Nothing beats that newborn baby smell. Yet, how do you capture great newborn pictures before the squeaky-clean baby is a toddler? It goes by in a flash, and you don’t want to miss it. If you’re going out on your own as a photographer, you’ll want to capture those newborn moments for their parents. They can cherish the memories forever.
Newborn photography may seem simple, but it’s not. Newborn photography is one of the challenging photo subjects to capture. Newborn babies, of course, do not have the ability to lift their heads up on their own. How do you get the appropriate pose when they’re so teeny tiny? And forget about time, babies are not patient at all. How are you supposed to get all the shots you need when they need to be fed or get their diapers changed? And when it comes to editing, you may have a challenge. Newborns often have red or blotchy skin. How are you going to edit that?
Look, newborn photography isn’t a feat. More than likely, the baby’s parents are losing more sleep than you will, trying to figure it out. Either way, you should read these handy tips for newborn photography beginners
1. Newborn photography starts with safety
Do you see those cutesy pictures of the newborn boy in a baseball hat or the newborn girl in the Easter basket? You’re really looking at photoshop tricks. It would be impossible to pose a baby like that. And you’d get in trouble for placing a baby in a hat without any support of the baby’s head. Getting that shot will start with working with the baby’s parents. Have them support the baby in a safe way so that you can maneuver the shot. You can then photoshop out the parent’s hands from the shot later using the clone tool. Don’t put the baby in any harm, and be sure to take precaution by having his or her parent safeguarding them.
If you’re just starting out, it is going to take some time. Soon enough you will have those professional shots that you see all over Pinterest. You’ll find after some time, that you will pick up a trick or two. You’ll get those cool yet unnatural newborn poses you see everywhere. It might also do you some good to check out a newborn photography workshop. You’ll better understand the precautions you need to take while photographing a newborn.
2. Capture newborn photographs before two weeks of age
Newborns start to gain their alertness after a few weeks. After those few weeks, they may start to look around more, making it tough to get that sleepy and still shot. Babies are more likely to snooze through your photo shoot before two weeks old.
Be aware that before two weeks old, the baby may have their umbilical cord left in the pictures. Unless you or the parent want that in your shot, try getting your photo session in right before the two-week mark. Though, if you must wait until after the two-week mark, do know that it will be a little tough to capture the images. It will take more time as alert babies tend to wiggle out of their swaddles or move their hands from a position.
3. Make your environment inviting for baby
Make sure you have a perfect environment that suits their temperament. This is important before opening your studio up to babies and newborn babies. You may want soft lighting and a camera that doesn’t make too much noise. You may also want to adjust your props and other camera gear before the photoshoot. Movement is what tends to be the major disruptor of a sleeping newborn. The environment should be warm and quiet – or what you might feel and see while being in a nursery.
You should be aware that most newborn pictures feature baby in the nude, in a swaddle, or with a diaper cover. Bulky clothing will cover up the newborn baby too much. Be sure to turn up the heat in your studio. The baby is more likely to have less clothing on during their photography session. You could also bring in a space heater beforehand to heat up the studio. You’re less likely to get a fussy baby if the temperature is comfortable. Remember to dress appropriately, too. You may get sweaty and have to peel off layers as you shoot.
Of course, that means you’ll probably be uncomfortable, so wear layers you can remove as the room heats up.
Noise is crucial when having a newborn baby in your photography studio. You can also download a white noise app. Or use a white noise machine to make sure the baby is soothed and not awoken by strange sounds.
4. Photograph peaceful, sleeping babies
If you look at examples of newborn photography, you’ll see that they are often calm. The baby is at peace in their photoshoot. It will also mean that they are sleeping. If only it were that easy! That’s why you should know that you may need to work in some time in your session, to get the baby to sleep. Sleeping babies are also easier to photograph when they’re sleeping. So, it will be the key to getting the right photographs, without baby pulling out of their swaddle. You can still photograph the baby while wide awake. But you won’t get the same poses with a baby that is more alert and a wiggle worm. That brings us to the next tip.
5. You will spend a lot of time calming the baby
Expect the typical newborn session to be a few hours long for a handful of pictures. Remember that you must be patient when working with a newborn baby. So, most of this time will be spent calming the baby. In this case, it’s best to avoid scheduling a short newborn photo session. Also, remember to be patient as the parents feed and change the baby, as this will also spend a lot of your session’s time.
6. Stock up on baby-friendly props
I recommend a bean bag chair for newborn photography sessions. This will take the frustration out of propping baby up to pose them. The bean bag also easily gets the baby into some more natural poses. Something that may also work in place of a bean bag may be a U-shaped nursing pillow.
Remember to disguise the bean bag chair with blankets and backdrops. Bring a variety with different colors if you can. Remember to have many options as there is a chance the baby can go #1 or #2 on your props. Remember, it comes with the territory. Baskets and buckets are also great for posing babies, as long as you use the props safely.
7. It’s all about the details
Practice your macro photography. Alter the composition while capturing some close-up shots. You could capture their toes, eyes, baby hair, hands, and more. This will make mom and dad happy, but also capture details that the full body shots won’t get.
8. Adjust composition as you go
Your goal will be to try and move the baby as little as possible. To get the most variety out of your shots, you want to adjust the composition and the props. This way, you’ll be able to get a variety of shots without overwhelming the baby.
You could take a full-length shot. Then, take a shot of the head and shoulders. Try different levels and angles, too. You could move up, move down, or move left and right. You’ll get more of a variety of aspects of one pose.
Add more variety by draping a different swaddle cloth over the baby. You could change out a headband or a hat. You could also try and change out the backdrop.
9. Take advantage of natural light
If you’re starting out, the best way to capture a shot is with natural light. This is extremely helpful if you don’t have the budget for all those backdrops and props you often see. Window shots are also some of the best shots for newborn photography. This is because natural light from windows tends to be softer light. This won’t emphasize the redness or bumps that tend to come with newborn babies.
Try setting up near a large window without direct sunlight. Timing will be key here when scheduling your shoot. If time is not on your hands and you need to soften the light, try using sheer curtains. The shadows from the natural light will add depth to those cute baby lumps and rolls. Try placing the baby at an angle to the window to get this effect. Try to get the light as natural as possible, so overhead, not from below where the feet are. Adjust as you notice where the light falls on the baby. Make any adjustments to the angle of the light between poses for more variety.
10. Unpredictability is key
Babies can be fussy and are often unpredictable. Don’t have your heart set on getting one specific shot. Don’t spend your energy on that one shot. You will miss all the other opportunities for great shots during that time spent. If the baby is awake, you could try capturing their wide eyes. Try changing the noise level or temperature in your studio if the baby is too fussy. If that doesn’t work, try more shots in mom or dad’s arms, where they will most likely be more comfortable. Move on to the next pose available for whatever doesn’t work. Be flexible with these poses and be open to variety.
11. Have the whole family participate
Incorporate mommy and daddy. If the baby has any siblings, then bring them into some poses as well. It will ease mom and dad if they can hold their baby in the photoshoot, and require less energy setting up a pose. You can also get some together as a whole family, then just siblings and baby. And even just mom with baby, then dad with the baby. You can work in unique poses, like over the shoulder poses, that will add more variety to your photo session.
12. Make careful edits
Your work is just getting started after the photo session. Editing can make or break the mood of a newborn photography session. Try to make the shadows lighter for a softer look. Alter colors and hues. Alter saturation and luminance, for pastels often used in newborn photography.
You will most likely see skin redness in the newborn shots. Adjust the luminance of the red and orange channels to reduce those colors. This will not take lots of time. Use the healing brush for any newborn acne, which is also common. You’re going to want to use Photoshop or Lightroom for both techniques.
Remember not to make the photos look too smooth. Airbrushing can often get out of hand. Mom and dad want to remember some of those imperfections of their newborn in their first days. It’s best to go light on this editing practice. With that being the case, you will want to stay far away from using skin blur. Babies have soft skin naturally. You’ll also want to leave other imperfections such as birthmarks and cowlicks well enough alone. Mom and dad often love those naturally perfect imperfections.
Our friends over at Pixpa have also wrote a helpful guide. Check it out.