As a photographer, my business mostly centers around portraits, engagements and weddings. I photograph children when I have the opportunity because I absolutely love doing photo shoots with kids, but until recently, the youngest person I had photographed was a year old. A couple of months ago, I did a maternity shoot for a woman who asked me if I would photograph her newborn when the time arrived, and when the time arrived, I was thrilled, but also really curious to see what this newborn photography genre was all about!
There are so many great photographers who specialize in newborns and children, and their photos make it seem so effortless, when, in reality, we all know it can’t be that easy! Here are just a few things that I learned about photographing a newborn, from the standpoint of someone who almost always photographs people over the age of 5!
1. First and foremost, you have to go with the flow! Even as newborns, babies are already their own individuals, and in a photographic setting, they really do have the final say. With that in mind, know that if they’re sleepy at a given moment, that is your prime opportunity to get as many shots as you can and take advantage of their relaxed state! If they wake up crying, let mom intervene for a few minutes and just be patient until they feel better again. You may find it is in your best interest to devote a little bit more time to a newborn shoot than you would a shoot with an older child or adult.
2. Take a few minutes to hold the baby before you start photographing them. That way, they’ll have a chance to get to know you for a few minutes and figure out what you’re all about, so that when you do start moving them or posing them, you will both be more comfortable.
3. Get mom to bring any blankets or toys that she knows her baby is familiar with, and incorporate those into the photograph. Nobody likes to be in an unfamiliar environment, so having things handy like a blanket that the baby sleeps on will help the baby feel more at home and relaxed.
4. Make sure your hands are warm. Seriously. Babies get a little shocked if you touch them with freezing cold hands. Wouldn’t you?
5. With that same idea in mind, if you are photographing a newborn during the winter months, try to have your room temperature around 70-72 degrees F. In my case, it was a cold day and the room I was in was a bit drafty, so I put a small space heater in the corner to keep the room comfortable. Don’t overheat the room, though. Also, the white noise from the space heater seemed to be really soothing to the baby, too.
6. Keep things simple if this is your first shoot with a newborn. Sure, we have all seen the completely amazing newborn photos where they have all sorts of unique props/scenery, and stellar posing, but also remember that these photos are from people who are seasoned vets at newborn photography, and it really is an art form that takes time and practice to master. So, think in simple terms with your posing and props.
7. Last, but certainly not least, just be patient and have fun! Babies feed off our energy, and if we are nervous and stressed, they will, most likely, pick up on that and be less cooperative. As I mentioned before, try setting aside a little bit more time than you would for photographing an older child. That way, you’ll be able to go with the flow, take a little break if the baby starts crying and needs some mom time. Even if the baby needs for mom to hold them, that is still a great opportunity to get some wonderful shots of mom and her baby!
Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based in Athens, GA and the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. She also designs actions and textures for Photoshop. When she is not shooting or writing, she enjoys spending time with her fiancee, and their two cats, Elphie and Fat Cat.