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.
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).
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.
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
The Side Pose for Babies
The Tummy Pose for Babies
The Small Details
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.
[Rewind: Check out our Newborn Photography Props and Ideas]
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.
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.
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.
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.