Photographing infants can be an enjoyable experience. They’re so cute and cuddly, you’d be hard-pressed to think anything could go wrong while taking photos of them.
Unfortunately, even if you’re an expert photographer, you might find shooting babies a challenge if you don’t know how to handle them. From scheduling, baby-proofing your studio, posing the baby, to changing diapers, there’s a lot of factors you need to consider.
In this article, we have some tips you might find useful when starting out as a newborn photographer. Apart from sharing a few photography tricks, we’ll cover essential job requirements that include preparing a location and keeping your snuggly subject comfortable during the shoot.
01. Get some training
Photography isn’t the only skill you have to learn when it comes to shooting newborns. You have to know how to handle babies as well.
If you’re not a parent and don’t have any experience taking care of babies, it would help to ask parents in your family or your social circle for advice. Observe how they handle their newborn, so you know how to hold them and how to deal with their different moods. You could also take some pictures for practice. At this point, you don’t have to worry about posing the baby. Just take photos casually to see how you might pose them, so you can be efficient in your sessions.
Now, while the responsibility falls more on parents, you might also want to learn how to deal with pee and poop. Diapers don’t look appealing in pictures, but you can expect these “accidents” to happen on the set. Many photographers, and parents, advise putting on a diaper loosely, so it can easily be removed when needed. Bed pads hidden under blankets can also keep the set clean and safe from other types of messy spills once the diaper is off.
Additionally, look to experienced newborn photographers. Being taught by a professional would help you learn details in both photography and handling babies that you might miss otherwise when you do it by yourself. It wouldn’t hurt to ask them to observe or even assist them in a photo shoot. You can also get inspiration from masters of newborn photography like Anne Geddes, who loves sharing tips on how she does her work.
No matter which method you choose to gain experience, practice a lot before you start photographing newborns independently.
02. Plan with the parents
The responsibilities involved in photographing a baby don't only fall on you, but on the parents as well. Plan everything together to make the process as smooth as possible.
The shoot should be scheduled months ahead of the due date. Ideally, newborns should be photographed in the first two weeks when they are usually sleeping through the day, so you can easily pose them. Additionally, babies are expected to go through a growth spurt after 2 weeks, so shooting on the third week might mean nobody gets the newborn photos either parties want. You also need to keep your schedule flexible—babies could arrive as early as 2 weeks before their due date or a few days later than expected.
Expectations for themes should also be clear to both you and the parents. While some people like to keep it simple, others may opt to try a specific theme complete with costumes and props. Iron out the concept in advance, so that you’re ready when the time comes. If the theme involves something elaborate, prepare the props way before the baby is even born.
On the day itself, make sure the baby is fed before the shoot. When the baby is well fed, it’s less likely to cry and is more inclined to sleep, which is precisely what you want when you’re taking photos. Don’t forget to have the mother burp the baby a few times before you take photos to avoid messy spills.
03. Create a baby-friendly set
Before the shoot, you need to prepare the location. You can do this a day or two before the schedule, so all you have to think about during the shoot is getting the baby comfortable, and you can get through the shoot as quickly as possible.
While more experienced photographers can get the shoot done in a few minutes, a typical session could last as long as four hours—half the time of which is often spent preparing and soothing the baby. This is why it's so important to ensure everyone involved is as comfortable as possible on-set.
You can set up a baby bean bag, blankets, and soft toys to create a comfortable space. Do not forget about the parents—mothers will need a comfortable space to feed their babies.
While shooting, free the room of any noise that could distract or cause discomfort to the baby. Consider playing soothing lullabies or even white noise.
Another important factor in keeping the newborn comfortable is the room temperature. Babies are sensitive to temperature changes, so you need to get the temperature right. Keep this in mind when shooting with lights that could easily raise the temperature or when shooting babies without clothes on.
Of course, not all babies are the same, and their parents will know best how to keep them comfortable. Don’t hesitate to ask what they will need from you way in advance of your session.
On your end, ensure that equipment, such as lights, stands, and tripods, are secure when shooting. Don’t have anyone walking around as they could accidentally trip on wires or equipment that could hit or frighten the baby. For obvious reasons, you should keep your location as safe and as clean as possible at all times.
04. Pose the baby carefully
Newborns don’t shift much when they're asleep (which is 90 % of the time), so you can easily pose them. But how do you know when it's the right time to start moving their arms and legs? First, try to lift their arm slowly. If you don’t feel any resistance, then that means they’re sleeping and ready for the shoot.
The most comfortable position is to have them lie on their backs and photograph them in their natural state. Another pose you can do is to gently turn them over until they're lying prone. Afterward, slowly move their arms to prop up the baby's head. From there, you can experiment with different variables of the same posture. As long as you’re gentle, you don’t have to worry about them changing position.
While taking photographs, always observe the baby’s face as well. Take photos of them yawning, smiling, or even crying before their expression disappears. You can photograph different poses all day, but you never know when you’ll see their priceless reactions, so always be ready for those moments.
To yield better photos, experiment with different angles. Don’t limit yourself with eye-level shots, but also play around with other unique perspectives. For instance, you can try shoot at a 45-degree angle above the baby, or even straight down or from the side.
05. Make it a family affair
There’s nothing sweeter than photographing the newborn with the rest of the family. When you’re finished taking photos of the baby alone, feel free to invite everyone else to join in.
If the newborn has older siblings, have them play around to create a fun and homely atmosphere. Kids usually love to frolic around with babies, so they don't need much direction from you. Just let them entertain their little brother or sister and quietly capture the moment.
Of course, you shouldn’t miss out on photographing the parents cuddling the baby as well. You can always ask them to pose, but you should also document the intimate, unguarded moments with their newborn. People tend to treasure these types of photos more.
Newborn photography certainly has some unique challenges that you won’t encounter in any other genre. However, with some patience and training, it can also be the most delightful and rewarding experience you will ever have as a photographer.