So there’s a new infant in your life, and you’re thinking about trying to capture a few newborn portraits. Photography sessions with an infant varies wildly from portrait photography sessions with older children or adults. You’ve got to follow a couple of rules, you’ve got to remember that babies are generally not going to care that they might be messing up the vision you have for the shoot, and you’ve got to remember that above all, you’re not in charge of the shoot nearly as much as you think you are. This article will spotlight ten tips to help you take some great newborn portraits, even with the fussiest of subjects.
Image Credit: Recent Infant Session by aaronsteel on Flickr
10. A Stocked Diaper Bag is Your New Best Friend
Babies are needy. Not just a little needy, but extremely needy. You’re going to need a stocked baby bag close by, so you’re not rummaging around your house, trying to find that pacifier when your little angel gets fussy. This is doubly important if you’re not photographing your baby in your own home. If it isn’t your kid, just make sure mom (or dad!) stocks a diaper bag and brings it along! Things to put into the diaper bag: bottles, formula or milk, a few pacifiers, some favorite toys or stuffed animals, extra diapers, blankets, washcloths and spit-up rags, and extra outfits.
9. Happy Babies are Warm Babies
One of peoples' favorite ways to photograph newborns generally seems to be with the baby either completely naked (al la bear skin rug shots) or in their diapers. This generally allows you to see the soft, cuddliness of newborns. Even if you’re photographing them with clothes on, chances are that what you find warm and cozy, the baby might find a little cool. Turn up the heat or bring out space heaters to warm the area where you’re going to be taking pictures. Naturally, if you’re using space heaters, keep them at a safe distance from the infant.
Image Credit: ho, hum … another newborn by jen_maiser on Flickr
8. Blinding a Baby is Generally a Bad Idea
Okay, imagine that you’re a few days old. Your favorite things are generally eating, sleeping, and being cuddled. Also, you’re not generally a fan of bright lights, which means that you’re probably not a big fan of the flash on the camera. When possible, shoot without the flash to avoid bothering the baby’s sensitive eyes. Not to mention, the flash generally does strange things to the appearance of infants in photographs. No one wants their kid to look washed out or overly blotchy!
7. Stoop to Their Level
Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time on your stomach next to a newborn while photographing them. This will be one of the only ways you can comfortably get a close-up without someone holding the infant. Get comfortable with a few pillows and blankets and get up close and personal with Junior! In fact, he probably prefers you to be closer to him anyway, where he can watch what you’re doing and enjoy the presence of another person.
6. Diffuse the Light When Possible
As stated, the flash on a camera can be much too bright for anyone, let alone a newborn. Flash will wash out a baby and make them appear to be pale and almost unhealthy, or it’ll bring a lot of attention to the natural red in a newborns skin, making them appear more blotchy. If you can angle your flash, bouncing it off a ceiling will lead to a much softer image. If not, you can always try moving lights around the room when possible. Remember, you aren’t trying to blind the kid, after all, so make sure that lamp shades or well-placed white sheets are there to make the light soft and diffused and keep the light bulb from shining directly in the baby’s face.
Image Credit: Newborn by Liam Wilde on Flickr
5. Wash that Baby Face!
If you’ve ever spent any time around a baby, you’re probably fully aware that their faces are rarely clean. Runny noses, dried milk, spit-up, and sleep in the eyes are par for the course with a newborn. Keep some cotton swabs and a warm washcloth on hand and wipe up anything on the kids face that you don’t want in the picture!
4. The Angle Option
You can’t really pose a newborn in a lot of different ways. Stomach? Sure. Back? Okay. That’s about it without the assistance of swings, chairs, and other people. That being said, don’t be afraid to pull in a favorite swing, chair, or even another person. Babies love being cuddled, so there are a lot of options to explore. Try an over-the-shoulder shot, or laying on their tummy in mommy or daddy’s arms. And don’t forget the classic “laying back in the arms” pose! Don’t forget that you can always gently prop a baby against something to get a better view of their faces from an angle. These are all very flattering for newborns, and are a bit more interesting than a baby laying by themselves on their back or stomach.
Image Credit: Charlotte’s Newborn Session by Christine on Flickr
3. Don’t Expect a Lot of Smiles
Newborns don’t spend a lot of time smiling. In fact, they don’t spend a lot of time doing too much of anything other than sleeping and eating. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get some great shots! There’s something angelic about a sleeping newborn cradled in someone’s arms. And is there anything cuter than a newborn happily nursing from a bottle? Of course not! And if a kid is fussy, don’t be afraid to pop a pacifier in because that is melt-your-heart cute! The trick is to take a lot of pictures of the infant doing what (s)he does best. When all else fails, take a lot of pictures from different angles, and see what ones you like best!
2. When in Doubt, Go With Timeless Black and White
Newborns tend to be a bit red in their first week or two of life, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t look good in a picture. What do you do about this? Simple! Remove the color from the image! Black and white newborn portrait photography is classic and timeless, and allows for you to show all the soft cuddliness of a baby without worrying about them appearing too red or blotchy. This is one of the simplest fixes, and I highly recommend it.
Image Credit: Newborn Nicholas 04 by christopherallisonphotography.com on Flickr
1. Stop When the Baby Says It’s Time to Stop
It doesn’t matter if you can do a photography shoot for five or six hours at a time, if the baby becomes fussy or upset with what is going on, take a break, or wait until the next day. Bright lights, strange objects, and people shuffling around them are likely to make them a bit irritated or nervous, which doesn’t translate well in photographs, and it isn’t doing your baby any favors either. Watch the babies cues to see if they’re hungry, need a diaper change, sleepy, or if they’re just annoyed with the situation, and fix accordingly. After all, when working with such tiny models, you’ll quickly learn that you’re not the one calling the shots!