Having a successful newborn photography session isn’t about creating the perfect gallery. Instead, it is about creating a session where everyone is comfortable, happy and the baby is safe and loved.
You want the parents to leave the session feeling joy. I not only want this for each and every one of my own clients, but for every newborn photographer.
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Table to Contents
1. Know when to take newborn photos
To have a successful newborn photo shoot, it is important to know the perfect time to take these photos. You don’t want it to be too soon after birth or too late when they aren’t as fresh.
7-14 days after birth
Ideally you would want to take newborn photos between 7-14 days after they are born. This is the time where they are still pretty sleepy and love to snuggle up in those cute poses we all love.
You will still be able to get some great newborn shots after that second week. That being said, keep in mind they might be starting to wake up to the world around them.
2. Know what you need for a newborn photography session
Well first you’re going to need a sweet newborn. Obviously. In reality this is completely up to you and your photography style. Some people prefer the more simple approach and some prefer a lot of props.
Blankets, wraps, heat, and sound
Most everyone will agree that you are going to want some simple wraps, soft neutral blankets, a warm space with extra heaters, and a sound machine.
A couple more very helpful tools
I’ve also found that warming the spot on the beanbag where they will be posed is incredibly helpful too, particularly on the first blanket I’m working with. A heating pad works great for this!
To sooth the baby while posing, I have found that a very loud ‘SHHHHHH’ goes a long way! I hold my warm hands firmly on their body, often one on their head and the other on their tush, and say ‘SHHHHH’ in their ear.
3. Communicate newborn photography details with your clients
I can’t emphasis enough how important this is. Your goal for the newborn photography shoot is the same as theirs, but they don’t often know what it takes to accomplish that goal.
Communication is key
Right from the point of their first inquiry, inform them of your approach to your sessions. Likely, this information is readily available on your website or blog. But personally sending them details about the age range you prefer for the newborn, where the session will take place, the length of the session, environment temperature, and more. Sharing your hope for the parents during the session, starts your trek toward accomplishing the shared goal on the right foot.
Create a solid contract
You should also have a solid contract in place. A day or so before the session, send reminders for what the parents can do to prepare for their experience. Share what they can to to ensure it is the best experience possible.
It’s important to explain why you suggest these things … why is a pacifier helpful at the session? Why should the baby be given a very full feeding right before?
4. Consider doing a newborn photography session at home
The reason for this is because babies are in a whole new world right after brith. For this reason, staying in the comfort of their own home could really help keep the baby calm.
You really don’t need much for a newborn session. So as a photographer, pack your bags and make your studio mobile for these newborn photography sessions.
5. “Fresh 48” photos
These are very unique and special memories for a family. Fresh 48 photos are taken in the first 24-48 hours after the baby is born. You are there to document all of the little firsts that the baby has.
Alternative to labor and birth photos
This is usually an alternative to having photographs taken of the labor and delivery experience but still be able to capture the brand new life.
Most of the time these will be in the hospital, don’t forget to get all the little details from the signs to the gifts.
6. Learn to wrap a newborn for a photo
Practice makes perfect right? Practice different wrapping techniques on a doll before your photo shoot. It doesn’t always have to be a tight swaddle you would probably do for when they are sleeping.
Lengths and textures matter
Play around with different lengths and textures to get your desired look. Pro tip- you can tuck the cloth around them to avoid moving the baby too much!
7. The beanbag and blankets you use help with your newborn photos
Invest in a flat puck-style beanbag for newborn photography
The wide, flat work area lends itself perfectly to newborn posing. It helps to see the baby well and working more easily with their legs, arms and face. This is better than battling with them sinking into a too-soft, too-small, beanbag.
Layer your blankets on your beanbag
I have learned how much I benefit from layering many blankets on my beanbag in the order I want to use them. You will benefit during the session from doing this. It makes the transition from one blanket to the next extremely quick and fluid.
Roll cloth diapers to help with posing
In addition, when stuffing rolled up cloth diapers under the blanket to properly pose the baby, it really helps to stuff them all the way under the bottom blanket for a very smooth, not lumpy, look.
And lastly regarding blankets … thick, textured blankets are just so much easier to work with in post-processing because they are not as prone to wrinkles.
8. Light & angles matter in newborn photography
When I first began photographing newborns one of the very first errors I made was how I used natural light. I was prepped with the blankets and heat and lessons on posing, but I faced the beanbag and baby right at the window! What resulted were flat-light, very one-dimensional looking images.
Angle the baby to create soft shadows
Angling the beanbag set-up and positioning the baby at an angle to the light source creates soft shadows which add critical depth to an attractive portrait.
I most often keep the baby’s head toward the light, to achieve shadowing I prefer in my newborn baby photography sessions.
3 feet and a 60 degree angle from the window
Depending on the size of the window, intensity of light and distance of the window to floor, I generally keep my beanbag around 3 feet from the window and my set-up at about a 60 degree angle to the window.
9.Use your hands to help hold the pose
When you mold the baby into a pose you don’t just get them there and then snap the shot. You will keep your hands on them as you feel them relax into the position. During this time you may be shushing into their ear, while still adjusting the pose slightly or smoothing a blanket with a free hand.
Involve the parents in newborn photography
But whether it is a finger that keeps wanting to curl under or a foot that wants to pop out, holding the newborn in place will comfort them a great deal and bring the pose into perfection.
Swaddling during your newborn photography session will help the baby not only feel comfortable but helps to hold the pose as well.
10. Have confidence in your newborn photography
You may be thinking “but doesn’t that only come with experience??” To a point, yes, but so much can also be achieved through watching videos, studying poses, taking classes, and asking questions.
Watch newborn photography videos
I gained so much confidence before my very first session by watching a video of a well-known photographer working with a newborn. Just seeing how she handled the baby opened my eyes to what was possible. You will pick up a number of soothing techniques that will prove to be so helpful.
I hope that some (or all!) of these tips will help you toward your goal of successful newborn photography sessions, as much as they’ve helped me!
Don’t forget there are so many different types of ways to photograph newborns. Another popular option is to create a lifestyle newborn photography session.