Newborn photography tips every aspiring newborn photographer needs to know.
Newborn photography is a rewarding, heart-melting, and sometimes challenging type of photography. You are capturing a monumental part of a family’s life and creating photographs that are going to live on in the family’s home and photo albums forever. For any photographer, or person looking to make the leap into newborn photography, then look no further. Zenfolio has developed a comprehensive list of tips for beginners that covers how to get started, what to ask clients, how to prepare and set up for a shoot, poses to use, detailed checklists, frequently asked questions, and so much more.
Introduction: how to photograph a newborn.
It’s a big job to photograph a newborn – it’s important that you are able to beautifully capture such an important moment. Newborns can be challenging because they move around on their own accord. Here are six things to keep in mind when photographing a newborn:
Happy baby, happy photoshoot.
Keeping the baby happy through the photoshoot will be a make or break for the success of your session. It will also allow you to be the most productive. Being prepared and flexible in poses that match what the baby is doing is important – for example, if the baby is asleep you should do poses where the baby is able to sleep through or make the most of the moments when the baby is awake. Being smooth through transitions is always helpful too.
Keep the baby warm.
Having a warmer on hand is one of the most important things for any newborn photographer to remember to have. Babies get cold easily and let’s face it, are so tiny, so thinking about ways to keep them at a comfortable temperature will set your photography session up for success. If you are in a super hot climate or a place that is already above normal temperature then this may not be something to concern yourself with, but anything room temperature for an adult should be kept warmer for the baby.
Here’s the thing, even the smallest details are incredibly cute when it comes to newborn photography. We’re talking about things like the chubby legs or crinkly skin on their toes and chin. Finding creative ways to show how tiny the baby is compared to its parents – like photographing hands over top of one another. Leaning into different macro photography shots with babies makes for beautiful photographs and ones that are a little bit outside the box.
When it comes to newborn photography, safety is something that should not be overlooked or taken lightly. It’s important to remember that your subject can’t protect or speak up for themselves, so you have to think of things for them. You’ll want to ensure that any poses you put them in are safe for the baby and that you have the parents around as spotters or you are the spotter as the parents adjust.
Using props in your photos can add to the creativity of them and the storytelling – it’s a great way to involve different seasons in which the baby was born (fall, summer, etc.) or different holidays. You can also just use them in cute ways or use props as a way to help put the baby in different poses. It is a good idea to just start collecting props, not focusing on a massive bulk buy, and you’ll build up a great collection.
Get the siblings in there.
As if newborn photography isn’t cute enough, try adding in their siblings and you will experience a cuteness overload. These pictures are so special in so many ways – they are great memories to have as a family and it is also very sweet to see the two siblings interact. Remember for this one that safety is really something to think about – especially if the sibling is quite young and can’t hold the newborn on their own. But don’t worry, you’ll still be able to find good ways to get them involved by setting them on beds or big chairs.
Newborn photography questionnaire.
Questionnaires are a great way to plan your shoot because they give you the opportunity to get to know your clients beforehand. When it comes to newborn photography it is a must-do before any session you head into. Here are some questions to add:
- What is the baby’s name and gender?
- What is the name of the parents?
- Do you have any siblings that will be in the photoshoot? If so, please list their names.
- What day was the baby born?
- How much did the baby weigh?
- Does your baby have any special needs for the photoshoot?
- Is there a theme that you want for the photoshoot or are there any specific props that you want there?
- Is there a color scheme you want for your photoshoot?
- Do you have any specific poses that you want? If you have an example picture, please include.
- Is this your first time getting professional photographs taken with your family?
- Is there any additional information that I should know about?
- How did you find me?
Easy newborn photography poses for beginners.
Planning for a photoshoot is the best way to make sure that you will have a successful day. Good communication with the parents is key to ensuring that your session with the newborn goes well. They may be new to this, so go in with some ideas in mind and help them through the process. We’ve put together five easy newborn poses for beginners to get you started:
This newborn pose is a sure winner – it is always cute and you know that the baby is both comfortable and safe. A good part about this pose is that you are able to capture their facial expressions, so whether the baby is sleeping, crying, or laughing, you are always going to get great pictures.
This pose is also known as the taco pose – it is another one that is really comfortable for the baby, which makes it easy for you and the parents to get them into the womb pose. You can use this pose to showcase the baby’s outfit or their facial expressions. You’ll love it.
Parents kissing the baby.
It’s nice to have a mix of pictures of the baby on their own and the parents with the baby – both together and separately. This is a great pose because you can involve both parents and the little one or you can do some shots that have them separate. These pictures are very precious and meaningful.
Both parents holding the baby.
You can try different poses within the pose of having the parents holding the baby – things like using it to show the scale of how tiny the little one is in comparison to the parent’s hands. You can choose to have the parent’s bodies and faces within the shot or you can just have the hands holding onto the baby. It’s a perfect beginner pose for newborn photography.
Nose to nose.
The nose to nose pose is a great way to capture an intimate moment between the baby and the parents. It’s a pose that you will be able to do with the baby whether they are asleep or awake and knowing how much newborns sleep, it is great to have poses that you can capture successfully even if the little one isn’t awake for your shoot.
Newborn photography setup checklist.
The right gear: camera and lens.
Here is your starting point: your camera along with your lens. In any type of photography, this is your meat and potatoes before you can dive into anything else. Choose a camera that works best for you and when it comes to lenses, you will want to get one that is great for portraits and getting in close to subjects, such as a 35mm or 50mm.
Get good lighting.
Your lighting is an important part of your studio setup – be sure to have everything ready before your photoshoot starts. If you are shooting in natural light consider the time of day when you get the best light in through your windows. If you plan to use different lighting setups throughout the shoot, be strategic about it and make a game plan ahead of time.
Collect great props.
Your stockpile of washable props will continue to grow the longer you stay in the business, but having a solid collection is the most perfect way to get creative on the fly. When you have lots of options around, you may be inspired by how the shoot is going and try new things.
Have outfits on hand.
Having multiple different outfits in your studio as backup is great for a number of reasons – if there is an accident or any type of spillage you will be ready or if the outfit you have works better with the theme then it is there (ex. Elf onesie).
The comfies: blankets, wraps, baskets, cushions.
Let’s face it, newborn photography is all about being comfortable so having as many comfies at the ready is a win. You’ll end up using all of them for your photoshoots. Try setting up your studio with different colors and textured blankets and wraps to enhance your photos.
Get some great backdrops.
Here’s another thing that you will end up collecting through time and you will be surprised how often these come in handy. Great backdrops can put together an entire photography session – they can be ordered online or made yourself.
Have a changing table nearby.
If you are not a parent, this might not be something that you think of, but trust us, you’ll need to check this off your newborn photography studio checklist. This is important for obvious reasons, but it is also an easy place to do any outfit changes or swaddle the baby.
Cleaning supplies at the ready.
You are going to need to make sure that you are always fully stocked when it comes to cleaning supplies that are safe for babies. You’ll want to be cleaning any surfaces the baby uses any props, and also just be ready for any spills or accidents.
Warmer at the ready.
Make sure that your studio is equipped with a proper warmer and that you have the right extension cords so that it can reach wherever you need. This will be a must have for all newborn photography studios so find a good one and use it often.
Relaxing area for parents.
It’s a good idea to have an area dedicated to parents to relax, whether that is a couch or some bean bag cushions. If there are siblings, if the shoot is long, or if you are doing some photographs with just the baby then it is nice for the parents to just be able to relax.
Snacks and refreshments at the ready.
Just like the waiting area to hang out in for the family, having refreshments and snacks can really go a long way in your studio. It’s a small gesture on your end but the feedback on these is always that it is really appreciated.
Questionnaire on hand.
So you’ve had your questionnaire filled out beforehand and now it is important to make sure that you have it in studio for the day of the shoot. This should be used for your pre-planning, but it is important to have so you don’t forget anything major on the big day.
Samples to give out.
If you have local partnerships that allow you to give our baby samples, like diapers or wipes or cute apparel, then here’s your time to shine. If you don’t currently have any, then it is a good opportunity to make local partners and build your network as a photographer.
You’ll want chargers galore in your studio – for cameras, batteries, phones, etc. It sometimes seems like a given to have backup, but it’s always those times when you need it and don’t have it that you think of it.
A stepping stool is an incredibly handy tool for any photography studio, including in newborn photography. This will allow you to play with different levels and shoot from up above. This angle is always a great one for everyone and will help you with different poses.
Newborn photography lighting tips.
Controlling as many things within your environment as possible is the best piece of advice for any photographer – this means setting up the best possible lighting. Lighting can really make or break your photography. It’s something that even the best editing can not always correct so it’s important to get it right from the start. To help you get there, we’ve put together some great newborn photography lighting tips.
Natural light is best.
Do we need to say anything else? If you think about taking a selfie, the natural window light always makes your face look the best and the same goes when you are doing newborn photography. It’s a lot like portrait photography. If your studio is set up with lots of natural light or if you know that the home you are going into – whether that is their living room, nursery or master bedroom – is blessed with good lighting you should take advantage of it in your session.
Single light setup.
Light setups can be scary – there can be so many moving pieces, but we come bearing good news: for newborn photography you just need a single light. You’ll need to choose a studio light that is able to mount onto a stand. It’s also important that you have something that can help you soften the spread of the light and make sure that it is spread evenly across the baby or whatever the focal point is.
Big and strong overhead lights can be a lot for newborns – this little bundle of joy is just getting used to the outside world so as their photographer you should give them the best possible experience, which in newborn photography world means low light. A key takeaway should be to make sure that the light is as low as it can possibly go for these photoshoots. You will not want to overpower the little one by having it wide open.
If you don’t already have strobe lights or know what they are, the simple explanation is that they are connected to your camera and will go off at the same time as when you hit the button on it. These can take a little bit of time to get used to or learn how to use them, but they are also a fantastic tool to have. These give you full control over the lighting, which is the biggest benefit of it over choosing to do continuous lighting.
Continuous lighting is a fancy way of saying the light is always on. Basically, the lighting that you see on the subject is the exact way that it is going to turn out in the photographs so you can adjust and move the light as you see the need. The continuous lighting option is the best choice for beginners because it is definitely easier to manage than strobe lighting. You’ll be able to see and adjust in real time, with less room for error.
Stands and modifiers.
Beyond your lights themselves, adding in equipment is a must do when it comes to studio lighting for your newborn photography shoot. Stands help keep your lights in the right spot while modifiers help modify the light, meaning that it can make it less harsh and look better on your subject’s face. Both of these tools are great to have and will largely make your life when it comes to newborn photography lighting much easier.
Keep it consistent.
When you are setting up studio lighting, it is important that you keep the setup consistent for your entire gallery. If a family chose you to take their newborn photographs then they are going to be expecting the type and quality of images you’ve created in the past, so keep that lighting consistency across the board. The good part about the studio lighting is that it is fully controlled so the consistency is easy to maintain.
Newborn photography natural lighting diagram.
Lighting is key when it comes to setting up any photography session, including newborn baby photography. This will be a huge factor in the success of your photoshoot, as the lighting is really important in capturing the details and complexion of the baby. There are a myriad of lighting setups you could use to create beautiful and interesting newborn images. To make things easy, we’ve put together a handy diagram that outlines newborn photography natural lighting.
Camera settings for newborn photography.
One of the hardest parts about newborn photography is the fact that the baby will not be able to stay still, even if you ask them super nicely. Because of that, you will need to make sure that your camera settings allow for you to capture images really quickly, knowing that there will be movement. Manual mode gives you the most control and here are some tips to set your camera up with:
The thing to remember when deciding what ISO to use for a newborn photography session is to go as low as possible without sacrificing the shutter speed. The ISO determines how sensitive the camera is to the light in the scene. When you are looking between lower and higher ISO numbers, just remember: the lower the number the darker the image, and the lower the noise. The issue with higher ISO’s is that you are going to have more noise so it will affect the quality of the photograph by making it look more grainy. Choosing the lower ISO also means less light sensitivity.
The shutter speed is going to be how fast you can take the picture or freeze the frame – when we are talking about subjects that move, like babies, you are going to want a high shutter speed. A good rule of thumb is to ghost your shutter speed to twice the focal length of your lens, so if you have a 100mm lens then you are going to want to set the shutter speed at 1/200. Ideally, the faster the better so whatever your fastest capability is you are going to want to set your camera to, while still achieving the correct exposure. While babies can trick you into thinking a low shutter speed is all you need while sleeping, once they are awake and moving you’ll definitely understand why the need for a high shutter speed exists.
When we talk about aperture, we are talking about the amount of light entering the lens. With that in mind, when looking at where to adjust your camera settings for newborn photography, set your aperture to f/4 or lower for individual newborn shots and f/8 for group shots. Essentially, the closer you are to the baby then the narrower you are going to want to set your aperture to. This is going to help you get the best quality photographs. Be open to changing and adjusting your ISO as you move throughout your photoshoot so that you can adjust to your depth of field.
Newborn photography safety.
Safety should always be the top priority when it comes to newborn photography. You need to make sure that the poses that you put the baby in are ones that also keep the baby safe and secure. Also, while you are moving the baby through different poses it is important that you think about the baby’s wellbeing – things like supporting the neck or gently maneuvering their body. Newborn baby photography is a unique field where your subject is relying on you entirely for their safety. It’s important to think of things like, not putting the baby in a position where they could roll off a surface or in a place where the baby has too many blankets around their mouth. Newborn safety is also one of the reasons why it is a good idea for you to have a space heater on hand to ensure that the temperature is optimal for the baby.