10 Tips for Photographing Newborns
Sweet, snuggly, precious newborns are an amazing subject for a photographer. Their squishy cheeks, soft even skin, tiny hands and feet, and little skin rolls are nothing short of perfect every single time! So if every baby is perfect, why can it be so challenging to photograph them? Check out my 10 tips below to help answer that question and to be ready to photograph your next newborn!
1. Be Prepared
Photographing a newborn baby is a beautiful experience. Spending time with the family, often in their home, and getting to know them and their sweet little new one is an intimate experience. Be ready to be a guest in their home and work gingerly throughout it. Consider bringing a gift for baby or the family as a congratulations! Prepare the family for what to expect, props you will bring, props you’d like them to gather before you arrive, and tips to start with a happy baby like turning up the heat and feeding baby before you arrive.
Keeping baby safe during a session is most important. We see many photographs of babies teetering on top of a guitar, or barely balanced on a tree limb. Know that these photographs were taken with the utmost care in baby’s safety, and a parent's hand on baby at all times. There are many Photoshop tricks for composite images that make these photos common, but remember, baby MUST be kept safe and comfortable at all times.
Remember that you are photographing a baby that is possibly only hours old and that he/she is who really sets the pace of the photo session. Posing a baby in one position can take minutes, even when baby starts the session happy. An hour or two of photos is a long time, so know that it is likely baby will need some snuggles and a feeding during the session.
4. Keep Baby Happy
Yes, if baby is happy, family is happy, and in turn, you are happy. A newborns mood can be unpredictable, but with a few tips, most every baby is settled and happy.
- Keep baby warm with 80+ degrees for room or outdoor temperature.
- Keep baby away from drafts so he/she is less likely to stir.
- Ensure baby’s belly is full and he/she has been burped.
- Have a soft swaddle blanket nearby for quick snuggles.
5. Start With Basic Shots
Begin the session with baby swaddled so that he/she is good and settled. Photos of baby on his/her back, side, and belly are perfect. This will give you a solid base of sweet photographs in the rare case that moving to more advanced poses is not what baby wants!
Bonus tip: When posing baby, take what you can get from a simple swaddle or quick pose, then move into perfecting the baby’s hand, foot, head tilt, etc. Remember that babies can be unpredictable, so take what baby gives you first, then adjust the little details.
6. Be Flexible
This tip goes hand in hand with patience. If baby isn’t cooperating on their own, move to photographs with siblings and parents before you planned to. Most babies will settle when held, so use this to your advantage. Be prepared with many posing ideas while baby is in parents arms in the rare case that baby has had enough and isn’t happy when set down.
7. Be a Baby Whisperer
Yes! Not only will this make your job of photographing a newborn easier, it will impress the family! “Baby whisperer” is a term that I am often called, though I giggle inside each time. I am naturally comfortable with newborns and children, and am confident around them. Babies can sense feelings of fear, being uncomfortable, nervousness, and also being calm, happy, and confident. Be the latter around the little ones, and use your 5 S’s when needed!
- Shushing into baby’s ear.
- Swaddling well and tightly.
- Side positioning.
- Swinging baby gently in your arms.
- Sucking on a pacifier or parents finger.
Bonus ’S’ tip: Softly patting baby’s bottom is another common soothing technique that works wonders on a fussy baby!
8. Natural Light
A sweet brand new baby is a very natural being, and photographing in natural window light is a perfect choice! The soft light provides a very simple and natural feeling when looking at the photographs. A new baby is as perfect as one can be, so let the natural light highlight that!
9. Include Parents
Encourage parents to be in the photographs! After a day or two in the hospital it will likely be the last thing they want to do, and they may feel like they don’t have time to get ready. Remind them that this newborn stage only lasts a few days, and they can never get this time back. They are beautiful as they are, at this time, in this moment! There is no better opportunity than when having a professional photographer around to have photos taken with their brand new baby! Plus, they don’t have to share their photos with friends and family, or make prints. They can keep the photos to themselves if they’re really worried about how they look and feel.
10. Simple Gear
Remember that ‘natural’ feel and look I keep mentioning? This is a perfect thought for your gear, too! Keep your gear simple- DLSR camera body, fixed length prime lens, white, black, and/or neutral sheets for a backdrop, and maybe a basket or chalkboard. A window will provide AMAZING light (no flash needed!), and baby will provide precious photos in any setting.
Bonus Tip: Print Your Photos
Yes! We live in a digital age where sharing photographs on social media and via email is popular, but encourage your families to make prints! Helping them choose a few to display on their wall at home, in the baby’s nursery, or on the mantle is a perfect way for the photographs to be enjoyed all the time! Plus, photographs make perfect gifts for grandparents and other family members. They even make a wonderful client thank you gift a few weeks after the session!
Jessica is an award-winning portrait and wedding photographer based in Asheville, NC. Photographing newborns and young families is her passion, and as a natural ‘baby whisperer’, she loves sharing her knowledge with others.