Tips and Ideas on How to take Newborn Photos

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I love photography, and I love babies, but taking pictures of babies can be quite challenging for me. After 10+ years of experience as a photographer, I thought I’d share my tips and ideas on how to take newborn photos, whether they are of your own babies, or you are a photographer taking them for clients.

newborn pictures

Newborn photography is tough. You can’t bribe a baby with an ice cream cone after the photo shoot like you can for ages 2 and up.  Babies are so cute and squishy, but don’t always mold very well to the position you want them to be in. I know from the start of taking newborn pictures that it is going to both take a while and require extra patience.

Below are some ideas, tips and tricks that will help you prepare to take pictures of that precious little one you are photographing.  Below MOST of the images are links to the page where I’ve shared more images from that session if you’d like to click over for more ideas.

Include home elements:

I love to include artwork or pretty spaces in the home to make the images more personal and unique. It’s also fun to see how the baby grows in similar spots as time goes by.  The two images below are a baby nursery and family room, great spots to “capture the scene” of the room.  You just have to tidy up the space ahead of time, so if you are a photographer, make sure the clients know ahead of time.

newborn photography tips

{more of baby Evan}

{more of baby Scarlett}

newborn photography ideas

{more images of baby Ruby}

Parent posing:

When taking pictures of other people, I often start with trying to pose the baby, and if they get sad, I take picture like this (which I’ll do even if the baby doesn’t cry).  I call it the parent cuddle.  These are important to me as a mom, no matter how I feel about myself after baby is born!  If you are taking pictures of your own baby, you can set up the camera, or have a friend come over to snap some of you with the baby.

 

Best timing:

The best time for newborn portraits is in the first 2 weeks of life. My personal preference is within the first 5 days when they are still so small. They just just grow so fast!  My preferred time to take them is before noon, most babies seem to be happiest.  Plan 2 hours of time (in case baby gets sad) but you can get most of what you’d like in under an hour.

Backdrops:

I used to have a backdrop set up at my home, and have clients come to me, but I have stopped doing that.  This is the only type of session I actually enjoy the look of a backdrop, but still prefer the backdrop of the home environment, too.

There are lots of great ways to makeshift a backdrop, but for babies you just need a small space. I often just lay a blanket over a bean bag, boppy, or bouncy chair, and get on a chair to shoot from above. A white and/or blanket is a must. Depending on your lens. A 35mm fixed lens is my preferred, but a 50mm fixed lens should also work great, depending on the height of your chair.


{more of baby Locke}

{more of baby Jane}

The orange background and the above heart is a RUG! Seriously, use what is around you, or look in odd places!

Props:

I often bring a handful of blankets with texture, solid black furry blanket, and beanbag.  I will also throw in a few diaper covers (crocheted or cloth diapers), hats, etc. but I like to use the special blankets or hats that the parents have bought for their child instead of using mine and then leaving with it.  But I do provide it as an option. A Boppy pillow is also a great place to set the newborn with a blanket inbetween.  I also tell parents to wear solid colors (prefer black) to be a makeshift “background” as they cradle the baby.  Long sleeves are best.

Baskets, bins, bowls, and buckets are great to put babies inside, too.

Unless there is a lot of colorful home decor or props, I often show the majority of my images in black and white.  There is something so pure and simple about that look, and often the baby skin has blemishes that are hidden with black and white.

Baby Prep:

Keep it warm! I often suggest to crank the heat up in the home so baby will be cozy and happy when nude.  Have them fed (and happy) just before the shoot, but if crankiness occurs, I just plan to sit and chat while they are fed–and am constantly reassuring the parents that this is normal.  Binkys on hand are great, white noise, but I am regularly rocking and shushing (in a rhythmic way) the baby myself and will place them in the spot I have in mind. 

{More of baby Everett}

Baby Awake or asleep?:

Eyes opened/eyes closed.  I like both.  I do not have the sleep-baby-posed-just-so-with-hands-tucked-under-chin pose down.  There are videos on you tube, I’ve seen people do it, but I guess I don’t try enough because it isn’t my thing.

{more of baby Sydney}

Natural Light:

I often bring my bean bag as close to a window as I can with the baby facing it. Sometimes it can be hard to find good light, and windows or table tops are great for newborns. As mentioned before, I grab a kitchen chair to stand on, get above the baby and shoot down below. Just make sure you aren’t blocking the pretty light from the baby with your shadow. Great angle. Great Light. The above shot is just that.  

What babies should wear:

I am not a big fan of “baby outfits.”  You have newborn portraits taken to see that fresh new baby-ness, not the cute little outfit you bought with just a head poking out.  I like to shoot partial nudity, or with a onesie.  Naked with a diaper/diaper cover on is a great way to show some skin, too.  If you are the photographer, make sure both parents are on board with the skin situation. If they are completely against any form of nudity then I love the clean look of a white onesie.  If possible, strip them down to the desired look well before the shoot/before feeding and wrap them cozy in a blanket so as not to disrupt that peaceful phase as you being shooting.

newborn photography

{more of baby Scarlett}

Close ups and emotion:

Pee and poop is inevitable.  Embrace it, friends, and laugh with it. Those can be fun shots, too!  I also like to capture a little cranky face.  Seems sad at the time, but I enjoy viewing that raw emotion later. I take close ups of the feet, and often cradled in mom or dads hands to show the size difference. 

 {more of baby Mia}

A few more ideas for newborn pictures, using mom as a prop holding the baby:

{more of horse and baby}

 {more of baby Mia}

This is such a beautiful time of life.  The new addition to a family, the joy, the love. I do my best to capture that emotion and tenderness.

{I originally shared this post at The Idea Room two years ago, but have updated it recently!}

If you’d to join the Capturing Joy Photo Club on Facebook, where we have photo challenges, Q&A’s, and image sharing, request to join HERE: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CapturingJoyPhotoClub/

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Comments

  1. Thank you for the great TIPS you photography is heart warming and inspiring.

    -Cecelia

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you so much, you are so kind to say that! I aim to give it all my heart when I’m shooting;)

  2. What a good memory, and what a great sis-in-law!

  3. In every photo you seem to miss the light and the right angles for shooting babies.

    You consistently shoot with the light straight toward them creating a flat image, or coming from their feetor bum lighting their him and nostrils.

    Also, it’s never flattering to shoot a baby up the nose.

    I think you could benefit by learning some more before about portraiture.

  4. Beautiful shots!

  5. Thanks so much for these tips! I really want to be able to take my own newborn’s photos and maybe our friend’s granddaughter’s photos (if she arrives before mine does–we’re due 10 days apart). And I’ve seen a lot of people having their photographer come to their homes. I think it’s a great idea for more of a comfort setting for baby and parents. I wish I could have a great lens, but I’ll be sticking to the 18-55 mm I own right now. I’m so excited to learn and get into the newborn photography world!

  6. Stunning picture! You share some wonderful tips to making sure the newborn shoot goes perfect! I definitely love the idea of having a newborn baby in either a white onesie or without anything! Thanks so much for sharing!