Newborn Photography Gear and Accessory Guide (2021 Update)
Newborn photography is a fun and rewarding field of photography that also does not require a lot of photographic gear. Generally, you just need a decent camera, a couple of prime lenses, and beautiful window light. The real challenge you’ll likely face is posing the newborn and keeping the mess to a minimum. Your experience and know-how will do much more for you than the gear. That said, we will use this guide to share our recommendations on newborn photography gear, as well as useful accessories and props that can help you have a great newborn photo session.
Newborn Photography Gear and Accessory Guide
How Much Newborn Photography Gear Do We Need?
When it comes to camera gear, just about any modern digital camera within your budget is capable for capturing beautiful newborn images. In fact, you can actually get through an entire newborn session with only one camera and 2-3 lenses. Because we typically photograph newborns between 7-14 days old, they do not move around much. As a result, we don’t need some of the sophisticated features offered in higher end gear. Although advanced pro functions like state-of-the-art AF tracking and high burst rate are not as critical in newborn photography as they would be within other fields, however, we still recommend getting gear you can grow with, so long as the budget allows.
Much of our newborn photography gear, like lighting and props, can be improvised on location with open windows and available furniture, blankets, etc. To help you develop a specialized arsenal of newborn gear, however, we’ll share our favorite tools and accessories.
Let’s get started.
Whether you opt for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with either a crop-sensor or full-frame sensor, the biggest determining factor will probably come down to cost. You’ll find that full-frame camera bodies typically cost more than crop-sensor cameras. Even within full-frame cameras, for example, price points vary based on available features and functionality. If you’re curious about the technical difference between these two types of cameras and how each sensor type will affect your photography, check out this article we wrote on the subject.
At the end of the day, you won’t need the latest and greatest camera body for newborn photography, but I would recommend getting the best you can afford. If you want a camera to use for also shooting other genres in a professional capacity, such as weddings, that’s all the more reason to go for a model with more bells & whistles. Just remember that you probably won’t use the majority of the advanced functions, however, when photographing (mostly) sleeping babies. Instead, you’ll likely spend more of your money on lenses.
If you want to check out our other camera recommendations, you can read our other photography gear guide.
DSLR Camera for Newborn Photography
Canon 5D Mark IV
As a full-frame DSLR the Canon 5D Mark IV is a great piece of newborn photography gear because of how well it performs indoors and when shooting with higher ISO. Its 30.4 MP full-frame sensor produces ample detail and the 61 AF Point Selection system will help ensure your newborn photos are tack-sharp. On top of its other features, the dual memory card slots (1 CF card and 1 SD card) gives you instant, redundant backups to keep your files safe. You can also use the camera’s wifi-capabilities to instantly load an image to your phone, apply a quick preset in LR Mobile, and share teasers with your clients on the spot.
This camera’s reputation as a high quality, go-to workhorse for a variety of photography genres is well-earned. As you can seen in our review of the camera, we consider this to be one of the last of the DSLR titans. The D850’s 153 AF points (vs. the 5D Mark IV’s 61) will allow you to lock in focus pretty much anywhere in the frame, and its 45.7 MP full-frame sensor produces images with extraordinary picture quality. As a photographer, you will definitely have room to grow with this camera, whether you plan to stick to newborn sessions or take on a host of other genres.
Mirrorless Camera for Newborn Photography
Canon EOS R
If you already own a DSLR and are looking to jump into the mirrorless game, this is as good a camera as any to do it with. If you already have an arsenal of DSLR lenses, you can purchase an adapter to save yourself from having to reinvest in new glass. Speaking of investments, the EOS R boasts the same 30.4 MP full-frame sensor as the 5D Mark IV, but it’s less expensive, which will no doubt appeal to your wallet. In addition, like all mirrorless cameras, the EOS R’s absence of shutter noise makes this a quieter option to use around sleeping newborns, a factor you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever woken a baby with noisy shutter clicks on a DSLR.
Nikon Z6 II
Although newer to mirrorless world, Nikon has wasted no time in creating quality, affordable mirrorless cameras. The Z6 II, which we’ve reviewed in depth, has been touted for the high quality images it is capable of producing as well as for its user friendly design. This camera’s dual card slots, incredible in-body stabilization, autofocus capabilities, and more make it a great newborn photography camera as well as nearly perfect mirrorless camera overall, and all for under $2k.
Sony Alpha a7 III
This camera packs all the punch you need from a newborn photography camera. In fact, you can use this camera with confidence across multiple genres. As a mirrorless, it’s lighter than most DSLR cameras, it’s rated very well for low noise at higher ISO settings, and it features image stabilization, which pretty much always comes in handy. This isn’t the newest or oldest Sony mirrorless out there, but it still holds its own and strikes a nice balance between price and functionality.
As for lenses, because a newborn is generally not moving around too much (which we mentioned above), we usually recommend using prime lenses and macro lenses. Primes can produce higher image quality and shallower depth of field than zoom lenses. For each lens & focal length listed below, you can find other makes and models at different price points. These three represent our go-to’s, which we’ve arranged here in order of focal length, from widest to tightest.
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
With an effective focal length of 35mm on full-frame cameras and 56mm on APS-C (crop-sensor) cameras, this fast and versatile lens delivers amazing detail with plenty of dreamy bokeh. The wider focal length works well for shooting in tighter spaces or just capturing more of the environment. You might be tempted to take advantage of its minimum focusing distance (the shortest in its class at .28m), but I recommend backing off the subject a bit and keeping them centered in the frame to minimize lens distortion, which is commonly found when shooting closer up at wider focal lengths.
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART Lens for Canon EF
- Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S NIKKOR
- Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
The Canon 50mm f/1.2L prime lens is one of Canon’s most versatile professional prime lenses. With a very bright maximum aperture of f/1.2, you can easily create very shallow depth of field with soft and buttery backgrounds that help separate the subject from the background and give that “cinematic” or professional look.
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART Lens for Canon EF
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR
- Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 G Master Lens
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens
Because newborn photography can involve close up details of tiny hands and feet, it is also a good idea to invest in a macro lens. The Canon Macro 100mm f/2.8L not only provides excellent images throughout its aperture range, but it also has Image Stabilization (IS) to minimize camera shake.
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Canon EF
- Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro NIKKOR Lens
- Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens
When it comes to lighting for newborn, you really don’t need much more than a very nice window light. Although you can use studio strobes, we generally do not use strobes for newborns because they can be extra sensitive to the flashes. Instead, we prefer to use soft (and free) window light.
The good news is that this means that you really do not need to invest in a lot of photographic accessories. In fact, the only really “must-have” item on our list is the pop-up reflector.
Wescott 301 Photo Basics 40” 5-in-1 Reflector
A pop-up reflector such as the Wescott 301 Photo Basics 40” 5-in-1 reflector is very useful when it comes to working with natural light. It is very cost effective and easy to carry around when folded up. We typically use the semi-translucent white interior fabric to diffuse the light and also the white cover to bounce a fill light and open up the shadows.
Light Stand and Reflector Holder
Although it is preferable to have an assistant hold your reflector for you, there may be times where you will be working by yourself. This is where a light stand and a reflector holder are useful to have. The reflector holder simply attaches to the light stand and then holds the pop-up reflector in place.
Just be sure to weigh down the light stand with either a sand bag or something similar that way it does not tip over.
We love working with a variety of patterned cloths to textured faux-wood backdrops for our shoots. With a backdrop stand, you simply clamp one end of the backdrop vertically unto the cross beam of a backdrop stand and lay the other half of the backdrop on the floor.
And if you are planning on doing a lot of newborn shoots, there really is no reason to not have a backdrop stand to easily and quickly set up a backdrop wherever you like.
Clamps are super cheap and will allow you to affix any type of cloth to your backdrop support stand. We recommend having 4-6 clamps with you. You can pick these up from a local hardware store, as well as from Amazon.
Here is a short list of accessories that come in extremely handy during newborn photography sessions. They will not only help your shoot run smoother, but more importantly they will keep the mess to a minimum.
A box of baby wipes is not a recommendation, but a must have. When it comes to having newborns around, it is not “if” they make a mess, but “when,” so be sure to have the wipes within arm’s reach during the shoot.
When posing for nude baby shots, we will often use the puppy pad under our newborn up until that last moment that we are ready to shoot. You can imagine how much mess it will help catch and prevent.
In addition, whenever you are posing the newborn over layers of cloth, it is always a good idea to place a puppy pad underneath the first layer. That way if the baby does have an accident, then only one layer of cloth will be affected as the puppy pad will prevent it from soaking through multiple layers.
Newborns are very prone to catching colds and doctors even encourage parents to keep the newborn away from public places for 6-8 weeks. So, it is important you and your assistant keep yourselves clean and sanitized throughout the shoot.
Periodically stop to wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer to kill bacteria each time prior to handling the newborn. One important note is to make sure you get “hypoallergenic” hand sanitizer that is scent-free as newborns have very sensitive skin.
Keeping a newborn warm is one of the most important parts of your shoot. In addition to the dangers of getting sick, your newborn will be unhappy and unwilling to sleep and pose if he or she is too cold. While turning up the heat in the entire room is an option, it can make everyone else in the room uncomfortable.
So if you are frequently shooting newborns, you are better off getting a space heater that can keep the newborn posing area comfortably warm.
In addition to a space heater, we typically use a heating pad below the blanket that the newborn is resting on. It is also a good idea to have 1 or 2 heating pads on hand to keep the posing area warm. Again, just like the space heater, after you set up the heating pads, be sure to test it out to make sure that it isn’t too warm for the baby’s skin.
We generally leave the heating pad on the lowest setting as a newborn’s skin can burn easily, and it is better to err on the side of cool/warm as opposed to warm/hot. Also, be sure to keep the heating pad underneath the padded cloth layers and never in direct contact with the baby’s skin.
Cotton or Microfiber Gloves
For those of you that have cold or clammy hands during a shoot, we highly recommend that you get a set of cotton or microfiber gloves. Nike’s thin microfiber running gloves have capacitive finger tips, which meant that you can still use a touch device such as an iPhone, iPad or android device.
They are only around $23 bucks, so if you plan on doing a lot of newborn shoots and have cold hands, it is a great solution.
Recommended Posing Tools and Props
In addition to the photography gear and newborn accessories, there are posing tools and props that can further add to the production value of your shoots. Many of these items can be substituted with items found around the house, but if you are shooting newborn as a profession, it is a good idea to invest in these tools and props.
Whether you use something that you found lying around the house or buy your props, props can add a lot of production value and interest to your photograph. Get creative, but remember to always be safe. Don’t use buckets or baskets that may have been used to store something that could potentially irritate the baby’s skin. Remember that the baby always comes first.
Our favorite source when purchasing newborn props is Beautifulphotoprops.com. They have a wonderful selection of safe props and clothing specifically designed for newborn photography. Beautiful Photo Props is also invaluable for ideas and inspiration because with most of their items, they give you professional examples of what photographs look like using the respective item.
Keep in mind that if you are on a budget and you have a creative bug, you can make your own props which are completely unique to you and your style. But, again, you do need plenty of time and you also need to be quite good at crafting.
Blankets, Cloth, and Backdrop
Textured and decorative blankets are a newborn photographer’s best friend because they are going to be the base or foundation for most of your shots. The key is to have a variety of textures and colors.
Additionally, be sure to have spare blankets in the case that one or two of your blankets become unusable due to baby mess.
A good place to purchase several blankets and cloth is your local fabric store. For any accessories or cloth that are going to be worn or be in direct contact with the newborn we like to go to boutique newborn clothing shops that specialize in newborn props simply because we don’t have to worry about the materials being safe.
We also recommend to avoid shiny blankets that have strong sheen-like appearances as they reflect a lot of light and can create distracting hotspots in your images.
Small pillows are useful for posing and propping up newborns. Although most people will have regular-sized pillows around the house, they may not have these small pillows, so be sure to have a few of them for your kit.
Bean Bags or Posing Cushion
In addition to pillows, bean bags and posing cushions are wonderful little posing tools. If you don’t have any bean bags or cushions, pillows, blankets or even bath towels will also work. Bean bags are the most versatile because you can mold them into different shapes to support the newborn’s pose. Bean bags and posing cushions aren’t a must, but they will definitely allow you a bit more creativity and flexibility in posing. A great place to visit is BellaBun.com.
Foam wedges are a great little posing modifier because they are firm yet soft and easy to insert when you just need to slightly modify a pose. Having a 1-2 foam wedges aren’t a must, but they can definitely help out in modifying a pose when needed. Again, small pillows, towels and other objects can also be used in place of a wedge, they don’t always provide enough support.
When you are posing a newborn inside of a bucket, basket or other container, it is imperative that you weigh down the container so it doesn’t tip over. Although just about any type of weight will work, we love using love using ankle weights because they are fairly inexpensive, are covered in fabric, and can lay flat in the base of the container.
Standard dumbbells or metal weights create uneven surfaces and have exposed metal which are very cool to the touch, both of which can cause the newborn discomfort. With the ankle weights, all you have to do is place a couple ankle weights flat at the bottom of the container and cover it with a cloth.
I hope you enjoyed this newborn photography gear and accessory guide. While newborn photography gear can potentially include several items, you really only need a few things to get started. One of the most important investments you can make when jumping into this genre, however, is your education. When photographing newborns, it is imperative that you work safely and keep the baby’s well-being top of mind at all times.
You’ll also want to learn to work efficiently. Newborns have similar needs and tendencies, but each is unique, and the control you have over the session is minimal when it comes to the baby cooperating. Still, there are techniques and workflow tips you can use to keep the session moving. This will ensure you capture a good amount of deliverable photos. To dive deeper into learning how to photograph newborns, check out our Newborn Photography Workshop, which is also part of our Premium Subscriptions. The workshop covers pre-shoot planning, lighting techniques, posing tips, editing instructions and more in 8 hours of video instructions.