How to Take Newborn Photos like a Pro
By Christy Whitehead, www.JaxPhotographer.com
The first year of your baby’s life they change so much from day to day. While I highly recommend professional portraits, here’s some tips for capturing a few moments on your own as well.
Let’s talk Lighting
Lighting is your friend, but not all lighting is created equal. Have you ever noticed how sometimes photos have a yellowish tint? Yeah, you can thank those indoor lights. So let’s look for some window/natural light.
Position your baby so that their head is closest to the window, and their little booty is parallel to the window (if you want mainly face photo) or farthest away from the window (if you want full body).
In studio, I use a big light that acts very similar to a window light and position it just to my right, and maybe slightly to my back.
Keep in mind, shadows are your friend! Without shadows, you’ll have a flat image and you won’t see all those cute little baby rolls.
Next thing to think about is the angle you take the photo, you don’t want to shoot so that you don’t see up into the baby’s nostrils, as that’s not flattering and creates a “black hole.”
Don’t forget to step back and get full body, as well as get close and get details.
If you’re doing a naked baby shot, you also have to think about all those little bits. You want everything tucked in so you don’t see their genitals. Push comes to shove, a little blanket can help cover things up.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Shoot straight on, stand up higher and get a shot from above, etc. Even going on the shadowed side and shooting back at the baby can create a nice effect.
A large bean bag that is a bit stiff is a good place to start with posing your little one.
Some large throw blankets work great over the bean bag to not only help keep your little one warm, but also give you a nice soft backdrop.
Rolled towels are great for putting under the blankets to help prop them up.
Props or No Props?
Some people prefer very simple and clean. Either baby completely naked or with a little outfit on they want something that represents them and their personalities.
I often try to do both. But it’s something you’ll have to think about when you’re thinking about your own photos, what do you like?
Some different popular poses with your little one.
Siblings with the new baby.
Depending on the older child’s age, you might want to position them laying down next to each other, or have the older child sit on the ground with the new baby in his lap. (I would have a spotter though, just in case!)
With each parent, individually.
Naked, skin on skin with dad is fun, especially if he has tattoos. Or if he’s military or has another uniform, that can be a great way to customize it.
If you’re having a hard time getting your little one settled, a swaddled baby is typically a happy baby!
Baby on tummy.
This gets a nice cute shot of their whole little body laying down in that cute little pose, showing off their toes and fingers.
Hands on arms/elbows, front view.
This is more of a straight shot of your little one, but can include a little bit of their whole body. But the focus is more on the face.
Head in hands.
Get dad to hold the new baby in his hands, it shows how little the baby’s head is at this time in his life, compared to daddy’s hands.
Wedding rings on toes or fingers.
This would be especially sentimental if you plan on gifting your child with those rings one day.
Baby on his back.
This can be a very natural pose for little one and if he has gas, the tummy pose may irritate them, but this pose is usually pretty comfortable.
Buckets and baskets.
Using a bucket or basket is popular with newborn photographers
Special toys can be a great way to make your session extra special. Oversided teddy? Make it look like your little one is sleeping in it’s lap. Grandma make the little one a special little doll, have her hold it.
Special items, like a wedding dress or veil is another nice idea to incorporate.
Use the crib as part of your session. Pose your little one in there on their belly, face towards you and shoot them through the bars or from above.
Types of Newborn Photography
There are two main different types of newborn photographers, lifestyle and studio/posed.
Lifestyle photographers are photographing things as they happen naturally. So if you like this style, you like the photos of the chaos of everyday situations—the house the way it is, the kids doing what they, want, etc. The only problem with doing this type of session yourself, is lifestyle sessions typically include YOU, the parent.
Studio/posed photography is how I typically shoot. While I shoot families with their little ones, it’s in studio, posed for the best possible results. While the family photos would be exceptionally hard to get on your own, since you need to hold the little one AND take the photo, posing your little one for some photos of only them.
Cell phones have come a long way, but even as a professional, I still struggle to get great shots from my cell phone, so if you’re struggling, you’re not alone!
I shoot with Canon professional SLR cameras, if you want some info about what I shoot with and what I recommend, check out the For Photographers section on my website for info about education and gear. https://www.jaxphotographer.com/photographers/faq-gear-getting-legal
Baby rolling, or kicking out. Little ones like to push and kick, always be careful of where they are on a prop, make sure they aren’t too close to an edge or on an unstable prop, like a bucket without help. I have an assistant or parent sit near me, within reach in case they need to grab the little one, as safety is of the utmost importance.
Strap on camera. This may sound crazy, but if you’re photographing above the baby, make sure the strap is on your wrist tight or around your neck. The last thing you would want is to accidentally drop the camera on your little one!
Glass jars, etc. There was a time when people put babies into glass jars with their heads sticking out, etc. This is dangerous. What if the baby kicks out or something happens and the jar falls and cracks? I would only hope that all photos using things like glass jars are being photoshopped and not really done.
Railroad tracks. What most people don’t realize is, shooting on railroad tracks is illegal. Even adults who know what they are doing have been caught by surprise and killed, here in the US, so just avoid the railroad tracks.
Fabric hanging. Sometimes, people request a shot of their little one inside a wrap, lifted off the ground. When we shoot this, we do this on top of a bean bag and there is a spotter right there to help in case the little one were to fall, etc.
A lot of people love the shot with the babies legs all the way to the front near the baby’s face. I’m not a huge fan of this shot. Not all babies will do this pose, some just aren’t this limber. Also, if they have gas, tummy issues, or anything else that is bothering them, they may not want to do this pose at all.
Head on hands.
This is a popular request and we do it quite a bit. But what most people don’t realize is, this shot is typically composited. Basically, we set the baby up in the pose, and my assistant holds their hands at the bottom, under the chin, I take a photo, and then she moves her hand to hold the baby’s head and I take another photo. Then I combine these shots in Photoshop, to create what looks like the baby is resting on her hands. Little baby heads are quite heavy and it would not be comfortable for them to rest on their hands, if they can do it at all. So if you’ve tried to do this shot and couldn’t, this is the secret of how I do it!
Even with all these tips, I don’t know that I could even go over everything I’ve learned over the years on how to create the best newborn portraits while keeping your little one’s safety in mind.
If you’re struggling to take photos of your little baby, or just overwhelmed with the thought of it, give me a call, (904) 891-0359 or shoot me an email Christy@jaxphotographer.com
Christy Whitehead is a pregnancy, newborn and cake smash photographer in Jacksonville, Florida. She has been voted best photographer multiple times and has been featured on Buzzfeed multiple times for her fun and geeky photos.