Baby photography absolutely terrified me, and I avoided it with all costs. During my time in photography school, a fellow classmate, Becca Wuan would always talk about how hard baby photography is and until I tried it, I honestly didn’t believe her. What could be so hard? It’s a baby, they can’t run off anywhere, they pretty much direct themselves, right? WRONG. Oh my god, so, so, so wrong. After going through two now, I can say I am just barely grasping the concept of photographing newborns.
Until a good friend of mine asked me to try it, knowing I hadn’t done it before, I had zero plans on every giving baby photography a shot. Jessie Trotter offered me up her newborn girl, Maggie to shoot her first newborn pictures:
We got some great shots, and I learned some valuable lessons that I took with me into my second baby photography session with Baby Julian:
Baby Photography Tips: What Did I Learn?
Schedule the shoot around the baby’s sleep schedule, not the sun. For a successful baby photography session, you really want to schedule the shoot to line up with the baby’s feeding and sleep schedule so you can start right after the baby has been fed, changed, and ready for sleep. This makes moving the little babe around and in those adorable positions about 1000x easier than when a baby is awake and agitated. My first session with baby Maggie I scheduled so we could get full use of the morning light, but she was completely awake the whole time. This made swaddling impossible, and especially getting her to stay in those cute Pinterest positions. We had a scary close call on set with Baby Julian trying to nail that baby-in-a-basket upright shot when suddenly, the baby moved and came tumbling out of the basket onto the floor.
Ask the parent to practice swaddling before the session. A swaddled baby is a calm, cool and collected baby. A swaddled baby also makes for a better picture automatically, their little chubby limbs tucked into the folds of soft fabric instead of flailing in wild places throughout the frame.
Have your client send you “Pinspiration” ideas before the shoot, not during. Many of these shots need careful planning beforehand and need thought and time to be able to get the emulation down right.
This tip may not be exactly ethical, but extremely cost effective. Buy items for the baby photography shoot beforehand and return them the next day. I actually got this idea from baby Julian’s mom, who had bags of soft, fuzzy blankets and various baskets ready just for the session that she planned on returning the next day. I figure if you’re just using these items once, you’re probably not breaking any rules? This technique may be a little shady, but is a serious budget savor for the themed sessions you’ll probably never do again.
Find the biggest window in the house that is getting the most light. Window light is KEY, especially when you are not able to schedule the sessions around the sun. Soft, diffused light is perfect for baby’s soft skin. My trusty 5-in-1 came to the rescue multiple times in the sessions, for bouncing light into any shadows or using as a diffuser when there wasn’t curtains available. You might even want to bring two, one to diffuse and one to bounce light.
Keep your lens at the lowest f-stop to get a nice shallow depth of field.
Don’t forget to get close-ups of the baby’s hands and toes, and push the mom to get pictures with the baby. Many mom’s fresh out of the hospital or in the middle of newborn breastfeeding schedule probably won’t be in the mood, but it’s something they may regret in the future.
Baby Photography: Post production
One thing I didn’t know, not being a mom myself, is that babies have blemishes. The post production part of baby photography took almost as long as the sessions themselves, if not longer, so make sure to consider that when quoting a price. Every blemish and wrinkle should be removed and softened. Get comfortable in Lightroom with the healing tool for pimples and the local adjustment brush for bumping down the clarity on their skin.
Do you have your own baby photography tips? Share them below!