A newborn photo shoot 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.
That’s why this complete newborn photography tutorial is packed with tips and ideas to help you get your photography business off the ground.
There are so many ‘rules’ to newborn 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.
Our newborn photography tutorial will help you understand not only the best camera and lens choices but also how to create personal and emotive photos – much better than JCPenney portraits!
It’s irresponsible to pick up a camera and just decide to become a newborn photographer. Newborn baby photography takes practise and training which you’ll need to invest in. Have a look for newborn photography classes whether that’s in-person or online.
Signing up for a newborn photography workshop will give you valuable live experience. Posing a baby, while trying to keep them relaxed, is hard work and you need to know how to do this correctly and safely.
It’s not only the newborn photography tips for beginners that are important but also the business side of it. A good workshop or online course will detail how to promote yourself and get your books in order to make sure this investment is worthwhile.
Have a look for a comprehensive course or workshop that teaches camera settings, posing and handling tips, studio preparation with lighting setups alongside all the marketing. This newborn photography tutorial will prepare you with a good foundation knowledge, but a workshop will give you direct experience of handling and posing a baby in a safe environment.
Accredited workshops (ones that give you a certified certificate or recognised qualification at the end) are even better to be able to show off to your clients that you care about them and their baby.
Firstly, you need to decide what type of service you want to offer – newborn photography at home or where the client needs to come to a studio? You can do in home newborn photography at the client’s house or at yours (if you have the space).
This would be much more cost-effective as hiring (or owning) studio space is much more expensive when you are just starting out and don’t have regular clients.
Though the benefit of a studio space is the space to move around, arrange new sets, a convenient place to store your kit that doesn’t clutter up your home. Plus, it looks more professional. It may be something you consider further down the line once you are more established.
If you want to set up a home photography studio for newborns instead then try to be as efficient as possible with your equipment. Imagine that you’ll be moving from house to house (sometimes on the same day) so packing and setting up your mobile photo studio needs to be quick and easy.
Typically, you’ll need a lightweight background frame that you can hang different backdrops from. It needs to be about 5 feet wide and make sure you purchase some small weights to clamp to the light stand so it doesn’t fall over. Look for material backdrops – cotton and silk materials are nice. Go for plain and pastel colours to suit boys and girls.
Practise how to set up and pack your mobile studio, so it becomes like a Formula 1 pit stop – fast and efficient. This saves you time in the long run and looks more professional.
On top of the obvious camera and lenses (which we’ll come to later), you’ll need to
consider a few other props to make your shoot easier.
Of course, you’ll need light – and keep it soft. If you’re shooting in a fixed space, then pick out a spot that’s got a lot of natural light that you can diffuse through net curtains or a bed sheet. Soft light is much more forgiving on the skin – especially needed with a newborn. A baby’s skin isn’t as blemish free as those TV adverts will have you believe.
If your newborn studio setup needs to be mobile, then buy 2 continuous lights with stands and softboxes. You don’t really need to use a flash around a newborn (though generally not harmful it can be alarming even when asleep). LED panel lights are great as you can adjust the light levels accordingly and tweak the colour temperature to make the shot look warmer or cooler.
You can’t always rely on your client’s home having the best natural light where you want to shoot so take your own lighting to create the conditions instead.
We’re not suggesting you bring along a full Harry Potter Hogwarts castle in Lego for the newborn to play with – but a few toys are helpful sometimes. While newborns won’t ‘play’ with the toys they are just a distraction visually if they don’t sleep. Bright bold colours and ones that rattle slightly to catch their attention are a good idea.
If you’re in a cold room then turn on the heating at least an hour beforehand to warm up the space. Let your clients know to do this if you’re shooting at their room. A warm room makes for a comfortable and peaceful baby – hopefully.
You can purchase dedicated newborn photography cushions on Etsy and Amazon which you can drape your backdrop over to create a smooth infinity curve with the background. You may prefer to sit the cushion on the trailing ends of the backdrop if it’s long enough and then place more materials over the cushion or leave it bare completely.
Either way these large posing cushions help give your subject a comfortable spot to lie, and you can move around to capture different angles without disturbing them.
Strictly speaking, you don’t NEED to have a posing cushion straight away.
A newborn photography props bed is a good basic place to start otherwise. Ask the parents if it’s OK to use their bed as the base for your shoot. You can still decorate and dress it however you need.
It’s a good idea to have one or two small cushions in your props bag. While posing cushions do a good job you may need to tweak the position of the newborn and sliding little pillows in can do this while looking natural. Keep to the natural pastel colours you’ve chosen for your backdrop to match.
Yes – the first truth of newborn photography – it can get messy! Be prepared when shooting nude newborns especially. Slide a waterproof sheet discreetly under the surface so it ruins as few props as possible – but be aware it will happen so don’t get frustrated. You could use puppy toilet training pads as they are usually quite large and absorbent.
If you are doing this DIY newborn photography setup in your home, you’ll also need to leave yourself space for editing. A computer or laptop running between 8-16GB RAM with a good amount of hard drive/cloud storage space is required for running common editing software such as Photoshop or Lightroom.
Lightroom gives you the added advantage of batch processing images to look similar (providing they were shot similarly too). This is great for consistency overall. Some newborn photographers go to the lengths of tethering their camera to their computer so as they take the shot it appears on the screen.
Parents love to see the shots as they are taken. Keep this in mind for the future, you don’t need to start tethering straight away.
What camera equipment do you need to take newborn photos? Most standard DSLR or Mirrorless cameras will be enough. As long as you have standard manual controls, you’ll be OK when starting out. Having a backup camera is a good idea too when you start to get more serious – just like in most areas of photography.
Keep a stash of fast writing memory cards to hand as you’ll probably take quite a few shots. If your newborn isn’t settling, you may only get a small window of calm in which to shoot so having a fast memory card ready is vital.
To create that innocent softness, we see in lots of newborn photos then you’ll need to shoot with a very wide aperture. Typically, somewhere between F/2 – F/4 is where most newborn photographers point their aperture. This will make your area of focus small and important objects, props and symbols may appear out of focus if they are too far away from the baby.
If you decide to take more lifestyle newborn photos and include siblings or parents, then decrease the aperture to around F/5.6 to make sure you get more of their faces sharp.
Do you need more than one lens for baby photography? Yes.
We’d recommend at least 2 particular lenses but professionals can go up to 4-5 lenses! If you are a bit of a gear hoarder, factor this into your setup time and carry all that extra weight around. After your first few shoots, you’ll start to realise which lens(es) you use the most and give the best results.
The two lenses we’d recommend for newborn photography are a macro lens and a fast zoom that covers 50-85mm (on full-frame. Adjust this if you’re shooting on a cropped sensor camera).
A macro is essential for newborn photography. This is the lens that will allow you to capture all of those teeny tiny details that are so important in newborn photography. Little shots of the eyelashes, fingertips, pouty lips – they’re all so important to tell the story of your newborn.
Macro lenses come in a range of fixed focal lengths. We’d recommend using between 60-100mm. A macro lens will give you sharpness and details that you really can’t capture with other lenses.
Given that you may be limited to space in some clients’ homes you can’t expect 2 prime lenses to give your flexibility. Instead, a fast zoom that stops open to F/2.8 is really helpful to capture full-length shots and images when the family gets involved too.
These types of fast zooms can be a little more expensive, but the quality of the glass pays dividends in the final shot when you get everything else right. If you are just starting out invest in the best possible fast zoom you can afford at the time firstly and then upgrade when you can.
You probably won’t be in charge of buying outfits for your newborn photoshoot – leave that up to the parents, but you can make suggestions. Mommy and me outfits are cute ideas when the family gets involved but initially newborn photography outfits should be kept fairly simple.
Make suggestions to the family but don’t demand that the baby is dressed a certain way – you may find parents want artistic nude shots or have them swaddled in a blanket.
It’s not harmful to have a little stash of cute baby accessories like toques, hairbands for girls, mittens, booties and gender-neutral hats that you can use to make your portraits look a little more endearing.
If the parents ask you what colours they should dress the newborn in then consider these 3 tips.
You want the baby to stand out above all props and accessories in the shot. The best way to do this is to use complementary skin-tone shades for your backdrop and any newborn photography props. These base tones (beige, cream etc) and warm colours (brown, soft orange) won’t distract the viewer’s eye from the centrepiece.
If you’re looking for the baby to really pop out of the frame visually then create a colour contrast. Place them against contrasting colours, like blues against oranges, pinks and greens, yellows and purples. Consult your colour wheel to look for opposing hues and factor this into your outfit suggestion, prop choice and backdrop selection
The easiest (and most popular) colour palette for newborn photography is pastels. If you want your newborn baby photos to look pleasing, gentle and innocent go for a pastel backdrop and accessories. Baby pink and blue tones or a meadow yellow look lovely as do lavender purples and misty greens.
We’ve got some further ideas about DIY newborn photography props that you should consider using to make the environment of the session more comfortable for the baby.
The art of swaddling helps keep a newborn comfortable during the portrait session. If you go to a workshop you may get to experience it in person. While watching YouTube videos on how to do it is helpful it isn’t the same. If you have a large doll or teddy bear at home, then buy a white swaddling blanket and practise over and over.
Speak to the parent if the baby is crying along as to what they think is the reason. They may need feeding or changing – again factor normal things like this into your session time. A newborn photoshoot could last 2 hours easily.
If they think the baby just needs a sleep, download a white noise app on your phone. This is useful to calm a frustrated baby.
Though to adults it may just sound like an annoying vacuum cleaner to a newborn it’s the resonation sound waves that they were used to during pregnancy.
Leave it on even when the baby falls asleep and do your best to tune it out in your own head!
As a matter of courtesy to your client and the baby, it’s a polite idea to clean all your props in between sessions. Sanitise or wash material props and use baby-safe cleaning agents for things that they may put in their mouth like soft toys.
Newborn photography poses are basic, but not necessarily always possible to execute. Given the age of your subject they won’t understand what you’re trying to do so you’ll have to go with the flow a lot of the time. If they are swaddled you may find that easier, but it won’t be like that for every shoot.
Newborn photo poses can either be of a classic style or more like lifestyle photography when you start adding in family members.
We’ve got 4 traditional baby photo ideas poses that you can try out in your shoots.
Having the baby lying on their tummy with their legs tucked up into their body is a classic pose. Get help from the parent to move them around as they’ll be nervous about a stranger handling their baby. This position will give you the opportunity to shoot full length and close up shots.
With side-on shots, you can drape a blanket over the baby’s body to make them look snuggled up. Get down to the same level as their head and shoot across. Have a bit of the foreground ruffled and out of focus to create foreground blur. You may have to use a small pillow behind them to stop them from rolling on to their back.
The iconic newborn photography pose is part of the staple diet of most professional newborn photographers, but it won’t work out in every shoot. You need a very relaxed and sleepy baby to get this pose right. A good newborn photography workshop will show the mechanics and steps on how to position them bit by bit. Make sure that your camera and lighting is all set up beforehand in case the moment doesn’t last.
Using your macro lens remember to get in close and shoot the precious moments that you’ll never be able to recreate. Babies grow quickly so capturing their hand gripping their parent’s finger is a lovely way to memorialise their size.
On the flip side if you want more family and parental involvement in your shots consider the lifestyle newborn photography. Getting mums and/or dads involved gives you an opportunity to capture more emotional shots showing the seeds of their growing bond.
It’s a good idea to have a few newborn photo ideas with parents saved to your phone so you can show the family where you want them to stand and how to hold the baby.
Lifestyle newborn photoshoots should be more casual in style. It doesn’t matter if the baby stays asleep for the whole shoot either – the poses, expressions and lighting of the shot can create enough of a mood without the baby is awake.
We’ve got 3 brilliant lifestyle photography newborn pose ideas that you can try with any family.
Position the parents either side of the frame looking towards each other. Ask one to hold the baby so it’s facing the other and use their hands to create a cradle underneath the baby. The positioning and posing of the parents creates a frame within the shot where all the attention is directed on to the newborn.
You can do this shot with each parent to create a pair of shots – use a different shoulder with each one to balance the shots. This can look great as two complementing prints. Face the parent away from the camera and ask them to hold the baby as if they are winding him/her.
The parent can turn their head towards the baby for a few alternative shots too.
Ask the shorter of the parents to cradle the baby as they normally would and get the taller parent to stand behind and both look down towards the baby with the taller parent’s arms reinforcing the cradle to create an elliptical shape frame where the baby is in the middle.
Now comes the crucial tutorial about how do you go on to promote yourself as a newborn photographer once you’ve got a good understanding and hours of live practise photographing babies?
The best way to start is to get a web presence; social media is fine, but a website is vital. A website gives you greater control over the layout of the content and the style of your brand.
When it comes to optimising your website for the best possible exposure and ranking on Google you should consider using some of the following keywords.
● photo studio near me
● photography studios near me
● family photographers near me
● newborn photography near me
● newborn pictures near me
● newborn photoshoot near me
● newborn photography prices
● in-home newborn photography near me
● affordable newborn photography near me
● baby photography near me
● newborn photographers near me
● newborn photographer near me
All these keywords are popular search terms that clients look for on Google when choosing a newborn photographer. You could also add in your location to make it more focused on the rankings.
Display a gallery of your best images from different shots and give your prospective clients an idea of what photography services you offer.
● Do you come to their house?
● Do they come to your house or studio?
● How long does a session last?
● What should the parent(s) bring along?
● How should they prepare in advance?
These are just some of the typical questions a client may be asking themselves about a newborn shoot if they’ve never done one before. Your aim is to reassure them about your experience, ability and confidence in what you can do for them – but be honest too.
As we’ve said newborn photography won’t always go your way – babies are people too and we all get moody sometimes. Share these moments of reality on your social media, it’s comforting to new potential clients that you are patient and passionate about the art.
Share your success stories and testimonials from happy clients too. Reviews (in the online age) are vital to collect from clients. Even when you are starting out and practising with babies of friends and family, get them to review you too. The more the better.
While having a website is great, you’ll notice over time that word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools in this genre. Parents talk and will recommend you if they came away feeling that their baby was safe, respected and adored.
Keep all the social media platforms you use for your business up to date regularly. Make a post for each of them at least once a week. Use Reels, Stories and Videos on top of your photos to give clients behind the scenes views to your work. Offer free vouchers for a photoshoot and collaborate with newborn clothing brands to do giveaways.
Spend time doing online courses in digital marketing, SEO, blogging, website design as well as business management. You’re not just a photographer, you’re a business owner, blogger, content creator, marketer, communications officer, public relations liaison, customer support officer and so much more!
In summary, here are 5 essential takeaway tips to remember when doing newborn photography.
1. Invest in your training. Go on multiple live workshops and take online courses to build your photography knowledge and business acumen.
2. Invest in your kit. Get 2 quality lenses – a fast zoom and a macro lens.
3. Purchase a reliable lighting kit with diffusers. Pack light and efficiently for home-based shoots.
4. Ask parents to get involved when posing the baby. Have a range of poses in mind and share your ideas.
5. Be patient with upset babies. Reassure parents that it’s totally normal but be prepared to grab quick shots in little windows of calm.