By all means, babies are sweet, adorable, and innocent. However, without the right set of skills and proper game plan, they can become a photographer’s worst nightmare. How can you handle the hurdles and surprises that come with navigating newborn photography?
Today, we have some of the most essential newborn photography tips to keep in mind when working with baby. Especially for childless photographers, the following guidelines can significantly improve your images.
1. Plan Ahead
As a photographer, it’s never a bad thing to be prepared for just about any situation. Life’s spontaneity is part of what makes photography such a compelling medium. And, if anything, newborn photography can be spontaneous.
It may seem counterintuitive, but having some basic supplies and ideas at the ready makes improvisation easier. First and foremost, you should always have a few professional photographic essentials.
Don’t leave the house without a backup camera and a diverse selection of lenses. Keep spare memory cards and batteries in an empty pocket, take the extra effort to drag out a backdrop or two. Taking these precautions minimizes the chances of running into debilitating technical mishaps.
When working with newborns, it’s equally important to have a few baby essentials on hand for practical reasons. For instance, wet wipes can quickly clean up unexpected messes. If you have the opportunity, request that your client bring in some spare outfits and a warm swaddling blanket so that you’re not limited to one look.
Keep in mind that a photo shoot can be an overwhelming experience for a new baby – bring in whatever you need to make your subject comfortable. Fun, colorful toys can grab the attention of just about any little one. Soothing music helps to drown out the startling sound of a shutter firing away.
All that being said, don’t overthink or get too attached to a specific idea. Babies are hard to predict, and it’s possible that not every idea will fly with a sensitive model. Come in with a game plan, but be prepared to make adjustments and shifts to cater to your client.
2. Timing is Key
In the same vein of planning ahead, try to schedule your shoot at a time where the baby will likely be calm. No one wants to deal with an ornery infant, especially when a paycheck is on the line. Try to communicate with clients to find a time that works well for every party involved.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the time you choose to work can drastically affect the look of your photographs. For instance, if you plan on utilizing window light, a morning session will yield better results than an evening session would. You may be surprised to see just how crucial a bit of flattering light can be in the field of newborn photography.
One of the newborn photography tips that no one ever bothered to mention to me is that babies aren’t always angelic looking. On my first ever shoot, I was shocked to see that the newborn I was working with actually had quite a bit of acne! While Photoshop can buff out a few blemishes, timing your shot to coincide with great lighting conditions can take care of a lot of the hard work for you.
Before springing into action, consider what the babies needs may be down the road and plan accordingly. Be sure to ask parents when the baby was last fed and changed. These distractions may eat away at valuable shooting time if you don’t schedule your time wisely.
3. Set Clear Expectations
Every client is going to want something slightly different. The sooner you can pinpoint what they want out of your services, the better it is for everyone. There’s more than one way to approach newborn photography.
Some people prefer highly stylized, prop-heavy “posed” infant photography. These sessions should be scheduled within the first weeks of a baby’s life when they’re sleepy and “moldable” into certain positions. Usually held in a studio setting, these shoots can easily last several hours.
Other clients prefer the more casual approach of a lifestyle photo shoot. Focusing on family and environment, “natural” shots document the excitement of a newborn. Short and sweet, these sessions are often a little bit more flexible and open-ended.
Both lifestyle and posed newborn photography have their value. However, you’ll have to adopt entirely different strategies based on which direction you take. What your client wants can directly impact the supplies you’ll need, the location of the photo shoot, and how long the session will last.
4. Highlight Baby’s Uniqueness
No two babies are the same. Highlighting each child’s distinct traits and personality is an excellent way to get your images to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t try to stifle the natural movements and expressions of a baby. Aside from keeping things comfortable, organic motions are more telling than cookie-cutter poses. Babies don’t vocalize their thoughts, but observant photographers can help their personalities shine.
If at all possible, try to draw inspiration from your clients and surroundings. Having baby pose with something with sentimental value can really add something special to a shoot. What’s more, bringing parents and siblings can add a whole new dynamic to your images.
5. Go with the Flow
Last (but certainly not least), newborn photography requires patience. Even seasoned photographers struggle with approaching newborns for the first time. If you want to succeed, don’t give up – it’s all just a matter of working past growing pains.
Keep in mind that there will be distractions and that breaks are a necessity. However, these moments can actually become incredible shooting opportunities. Feeding time can be a beautiful, intimate moment, and a sleepy baby is unlikely to make much of a fuss.
There’s no real surefire way of controlling an infant’s mood, so it’s important to take baby steps (no pun intended). Feel things out and be cognizant of the baby’s mood and behavior. And, of course, if you manage to grab its undivided attention, drop everything and roll with it.
Meghan is an artist and writer based out of Boston, MA. With an interest in everything from instant film to experimental videography, her work has been featured internationally in a variety of photographic exhibitions and publications. As a regular contributor, she uses her broad background in fine art and varied professional experiences to inform her articles.