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The Beginner's Guide to Newborn Photography

The Beginner's Guide to Newborn Photography

Safety first!

So you’ve decided to start dabbling in newborn photography, but before you start shooting there are certain things you must do beforehand. There is nothing more precious to someone than their newborn child, hence why the capturing of their newborn is so magical. Parents will understandably be very protective of their new family member, so it is your job to put them at ease by demonstrating your understanding of the delicateness required when handling or posing their son/daughter. It is vital to ensure your lighting and equipment set up is secured and will not fall on the subject during the newborn photoshoot.

Use the parents to handle the baby if possible, and always ensure they are comfortable and aware with the posing/shots you’re trying to achieve. It’s always better to be overly cautious than not cautious enough! Certain shots can be achieved in post, such as certain poses that may not be comfortable for the baby without being held by one of the parent’s hands (which can be edited out in photoshop).

Be Patient

A newborn baby is possibly the hardest subject you’ll ever work with in terms of getting them to cooperate. Imagine trying to photograph a poorly-trained dog, except you don’t even have the ability to bribe them with treats or a nice bone. As any new parents will tell you, the baby is in charge of when it is crying, hungry or sleeping, and it’s very difficult to get them to calm down before they’re ready to. Add baby nappy changes to the mix and you’ve got a lot of time in between effective shots. Try not to let it bother you, it’s just a fact of newborn shoots. The parents also won’t appreciate seeing visible frustration towards their child!

Keep the Baby Comfortable

Any small thing can set a baby off into a crying fit, so make sure the surfaces you’re putting the baby on are soft and warm. We’d recommend pillows and bean bags for this. Also make sure the room temperature is comfortable for the baby. If you’re taking naked shots especially this warmth is vital for keeping your subject compliant! Make sure all parts of the baby’s body are supported so it can just relax while you shoot away. Awkward positions may wake the sleeping child, so if you’re planning a pose that might not be completely natural, we’d advise to save that attempt until after you have all the other typical shots in the bag. When the baby is sleeping this is your chance to capitalise and capture those peaceful shots.

Plan your shots

As previously mentioned, you cannot control what the newborn will be doing in any given minute. Have a list of shots in mind and take them when the baby is most cooperative to those ends. When the baby is awake, take close-up photos of their expressions and eyes looking towards the camera showing off their life and personality. When the baby is sleeping, wrap them up or pose them in those classic sleeping poses. In preparation for the shoot, it’s a good idea to tell the parents to bring any accessories they want included – this could be clothing their grandparents bought them, fluffy toys, knitted garments etc. Also tell them to bring plenty of nappies!

If you’re looking for a good starting point for classic poses to take, below are the typical poses you’d expect to see any professional newborn photographer to get:

  • Full body pose – Good pose to start off with as the baby will probably be awake. Capture the full body and the active nature of the newborn while they tucker out
  • Facial expression – These are the close ups showing the baby alive and taking in the world. Parents love these photos with their child’s eyes open. If you’re lucky you might get something resembling a smile
  • Parents holding newborn – Another parent favourite. This could be the new parents holding each other and the child, or just a close up of their hands supporting the baby
  • Baby in wrap – Essentially a good excuse to cover up the unglamourous nappy, some soft warm material to wrap the baby in is a fantastic accessory
  • Sleeping on tummy pose – usually a naked shot, picture them curled up on their front with the photo taken from the side showing their side profile
  • With baby accessories/toys – As mentioned earlier, lying on grandma’s knitted blanket/grandpa’s fluffy toy etc.
  • Single parent (mum or dad) holding child – the classic picture of a proud parent looking down at their child in their arms
  • Parent holding newborn’s feet in hands – A shot that’s great at showing size and age differences. Parents love to look back on these and remember how small their loved one used to be
  • “Chin on hands” pose – similar to sleeping on their tummy, except their hands are “supporting” their chin

In Conclusion

Much like parenting itself, photographing babies is a very challenging and rewarding experience. Make sure you’ve got enough time booked with the small one that you’ll be able to capture everything you need, keeping the delays and interruptions well factored in to any time quoted. You’ll find your shooting opportunities to be sporadic, but the time between can be used effectively too. If the baby is getting their nappy changed or is feeding, take this break to check on the shots you have already, set up the next shooting surface, or even begin editing some of the photos in post. At the end of the day, newborn photography may feel like hard work but when you get to see the parents’ faces after giving them the finished pictures you’ll know it’s all worth it.

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