We all want to take better photographs, especially of our loved ones and special moments. Check out this post for my best tips on child and family photography. Newborn photography is a special moment that you only have a few weeks to capture. Those first two weeks are the perfect time to capture the newness of those little bundles of joy. Instead of worry about equiptment, as a starting photographer, focus on creating a positive experience to get the best pictures possible. Whether you’re capturing your own child or starting to take newborn photographs professionally, here is an in depth guide to capturing your best newborn photography.
Newborn Photography: In Depth
Plan at least three to four hours, all in, for your newborn photography session. If you’re doing your own baby, it’s easy to break this up over several days. For my daughter, I set up my rarely-used living room and take a few photographs every day over the course of a week. I can set up one scene or look one day, and change it out when she’s sleeping. Most babies are happiest when they just wake up, so capture a few quick picks in the morning before you get lost in your daily schedule.
If you’re shooting for a client in your own home, have everything set up and staged before baby gets there. Have the first shot ready to go with a changing area of baby nearby. Setting up everything the day before, if possible, will allow you to even do a few test shots for lighting and logistics and walk through your shot list.
If you’re shooting at the clients home, make sure you calculate time in to carry all your props and equipment in, unpack, do a walk through for any lifestyle shots, and then pack up again at the end. If the client says 2:00 works best for baby, suggest you get there at 1:30 to set up and acclimate yourself.
Heat and Layers
Turn up the heat! I learned for my first newborn shoot to turn the heat up to the high 80s. A nice, warm environment will keep baby happy, sleepy, and mold-able. Remember, baby is used to hanging out inside a 98.6 degree uterus all day and can’t regulate his body heat yet. He’ll be happiest in an environment that reminds him of the womb. If turning up the heat is impossible, consider a small space heater for the room. Make sure you keep it a safe distance from the baby and don’t allow baby to over heat, though. Baby’s safety is always your number one priority.
My first newborn photography shoot was in my home so I was comfortable. My second was at the client’s home. It was a warm spring day after a long winter, and I showed up with a heavy sweater. A hour in, I was drenched in sweat with no alternate shirt. Luckily, although the baby did poop twice and pee a million times while I was there, she never got me. However, I learned my lesson: dress in layers for any environment and always bring a back up shirt, just in case.
It’s easy to create a Pinterest board with millions of beautiful photos with thousands of adorable props. That cute baby in a baseball glove, that adorable newborn in a box, or even this sweet girl in a wreath. In reality, some of the best props will come from the family’s home. Ask the client to gather props and a few toys beforehand with special meaning or family significance.
Whether gathering for yourself or asking a client, think about what are your family’s favorite sports teams, family activities, or professions. If you’re buying for yourself or a client, limit yourself to one specialty prop at most. If you’re building up a small photography business, consider adding one prop with every session or two to build up an inventory. In your own home or in your client’s, take a moment to poke around the house and nursery. Mom’s and dad’s go to many lengths to set up a nursery that is meaningful to them. Use those same items to create meaningful photographs.
Farmhouse and vintage styles are popular now. I love the juxtaposition of a newborn baby with a vintage prop. Check out local second-hand stores for antiques at great prices. A little elbow grease and disinfectant will go a long way to getting a classic shot. Re-purposed items often make the cutest photographs.
As a photographer, you’ll want to come up with a newborn photography shot list before hand. Know if you’re taking posed, lifestyle, family, sibling, or even pet photos before you go. Ask the client or look around your own home to get an idea of possible shooting places. Look to Pinterest or online searches to find posing guides and inspirations. Do you have enough material and ideas? What is feasible and what is too much?
For each “scene” you plan on creating for your newborn photography shoot, create a list of things you needs to see if it’s manageable. I once dreamed up a rustic camp mini-shoot that needed about 10 props, only a few of which I could make myself. The cost alone was enough to dissuade me from moving forward. Creating a set list of different scenes and shots will help you decide what is and isn’t worth it. It also helps to ensure you have a variety of shots and scenes.
Make your scene and set list. But, be flexible. A baby may be having an off day and just not want fall asleep. You may need to do diaper changes with every wrap and prop change. I showed up to one session with brand new props only to be told the mother wanted no prop shots, only family pictures. For her Christmas pictures this year, my newly walking daughter decided that she would absolutely not sit down under any circumstances. Just be prepared that you can’t be prepared for everything.
As you work through your session, modify and adapt. Check out my post on how not to take photos here, especially numbers 1 and 2 about light and communication. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about fancy lighting. Most of my photos are taken either with natural light or a speed light with a soft box attachment. Use the natural light in your or the client’s home for a beautiful effect. Practice different lighting situations in advance. If you’re shooting in your own home, check out what available light you have and do test shots before the photo shoot.
As for communication, most high-end photographers use a photography assistant for baby handling. Utilize the parents if you’re shooting for a client. If you’re shooting your own child, utilize a friend or partner. Just be clear and patient in your directions.
After your first session
After your first session, take the time to think about a few things that went well and a few things you’d do differently next time. Many of the issues you have with your little one at their newborn photography session will be the same things you’re dealing with at their one-year, two-year, and beyond sessions if you don’t learn from the experience. Share your photos below in the comments, and make sure you sign up for our newsletter under the “About Me” tab for further photography guides!
Capture those newborn moments, because It Goes By in a Flash!