Newborn photographers are a very specialised type of portrait photographer, and most of them have spent years honing their skills. Lots of newborn photographers have sought special qualifications so that they know how to handle babies safely and take a lot of pride in their work. Some newborn photographers like to take a lifestyle approach and include the parents in plenty of the photos, while others prefer more posed photos with just the baby, but both styles still involve a great deal of practice and effort. Here are 7 things you need to consider before you enter this niche of the photography industry.
1) Experience is everything
Newborn photography is a high-pressure job and it’s not for the faint of heart – or skill. There’s a limited timeframe to photograph newborns (usually within 3 weeks of their birth), and you need to learn to master your technique and equipment before you start shooting them, because they are so delicate. Unlike other kind of photography, newborn photography isn’t a collaborative process with the subject, so it’s up to you to take control at every session.
Build up plenty of experience taking family photos and portraits to help you develop the technical skills you need before you start a newborn photography business. Then you’ll have less to worry about on the day of your newborn shoots.
2) Invest in props and blankets
Unlike other kinds of photography, newborn photography requires plenty of props, particularly blankets in a lot of different colours and textures to get a variety of photos. However, make sure to choose blankets made out of baby-friendly materials such as cotton, cashmere and fleece, as they are the softest and won’t shed or irritate a newborn’s sensitive skin like other fabrics will. Other props that are useful to have on hand are little hats, bonnets and headbands.
Image taken by Ilana Kapp
3) Create the perfect environment
Newborns are usually best photographed indoors rather than on location, and while some photographers like to visit their clients in their own homes, many photographers prefer to have their own studio space so they can have the most control over their environment.
Keep the newborns and their parents in mind when setting up a studio. When it comes to photographing newborns, the comfort of your subject takes precedence over everything. As opposed to older infants that respond to a lot of stimulation, newborn babies prefer to have a calmer environment that almost resembles their mother’s womb. Newborn babies are more relaxed in a warm quiet room as they will most likely be sleeping the majority of the time. Some photographers use heating pads underneath their bean bags and blankets to help babies stay warm, especially for photos where babies aren’t fully clothed. Take some time to download some white noise music to keep babies relaxed during the shoot, too. An unsettled baby will mean it will take longer to get nice photos.
For the parents, keep in mind that they’re probably sleep deprived and anxious. It will work to your advantage to make an effort to make them comfortable as well by providing snacks, coffee and comfortable seating. Having your studio equipped with a breastfeeding corner and a nappy changing station would be greatly appreciated.
4) Know your subject
The best age to photograph newborns is within the first two weeks because this is the age when they still spend a lot of time sleeping, and before they develop any baby acne. Once a newborn hits the three week mark, they wake more easily and will therefore be harder to pose.
Image taken by Ron Powell
Some parents worry about setting up a newborn shoot too early because their babies may have bruises or bumps from forceps or ventouse (vacuum) births, but one advantage of modern technology is that it’s much easier to take these inconsistencies out in editing. Some babies also get cradle cap on their scalps and face, or develop eczema, so be smart about how you pose them to avoid drawing attention to these things.
Be prepared for naked babies to pee and poop on your props and on you during the session, as well as vomit or drool. Editing can usually help with removing any stains they cause, too. Having an advanced knowledge of editing is a must for newborn photographers.
5) Allow plenty of time
Newborn photography sessions often take double the amount of time of a typical family portrait session. Keep this in mind when scheduling clients and coming up with your package rates as well. An average session can take around 3-4 hours and most of this time is spent rearranging the baby into different poses and switching props. Babies will need time to feed as well, which can take an hour and if they wake during a session, you’ll need allow time for them to be awake before they go back to sleep again.
Since newborn babies are so fragile, moving them into different poses is something that must be done carefully and gently. There are some signature poses associated with newborn shoots that are much harder to create than they look. For example, some babies who are shown curled up with their bodies underneath them are balanced under a number of different blankets to help them lie this way, or babies who seem to be lying on their own are actually being held by a parent or a photography assistant who has been edited out of the shot. You will have to work around what is the most suitable for the baby you are photographing and get creative with your angles.
Image taken by Jessica Tanner
Be sure to take the time to photograph close-ups of the little details like their tiny feet, hands and lips. My favourite types of newborn photographs are always the ones that include parts of their parents as well, like a newborn clutching his mother’s finger or a newborn resting in the palms of her father’s hands.
6) Strike a balance
It’s easy to fall into the Pinterest trend trap with newborn images, especially when you are starting out and you want to grow your client base. Parents will most likely come to you with Pinterest boards of what they want their photos to look like, and while it’s always good to be able to give the clients what they want, it’s equally important for the images to have a timeless quality. Anne Geddes’ images of newborns in flower pots and pea pods were a big hit in the nineties but these same images would be considered “kitschy” today.
The best way to strike a balance between trendy and more classic photographs is to incorporate this into your packages and online portfolio so clients know you will be doing a mix of both styles.
7) Be in touch with your emotions
The newborn photography business is a business of emotions. Remember that for each parent, their newborn is probably the most amazing, wonderful thing that has ever happened to them and they may be even more emotionally invested, if they had fertility issues, a tough pregnancy or their baby was born prematurely.
Image taken by Chrysti Hydeck
Your job is to give them images that remind them of what their precious baby looked like when they were only a few weeks old so they always have something to treasure when they grow older. To be able to achieve the best results, keep that same sense of wonder and curiosity about each newborn you photograph. Be inspired by each wrinkle, each movement and each quirk, because the baby will never be that small again.
If you do your job well, clients may ask you to take other photos of their babies, such as first birthday cake smash sessions, or may return for newborn sessions for their baby's future siblings, so it is worth investing the time to master this style of photography in order to grow your business in other ways.