I’m excited about this post!!! It seems that one of the subjects that new photographers are attracted to is newborns! Why? because who wouldn’t want to hang out with those sweet babies and get such great shots that everyone oohhs and ahhhs over! I too love doing newborn sessions, however I keep my newborn shots pretty simple. I don’t do a lot of hanging babies or even putting them in too many things (other than a basket here and there) I’m not saying that those aren’t adorable, because they are, but I think they are running it’s course and I see a trend shifting for more classic images!
Let me be really clear about newborn safety! PLEASE!!!! do not put the baby in a pose that you are not comfortable with. Do not hang a baby from anything or prop a baby on a shelf or anything else that you may have seen…these are all edited images using composites (several images) and if you at all wonder if this is safe…don’t do it!!!! Even though they are very flexible, they are still very fragile and delicate and need to be handled with the utmost care. Again, I will say that newborn photography goes through phases…and I personally see more and more photographers going for a more lifestyle approach to photographing babies. I personally do a mixture. I do pose the babies, but I do it very simply….As a photographer you need to find what is best for you. There are a bazillion photographers out there doing the same thing..(I am one of them) so try to do something different. I still think classic black and white newborn photography is the best, but I realize that our clients don’t always feel that way!
So what are some tips for photographing newborns?
1. Do it early! The first few days is ideal. Anything before 10 days works. After that babies don’t sleep as deeply, so you can’t pose them as easily. Also, after 10 days newborns start to get baby acne and God forbid your little one has a blemish for his first photo!
2. Keep it warm. Even if it’s summertime, newborns get the chillies something fierce when they’re changing clothes or in their birthday suit. A space heater on the spot will help make things comfy and I always have the parents put on the heat…if I’m not sweating it’s not warm enough.
3. Wait until baby is good and sleepy. This way you can pose her however you like. If you catch your baby in the first few days of her life, this won’t be a problem. I always have the parents have the baby swaddled and undressed (except for a diaper) so that baby get’s really sleepy, then you have the freedom to pose them as you like.
4. Be sure baby’s recently fed and changed. I have the baby fed as I get there and set up….and I assure parents that there may need to be a time for a snack for the babe…it’s hard work for those little ones and they get hungry and you want them happy.
5. Pose baby on a beanbag or a bunch of pillows. This soft perch will enable you to set her into various positions in a safe and comfortable manner. I use a beanbag called the Newborn Nest, but you can use any bean bag that is firm.
6. Get a black backdrop. Want those classic black and white photos of baby isolated against a black background? Grab a large piece of black fabric, blanket, or anything similar, drape it over your beanbag, perhaps pin it to your wall behind you, and, voilà, instant backdrop, you also may suggest to the parents to wear black too…
7. Think texture. If you want something more interesting than the black backdrop, think textures. Shoot baby against a thickly woven blanket, fuzzy fleece, or a corduroy cloth. These patterns pick up nicely in photographs and create an organic feel also be careful of colors you choose as they often give a color cast to the baby.
8. Lighting. Babies are not going to like bright flashes in their face so use natural light as much as possible. When I go to a clients house, I hunt all over for the best light…that may mean a bathroom or a stair way…it’s just wherever the best light is. You may have to increase your ISO a bit too.
9. Sink to their level. Great photography’s all about perspective. Experiment with photos down at your baby’s level. Your shots will feel like you’ve entered the baby’s world rather than looking down on them. In contrast get above them…stand on a step stool so you can get above the baby.
10. Use a macro lens. Do this so you can get really close in to baby toes and eyes and fingers…
Now for prepping your client, which I feel is extreamly important so that they are comfortable in allowing you to photograph the baby as you need to.
1. Prep them to the time. Newborn sessions can last a long time and you need to assure your clients that you will be there as long as you have to in order to get the shot. Make sure you tell them that the baby will need some breaks and that you are fully aware that they will need feeding and cuddling.
2. Advise them as what to where. Simple is always best when photographing newborns and parents…you need to let them know this…most have it in their mind the cute little outfit that they got at a shower or coordinating that with siblings, but newborn clothes just don’t fit newborns well and the baby will get lost in the clothes. Suggest to the parents that you will take all the images that you need of the baby in nothing…but if they really want a image of the baby in a special outfit, then you will do that at the end. Also, parents should wear simple clothes too…
3. Props: Assure your clients that you will bring your own hats and props…you dont want them to have to stress about finding things for the images and most likely you have in mind what you want to do at that session, so make sure you will communicate that with the parents. Just a tip about this…I always try to find out what colors the nursery is…and bring a hat that matches that. Mommies spend lots of time picking the nursery out and if they have a image with the baby that matches they ooh and ahhhh over it!!! make sure you take some images without any hats or headbands too
4. Poop Happens! yes it does and you need to let your clients know ahead of time and during the session that this will probably happen and it’s natural and your are use to it. When it does, make sure you are prepared with warm wipes and extra blankets for back drops.
5. Be confident. I think this is the biggest thing when working with newborns and parents…if you show that you are confident in what you are doing, then your parents will be too. I get asked all the time, how do you get the parents to let you pose and handle the baby? Its because they have seen the finished product and they know that I know what I need to do in order to get the shots and they are comfortable with that.
6 Encourage them to jump in: I strongly encourage my parents to get into some of the shots too…even if mom doesn’t feel the best, they are sweet sweet images and they will treasure them for years! Assure them that you will do whatever you can to photograph them in the most attractive manner.
So What are some MUST HAVES for newborn photography
1. A short lens: Either a 50mm or a macro…this will help you to get some amazingly close shots with beautiful bokeh!
2. A bean bag: you want to make sure it’s filled really full so that the baby doesn’t get swalloed
3. hats/wraps/blankets: I work with several vendors that I use, but you can find a ton of cute things on Etsy.com it’s an amazing place so check it out!
4. white noise maker: I got one at CVS and it’s small but it comes in handy when there is other noise in the house
5. space heater: Again, I got this at CVS it’s small, but I don’t use it on the baby…I heat up the area before hand and I also heat the blankets to which the baby will be put on…just warm not hot!!!
6. editing software: Editing newborn images is a must…you need to have this and know how to edit them, including composites.
So I hope that helps as you prepare to do your newborn sessions.
I’m super excited about the following announcement as it’s been a long time in the making! I’ve finally nailed down a date and place for this newborn workshop and I can’t wait. It’s a one day workshop, focusing on newborns, with two seperate newborn babies to photograph and to learn about all things newborn including marketing, baby plans, pricing and posing. There are only 6 spots available….so let me know if you are interested!