photo looks similar in aspect of the props. Be different is a good approach.

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  6. Nico Socha

    @Anthony: Here this is from my last shooting but he was not a newborn but I think that is not so typical like every second shooting (Ihope so).

    http://nicosocha.com/uploads/shootings/aziz/finals/03_FINAL.jpg
    http://nicosocha.com/uploads/shootings/aziz/finals/04_FINAL.jpg

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  8. Sociable

    What’s your feelings/experience of using flash when photographing newborns?

    2
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  10. Paul Blacklock

    Babies are so cute :)

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