Tips for Newcomers
Newborn and baby photography can be daunting to even the most experienced of photographers.
It’s one thing to pose an adult who can take instruction, but a baby is fragile, unpredictable and can take a lot more time to capture.
There are so many ‘rules’ to baby photography, outside of the camera settings, and if it is something that you are interested in, we would definitely advise that you do a lot more research in the long run. But here are a few baby photography tips to get you started.
Create a Welcoming Space for Baby
There is no guarantee that the baby will sleep through your time together so you will need a backup plan just in case. Fortunately, there are a handful of ways to try and keep baby asleep; heaters, calming music and a full tummy!
High Room Temperature
Firstly, the heating in the room has to be maintained at a high, yet comfortable, temperature in order to help the baby sleep – especially if you plan to shoot bare skin.
Having a fan or heater nearby will ensure that baby is cosy in its blankets.
Set the temp to around 29C/85F.
Play ‘Soothing’ Music
Secondly, many newborn and baby photographers use what’s called a ‘shusher’. This is basically just white noise. You can download apps to your phone so that there is a constant soothing noise for baby to drift away to.
It may be worth trying music that their mum may have played a lot during pregnancy – it’s proven that newborns react to audio they’ve heard in the womb.
Lastly, always collaborate with mum over the baby’s feeding times. It’s best to try and feed the baby just before you start the shoot.
After all, aren’t we all a little sleepy after a meal?
Create a Welcoming Space for Baby
Newborn babies are fragile, they can move around and hurt themselves very easily, and it is your responsibility (as well as their parents) to look after them while you’re snapping away. Always keep mum or dad to hand and remember to put the baby’s comfort first.
Before going anywhere near posing a baby, you need to do some serious research on the appropriate way to do it. Going in uneducated is foolish and dangerous. Expect and allow moments for parents to get involved, after all, you’re handling their most precious cargo. Direct them to make little adjustments if you want to involve them further. Be warned, their natural caution on moving their little one will cause them to go slow.
Top Tip – Make sure your hands are warm before touching the baby’s bare skin.
To start with, you are best sticking to comfortable, simple poses such as sleeping soundly on their tummies, back or with their bottoms up. And never forget to ALWAYS protect their head when changing poses.
Top Tip – Cradle the back of the head with your hand when the moving baby, but make sure you’ve taken off any jewellery or watches that could scratch.
iPhotography Student: Jessica Nightingale
Take a look at this image from iPhotography Student Jessica Nightingale.
She has demonstrated a tummy pose where the baby’s head is not only lifted by her own hands, but also a pillow under the blanket and mum’s hand is supporting the back of the head.
This can easily be removed in editing with the use of layers, an eraser tool and a shot without the baby in at all.
You can also see the ‘shusher’ next to the baby providing white noise to keep the calm atmosphere.
You don’t need fancy lighting to photograph babies. Often soft/diffused natural light and works best. You could even add in reflectors if you’re finding your shadows are too heavy. Bring your setup close to a large window and pop a white reflector on the opposite side to fill in the dark areas.
Newborn and baby photography shouldn’t be heavy on the contrast. Aim to be more high key and low contrast. You can still saturate the colour in editing (which we’ll look at later), but a flat style of lighting will be more flattering to their skin.
Though many people say never use flash when photographing newborns, it’s not a worry in very small quantities. If they’re asleep, it won’t be damaging to their eyes, but it can be very startling.
Top Tip – Therefore, we’d advise keeping with constant or natural light to keep the baby happy and peaceful.
Accessorising the Shoot
Photographers can often get carried away with props, colours and clothing for newborn and baby photography. More often than not, you can make the image worse by adding all sorts of various items; keep the shoot simple, for yourself and for the baby.
To complement the lighting stick to pastel colours and keep the whole atmosphere natural.
If you know where the final images are going to be displayed. Tie in the colours in your photoshoot to the ones in the room so the palette is consistent.
Stay away from strong, rich and vivid colours as they will overpower the sentiment of the shoot. Always keep a base colour of white or off-white with an accent on top.
Think about your knowledge of the colour wheel and pair up complementary hues if you want two accent colours.
Duck Egg Blue
Always plan ahead, collaborate with the parents when it comes to adding relevant props. Thinking again of the end game, pick out props that are from the same environment that the portrait will be hung in.
Newborn and baby photographs are predominantly put up on the wall and very rarely kept digitally. Find something that’s meaningful such as a blanket knitted by Granny, baby’s first teddy or furnishings from the same room it will hang in.
This will not only add a personal touch but also complement the surroundings of the portrait.
Dealing with the Predictably, Unpredictable
With newborn and baby photography, you’ll spend a lot of time tweaking the babies’ position and waiting for the right ‘expression’. It is important to find a flattering angle, where the baby looks peaceful and adorable.
But be warned, if you don’t have experience already, babies can go from sleepy to screaming in seconds! Once you have your pose set up, move swiftly (but quietly) to avoid waking anyone up. Use a longer focal length (85mm+) to get up close to those tiny details in the fingers, eyelashes or ears. If you don’t have a zoom lens, move closer.
Be wary of big lenses though, it’s best to keep your camera on a tripod weighed down or attached to a neck strap to stop heavy lenses leaning forwards towards your precious subject.
Editing Newborn & Baby Photography
Photography & Editing by Jessica Nightingale
Often, we see images of babies look as smooth as… a babies bottom!
But in reality, newborns and babies are awash with snotty noses, milk spots, eczema, bumps, and marks. The tone of their skin can be patchy too as they are still adjusting to their environment. You can avoid some of these with a warm cloth, but others may still show up in your photos.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with showing the baby the way that they truly are. However, we can flatter them further with a quick edit! There are plenty of useful tools in Photoshop, such as the Spot Heal Tool, Patch Tool, Sponge Tool or the Colour Replacement Brush that can bring out the underlying softness to your images.
Converting your images to black and white is another good way to hide any scratches, marks or redness in the baby’s skin. It also adds depth and form to your shots, which can make your shots really stand out.
You could even try toning down the saturation of your images so that they will become almost pastel or monotone rather than black and white. This is ideal if you have an interesting or colourful backdrop.
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