Parent or not, newborn photography can come with a lot of surprises but when done right and creatively, it is without any doubt one of the most rewarding types of photography that you can ever do as an artist. Everybody just loves that adorable and angelic look that babies can give without any effort at all. Every second counts and as you click on your camera and those moments you have captured will stay as precious memories for life.
If you like to take on this particular kind of photography, you should be well prepared for anything that may come along the way. Babies are typically unpredictable and fragile and taking their photos can get really scary especially if it is your first time. Don’t get too anxious about it, though, as there are several tips and tricks that you can try to make this session easier and more fun for both you and your clients.
Two Types Of Newborn Photography
There are basically two types that fall under this category – the posed or studio sessions and the lifestyle session. Some photographers prefer the first one while others may like the other one more. The decision would depend mainly on what you can offer to your client and of course, you should make sure to ask the opinion or rather, permission of the parents first before elaborating on any type of session.
Posed or studio sessions
This type of photography for newborns should be done ideally during the baby’s first or second week after birth, as this is the perfect time when they are still always very sleepy and somewhat “moldable.” Usual sessions for this type of shoot would be centered around the baby sleeping in blankets while looking all charming with different types of accessories such as headbands, wraps and hats. The session will usually last for up to 4 hours including the times allotted for posing, potty breaks and feeding the baby. The shoot itself may not be that exhausting and tiring for the photographer but it is the editing that can eat up a lot of your time as you will need to individually polish each photo using Photoshop if you really want a perfect result.
This approach is a bit more casual compared to the studio sessions with the intention of capturing the baby’s natural images while at home. Babies of up to 6 weeks of age are usually photographed for this shoot with a maximum of 1-2 hours usually.
Getting Ready For The Shoot
Whether it’s your first time or not with newborn photography, you may tend to forget about a lot of stuff that you will be needing for the session. It greatly helps to prepare your things the night before the shoot so you are already ready when the morning comes. You can also come up with a checklist to make sure that you are not forgetting anything. Here is a quick list of the things that you will typically need for your newborn session:
- You camera (plus a backup camera in case something goes wrong with your main one)
- Formatted memory cards
- A few funny and entertaining toys (if a toddler will be joining the shoot)
- A beanbag for the posing
- Clamps and backdrop stand
- Step stool
- Space heater
- A boppy pillow for some poses
- A set of clothes (just in case things get messy and you might need to change)
- Head accessories such as headbands and hats
- Other props such as crates and baskets
You are expecting the shoot to last for up to four hours so you also need to make sure to eat before starting, and since it will be very warm due to the space heater, you may want to wear cool and comfy clothes. You can also include a soft mat to your checklist since you will do a lot of kneeling, although a blanket will also work, too. You can also ask the parents if they will be providing some of the props such as the head accessories, or if they want any particular request to be brought in. Remember that it is essential to always ask for the parents’ approval before performing anything on the baby. There are some parents that are very cautious and particular about a lot of stuff, especially for first time parents. You definitely do not want to create any unnecessary impression as their photographer. Their opinion and approval will always matter the most.
Setting The Scene
Before the main attraction (which is the shoot itself, ideally) you also have to remind the parents of what will take place during the session. They should know what to expect and of course, you have to ask them what they are expecting in return. With all the props ready for the shoot, next thing to prepare is the lighting. Natural light is ideal because flashes might only wake the baby up when sleeping. One general rule to remember when doing newborn photography, never interrupt a baby’s sleep or you are bound to have a hard time all throughout the session.
The best time to start would be in the morning because babies tend to participate willingly more during this time of the day, and make sure they are already fed. The baby also needs to be comfortable and warm enough to prevent them from being all fuzzy and intolerable.
No matter how complex or hard the shoot is, at the end of the day, it is a great thing to feel accomplished because you know nothing went wrong especially when it comes to the baby’s safety. Keep in mind that in a photo session like newborn photography, parents are entrusting you with their precious babies and that is something that is beyond any price or contract. In general, you only have to follow your instinct and use your common sense. Do not try and do something that you know would compromise the baby’s safety in any way. Never use any sharp or hard object as props and never try placing your subject on unsteady and high surfaces. You can use a spotter for such instances if the shot is really needed.
You might think that seeing a baby’s photo hanging from a branch or resting on something unstable is quite cute and adorable but there should something more to it. Great composition techniques should be applied and don’t forget that Photoshop can be your best friend during such times.
Capture Every Single Detail
The newborn stage is just as brief as it gets and everyone can surely agree to that, so make sure you take advantage of every single detail when shooting their photos. Whether it is just a simple yawn or just a peaceful sleep on top of a cozy blanket, you need to keep on clicking. There is no time waste especially when you know that the bay’s mood can change in an instant every now and then. It is better to keep your camera shooting rather than to wait for that perfect pose – you might just be waiting for nothing and soon enough, the baby will get tired and you still haven’t gotten enough photos to end the day. Somewhere in 50 consecutive shots there will surely be at least one or two winner that will stand out, so just keep on taking photos.
With a good amount of natural daylight, you can simply go for an ISO of 100-400 and then use a wider aperture so you can aim for that shallow depth of field. Don’t forget to use the continuous shooting mode of your camera so you can capture 2-5 photos at a time.
Take Advantage Of The Extra Hands
You could always use additional people to get into the picture. If the baby has other siblings around, you can include them on the shoot and you might be amazed with how beautiful the photos will look. Doing this can also help entertain the baby as you click away. Toddlers are quite hyperactive and they can very well deliver the same aura on the shoot, making the photos look more lively and adorable, too. Older siblings can also hold the newborn and make it look so natural so you no longer have to use a spotter just to get the perfect angle.
It is also nice to include the baby’s parents on the scene. Whether it is the mother or the father of the child that is around, let them interact with the baby and take advantage of it. Parents would surely appreciate how you can vividly capture such precious memories, and years after that even the baby will love looking at those photos, as well. The awkwardness that the father feels as he gets in the picture is even more exciting, and capturing that in your shots would surely be as rewarding as it feels.
* The settings.
Working with newborns equally means that you need to be precise and quick in every shot and posing any hesitation. Therefore, you will need to use faster shutter speeds and high ISOs. You definitely do not want to regret capturing a perfect moment, only to find out that the shot was a bit blurry just because your shutter was too slow to keep up with it. A shutter speed of 1/500 should work with a good amount of daylight, and an aperture of F/5.6 or wider should be perfect. This should be able to give you sharper images without having to sacrifice shutter speed. You might also want to take on black and white images as they are considered timeless and classic. Do this by simply setting the mode dial to AV or Aperture Priority and then go for larger aperture so you can get that blurred and soft background that you want. For a more dramatic effect consider some contrast in the lighting.
* The equipments.
Of course you will need to have a good camera, but aside from that you will also need a standard lens, probably around 50mm which will be good enough for newborn photography. As much as possible, choose lens with f/1.8 or lower to make sure you will get sharper shots and faster shutter speeds. You can also consider using a beanbag instead of a tripod to stabilize your camera, as well as when trying to get down to the level of the baby. A white or a silver reflector is also better to use to create bouncing light that is flattering and soft.
Newborn photos are not just very great to look at, but more so, they are bound to create precious memories that will last for a lifetime. Even after so many years, the photos are sure to bring heartwarming feeling to anyone looking at it, especially to the parents and the baby, too. More than anything else, it matters a lot for a photographer to capture special moments and memories as they are only good while they last. Using simple backgrounds are ideally better, it is the subject that matters the most, anyway. Too bright backgrounds might just disturb the baby and you definitely do not want that to happen.
Try your best to highlight the features of the baby, may it be the cute dimples, full pinkish lips or big beautiful eyes, you will surely get inspired with the uniqueness of each moment. Unplanned poses are always the best shots, so always be prepared to capture everything.
Be Professional Yet Flexible
Even after a couple of newborn photography sessions with different clients, you can never expect what will happen on each one of them. A lot of things can happen and you should always be flexible for that. Just be as professional as possible, yet on a very calm manner. There might also come a point when you will need to make funny faces or goofy noises just to entertain the baby. Patience is the name of the game here, so is your passion to produce beautiful shots.
When you are feeling nervous or anxious during the shoot, the baby can sense that too and it may not go well as planned. Take your time to familiarize yourself with the baby and get acquainted with everyone to create a more familiar and comfy ambiance. Most of all, enjoy! It is but an amazing experience to shoot newborn babies and being able to document their precious moments is just a really rare experience. Don’t be surprised if one day you will come to realize that newborn photography has actually become your new favorite.