People ask us all the time how to improve their newborn photography skills. Here are some tips to get you started. If you are an amateur trying to better your skills, workshops (with accredited photographers) are invaluable. We have studied with some great ones. Babies as Art and Jaiden Photography to name a couple of our favs. This summer we are hosting Amy McDaniels of Dewdrops Photography and can’t wait. No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn.
1)PHOTOGRAPH AROUND 1 WEEK OLD. It’s important to wait until the mother’s milk comes in, which happens typically after a few days (though all moms are different). Once the baby hits 2 weeks old, they start to get accustomed to the outside world and cannot be molded as easily into the poses we love . Sarah calls this the “squishy baby period”.
2)KEEP MOM AT MORE THAN AN ARMS LENGTH. Babies can sense their mother’s milk. Ask mom to sit back and relax while photographing . She needs a break anyway.
3)FEED RIGHT BEFORE AND DURING SHOOT, AS NECESSARY. You want the baby to have a full belly. This helps them to sleep better while being photographed. If baby is fussing, take a break to feed and try again. Babies frequently cluster feed at this stage in their life.
4)MAKE IT WARM. Newborn babies lose heat fast and are used to being in the 98.6 degree womb at this age. We typically keep our studio around 85 degrees during these shoots so the baby will sleep. Don’t forget to tell the parents to dress for this.
5)BE SAFE!! We can not stress this enough. If you don’t know how a photographer did a pose, DO NOT ATTEMPT IT. Most newborn photos are composites where a supporting hand was taken out of the photo. If I see another baby hanging in cheesecloth from a tree branch with no one supporting underneath, I’m going to scream. The parents have put their child’s safety in your hands- don’t be an idiot.
6)MAKE SURE THE BABY LOOKS ALIVE. This may sound a little ridiculous and morbid, but it’s a mistake that is FREQUENTLY made. Ever heard a mom say they felt their child to make sure their baby was still breathing? Newborn babies sleep extremely soundly. Do not pose the newborn in a lifeless pose. If the baby is laying on his/her back with hands crossed on chest, they might look like they are in a casket. Sometimes you don’t realize a pose like this happened until editing. Take it out of the gallery. Make sure the baby has the correct skin tones in editing. Be advised that using too many actions, which remove partial color can also take the life out of your newborn subject.
7)HAVE A PACIFIER ON HAND. Even if the parents are not going to use a pacifier in the long run, it is essential during these shoots to soothe the baby. A couple hours with a pacifier will not get the baby hooked. Use it, when necessary, to keep the baby calm during posing.
8)EASY OFF CLOTHES ONLY. Have the parents bring the baby with a zip up outfit or something that is extremely easy to take off. NOTHING THAT GOES OVER THEIR HEAD! Ask the parents to keep the diaper loose in order to avoid lines that you will need to edit out later.
9)USE LOW F-STOP LENSES. It’s important to achieve a soft look in these photos. Low f-stop lenses make for a bokeh effect which can draw your eye to the most important part of the photo- that adorable face :).
10)BE PATIENT! There is no set time a newborn shoot will take. Remember- the baby runs the show. If you have to take time out over and over for the mother to feed, that’s what you need to do. We typically tell the parents to allow 2-3 hours. We will shoot until we get all the shots we want. It could take an hour, it could take 4. In a very rare circumstance when the baby is just not having it (maybe they are sick or something), bring them back another day. They are investing in you, take the time to get it right.