As adorable as they are, newborns can be a tricky subject to capture. In order to get those mantle-worthy shots that your clients will ooh and aah over, you will need to do your homework. Below, we've compiled a complete guide and checklist for you to use as an outline as you collaborate with your new parents and photograph their most treasured bundles of joy.
The Perfect Newborn Session Guide:
Schedule for 5-14 days old:
To ensure the baby is at the best age for newborn photos, work with your clients to schedule their session during the first couple of weeks. This is when they are sleeping most and the younger they are the more curled up they are which makes for easier posing.
It's good practice to keep all cell phones out of the session for the photographer and parents. The number of germs on a mobile device is higher than any other surface you will encounter. So for the sake of the newborn it is best to keep them out of the session if possible.
It is recommended to use a low table, surface, or stacked mattresses. This will allow baby to be safe and for everyone to be more at ease during the session. You can get everything you need in one shot without having to composite later in photoshop.
Get it right in-camera:
One of the biggest challenges a photographer can encounter during a newborn session is editing out wrinkles in your blankets and surfaces. The best thing to do is to use fabrics with a good amount of stretch in them so that you can clamp them down and keep them nice and tight to minimize wrinkles. You will thank yourself for the countless amount of hours of editing you will save.
Take Extra Measures to Ensure the Newborn's Comfort:
Make sure to prepare parents for the optimal time to photograph a newborn session: shortly after a sleep and feeding. You'll want them to be sleeping soundly for the perfect newborn shots, so make sure they're comfy. Having heating pads or area heaters on hand to keep baby warm will help him or her sleep.
Keep Lighting Simple:
All you need to achieve the lighting you will need is a large window for natural light and a reflector to fill in shadows. If you are shooting in a clients home you can set up near a large window or doorway, whichever has more natural light.
If you are using off-camera lighting you can create the look of natural light by pointing the light in front of the newborn instead of directly at it which will create a nice soft and feathered light.
Newborns are unpredictable, the amount of time it will take to position new poses and different backdrops/outfits will vary and will be the one thing you can't plan for. Be patient and breezy on shoot; new (and exhausted) parents might be frantic or embarrassed; reassure them that this is perfectly normal and that the fussiness and struggles of the session will not be reflected in their final portraits. Also, consider charging per image or session rather than per hour since the time it will take to wait on baby will vary. You may even have to stop for another feeding or diaper change so plan accordingly.
Don't forget to bring dog training pads and baby wipes to protect your surfaces and clean "messes" that are bound to happen.
Make it personal:
Don't forget to ask parents to bring a prop of their own to the session. There are a bunch of cute things that you can find on the internet, but the sentimental items are the ones that always evoke the most emotion.
Newborn Session Essential Gear List:
- Stretchy Fabric/Wraps
- Posing Pillow/Bean Bag
- Sound (White Noise) Machine
- Heating Pad
- Space Heater
- Dog Training Pads
- Baby Wipes
- Macro Lens
- Ultra Low Table Top or Mattress
Standard Newborn Shot List:
As you gain experience and accrue your own set of newborn photography props and standard shots-- add to and get creative with your shot list!
Also take note that the newborn's face should be facing the light source. Do not place feet toward the direction of the light.
- On back from above
- On their side from the side
- On their side from 1/3 above
- On their tummy from above
- On their tummy from in front
- Detail shot of hands
- Detail shot of feet
- Detail shots of accessories
- Detail shots of favorite props/dolls/stuffed animals/blankies
Special thanks to Krystal Methenitis of KM Photo Studio for providing helpful insights and imagery to share.