Baby Photography 101

Baby Photography 101

The last how-to article I did was on photographing expectant mothers. It only makes sense that we follow that up with how to photograph babies and an exploration of Baby Photography. Much of the setup information is the same, such as lighting and equipment, so if you need a refresher, read the previous post on photographing indoor maternity sessions.


Baby Photography Tips

1. Timing

This can be rather tricky as all babies seem to be on their own schedule, especially cute photogenic newborns. Here are 3 things to be aware of.

  • First, babies can loose the ” newborn baby curl” within about 10 days of birth. If your looking for that little rump to be up and the baby to be mold-able, try to shoot within this window.
  • Second, coordinate with the mother beforehand and the two of you should plan the sleepiest time for the shoot. The sleepier the better, and no one would have a better idea of when that is than mom.
  • Third, before the mother comes with said sleepy baby, make sure she dresses him or her in something easy to take off without disturbing the baby. Clothing that doesn’t have to go over the head is good or even bring the baby in a swaddler. You need to be able to undress the baby without losing the deep slumber. Don’t be afraid to have mom help you move and mold the baby. With practice you will feel more comfortable with newborns and babies, but in the beginning advise mom on how she can help you position the baby and shoot away.

Baby  Photography 02

2. Don’t overload with ideas

If you are a fan of Anne Geddes or an avid baby photo lover, it’s easy to set your expectations too high and overload your photo-session with so many “concept” shots that you end up with a big headache and little to show for it. Choose 2 or 3 poses only. If you nail those, take a break a try a couple more later.

As always, I recommend doing a quick google image search for baby photographs to stir the creative juices. For babies it seems like the simpler the better. Unless you have a human sized flower or clam shell lying around, the baby is so new and perfect they can easily stand alone as the center of your photograph. Have fun with them and make sure the mom and dad know they have the cutest baby on earth.

Baby  Photography 03

3. Heating up the Room

More than likely, the shots you will be attempting to get will include cute baby buns, baby feet and baby bellies. All this clotheless shooting can quickly add up to a cold, cranky baby. You might want to invest in a small space heater to get a little extra heat in the baby’s direction. Be sure to turn the heat up to around 74 degrees about an hour before the shoot.
If you are shooting in a clients home this will require prior planning but I would suggest bringing your space heater as well because baby is usually not used to hanging around in just a diaper.

Baby  Photography 06.jpg

4. Prop’s

As mentioned above, the baby usually provides enough aesthetic appeal for most shots. Prop’s though, when tastefully used, are wonderful. They help convey perspective, size, fragility or add a hint of color to show whether it’s a boy or girl.

For this session we wanted to create the popular “baby on a stack of ultra-soft, I wish I were small enough to sleep on towels too, cause that looks so comfortable” look. The list of what you need for this is short.

  • Clean white towels ($4 each)
  • pink ribbon ($2)
  • some baby wipes (priceless)

When I took the baby’s diaper off, a quick cleaning was in order. Save yourself from staring at baby poop particles magnified at 10X in Photoshop as you try to do cleanup.

A couple shots into this pose the baby decided she didn’t like her bedding and peed on the top layer of towels. Fortunatly she was laying on a large stack of replacements. Although I didn’t notice till the shoot was over, after mom lifted the baby and I rotated the top two towels, I wasn’t as precise in layering them back neatly.

It didn’t completely ruin the shot, but remember to take your time and be delicate with the baby and the props. Babies can sense when there is stress or tension. This is not high fashion, it should mellow and beautiful.

Baby Photography 01.jpg

5. Know your simple tricks in post production

Unless you are a very experienced shooter, the pictures may not look exactly how you envisioned straight out of the camera. Not to fear, post production is here.

In the sample shots I showed here, there were a couple problems.

  • Problem #1 Mom’s black sweater was plainly visible and I wanted the viewer to really only see the baby.
  • Problem #2 In the white images, things weren’t lit exactly right. One side of the white wall behind the baby looked whiter and brighter than the other. I wanted a near uniform whiteness.

Can you guess what two tools I used to correct these problems?

If you said the dodge and burn tool, you’re wrong. I decided to go an even quicker route using the vignette tool and the devignette tool. By cranking the dark vignette to its maximum both in size and amount (I use Apple Aperture) it perfectly hid mom’s torso from the shot but kept the baby unaffected. By using the devignette tool it bleached out the edges of the white photo to lose unwanted shadows and tinges. Although not conventional, I find this worked great with just a few clicks.

What Baby Photography Tips would you add?

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Chas Elliott is a freelance photographer in the Northern Virginia and DC area. See more of his work at

Some Older Comments

  • Lee April 28, 2012 09:04 pm

    Hello All, I'm having trouble trying to decide what Lens to puchase for protraits and baby shots. I have a canon 7d and there is just too much to choose from. Please help!!!!!

  • Vivika a Denver Photographer March 18, 2012 01:58 pm

    Great tips. I like the space heater idea.
    But have also noticed that some little new ones just don't want to sleep no matter what you do.

  • Boo January 29, 2012 10:56 am

    I am photographing a newborn next week. I love the towel stack, but I would be afraid of baby falling off, it looks quite high. What's the secret there?

  • norman achong July 5, 2011 09:04 am

    We are expecting a baby soon and I cannot wait to take lots of creative pictures. I was wondering if you can post a tutorial on how you blacked out everything except for the arms and the baby? I would love to try to reproduce such a shot.


  • Amanda Jayne February 18, 2011 02:29 pm

    Does anyone have any tips on taking photos of the black and white pictures (above) on a Canon ES1000?

    I have 2 beautiful nieces (twins) and they were born 4 months ago.. but are premmies and are still quite small... would love to take some of these photos this weekend If i can - just need to know what programme i should use to get the perfect dark light etc... would love to get other nice family shots

  • Heidi Cabrera December 6, 2010 01:10 pm

    Use a white noise machine during the photo shoot. It takes newborns back to when they were inside their mommy's womb and makes them feel more relaxed and calm. Also shooting in a warm environment is really key. Newborns get really cold really fast, especially if you are going to do the nude shots, and that is one of the reasons they would probably pee all over everything. This also applies to making sure your props are not too cold for the baby i.e tin bucket. I would suggest warming it up the tin bucket with a blow dryer. Oh and one more thing make sure your blankets, throws and hats are not going to irritate the baby's very sensitive skin.

  • tea October 7, 2010 03:29 am

    wow,,what a nice tips!

    i love baby and kids photography,,but now i want to explore more about newborn gesture for a safe posing,, do you have any tips for that?

    thank you,,

  • July 16, 2010 04:18 am

    Anyone have tips for photographing a newborn baby outdoors??

  • Candice Duke January 7, 2010 09:15 am

    hide a heating pad under baby to help them stay warm and help them sleep through the shoot!

  • james December 15, 2009 03:23 pm

    Hello, I want to know the baby's eyes flash do harm? thanks!

  • Denver Baby Photographer December 7, 2009 08:43 am

    Excellent tips! I shoot a lot of baby's but found these tips to be very useful. Great job.

  • Erica September 20, 2009 02:59 pm

    Can you (or anyone) give me some tips on the vignette tool you talked about? I've sort of attempted to reproduce the black photo with the baby and arms being the only thing that show. But I do need to darken the black shirt and black backdrop and I'm having trouble achieving this. Any tips? I googled a couple articles on making a vignette, but they don't seem to be giving me instructions for what you did with the pictures in the article. Any help anyone? I truly appreciat eit.

  • Susie September 17, 2009 12:10 am

    Awesome advice and so true! I love to get babies when they are fresh out of the womb because they are so easy to play around with! hehe

  • lauren July 31, 2009 10:58 pm

    exactly, i had problems with lighting also. luckily the photos still ame out okay, though i really need in invest in a white backdrop

  • Raven July 24, 2009 05:21 am

    The pics with the white towels and pink ribbon should have had a darker background....the white washes-out the bow part of the ribbon.

  • Sarah April 30, 2009 01:19 am

    I like to shoot with my Tamron 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6, and haven't don babies yet. would you recommend this lens or should i get a lens with a small f-stop

  • Chas March 23, 2009 10:42 am

    @Koky Nice work. I like the color choices in towels. I'm gonna give that a try next time.

  • Koky March 23, 2009 04:20 am

    Hello, i try make some picture inspired by this article ... so here is result of my first attempt :)

    Hope you like it :)

  • Debbe B March 15, 2009 07:48 am

    I spent this last year photographing my little granddaughter, now I have another one. Love the tip about the heatpad. Will definitely use that.
    Also, you can find cute props in garden centres ie. Walmart has a large teacup that is a planter, looks great with a black backdrop. I also have a picnic basket I use. And as others said, snap away, crying or smiling.

  • Cara March 15, 2009 07:08 am

    @reznor It is obvious that you are not a parent. Don't be hating what you don't understand yet. I have a 9 month old baby girl and wish I had read this article before she was born. We don't have any of those cute naked newborn shots.

  • Rhose March 14, 2009 02:10 pm

    wow! this is really what I needed to learn .. I will be expecting to gave birth a few months from now ... but since I can't took a picture of my baby and myself, I plan to impart the knowledge to my first son (12 years old) who like photography so he can be our photographer this time .. ^ - ^

    by the way, I like the baby on top of the towels .. awesome!

  • Lauren March 14, 2009 11:03 am

    One more thing, if you're using a point and shoot, turn on as many lights as possible (or get by a window) and DO NOT use the flash.. it sounds obvious but you'd be surprised. Flashes don't do a baby justice, trust me.

    I often get the "the pictures are BEAUTIFUL" comment and Moms are all shocked - it only took about half a photo shoot to figure out which light in the hospital room works best, the one right above the bed. So about 95% of my pictures are shot on the hospital bed itself (if Mom can't get out of it, we use the couch by the window with the blinds open).. We don't even have a nicer camera, it's an Olympus point and shoot.. not sure of the model, but it's nothing fancy, I just happen to know how to use it the right way :)

  • tabletopdrummer March 14, 2009 12:50 am

    Thanks for the GREAT TIPS!
    Can't wait to steal a few of them, we have a new grandchild due in May! I really want to capture some great shots of her, to give Mom & Dad for their first family photo album.
    Thanks D.P.S.

  • Dave S March 13, 2009 09:11 am

    I found this set of baby articles to be excellent and helpful in the basics BUT my grand-daughter is almost 7 months old right now, I have a new camera (my first DSLR - Olympus E-3) and I'd love to have as much in the way of tips and lessons as possible to try as she grows. Any pointers to websites or information on this site would be welcome. Thanks.

  • cntry_rose March 13, 2009 08:17 am

    This is so timely for us, we are awaiting the birth of our 4th granddaughter... and I can't wait to try some of your wonderful suggestions. Thank you!

  • Angie J March 13, 2009 08:05 am

    AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME information and soo very timely for me as I'm shooting my newborn cousin in a couple of days! And the responses by Lauran and Tanya provided great info too! Thanks Chas and everyone!!! You all are great!!

  • Wendy March 13, 2009 04:55 am

    Thank you, a great article. Loved the hints and tips! We recently had 2 grandchildren born within a day of each other and this article was perfect timing.

  • bobbyd March 13, 2009 02:14 am

    Thank you very much, the photography is great and the article was really well written and a lot of easy reading information. I have been inspired to add a new photography niche. I am sure to become a loyal reader, again thank you.

  • Patrick Mitchell March 13, 2009 12:57 am

    Great tips, Chas. I always forget the extra heat until it's too late. THe only thing I have done that was not talked about is a heating pad on low on the surface of where the baby is going (like bedding) can make the transfer from mom to setting more comfortable. No cold shock.

  • Chas March 11, 2009 07:48 am

    Mike: I ALWAYS shoot raw. Always. In post you can covert to B&W using different color filters etc. to get very different results.

  • Tanya Plonka March 11, 2009 04:39 am

    Don't be alarmed by a crying baby; you can still catch moments that look like peaceful sleep if you are paying attention!

    That stress thing is REALLY important. Talk to mom and dad beforehand not to get stressed if the baby is crying, because the baby will pick up on that stress and not stop.

    Pay attention to what the baby is telling you too. If she/he cried every time you try a certain position, stop trying that position and think of something else.

  • Mike March 11, 2009 02:00 am

    When taking B&W photos, like the ones in this article, is it best to change the settings in the camera to take b&w photos or should this transition be done PP (while shooting in raw)? Does it make a difference

  • C. Diane March 11, 2009 01:04 am

    Well I'm gonna a 3rd grandma which I am very eager to take my newborn grandbaby this coming summer. If my daughter has her birth on my b/day that would be fantasic. I will be taking a lot of photo which I just recently bought me a brand new camera.. I'm looking forward to it........

  • Heidi March 10, 2009 01:14 pm

    I just did my little nephew last week at 8 days old. Wow.... This was a first for me, I'm thinking piece of cake. I was dead wrong. He was crying almost the whole time. I agree with Lauren on this. Click away is just what I did, and they turned out Fab!

  • Lauren March 10, 2009 10:42 am

    As a professional newborn photographer (I photograph babies as young as 12 hours old some days), I've seen everything from completely napped out to screaming wildly. Moms try to wake baby up when I come in the hospital room and I try to tell them that they pose better when they're sleeping but they rarely listen. Maybe a mom will see this and keep her child asleep :)

    I'd never thought of the towel pose, I'll have to try that! I'm known for using some of mom's flowers, I'll leave them together or take petals off and sprinkle over naked baby, both are equally beautiful.

    And another hint with babies, asleep or not: click anyway. Even if you don't think the shot will come out, click anyway. I shot one just today and Daddy told me it looked fake because it was so perfect, I happen to catch less than 24 hr old Baby Girl smiling so wide her eyes closed up.

    And warm rooms are definitely the key, very very few of my nearly naked babies like being naked and curled up. I've only had ONE who let me put her on fresh rose petals and sprinkle more over her.

  • Light Stalking March 10, 2009 07:28 am

    I always have problems with the timing of photographing children. Seems I have to reel off hundreds of shots just to get a couple of reasonable photos. I think I will stick with landscapes for the time being. :(

  • Chas March 10, 2009 02:09 am

    Kornbread: I have really starting liking shoot-through umbrellas. Similar to a soft boxes, they soften the light coming from my wireless flashes but they have the advantage of being more portable and mobile (and cheaper too!). In these shots I had my wife take the umbrella off the stand and hold it up pretty close to the baby just out of frame. She could then walk around and try different angles while I was shooting until we dialed it in just right. If you don't have one, look for one that is both shoot-through and standard with a removable black backing.

  • Reznor March 10, 2009 02:06 am

    To be quite honest, I never really saw the point in baby photography since all babies look the same anyway. You could hang a photo of any baby on your wall, wouldn't make much of a difference.

  • Joe March 10, 2009 01:51 am

    Awesome tips, and great timing! I'll be sure to try these out when my son arrives in a few weeks :)

  • LisaNewton March 10, 2009 01:44 am

    I'm so jealous of today's digital cameras and taking pictures of babies. Back in the day, when my children were born, I hardly ever got a good shot of them. Developing pictures was too expensive.

    What a great article you've put together and touches like warming the room are so important.

  • Aamer March 10, 2009 01:42 am

    timely information for me. I was shooting my newborn niece last weekend and will try to follow these suggestions again in a couple of weeks.

  • Rick Hanzlik March 10, 2009 01:07 am

    Outstanding information. Wish I had read this about four months ago when my first grandson was born. By now he is too big for the towl or arm photos so I'll have to look for other ideas but great stuff just the same.

  • Kornbread March 10, 2009 01:07 am

    I have found some of the most difficult things with baby shots is getting the lighting right. What kind of a lighting setup did you use for the shots above?