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How to Photograph Newborns

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A Guest Post by Steph Tan.

Among the many different photo shoots one can do, I’ve always considered newborn photography as one of the most challenging. Having great equipment and great technical know-how is never enough. For me, this is the genre of photography where the human touch is most important.

Here are a few simple tips to make the most out of a newborn session:

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1. Get mommy and daddy onboard.

Have a plan, seek permission for everything that you want to do, and make sure the parents are onboard. Let them know if you wish to use flash or natural light, what areas in the house you are interested in shooting in, whether you need towels and blankets, and that these things might get soiled during the shoot. The more you engage them, the more keen they will be to help you out during the shoot. Ask if they are comfortable with nude baby shots, or if they wish to keep the baby dressed throughout the shoot. Asking and letting them know beforehand will make the shoot much more manageable once you’re there and ready to shoot.

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2. Lots of patience and mood management.

While you have a plan, be ready to mix them around or chuck them out of the window if necessary. For these sessions, I will usually advise clients to book at least 2 hours of the photographer’s time. That way, there is ample time to settle baby down when s/he’s feeling agitated, to feed when hungry (and boy, these little munchters get hungry very frequently), and clean up when the little (expected) accidents happen. As a photographer, you need to manage the mood in your set, both that of the baby’s and the parents. A stiff shoot plan won’t help you if your subjects are not relaxed. Don’t forget to put yourself on your clients’ shoes and understand how they feel. From there, you can sort out what will help them calm down and enjoy the session with you.

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3. Know their story.

For every stage of a baby’s life, they reach milestones, which are gems in their baby history. For newborns, the most unique bits for me are the tiny flakes on their skin, their newborn pimples, the wrinkles on their arms and legs, how small they are when you fold them into a fetal position, and their ability to sleep through anything. Read up on your baby age milestones and understand what are the important bits of their story. As they grow up, these things can be their propensity to put everything in their mouth, sitting on their own, belly crawls, crawling up on their hands and knees, the first teeth, first step, and so forth.

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4. Growing.

These little ones are growing everyday. Highlight how tiny s/he is at this given point in time, and use stuff around the house as reference points on how much the little ones has grown. It can be something as straight forward as a measuring tape, or it can be something more playful like a teddy bear, a bowl, a basket, or daddy’s hands.

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5. Focus on the relationships.

Everyone’s excited about the new baby! Other than shots of the whole family with baby, make sure to get a shot of baby with mommy, and a shot of baby with daddy. For bigger families, a shot of the elder sibling with the new baby is a classic heart-warmer, and is something that every parent finds precious. When you’re managing two little ones, there will be lots of patience required as usually, one will feel fussy while the other one feels cooperative. Make sure to engage the elder child and make them feel that this is just a game instead of a task. Shoot in burst mode, and wait for the perfect moment when they are connected.

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6. Once you’ve covered the ‘organic’ shots, play around with the set, props and wardrobe.

Before the shoot, ask permission to use some props you’ve been itching to try out. It will be good to ask the mommy and daddy if there are sentimental items (i.e. gifts from grandparents or childhood stuff) that they’d wish to incorporate into the shoot. This will get the parents involved, make the shoot more meaningful for them and more fun for you.

I hope these help. And when all else fails, just remember to tap into your softer side and put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Newborn photography is a quiet celebration of human life and the ties that bind.

See more of Steph Tan’s work at her websiteblog and on facebook.

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