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Newborn Photography: A Beginner’s Guide

Newborn photography is a booming business these days—and we want to help you make it big! Our handy guide will show you how to become a newborn photography whiz.

When it comes to newborn photography, you’ll never run out of clients! The newborn photoshoot market is exploding because everyone is having babies—and everyone wants cute photos of their babies.

This is great news for you photographers who want to try out different types of photography, or make a little money from your photography. Newborn baby pics are also an amazing addition to your online photography portfolio; a great newborn photoshoot can really show off your skill and range as a shooter (to say nothing of your subject wrangling skills!).

Want to learn how to take amazing newborn photos so you can get a piece of this lucrative business? Our newborn photography guide will show you how to produce newborn pictures like a pro in no time. Ready? Let’s go!

Know Your Client’s Expectations

Time is of the essence when you’re doing newborn baby photography, so it’s crucial that you establish the goals for the shoot before the tiny one arrives on set.

Take some time to work out which kind of newborn photoshoot your client is after. You have two different types of newborn photos: posed and lifestyle.

So, what’s the difference between these newborn baby photoshoot types?

Posed Newborn Photos

Posed shoots can happen either in a studio or on location (usually the client’s house). A good posed newborn photoshoot should happen when the infant is still just a few weeks old because they are still pretty sleepy a lot of the time. They are generally photographed with a few well-placed newborn photography props, like a “one-month old!” sign or a cozy blanket (we’ll get into more detail on those later).

Typically a posed newborn photoshoot can take around three to four hours. This will include set-up, feedings, changings, managing the parents, and clean-up.

Lifestyle Newborn Photos

Lifestyle newborn photoshoots are meant to be a little more casual in style. They are generally staged at the client’s house, and shot with natural light and sans many newborn photo props. The newborn can be up to a few months old because they’re still relatively moldable and very sleepy at that stage.

The objective of a lifestyle newborn photoshoot is to capture more candid shots of the infant in their own environment, and, usually, include the parents in the shots, as well. These shoots are typically a bit quicker because—as long as the lighting is good—there’s less set-up and deliberate styling. You can anticipate maybe two to three hours in the client’s space for these lifestyle newborn photoshoots.

Now that we’re caught up on the different types of newborn baby photoshoots, let’s get into what you’ll need on hand for a successful newborn photoshoot.

Be Prepared

Having the correct gear on hand is important—especially when a tiny baby is involved! Here’s some things you should have on hand for your newborn photoshoot to ensure you get the best newborn baby pics possible.

Two Portrait Cameras

It’s always wise to have the backup just in case, you know?

Fully Formatted Memory Cards

Make sure you have plenty of room on your memory cards for all the awesome newborn photos you’ll be snapping.

Multiple Portrait Lenses

Consider all the different possible shots you can take of the infant and bring the corresponding lens with you.

Stepstool

These are key for getting those super-cute bird’s-eye view newborn pictures.

All set? Now it’s time to gather up some more baby-specific newborn photo props, including:

Space Heater

If your studio is drafty, that will make for one unhappy, very awake baby!

Toys

You want to make sure that you have a fair number of cute and funny toys with you; if you need to hold the infant’s attention in a certain direction, clapping your hands or snapping your fingers doesn’t always work.

Large, Soft Cushion

Try to picture a large cylindrical squishy ottoman, or something similar. The baby can rest on this, allowing you 360-degree shooting access, which is key for newborn pictures.

Pillows

These are great for adding a pop of color or texture—and they help make the infant a little cozier.

Waterproof Pads

Essential for any of those unexpected newborn photoshoot messes.

Theme Props

This is the fun part: try and have a bunch of options on hand, including baskets, barrels, oversized flowers, animal ears, etc. Try and refresh your prop trunk a few times a year with trendy items; parents should always be pleased with the newborn photography props available!

Cute Baby Accessories

Think cute toques, hats, headbands, mittens, booties, etc.

Change of Clothing

Always good to have on hand when you’re working with teeny talent.

Soothing Music

Have a playlist on your phone or iPod filled with soothing music to help drown out the sound of your shutter, as well as to help keep the baby asleep. Sleep time is crucial in the infant photography game.

Prep Your Clients

Your clients need to have a clear understanding of what the newborn photoshoot day is going to look like. An email template is probably your best bet. Prepare a template outlining the usual itinerary and what will be included (what you’re providing or bringing), along with what your clients should provide or bring, including any newborn photography props they want to try out.

Here are a few newborn photography tips that will ensure set-up goes smoothly. (Make sure to outline these asks in the e-mail template so parents are prepared!)

  • Recommend that your client feed the baby right after arrival or during set-up. This way, the little one will be full and ready for a nap when you’re ready to shoot.

  • Make sure to have a private area for any breastfeeding folks, or a generous cover, in case they want a little privacy.

  • Have the parents undress the infant during or after the feeding so that you won’t have to fumble with their clothing when they’re napping.

Time to get into some newborn photography tips for the day-of!

Work Those Colors

There’s a few approaches you can try here.

Match it

You want the baby to be the star of the show! One way to do this is to use a variety of complementary skin-tone shades for your backdrop and any newborn photography props. These earthy tones and warm colors won’t distract the viewer’s eye from the centerpiece.

Complement it

Want your baby to really pop in the newborn photos? Place them against contrasting colors, like a rich purple or emerald green, or a light yellow or seafoam green.

Pastel it

Pastels are hot right now. If you want your newborn baby photos to look very cool and of-the-moment, go for a pastel backdrop and accessories. Pale pink, baby blue, butter yellow—they all look amazing.

Master the Poses

The classic tummy pose is an adorable place to start with newborn photos.

Once you get the hang of it, with the help and permission of the parents, gently move the infant onto their side for a cute side shot, then on to the sprawling baby back shot. Easy!

Go With the Flow

Here is a big tip for all newborn photography newbies: let the baby move! Let the little one wiggle, yawn, squeeze their fists, and roll over. These are great opportunities to be present and snap away. A lot of these natural movements are pretty aaawww-inducing, so take advantage of that sweetness.

And don’t be afraid to get macro. With the baby asleep, this is a perfect time to get up close and snap away at those adorable fingers gripping Mom’s hair, or the plump little toes sticking out from under the blanket. These are the things you need to learn to look for.

Even downtime is an opportunity for a candid shot, whether it’s a shared smile during feeding or a moment of soothing between papa and baby. (Just make sure to get the parents’ consent!) It’s often these spur-of-the-moment shots that turn out to be the real gems.

Make it a Family Affair

Newborn photoshoots can sometimes include more than just the infant: Mom, Dad, and siblings (or even the family pet!) might come along as well.

Communication and planning are key. Discuss in detail what is going to happen on the day, what the clients will be wearing, and what you’re going to be bringing. Coordinate their outfits with your props, or, say, the baby’s booties with their decor. You have to think of it all. Best of all, if you hit it off with the family, you’ll get that referral and your client base will grow. Speaking of which…

Add Newborn Photography to Your Online Portfolio

You never know where your next big referral will come from, so you have to be prepared! Make sure to add those stunning newborn baby pics to your online portfolio, so prospective clients can see your infant photography skills. The more amazing newborn photo shoots and newborn photos you have on your portfolio, the more folks will want to hire you to shoot their little ones!

If you don’t have an online portfolio yet, you can use a website builder to create a professional-looking one in minutes. (Want to try out a few different ones before you commit? Make sure they have a free trial so you can see if it’s the best fit for you.)

Choose one with a bunch of themes to choose from, so you can find one that matches your brand identity.

We wish you the best of luck on this newborn photography journey, and tapping into this lucrative market—make mama proud!

Want more photography career advice?
How To Start A Successful Photography Business
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How To Write A Contract: Freelancer Guide to Protecting Your Rights

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