10 Newborn Photography Tips!
1. Posed vs Lifestyle: Know Your Clients’ Expectations
There are two types of newborn photography – posed/studio & lifestyle. While I am typically a boutique photographer, I love both styles for different reasons. However, it is important to make sure your client knows what type you intend to do so there are no surprises during or after the session.
Boutique/studio sessions – Typically must be done within the first 2 weeks of birth when the baby is very sleepy and “mold-able”. The focus in this type of session is on shots of the baby looking a bit more polished, usually in blankets, wraps, hats, & headbands. The session can last up to 3 hours with feeding, potty breaks, and posing.
Lifestyle newborn sessions – Are a bit more casual approach to newborn photography. There may be some posing but the intention is to capture more natural images of the baby and their home. These sessions can be done up to 6 weeks old and usually last 1-2 hours max. My favorite thing about lifestyle newborn photography is capturing the wonder and amazement between the family members. These sessions can be a bit more challenging as you may have a bit less control of light in your client’s home.
2. Be Prepared
I am fortunate enough to have a separate studio that is ready to go for my new little models. However, if you are doing the session in the client’s home, posed newborn sessions require nearly the same amount of prep as a wedding. You need quite a bit of gear and it is easy to forget something so make sure to pack the night before and use a checklist so so you don’t forget anything.
My prep includes packing the following:
- Camera and backup camera
- Formatted memory cards
- a few loud and funny kid toys (if there is a toddler that will be joining the session)
- Newborn posing beanbag
- Backdrop stand and clamps
- Space heater
- Step stool
- a Boppy pillow (for posing)
- Waterproof pads (to catch messes)
- a change of clothes for me (in case of a mess)
- Props (baskets, crates etc…)
- Big blankets for backgrounds
- Small swaddle blankets
- White noise app
3. Prepare Your Client
The #1 way to ensure a successful newborn session is to make sure your client knows what to expect and how to best prepare for the session. I send my prep tips a few days before our session to get mommy and daddy prepared. I highly recommend that mom feeds while you unpack and setup. I have them feed the baby in only a diaper and a loose swaddle blanket so we don’t have to bother the baby with undressing them. I also let them know what I’ll be bringing, the approximate length of the session, to expect messes and frequent feedings.
4. Let the Baby Inspire You
Inspiration is everywhere – probably even in the form of Pinterest emails from your client. It is a great idea to have some poses in mind before you arrive at the session. However, like letting the love story of a wedding day unfold organically, I believe the best images are unplanned and inspired by the uniqueness of each baby. Whether it is cute dimples, big beautiful eyes, full lips, or a great head of hair, try to highlight the beauty of the baby.
5. Be Mindful of Your Aperture
I know many portrait & wedding photographers love to shoot wide open at f/1.2 & f/1.4. However, with newborn photography many of the baby poses can have extreme angles and you often will have better luck with your depth of field and sharpness by shooting around f/2 & f/2.2. Remember, it will be rare that the baby’s eyes are on the same plane of focus all the time and by closing down my aperture a bit from wide open I get that little bit extra of depth of field that is often needed.
6. Baby Sleepy Time = Macro Lens Time!
Aside from posed and a few lifestyle shots, the other big “to do” in my mental shot list is macro work. I love to capture close ups of the baby’s toes, little bits of hair on their shoulder, pouty lips, & ears, etc…
These close-up “detail” shots are not only adorable but they are great accompanying images for albums and accordion books. Because of the sensitive focus on a macro lens, the best time to get these images is when the baby is very still (in their deepest sleep).
7. Encourage Mom to Get in Front of the Camera….Gently
After I had my babies the last thing that I wanted to do was have my picture taken and put much effort into making myself camera ready. I know firsthand how hard it is for a mom to get in front of that camera. But I also know how important it is.
8. Props – Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy
One of my biggest mistakes when I was starting out was that I brought all my props/wraps/blankets/headbands to every single session. When I got set up, I would have a mini panic attack because I had no idea where I should start. Now I plan 3-4 different setups (based on the client’s preferences and expectations) and that’s all. I am often inspired by something the client owns as well, such as a blanket knitted by Grandma or something else that’s special to mom and dad, so it is not uncommon for me to not even use everything I bring.
9. Siblings Are a Whole New Ballgame
If the baby has older siblings, I try to make the sibling shots my very first priority and then let them go play while we finish the session. Toddlers simply don’t have the attention span to sit quietly and wait for you to call on them for their picture so get their poses done first while they are curious and excited about your visit. By the time the session is over, they are usually open to participating again and that is when I try to get some lifestyle sibling shots.
10. Be Flexible, Safe, and Don’t Give Up
One thing I learned when I became a parent, was that the baby is the boss regardless of how much control I pretend I have. The same is true for newborn photography. If the baby doesn’t want to go to sleep for posing after you’ve tried everything, take some lifestyle shots & keep shooting. Swaddle tight and try to get some eye contact. Get images of mommy rocking the baby, be open and flexible – the session doesn’t always go as planned and that might just be the best thing that happens to you.
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