You’ve seen the shots before: a newborn baby lies snuggled on a fuzzy blanket, legs tucked into belly, a knitted hat on the head, or perhaps a crown, a tiara, or a baseball cap sporting the family’s favorite team. There is no end to the creativity and beauty that can be captured from a newborn baby.
So What Does “Newborn” Mean Anyway?
It’s recommended that posed newborn shots (like those mentioned above) be taken within 2 weeks of birth because this is the time frame when a baby is most tolerant of being placed into position, and babies under this age still sleep almost all day. While newborns do sleep a lot, they also eat often and require frequent diaper changes. So allow yourself and your subjects flexibility during the shoot. You should plan to give yourself anywhere from 3-5 hours (or more), just in case baby is not too keen on cozying into what you consider to be the comfiest blanket you’ve ever laid eyes on. Natural shots, like those where the baby is being cradled in the arms of a new mom or dad, are usually more relaxed and typically don’t take as long. In these shots, the baby can be up to about 6 weeks old, and can be awake or asleep. The idea here is to just capture the baby with his or her family, in the arms of parents, resting in a sibling’s embrace, or against the fur of a friendly pet.
Always (Always!) Take Extra Precaution When Shooting Newborn Photos
While newborn babies are quite flexible, and can be positioned in ways that would make an adult’s joints seize up, newborns are obviously also very fragile. Be overly cautious and extremely gentle with the baby, being careful to always support the head and bottom securely. Do not try to hold your camera and the baby at the same time. If possible, try not to touch the baby at all, unless specific permission has been given by the parents. Talk about your plans in detail beforehand (you may even want to write them down and have the parents sign a simple form stating what you’ve talked about), so that parents know exactly what to plan on. To help keep the baby comfortable, maintain a warm temperature in your studio or use a space heater, and let parents know to dress accordingly. You might consider wearing mittens on your own hands to help minimize any temperature change when holding the baby. This session is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, since in the first two weeks of life, time flies by and more time will likely not be found to retake photos. Be flexible, honest, sympathetic, and excited along with your clients. Have an assistant present while you photograph because newborns are unpredictable, and you may need an extra set of hands, even if just to hand a diaper to mom or dad or to clean up a pile of spit up.
Expect The Unexpected
Newborns are unpredictable. Be prepared for the surface to get soiled. Invest in a waterproof mat to place underneath any blankets or other things that a newborn might rest on.
What Kind Of Gear Do I Need?
One thing is for sure: babies come with a lot of stuff. That’s why moms love minivans and Amazon Prime. For your photo shoot, a Boppy nursing pillow will come in handy for propping up the baby’s head (place it underneath a blanket so it is hidden.) Also, a posing beanbag, like this one from Posey Pillow will help to provide an adequate surface for the baby to rest. Then, there are props. While many parents probably have their favorite outfits, blankets, and accessories, you should also provide some standard elements. Headbands with oversized flowers and bows, large bead necklaces, tiaras, baseball caps, ties, soft blankets and rugs with lots of texture like shaggy rugs, crates and baskets, metal barrels, or a little red wagon are all great props. Again, talking with the parents about what kind of look they are going for will help you determine what kinds of props to gather and bring.
Let’s Talk Poses!
There are many things to consider when choosing poses for newborn photography. First, get to know parents and find out what want from this photo shoot. Do they simply want a beautiful photo of their precious sleeping baby? Are they musicians who want the baby to lay in an open guitar case? Do they want their baby girl to look like a princess, in a tutu and a crown, with pearls and lace surrounding her? Are they avid readers who would love to see their baby among a river of books? You should also consider the season: if shooting in the summertime, a baby with sunglasses, on a picnic blanket with a basket of goodies nearby might be perfect. An autumn newborn might be propped atop a large pumpkin or placed in a barrel of tiny pumpkins.
When photographing newborns, use as much natural light as possible. Plan the session to start at least an hour before the lighting will be almost perfect, so that there is plenty of time to set up and feed the baby before the camera starts firing. Newborn photo shoots have a lot of opportunity for shadows, and since you can’t just tell the baby to turn their head slightly or look up a bit, you should take your set placement into careful consideration. Check out this guide from Digital Photography School for some great tips on how to achieve perfect natural lighting for a newborn shoot.
Be In The Moment
If you have photographed children of any age, you know they are great little subjects. While impervious to your agenda, they are natural players who will basically give you ideas as you photograph. Babies are similar, and so are newborns. When you see meet the little one in person, you may notice that they have the cutest dimples or a head full of curly hair. If you are inspired by the way their toes curl, or an expression that they make, then use that inspiration to create something beautiful. Highlight the baby’s features and let them be comfortable. If you place a baby on their back with their hands crossed over their heart, then they turn their head and raise their arms, go with it. That might be just the shot you needed.
Take Time To Process
Once you’ve wrapped up your newborn photography shoot, you’ll need to get started on processing the images using a Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s important to preserve as much personality and detail as you can, while giving the photos an overall polished look. Oftentimes, characteristics like red splotches, small blemishes, or flakes of skin are more noticeable in photos than they are in real life. Use Photoshop to smooth out skin tone, and clean up anything that looks out of place. Be careful not to overdo it, the point is that you want these photos to be a true representation of what the newborn looks like. Check out this guide from I Heart Faces for step-by-step instructions.
Print And Cherish
Now you’re ready to turn those newborn photos into beautiful canvas prints that the family will cherish for a lifetime!