There's something about newborn photography that can make just about anyone smile. It captures such a special and fleeting time, and newborn photos are something families cherish forever. Whether you're a new parent looking for tips on what to expect before booking a newborn photo session, or an aspiring newborn photographer who wants to know more about how to make your online portfolio stand out, this article will help you answer the questions you have about newborn photography, so you can make sure those photos come out perfectly.
What is Newborn Photography?
Newborn photography is a niche within portrait photography. Unlike other types of portrait photography sessions, the subject is typically under two weeks old. This means that everyone involved has to take extra precautions to make sure the newborn baby is comfortable and safe.
Newborn photography is all about capturing those precious moments at the very beginning of a new life. It is distinct from baby photography, which captures older infants, but a newborn photographer will likely specialize in all types of baby photography.
Can Newborn Baby Photography Sessions Take Place When the Baby is Over Two Weeks Old?
Two weeks might seem like a very short time after birth, when new parents are resting and adjusting to the new addition to their family. However, there is a reason why newborn sessions take place within the first two weeks. Babies already start resting in different positions after two weeks, but when they are brand new they still curl up like they did in the womb. Newborn photography typically features the baby curled up in that adorable pose, so to truly capture that newborn essence, the shoot should take place in the first two weeks.
By booking a session for about a week after the mother's due date, the parents and photographer can be sure they'll capture images of that fleeting newborn magic.
How Long Does a Newborn Photography Session Take?
While photographers of all kinds know that it's difficult to plan a photoshoot down to the last minute, you should always leave a buffer of extra time when it comes to planning a newborn baby photography session. They can, of course, be unpredictable subjects. As a general rule of thumb, expect to spend anywhere between 2 and 4 hours on a newborn photography session. Some factors that will impact the length of your session include:
Sleeping or waking shot. Parents will often request to have their newborns photographed while sleeping. These shots are extremely cute, but expect to spend some time soothing the baby to sleep between shots. If you're going for a waking shot, you should still expect that time is spent on diaper changes and feedings between shots.
Elaborateness of set. The scene for each image will need to be set up, and some shots use more props than others. The infant may be photographed naked, or they may be wrapped up in a colorful blanket or wrap. Bonnets are also often worn in newborn photography, and they can be found in a range of cute patterns and colors. Getting both the baby and the set arranged between shots can take some time, especially if the newborn has to be soothed again.
Infant temperament. Each newborn is unique! Some may cry frequently, while others may be a breeze to photograph. It's better to have extra time at the end of your shoot than to have captured fewer shots than you hoped for because you didn't expect a fussy newborn.
Number of images desired. The number of images and sets requested by the family will also impact the duration of your shoot
Addition of family shots. In addition to newborn photography, a shoot might also include shots with mothers, parents, and other kids in the family. It's a good idea to include these, since parents will look back on them fondly, but keep in mind that they will extend the duration of your shoot.
What Should a Newborn Wear In a Photo Shoot?
Newborns typically aren't dressed in loose fitting clothing for photoshoots, so opt for either a snug fitting white or neutral onesie or swaddle blanket. This is also a good opportunity to showcase any blankets or baby clothes that have sentimental value and that you'd like to remember in the future.
Baby bonnets and knit caps can be a very cute option as well, and they can be found in a wide range of colors and patterns.
There is no shortage of adorable newborn outfits available on Etsy and other baby clothing sites if you want to go for a fun theme. From little animal costumes to outfits that come with matching props, you can get really creative here.
When it comes to parents choosing their outfits for family newborn photo shoots, white, light grey, or neutral tops tend to look great. It's a good idea to stay away from fussy patterns and bright colors, since they can look distracting in photos.
Siblings can also wear neutrals and light colors, but it's also important that they feel happy and comfortable in what they wear. As long as they don't wear anything too bright and loud, it should look great in the final photos.
Newborn Photography Poses
Before getting into the best newborn poses, it's important to keep in mind that the most important priority by far is the infant's comfort and safety. Since they might be wearing a lot less than the photographers and family members, extra care should be taken to make sure the temperature in the studio or home is comfortable.
If the baby is the clients' first child, the photographer might actually be even more comfortable posing the baby than the parents are because they've done it many times. When posing, the newborn's head should always be supported. Newborn posing pillows can be used to support the baby, and are designed to provide both comfort and support to the little one.
The most popular (and cutest!) newborn photography poses include:
The Frog Pose
This isn't a beginner pose, since it requires some careful positioning of the newborn and the compositing of two images, but it is an absolutely adorable pose that shows off the baby's features and the flexibility that makes these pictures so cute.
The safest way to capture this photograph is to take two photos. The first will have an assistant or parent's hand supporting the baby at the wrists, and the second will have them supporting the baby's head. This way, the newborn doesn't risk dropping their head onto the pillow or beanbag they are posing on. Later, in Photoshop, the two photos can be composited together to create an image with no hands supporting the baby.
The Tushy Up Pose
This sleeping baby pose is all about highlighting those adorable wrinkles of baby fat. The key to this pose is placing a posing pillow below the baby's head and one below their bum, and curling the baby slightly toward the camera so that the elbow and knee touch. This way, you'll be sure to capture those cute rolls.
The Bundled Up Pose
To achieve this pose, the baby should be safely wrapped up or swaddled in a blanket. Once wrapped up, the baby should be placed on their back with a posing pillow supporting their head. This is often a sleeping baby pose, but it's adorable when they're awake too.
The magic of this particular shot is how it emphasizes just how tiny the newborn is. They're only that small once!
The Womb Pose
This is also often referred to as the taco pose in newborn photography blogs, since the little one is folded over like a taco. This is a comfy pose for newborns since it mimics how they were in the womb, but as always make sure their head is comfortably supported with a posing pillow.
Some clients want simple, natural looking newborn photos, while others love the idea of creating fun compositions with props. There's no right or wrong approach, so whatever speaks to you is the way to go! Some newborn photography businesses will have everything you need right in the photography studio, with fun props to create all kinds of imaginative worlds.
The Side Pose
Posing the newborn on their side with their hands clasped under their heads is another beautiful, peaceful newborn photography pose. It can be jazzed up with props, or kept simple to let the little one shine.
Chin On Hands
Another sweet pose is the chin on hands shot, where the baby is resting his or her head on their crossed hands. This shot puts their features and cute little hands center stage.
Don't forget to include some shots with the rest of the family in your session! These can include siblings snuggling with the new addition to their family, and parents lovingly gazing down at their child. The newborn can either be posed on a surface, or supported in a parent's arms.
How Much Does a Newborn Photography Session Cost?
As is the case with all types of photography, the price per session will vary depending on your area, the skill and experience of the photographer, the style of photographs requested, and the location of the shoot. For example, someone who rents a studio may have a higher fee than one who shoots in clients' homes as they will also have to cover rent in addition to other photographer expenses.
To give you an idea of how much a typical photoshoot with newborns will cost, the average price per hour in the US is between $170 and $210. Since a typical shoot may range from 2 to 4 hours, a shoot may cost between $340 on the lower end and $840 on the higher end.
Photographers may not explicitly bill by the hour, so on the photographer's invoice you might see line items such as the number of photos delivered, props rented, camera, lens and light rental. The fee covers the time spent shooting, but also the time spent preparing for the shoot and editing the images.
What are the Best Tips for Capturing Images of Newborns?
When it comes to making sure a newborn photoshoot goes as smoothly as possible, one of the very best tips is to make sure the baby is nice and sleepy before the shoot. This way, they can easily be placed into the different poses listed above without too much fuss. To achieve this, having a warm bath before the shoot and keeping the newborn awake for the hour before will increase the chances that they're ready for a nap when it's photography time.
A few other tips you can use include:
Create a comfortable ambient environment by having a space heater on hand if necessary, and even a soft low volume white noise machine
Try to shoot in natural light. Not only is it flattering on all skin tones, but it is also more comfortable than being under harsh studio lights.
Take some macro shots of all the cute little details. This way, you can also get a few extra shots from each pose before switching it up and potentially spending some time soothing the baby to sleep again.
What Do You Need for a Newborn Photo Shoot?
If you want to create newborn photography of your own that your family lovingly look back on for years to come, you don't necessarily need a ton of fancy photo equipment. Even if you're looking into building a professional portfolio of baby photography, keeping it simple with equipment and slowly adding things as you learn more about the process is an excellent way to go. Some of the critical things you'll need for photographing little ones are:
A good camera. It goes without saying, a decent camera goes a long way in creating excellent baby photography. A high quality DSLR is a good choice, but nowadays there are also high performing mirrorless cameras, like the Sony Alpha a7III ($1698.00), that are as powerful as their DSLR competitors while also being lighter, quieter, and less expensive.
A selection of lenses. Your lenses are right up there with the camera body as your most important tools for baby photography. There is no shortage of advice out there about the long list of lenses you should carry to every shoot, but it's best to start out with a couple of essential lenses and then add more if you feel there is something you are unable to capture with the basics.
The first thing you'll want to have on hand is a "nifty fifty"—a wide 50mm lens that allows you to create a nice bokeh effect when needed, and to capture the baby in a way that looks natural and similar to what the eye sees.
The second lens you should consider adding to your beginner kit is a macro lens. This will allow you to get those adorable close up shots of faces, fingers and toes.
A reflector. While a studio light setup isn't a necessity, a reflector can help you make the most of natural light by bouncing it so that more of it falls on the baby. This can soften shadows, and create a nice flattering light for your subject
A beanbag and pillows for posing. Safety is the absolute top priority in baby photography, whether you're a parent or a pro. A wide beanbag disc is a great option, since it's comfortable, not so soft that the baby will tumble over, and gives you a nice large area to work with. The beanbag should be placed on the floor, not on a high table where there is a risk of a big fall.
Blankets. These can be used for wrapping up the baby, or as a surface on which to photograph them. Having a range of baby blankets in a variety of colors and textures is a great, simple way to create different looks in your photos.
Backdrops and a backdrop stand. Backdrops aren't an absolute must for baby photography, since the little one is often shot from a higher angle making a blanket suffice as a background. Pillows can also be used behind the baby to make the blanket slope upwards, creating a background. However, some poses, like the frog pose, do have a larger visible background. A few options and a simple stand can make those photos look really professional.
Cleaning items. Last but not least, having some simple cleaning items for the little one is always a great idea. Things like baby wipes and paper towels will most definitely come in handy between shots.
Can I Do My Own Newborn Photography at Home?
With a camera, the equipment listed above, and a few choice props, you can take some basic newborn photos at home. It's important to keep it simple with the poses if you are new to newborn photography, as some of them can be tricky at first, and you don't want to hurt the baby at all.
Hiring a pro is a good choice if you want a really professional finish or more advanced poses. They may also have equipment that produces larger image files, which are helpful if you're planning to print those photos on a large scale.
Given how adorable your subject is, the great thing about newborn photography is that you'd have to try pretty hard to get a truly bad shot. Enjoy the time spent with a brand new little person, remember to respect their needs and moods, and create some images that are sure to be treasured for years to come.
Want more family photography tips? Read on!