Newborn photography tips
Hello! I am Shannon from Shannon Marie Photography. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to write for the Autism Cafe today! There are so many aspects of photography that I would love to write about, but one is near and dear to my heart. And that is newborn photography.
Becoming a mother for the first time was the most incredible and emotional experience of my life. I fell in love with capturing the newborn season seven years ago when my son, Chase, was born. We’ve since welcomed our second child, and it was just as magical. A baby is such a miracle. I find so much joy in capturing this season of life for others. There is nothing more precious or pure than a newborn baby.
I first fell in love with newborn photography when my son was born seven years ago. Back then, I already held a degree in photography, but I quickly learned that newborn photography was a whole other world that was going to take time, consistency and dedication. So I began reading, researching, and studying the work of others. I enrolled in workshops and was lucky enough to then find mentors who taught me everything I know today. Then I was given amazing opportunities to work side by side and I learned so much, which I am thankful for, I have now worked with newborns for six years. I love capturing this major milestone for parents. Here are a few tips for newborn photography that changed my work drastically:
Communication with the client:
Before each and every newborn session, it is a priority to send your clients a newborn session preparation letter. Having a newborn baby is amazing, but also often stressful, especially for first time parents. They are trusting you with the miracle they’ve dreamed of their entire life. I find it helpful for them to understand how things are going to go throughout the session so they are at ease. You want to ensure your clients are relaxed and comfortable, not only during the session, but long before. Include details on the session flow, environment, and temperature so the expectations are set. I also include seemingly small details like remember your pacifier and feed your baby prior to arriving to the studio, or my arrival to your home.
There are so many items you need when photographing a newborn. I am just going to cover a few though. I am sure many photographers have their own methods that they love and while they may not use what I use, these are things that have helped me be successful. When I first began shooting newborns, I purchased a cheap bean bag at target to pose the baby on. It was not working out for me. So I finally gave in and purchased a puck-style bean bag. It is large and gives a firmer surface to work one.
Blankets! Blankets, blankets, blankets! Learning to use a ton of blankets was an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment for me. I start with a stack of super soft ones and layer them over the bean bag. Then, I choose three textured blankets to pose the baby on and layer them for a swift, smooth transition during sessions. Finally, I put a potty pad under the top one in case baby has an accident, as they often do. The texture on them helps save time editing out wrinkles in post processing, and who doesn’t love the cozy look of a squishy blanket.
I use a Sigma Art 50mm lens during almost my entire session. I also use a Macro lens to capture the tiny little newborn details.
Preparation is such a vital part of a successful session. First, I’ve found photographing newborns in a studio helps to remain in control of the temperature and environment. However, I know that not everyone is able to have access to a studio.
I usually show up to the studio two hours early to a session so that I am not rushed. If the session is an in-home session, I allow myself about 45 minutes to set up. I start by bringing the heat to 78-85 degrees because, as we know, newborns want to feel as if they are still in the womb.Then I set up my puck-style bean bag and begin layering all of the blankets. I have a thick stack of various size and thickness of cloth diapers to roll up for posing. This helps keep the baby securely in position. I keep socks on hand. It sounds silly, but they make great small posing tools.
Next, I set up a backdrop stand when needed. I place a basket near the bean bag holding all of my diaper clothes, socks, hand sanitizer, and baby wipes so I am prepared. Then, I choose the wraps, hats and/or headbands I would like to use throughout the session and place them nearby.
Lastly, I turn a white noise machine up very high. For in home sessions, I use a white noise app I have on my phone; just one less thing I have to take with me. The heat and white noise makes such a huge difference in the session.
I love natural light for photographing newborns. Getting familiar in the space you are working is so important. I always set up my bean bag at a good angle to the the light source, keeping the baby’s head toward the light. This helps the light fall on baby’s face nicely and create only soft shadows. White sheer curtains can help diffuse bright light for a softer look.
A Predictable and Flexible Workflow:
I love the most simple natural poses, and creating a workflow will help you be organized and prepared. First, I always keep one hand on baby for safety and comfort. I gently remove the diaper and my first pose is most always baby on his or her stomach. I’ll pose baby’s hand resting under their cheek and their bottom half curled up. Most babies still love to sleep on their stomachs, so this is an ideal starter pose. With an assistant, you can always have a hand on baby for comfort. I like to get a few different images from each pose, remembering to get detailed shots with my macro lens. I then transfer baby to a nearby prop for variety. Some babies need to stop for a feeding halfway through. I tell parents to take their time feeding and loving on their new baby. We can then get back to it when they’re finished.
I take a minimum of three bean bag set ups and two props for most sessions. Having an ideal workflow, but always being flexible, keeps the session smooth. Always be prepared, and when a certain pose isn’t going to work, simply move to the next. Each baby is different, and you will soon figure out if he or she likes to be curled up, stretched out, prefers back or belly, likes to flare out their fingers or keep them balled up. Be able to switch things up without getting flustered. If things are just not working out for posing, which I have run into, let the baby do its own thing and capture that. Capture the stretching, yawning and all things in between. It’s important to work with the baby as they are most comfortable. Some of those unexpected images are my favorites.
Capture Tiny Details:
The tiny details are one of my favorite parts of photographing a newborn. Every baby has such different details, which will never be this little again. I attempt to capture everything; the little squishy nose, rosebud lips, swirls of soft baby hair, delicate eyelashes, chubby cheeks, and tiny toes and fingers. I use my macro lens and shoot on manual with manual focus to get the exact look I desire. I always keep my macro lens sitting next to me and use it throughout the session Certain poses are better than others for these details.
Keep Baby Comfortable/Safety:
When possible, have an assistant available. It’s always great assurance for parents that there are two people working with baby. Otherwise, be sure parents have a view of the baby throughout the session without having to stand next to you. Be sure the heater next to the beanbag is set to go off at a specific temperature so it doesn’t get too warm for baby. Baby’s safety and comfort is the number one priority, not the poses or photos. Make every moment safe and comfortable and they will return to you again and again. Beyond the images, they will remember how they felt during their session.
I just adore the families I have worked with and love capturing those families’ milestones year after year! It is so important to me to not just capture the images my clients desire, but to also build a wonderful relationship with them.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Newborn photography is challenging, but if you love it, it is very rewarding capturing this precious time for families. If you have any questions or would like to see more of my work, please feel free to reach out to me.