12 Essential Tips for Successful Newborn Photography

12 Essential Tips for Successful Newborn Photography

Newborn photography could be daunting compared to other photography genres where either a still object or adults and even kids could be posed and moved at will. Whereas, newborn babies are delicate and need to be handled with a lot of care. Plus, you need to be patient as there could be multiple breaks during a photography session to attend different baby needs. Hence, in a short period of time during the actual shoot, the photos need to be perfect. Below, are a few photographing tips on how to have a successful newborn photography session and some editing tips, shared by Memories by TLC (Tracy Callahan) and Newborn Photography Melbourne, to help you perfect your newborn photography.

How to have a successful newborn photography session

Newborn photography is a super popular business these days, but if you don’t have much experience in photographing babies, you could be in for a stressful venture :). We want to help become a success with your photography business so we’ve come up with 12 simple steps below to help you out.

Do you ever wonder how newborn photographers get their newborns posed so nicely that they look peaceful? In this comprehensive guide, we have collected the best tips and tricks on how to start with newborn photography and have a successful newborn session. These tips will be useful for those of you who don’t have enough personal experience with photographing babies.

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Read these 12 simple steps on how to work with babies in a photo studio:

Step 1 : Keep the baby warm.

Newborns have a difficult time regulating their own body temperature. To keep them comfortable with no clothing on it is important that you keep your studio warm.

I keep my studio at 85F. I also warm my blankets in the dryer or with the heater fan prior to placing a newborn on them.  If you choose to use a heater fan be sure to keep it far away from the baby so you don’t hurt their sensitive skin.

If you are sweating during your session then you have it nice and warm for the baby and he/she will likely sleep more soundly.

Step 2 : Make it noisy.

The sounds in the womb are very loud and some say as loud as a vacuum cleaner. Newborns will sleep much more soundly if there is white noise in the room.

During a newborn session, I have two noise machines (one with rain, one with the sound of the ocean) as well as an app on my iPhone for static white noise.

I also play music in the background. I not only find it helpful for the baby but it also relaxes me as well as the parents. Being relaxed is key since babies will pick up on your energy.

Step 3 : A full belly equals a happy baby

I always ask the newborn’s parents to try to hold off feeding their baby until they arrive at the studio. I have the parents feed their baby first prior to beginning the session.

If the baby is happy when they arrive then I start with the family images and then have them feed their baby while I am setting up the beanbag. I also stop if needed during the session if the baby needs to eat some more.

Babies with a full belly will sleep much more soundly.

Step 4 : Keep them awake prior to coming to the studio.

I always ask that parents try to keep their baby awake for 1-2 hours prior to coming into the studio. A good way to have them do this is by giving their baby a bath.

This is a great way for the babies to exercise their lungs a bit before coming and tire themselves out a bit. It also helps their hair to be nice and fluffy (if they have any!).

Step 5 : Use the macro mode.

Newborn babies have so many cute body parts presenting the photographer with limitless opportunities to get creative and capture those “awwwww so cute” shots.

If your camera comes with a macro mode or you have a specifically designed macro lens, you can isolate various body parts such as the baby’s fingers, toes, eyes, etc. The focus will be clear and you will create some really wonderful, creative photos.

Macros will help you highlight details that are totally lost using a standard focus. During your photo session, you will start creating wonderful pictures along with some excellent feature shots that could be a lifetime memory for the parents.

Step 6: Time of the day matters. Schedule in the morning.

I often get asked the question of when to take newborn photos. If at all possible, I like to schedule my newborn sessions first thing in the morning. This is a time when most babies sleep more soundly.

The afternoon can be very tricky as they approach the afternoon witching hour. Anyone who has kids can attest to the fact that kids of all ages tend to not be at their best as late afternoon approaches. It is the same for newborns.

Step 7: Stay calm and relaxed.

Babies are very perceptive and can pick up on our energy. If you are nervous or anxious the baby will sense that and will not settle easily. If the baby’s Mom is anxious this can also affect how the baby does.

I have two comfortable chairs placed behind me so that parents can sit back and watch while giving me enough space to work. I also offer them snacks, drinks and I have a stack of People magazines for them to read. I rarely have moms that come over and hover but if they do I politely tell them that this is their chance to sit back and relax and enjoy.

Step 8: Find the best angles

This is one of the most difficult aspects of newborn photography. If you are a novice photographer, it can be a little challenging to find that perfect angle but here are some thoughts:

  • Get Down to Baby Level: Newborns are small, and you need to get down to their level while being close enough to capture the special shots. Try using a 24-105 zoom at the widest focal length. The images will seem like you are in the same space as the baby and not tower over him or her.
  • Close-Up Shots: To get a really sweet intimate shot, you can either move in really close to baby or set your camera to a longer focal length. The longer focal length really is the best choice to create good close-up shots. Also, less chance that your huge lens will be staring into the baby’s face which can really upset an infant.

Step 9: Get them while they are young.

The best time to photograph a newborn is in the first fourteen days of life. During this time they sleep more soundly and curl up more easily into adorable poses. For babies that are born early and spend time in the hospital, I try to get them into the studio within the first seven days of them being sent home.

I don’t usually photograph babies younger than five days old since they are still working out how to feed and can often be very red or jaundiced. I have photographed babies as old as ten weeks and have been successful in getting a newborn like poses.

The key to photographing older babies is to make sure that they are kept awake for up to two hours prior to starting the session. I also make sure that the parents understand that there is no guarantee that they will get typical sleepy shots.

Step 10: Take your time.

Newborn sessions can be quite time consuming so you should plan accordingly and educate the parents. If you are stressed about time the babies will sense that.

My typical newborn session lasts at least three hours with some as long as four hours. It takes time to get newborns comfortably posed and sleeping soundly. It also takes time to perfect the little details like keeping their hands flat and fingers straightened.

Step 11: Be safe.

Remember that although you are an artist and your goal is to capture an amazing image, at the end of the day this is someone’s precious new life that they have entrusted you with.  No portrait is worth putting a baby at risk of getting hurt.

Use common sense and always make sure to have someone VERY close by spotting the baby, even if the baby is on a beanbag. Be gentle and NEVER force a newborn into a pose.

Make it a habit to always wash your hands well before starting the session, and make sure that all of your blankets are laundered after each use.  Never ever photograph a newborn if you are ill, even with a common cold.   Babies are very susceptible to infections, and it is our job to keep them safe.

Step 12: Don’t be afraid to overexpose the photos.

Newborns, in general, have a slight redness of their skin tone. You can reduce this look by carefully overexposing the photos. It can add a soft, pristine look to baby’s skin that everyone is going to really love.


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