Newborn Photography Tips for Beginners

Newborn Photography Tips for Beginners

Image by mootje_ mootje

  1. It can be exciting photographing a newborn so compose a list of shots you want to take before you pick up the camera. Grab these ‘safe shots’ first and once you have this selection in the bag, start to get creative with new angles and ideas.
  2. The best lens to use when photographing any type of portrait is a fast 50/85mm prime lens. Operating at wide apertures (small f number) will allow you to work in darker environments and capture stills with the focus on your subject and a blurred backdrop to remove distraction.
  3. If you’re uncomfortable operating in manual mode then plump for Aperture Priority and opt for a wide aperture of f4 or f5.6. Focus on your subject’s face and include a section of the backdrop into the frame. This is where an interesting or colourful background can make the scene more dynamic. Alternatively position yourself at the end of the child and focus on the feet – throwing the rest of his/her frame into a creatively blur.
  4. Attach a zoom lens to vary the composition of your shots; catering for up close cute pictures of feet, hands, nose or ears for example and then span out wide to grab contextual portraits or ones that reveal the entire length of the child.
  5. As with any portrait pictures you’ll want to use even light. Avoid flash at all costs – not only is this disruptive to the calm atmosphere you want to create but it can rob the image of texture and tone. Position the cot or child near a window (using a white sheet or curtain to diffuse if it is a particularly bright day. Remember to exposure for the face.
  6. Declutter the scene of distracting items such as nappies or bottles and incorporate soft blankets for interesting colours and texture. Consider placing props such as a loved toy or teddy to emphasis size.
  7. Black and white images can carry more emotion that their colourful counterparts so experiment when photographing or editing images post shoot. Some cameras offer this as a menu choice but so you don’t restrict yourself it is advisable to shoot in colour and desaturate or select a B&W option in an editing program later. Play around with curves in Photoshop or the Presets in Lightroom to control contrast and brightness of the shadows, midtones and highlights.
  8. As newborns grow at such a daunting pace, many proud parents choose to photograph their tots at periodical intervals to chart the change. A collection of these images printed in a photobook can make a wonderful gift for a family member.
  9. To emphasis the petite proportions of your newborn try taking images with the parent. For example – baby’s hand on mum and dad’s hand, or the baby’s feet in between the fathers. Use a wide aperture and ramp up ISO if shooting in low light environments.
  10. The best time to shoot an infant is arguably after he/she has had a feed and has been put down for a nap. The noise of the shutter shouldn’t disturb them and means you can move their little hands and feet delicately without resistance or movement.

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Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • Shiloh May 16, 2012 04:34 pm

    I want to be a photographer and last week I did my first maternity session. This comming up week my friend wants me to do her newborns pictures and well I'm totally new at it. But I want the experience. I have a PowerShot SX30 IS digital camera. And I want to get some great pictures. I was wondering if you had any tips on what I can do, to get just the right pictures with this kind of camera. I read some of the tips and comments above and think there really helpful. I'd appreciate anything you can give me.
    Also, my friend has bad odd lighting in her house would taking the pictures outside with the baby be too risky?

  • sarah May 1, 2012 12:45 am

    Will be doing my first newborn photo ssession for my sister in less than a week. So excited to use these tips.

  • Denise March 25, 2012 10:13 am

    I do photography as a hobby and I just started taking photos of infants, and its been an awesome experience. The best pics are when they are a month old or less.

  • Jason Ross November 9, 2011 12:12 pm

    I love all the tips and advice. I love photography, but its been years since my last class and these tips will hopefully help. Aside from the skill involved in taking a good picture is having the right idea. I recently posted an article about my 8 photo ideas for new parents and thought your readers might also enjoy. Let me know what you all think.

  • Dewan Demmer June 30, 2011 09:15 pm

    I have recently been going mad with the camera and photography my daughter.
    I have a whole lot from when she was 2 weeks, she is due for next session in front of the camera at 1 month.

  • Andrea June 1, 2011 02:48 am

    Great tips! If anyone is looking to win some free newborn photography props. Love by CC is doing a huge giveaway!
    Go check it out!!!

  • Christy Lee May 14, 2011 06:18 am

    This is a great help! I'm shooting a newborn for the first time tomorrow, another help is getting a bean bag chair and over stuffing it as a prop for the baby. I bought one and will use it tomorrow. So excited!

  • Davina September 22, 2010 01:53 am

    i had my first screaming newborn...i always let the parent know that they sleep the soundest the first 2 weeks and its easier to position them ......this one waited a month fed her and had her nap before the shoot .....AND they let their 5 yr old kick me worst shoot ever lol but i still LOVE the newborns lol[eimg url='' title='39486_150978518251475_148546781827982_503327_1849186_n.jpg']

  • Diane September 20, 2010 04:47 pm

    Hi, I really enjoy your site and all it's tips... However I just want to find out one thing from you. I just recently got me the Canon 450D and I'm still very new at this. I love taking pictures and have gone on a day 'crash' course that helped a bit. I don't have any profesional equipment etc, but would love to take some baby photo's of my hubby and 9mnth old son. Where and how would I actually take this? Do I just move all the furniture away and hang a white cloth at the back and snap away? Would love your feedback on this. There is also a sliding door in this room, so does it need to be dark or must the light be at the back of them?

  • Rufat Abas September 19, 2010 07:17 pm

    @reggie @Michelle Thanks for sharing. Great set indeed!!!

  • Hayley September 19, 2010 01:13 pm

  • reece September 19, 2010 01:51 am

    @michelle: love ur work. how do you get the solid black background in some of your images?\#!/photo.php?pid=4055574&id=151766492478&ref=fbx_album

  • reece September 19, 2010 01:50 am

    @ Michelle; great album. How do you get the black background in your images of the feet and holding the baby head? I love that!!

    Here is some of my newborn work w/ my daughter[eimg url='\#!/photo.php?pid=4055574&id=151766492478&ref=fbx_album' title='photo.php?pid=4055574&id=151766492478&ref=fbx_album']

  • wendy grant September 18, 2010 04:09 am

    Great article! I just LOVE photographing newborns . . . especially during the first couple of weeks after birth. And they change so quickly that it's essential to capture those little details before they disappear.

    If you're just beginning start with simple shots. Don't over complicate the process by hanging the baby in a sling . . . something I've never tried. And allow plenty of time and let the parents know beforehand so you don't get dad wanting to rush off to an appointment.

    A bit of skin to skin is nice too. Even if my mums haven't had a bump session they often want to go for that at the newborn.

    [eimg url='' title='twin_newborn_photography_northamptonshire_wendy_grant_photography.jpg']

  • Cherish Bickel September 18, 2010 03:05 am

    A friend came over recently and asked about making tutus, I pulled out the one I used on my daughter in this shot and she was utterly amazed at how absolutely tiny it was because it looks enormous in the shot. She was 3 days old here.

    [eimg url='!/photo.php?pid=3998780&id=691576327&ref=fbx_album&fbid=387400451327' title='photo.php?pid=3998780&id=691576327&ref=fbx_album&fbid=387400451327']

    On this one I had alot more I wanted to do with an antique ruler, but never got the chance to make it

    [eimg url='!/photo.php?pid=3930704&id=691576327&ref=fbx_album&fbid=384793726327' title='photo.php?pid=3930704&id=691576327&ref=fbx_album&fbid=384793726327']

  • Alicia September 17, 2010 10:44 pm

    [eimg url='' title='IMG_3947.jpg']

  • Alicia September 17, 2010 10:42 pm

    my husbands uncles baby girl

  • Rodrigo September 15, 2010 04:44 am

    Excellent article. This is my little girl Alheli
    [eimg link='' title='Alheli' url='']
    i have used the 10th advice ;)

  • wal September 14, 2010 11:56 pm

    Great tip and guide.. Thanks alot.

  • Daniel Aquino September 10, 2010 07:09 am

    My baby boy...
    [eimg link='' title='Soninho_2' url='']

  • Daniel Aquino September 10, 2010 07:08 am

    My baby boy...

    [eimg link='' title='Soninho_2' url='']

  • Tortsman September 8, 2010 07:54 pm

    Some images I took moments after my daughter was born

    [eimg link='' title='IMG_0255' url='']

  • Dan Ketcham September 8, 2010 03:57 am

    This comes very timely, as I am waiting on pins and needles for a friend to push that baby out, as I am using her child as a "guinea pig" for me... as so that I can learn
    these are nice and easy to remember

    thanks for the ideas

  • Ruth September 7, 2010 06:55 am

    I just had my second newborn session today.. wish I'd read this before I left! let me know what you think :O)

  • person September 7, 2010 06:09 am

    #5 Perhaps you should learn how to create light in a manner that isn't disruptive. There are tons of light mods such as the diffusion panels that you talk about in the latter half of #5 that would make it even... 60" umbrellas are huge... big reflectors. big diffusion panels. soft boxes, octaboxes. there are tons of toys to make great light.

  • Michelle Stark September 7, 2010 03:57 am

    Good article. I enjoy newborns the most! They can be a lot of work but oh so worth the effort. Here are a few more things to keep in mind. Make sure baby is fed as mentioned above, room should be very warm (especially for nude shots) like 85-90 degrees, have extra towels handy for messes, a sound machine (one that plays womb or heartbeat sounds) can help a lot to soothe baby and always remember safety first.
    A bean bag or stack of towels or blankets is very helpful for posing baby on. Something else handy is a boppy pillow or I use a neck travel pillow also helps with posing.

    Many shots I try to get are:

    1. Baby's feet (I like to hang the parents wedding rings on baby's toes)
    2. Top of baby's head cradled in Mom or Dad's hands
    3. Full body shots from several angles (side, from above, etc.)
    4. Baby's hand holding Mom or Dad's finger to show size comparison and love connection
    5. Mom with baby
    6. Dad with baby
    7. Sibling(s) kissing baby
    8. Baby's face
    9. If you have a macro lens you should get details like fuzzy shoulders, little lips, fingernails, etc.
    10. Anything else you can think of....

    Here is a link to my baby photos on my website to help with inspiration...Have fun!

  • Annie September 7, 2010 03:43 am

    Another tip is to have the heater turned up at the house or studio where you will be shooting. This will allow you to take photos of a lightly dressed or naked baby. A comfortable baby is a happy baby! If you plan on taking completely naked baby shots, I'd also suggest feeding the baby to make him or her happy and sleepy, but NOT give a full feeding! A full feeding of milk and the sensation from being naked will almost guarantee the baby will pee. And have fun with it! Newborn photography allows you to get really creative with set up and props!

  • JJ September 7, 2010 03:21 am

    My cousin is going to be having a baby in January and I thought that I would do some pictures for her and give them to her as a gift.

  • cheryl September 7, 2010 02:30 am

    what would you concider "safe shots"?

  • Reggie Miranda September 7, 2010 02:23 am

    @Rufat - sharing mine:)

    [eimg url='' title='Trio2_smaller.jpg']

    @all - You can view the whole set here.

    Let me know what you guys think ayt? BTW, please feel free to sign on my guestbook. :)

    Thanks and God Bless!

  • ReGz September 7, 2010 02:16 am

    @Rufat - sharing my attempt to do new born shots.

    [eimg url='' title='Trio2_smaller.jpg']

    @all - You can check the whole set here:

    Let me know what you guys think, ayt?

    BTW, please feel free to leave a message on my guestbook. :)

  • helil September 7, 2010 02:09 am

    As I'm taking loads of pics of my 5-month-old girl, I could relate to all of the tips. One of the most valuable indeed is to unclutter the space. This resolves to laying the grounds for the pics, actually establishing sort of a photo-session.
    One main problem I face whenever she's doing something cute (or beautiful) is to whether go for the camera or just seize the moment.


  • Rufat Abas September 7, 2010 01:58 am

    It would be great if someone shares a list of shots for newborn photography. Thanks )

  • Iris September 7, 2010 01:33 am

    Thank you for the tips. I am waiting on a call for a baby born last week :) ...