Baby Photography: Photographing Babies Without Losing your Mind

Baby Photography: Photographing Babies Without Losing your Mind


Today Natalie Norton shares with us a series of 6 tips for photographing babies.

*Image Credit Nicole Hill.

Babies, babies everywhere! It seems like everyone around me is either pregnant or has a new born! I’m a total sucker for tiny people. I love the way they look, all pink and wrinkled. I love the way they smell, like baby powder, and well, let’s just face it, slightly like sour milk. I even love the way they sound, fire engine siren screams and all.

However sweet they may be, they are NOT the easiest of photographic subjects! Here are 6 tips to nailing your next newborn session with flying colors.

1. Plan ahead of time!

Baby-PhotographyHere are some things you’ll want to discuss with Mom and Dad about a day or 2 prior to your scheduled shoot.

  • Talk to Mom and Dad about the baby’s schedule. They may or may not have one, but one way or another, 9 times out of 10 Baby’s parents will be able to tell you which time of day their baby tends to be at their best, most calm state.
  • If you’re shooting the baby at home, be sure to get specifics as far as where Mom and Dad would like to shoot. If you don’t have studio lighting (which I don’t) you’ll want to make sure you know which way the windows in the chosen room are facing at the time of day you’re shooting to be sure you’ll have adequate light.
  • You’ll also want to know how Mom and Dad feel about wardrobe (or lack there of) for the baby. I love a naked, pink, wrinkly baby booty, however, not all parents share my affinity. Be sure to discuss this with Mommy and Daddy before you get to a shoot, ask Mom to strip the baby down, and then have to deal with awkward tension when she says “no way!”
  • If the parents are comfortable with shooting baby in the buff, be sure to request that they remove all baby’s clothing at least an hour in advance of the scheduled shoot so that the baby won’t have any funky clothing lines on their skin. I even tell my clients to fasten the baby’s diaper loosely during this time as well. Those lines can be fixed in Photoshop, but I for one would MUCH rather be out shooting than spending hours using the healing tool in front of my computer.


Make sure that you have EVERYTHING you need VERY well organized and easily accessible. Babies are fidgety, fussy and very impatient, and you’ve got to take the initiative to plan accordingly.

  • If you’re using studio lighting, you should be set up at least 10 min before you’re scheduled to start shooting. That will give you time to run a few test shots before the baby is brought into the room.
  • This next one is a given, but remember that sensors and lenses should be checked before the shoot and cleaned if necessary. You can’t afford to stop in the middle of a newborn shoot because you notice a spot on your sensor. Babies are not as forgiving as their adult counterparts. They’re like ticking time bombs, and I guarantee all you moms and dads out there are nodding in agreement!
  • Get a good night’s sleep! You have got to arrive a vision of patience and with energy to spare. Remember, you’re likely walking into a home where NO ONE has gotten more than an hour of consecutive sleep for days on end. The last thing everyone needs is another exhausted, grumpy adult, whose patience has run dry to add to the mix. YOU set the tone! Come with a full tummy and a good night’s rest. (The full tummy thing is PARTICULARLY important for me as I tend to have low blood sugar. My patience, not to mention my creativity, is out the window if I don’t have something in my belly).


3. Get the Details!

Don’t be afraid to get in close and focus on the details. Most images I shoot of babies are shot with very low apertures (wide open) to encourage very shallow depth of field. I’m not by ANY means saying that this is right for everyone, but this is my particular style, and I do this for many reasons.

  • They are only tiny tiny for a VERY short time. I like to focus in and capture little feet and toes for example, before they slip away into roller skates and ballet slippers. . . it happens sooner that you know!
  • Shallow depth of field creates a mood of tenderness and intimacy which are so very appropriate for a shoot of this nature.
  • The main reason that I shoot the majority of my infant sessions with such shallow depth of field is that shots like this, in my humble opinion, help depict how suddenly your whole world is about that little person. Though everything else around you may be out of focus, the one thing that matters is perfectly clear.

4. Bring a Hat!

Baby-Photography-6My friend and fellow photographer/mentor, Nicole Hill, of Nicole Photo ( and A Little Sussy (, recently informed me that a little stocking cap (beanie) can be a solve all for the . . . (cough cough) alien looking infant! Well, she didn’t say the alien part. That’s all me, but we have to just be honest and admit that often tiny babies look a little like E.T. My 3 boys included. Yup, I said it. If you saw their baby pictures, you couldn’t deny it either! Nicole is right, a beanie can cover a misshapen head or just soften a face that hasn’t quite grown into it’s features. Enough said.

5. Establishing Shots!

Establishing shots are images that establish the feeling, location, etc of the time during which an event took place. In this case you’re trying to tell a story about the feelings surrounding the birth of a new child. The welcome of another little person into an already established family unit. Each family unit will be different than the next, but each is special and should be documented as such. For example:

  • If you’re shooting in a home, most likely you’ll be in a nursery. Grab a shot of that! Establish the environment. It will be a treasure for the family to remember what their home was like at the time that they welcomed their little sweet heart into their heart and home.
  • Whether in studio or on location, try to grab a shot that establishes the whole family as they were at the time of the birth.


6. For Heaven’s Sake: BE FLEXIBLE!!!!

You’ve got to be flexible. There are so many variables when shooting a tiny baby. They can be SO unpredictable. Remember to:

  • Handle each hiccup in a loving way. I am convinced that babies can sense our tension and frustration and that they will respond in kind. Likewise, if we can remain calm and collected, they will find it easier to relax as well.
  • If you have to stop, STOP! If the baby is on the brink of a full blown freak out, TAKE A BREAK! Let Mom and Dad pop in and calm baby down, feed, burp, change a messy diaper, whatever. NEVER push a baby to the point of no return. If you let a baby get to the point of total freak out. . . well, sorry sweetheart, you may just be plum out of luck. . . and with no one to blame but yourself. Be in tune to baby and let him/her run the show.
  • If baby is fussing just a bit, you may not be bothered by it. Mom on the other hand may be totally on edge. Part of your job is to be aware of that. Ask her if she’d feel more comfortable continuing after she’s had a chance for a little snuggle. The last thing you need is a Momma bear worried about her cub. I’d ellaborate, but something tells me, ‘nough said.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. I have never had an infant shoot that has lasted longer than 30min-1hour. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky! Probably so!! But I ALWAYS schedule a 2 hour block so there is time to feed, change, soothe etc between shots if necessary.

There are SO MANY more things to remember when you’re running an infant shoot. Hopefully the few I’ve shared will be helpful. Feel free to add others in the comment section below! I also encourage you to make a checklist out of the information above to be sure you’re prepared in the future!!

Happy Shooting!

Natalie Norton lives and shoots on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii with her wonderful husband and her 3 crazy sons! Raleigh (5), Cardon (3) and Lincoln (22 months).

PS from Darren: Coincidentally – I also had another baby photography tutorial submitted yesterday – so as we’re in a baby mood here at DPS this week I’ll post that one tomorrow – I think they compliment each other nicely. Stay tuned!

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Natalie Norton is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Victoria May 17, 2012 10:43 pm

    Thank you for the tips! I love photography and with 5 kids ages 12 down to 7 months - it is always nice to hear other people's tips.

    A picture of our 5 children below - I took just the other day:

  • Mathew Selvaraj May 16, 2012 12:09 am

    Nice and useful tips. Thanks for sharing.

  • Natasha Ferguson May 15, 2012 09:49 am

    First off, I love the title for this post! And the comment about sour milk ;) It's funny, just today a friend and I were discussing the newborn/alien look-a-like and joking about our reactions to our own babies, seems to be a pretty common observation! When photographing newborns, I also like to use cheesecloth and safely swaddle them in it having it come around their head and I find it helps minimize that look a bit. To see what I mean, check out the 6th image in my gallery to see the cheesecloth in action. Great post!

  • Sacha Sunanon October 4, 2011 02:34 pm

    Thanks a lot. I have my first newborn shoot tomorrow and God has been good and everyone of my shoots have gone ok but your article relaxed me a whole lot.

    Thank You
    Sacha Sunanon of Alice Deen Photography

  • Dewan Demmer June 28, 2011 11:59 pm

    I had the chance recently to photograph my daughter at 2 weeks, and it was a great learning experience and I had a lot of help from my sister in law, who came prepared.

    one thing that was also important remember to make sure the temperature is just right, if baby is going to be do a nude session, we want baby warm and comfortable. - here are some of the photos I decided were worthy of display, although there are a ton to go through still, and I have terribly critical of my own work, especially when the photos are so special.

  • Kim Blake February 20, 2011 10:17 am

    Thank you so much for the tips...I just recently done a photo session of an 8 day old baby & about everything that you described I came across. You really do have to be patient with the baby & allow him/her to feed & be diapered & of course consoled by mommy! [img]

  • photographer leicester November 20, 2010 08:52 am

    Doing my first studio shoot with a couple with a four year old and a four month old. Going to be hard to balance the shots but have got some ideas.

  • Rose August 23, 2010 05:00 pm

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    Short explanation:

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  • Green Fox Photo Art - Andy Fox August 2, 2010 05:20 pm

    Thanks for all the hints and tips... very useful!! I really enjoy doing baby shoots... it's the amazing look on the parents faces when you finally supply the edited images! It's a joy of life.
    Andy : )[eimg url='' title='photo.php?pid=3316277&id=246922333499&ref=album']

  • Roy Arellano August 2, 2010 03:58 pm

    New photography student here. Bought my first DSLR last January when my first-born was 6 months old. Just want to share that I learned a majority of photography techniques with my baby as the subject. For all expecting to have babies, I can say that they are the best subject possible!

    A few months ago, i noticed that my baby was very used to having his photo taken that whenever i bring out my camera, we will automatically pose and smile at me. Likewise, whenever he sees anything bright (like a reading lamp), he thinks that someone is taking a photo of him! It just makes my week worthwhile.

    The best thing however is the fact that you can record practically the growing period of your child. From having no hair to having long locks!

    Good luck to everyone!

  • Owen W Brown July 31, 2010 07:11 am

    Great article! Great tips!

  • sugarchukri July 31, 2010 02:41 am

    It's actually hard to capture a moment with newborns. You really have to be very patient and alert. I'd like to share a few tips I've learned when my son was still a baby:
    - Get a nice compact digital camera that you can bring with you at all times. You'll never know if it's the right moment, so it's good to have it within arms-reach.
    - Use the multi-shot settings. It's nice to capture every movement of you baby especially if that trick is his first. (A good snapshot stops a moment from running away. ~Eudora Welty)
    - Download all files from your memory card at the end of the day so you'll have enough space every time.
    - And lastly, have fun!!! =)

  • Giovanni July 30, 2010 07:55 pm

    My sister had a baby recently, and I took DPS advice really seriously...

  • Giovanni July 30, 2010 07:53 pm

    My sister had a baby and I was there taking DPS advice very seriously ;)

    [eimg url='' title='baby-toes.jpg']

    And here are some more:

  • arik July 30, 2010 01:53 pm

    Thanks DPS.... that's a good tips

  • liz July 30, 2010 12:38 pm

    For the past 3 weeks I have had my 6 month old grandaughter (& her mommy) visiting us from out of state. She leaves in another week to go home. I have turned my livingroom into a home studio. We've had "photo sessions" nearly every 3rd or 4th day or so. You know how many are "keepers"? Not enough, unfortunately. Here's what I have learned:
    1. Use a fast shutter speed. These little whipper-snappers are quick.
    2. Keep the smiles & laughter coming. Babies love it.
    3. Be prepared.
    4. Be patient.
    5. Relax - little one knows what you're feeling & will feed off it.
    6. Breathe & HAVE FUN WITH IT!

  • heaze July 30, 2010 10:51 am

    I'm so surprised today! We'll be shooting our friends new born baby next week, and your tips are just right on time.

    I am having happy feet! Many thanks to DPS!

  • Angela July 30, 2010 10:00 am

    Love your timing! I'm expecting mid September, and am spending these last few weeks working my way around my new 7D :). Can't wait to take some pics!!

  • sarah July 30, 2010 08:36 am

    Oh, good advice on the little hat or beanie. My son had a cephalohematoma, so a giant lump on his head. Hard to fix that up in photoshop. And yes on the asking about naked baby photos - some people are not comfortable with that sort of thing!

  • Jrhihn July 30, 2010 07:39 am

    Let me add my thanks, Nicole and others, for this timely post. Our first grandchild will arrive in early October and my son and daughter-in-law have requested that I take photos to celebrate the event.

  • Phil B July 30, 2010 06:54 am

    Use a fast shutter speed. Babies are fidgety things and always moving around. A fast shutter will eliminate the baby blurs.

  • Taschja July 30, 2010 06:31 am

    Took some pic's yesterday and all was happy! Thanks anyway for all the inspirational articles.

  • Jacqui July 30, 2010 06:06 am

    Thanks Natalie, I'm due to shoot a newborn babe in November and a baby only a few months old in a short while. Some of these tips will prove handy on the day(s) I'm sure.

  • Eddie Griffiths July 30, 2010 04:43 am

    [eimg link='' title='Grace' url='']

  • Eddie Griffiths July 30, 2010 04:42 am

    Take your time.....have a third sense...pick up on when babe is getting upset. I did just that and called a stop for a few minutes, then got this on the changing table....

    Patience is a virtue, I had thier three year wanting to try out the gear too, and I had to let him take one picture for every 2-3 of mine. Nerve wrecking but it kept the calm.


  • Rose July 30, 2010 03:33 am

    I found these on Etsy (Camera pets) that go around the lens of your camera to draw the child or baby's attention to the camera and help keep them from being distracted. I find them brilliant - and invaluable when making children's photos. Maybe you'll enjoy them too!

  • Megan July 30, 2010 03:17 am

    Thanks for the great post. What have you found to be the best lens when shooting infants? Do you use a macro lens for the up close shots of feet etc? Thanks for any advice you can give!

  • Greg July 30, 2010 03:08 am

    Great article, very clear and good tips. Thank you.
    Here is one more advice that I picked up somewhere on the internet - to get baby interested in you, try to camouflage your camera into something interesting - put a toy on the lens or something that would draw baby's attention towards you.

  • Katja Nina July 30, 2010 03:03 am

    Great article and advice. Just need to find a baby to photograph since I nor my friends have one now.. got to stick with older kids for now.

  • Chris Ellis July 30, 2010 02:48 am

    I would also recommend a heating pad placed where the baby is to be placed. Also, the warmer the enviroment, the better. Babies can get all splotchy if they are cold. Great article!

  • Chris July 30, 2010 02:44 am

    Great advice, this is the reason why I love DPS. One thing to add, and perhaps it will be covered in tomorrow's post, but I see you are in Hawaii. For those of us not in a tropical paradise, if you are going to photograph a naked baby, make sure that the heat is turned up.

    Babies cannot regulate their temperature, and, as I learned from my own kids, don't appreciate being cold. They also turn several different shades of splotchy purple when they are not warm. Warm babies have a nice pink look to them.

    You almost want to have the room where you are working a little warmer than is comfortable for you, just to keep the baby comfortable, should you and the parents choose "Baby in the Buff" images.

    Thanks again for your advice.

  • Lisa McCully July 30, 2010 02:33 am

    Love the article, excellent tips! I have a granddaughter due in October and hope to get some fun pictures!!

  • Sime July 30, 2010 01:48 am

    Natty, I wish I'd had this plan down before Sebby came along!!... I have a shoot planned with him on the weekend :-)

    Hope you're doin' great!

    Sime x

  • Marcy July 30, 2010 01:47 am

    Thanks! I'm expecting my 2nd in about 4 months and am trying to prepare now for lots of little newborn photo sessions with him so it's very helpful to read articles like these to help remember important tips.

  • Beverly Everson July 30, 2010 12:16 am

    Excellent points! Thanks!!