Understand Your Subject’s Preferred Style: Posed VS Lifestyle
Because there are two very different types of newborn photography it is important that you understand your client’s expectations. Whether they are looking for lifestyle or posed/studio photography will dictate everything about your session.
The most common style of newborn photography is studio or posed. This style is done within the first couple of weeks of the baby’s life. This allows for classic baby poses and includes sleeping and swaddled shots.
These photo sessions are generally completed in one block of time, usually two to four hours in length. A posed/studio infant photo session also generally requires time allocated for post editing.
Lifestyle newborn photography is a very different style that is more casual in nature. It entails capturing more spontaneous images of the baby in their home. These sessions come when the baby is a bit older, generally around six weeks old. These images are focused on interactions between baby and all the other family members involved in their life. These photos can capture truly heart warming moments between baby and parents or siblings. Often times parents do not remember these times in their baby’s life (stress and lack of sleep can do that!) and lifestyle newborn images can keep these moments for the parents to cherish for a lifetime.
Both styles of photography are fun to shoot and offer amazing image opportunities so it is important to understand your clients goals before going in for your photo session.
It is very important to think about what your newborn photo session will need to be a success before heading to your shoot. Having your gear ready to go, props, pose ideas and more is absolutely required! Do not try and wing a photo session, not until you have a few thousand hours of experience under your belt:)
Newborn photography sessions require planning and your clients will appreciate the time you put in as it will create a great experience for them as well as you.
Create a checklist with all your newborn photography gear. Also list out potential poses and prop ideas before hand. Read over your lists and make sure you have everything needed before heading to meet the family. Just a little bit of prep time can make a huge difference!
Here are some examples of items for your checklist
- Appropriate lenses
- Newborn Photography Bean Bag
- Space heater
- Waterproof pads
- Backdrop and backdrop stand
- Blankets: Large and small
- White noise machine or soft music
Pro Tip: Some sessions can take multiple hours and if you don’t eat before your sessions your energy (and patience) can crash before the session is completed. Eat before going to meet the family!
Communicate With Your Customer
I cannot overstate the importance of communicating with your client before the session!
Nothing should be a surprise to your client on the session day. I have created a form that I provide to the family after scheduling the session that spells out everything that will happen on their photography session day. This allows the parents to feel comfortable with how the session will go as well as allow them another opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
This form let’s them know what I will be doing during the session as well as what the parents can do to prepare for a successful session. This includes such important tips as feeding the baby just before the session. It let’s them know the expected session duration, temperature of the home, recommended wardrobe and poses. What supplies they should have on hand and on and on.
This list takes some time to write up but it will save everyone so much time and limit any stress that could arise from lack of preparation.
While there are some standard poses and camera settings that should be used don’t be too robotic and formulaic when shooting your newborn sessions. Allow inspiration from your clients, their home, and personalities guide you for some original and amazing images. Some moms will get really into brainstorming ideas and send you Pinterest links or other ideas. Don’t ignore these opportunities to tune into your clients priorities. Use them to inspire new ideas that will be appreciated by your clients.
Also be inspired in the moments. When the baby does something unexpected snap pictures of it. Yawns, burps, smiles, gurgles, it’s all fair game and these moments will produce some of your most memorable images.
Embrace the imperfection of the moment!
Understand Your Aperture
I’ve seen a lot of recommended settings calling for only wide open apertures when shooting baby pics but this is not always the right approach.
Many of your images will be from unusual angles that can lead to poor image quality with a wide open aperture. Sometimes an f-stop of f/2 or even f/2.2 will produce much better results.
Don’t be afraid to step away from the standard f/1.2-f/1.4 and you will be certain to get awesome results.
Some of the best baby shots I have gotten are closeups on hair, feet, hands and even those little baby ears. These shots are very popular with my clients and produce a unique and cherished image parents love. Don’t be afraid to use a macro lens and get those adorable closeup shots that show all the little details of the infant’s hair toes and fingers!
These images require the baby being very still so snap these shots when the baby is sleeping comfortably. You can usually get all the macro shots you need in about ten minutes so there’s no excuse to skip these shots.
Don’t Forget Mom and Dad!
You may find the parents a little reluctant to get in on the action. Some moms in particular don’t feel very photogenic following the birth of their baby and this may mean insecure with getting in front of the camera with their baby. Gently encourage a shy mom or dad by reminding them how wonderful images of them holding their baby will be. These will be some of their most cherished images and you can help them get those memories with a little encouragement.
You should focus on making it easy for mom and dad to be in the picture so go with simple and natural poses. Do not get too creative with a shy parent and you will get some memorable parent and baby pictures.
Understand How To Use Props
New baby photographers tend to go overboard with their prop setup. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. It can be easy to get too many blankets, stuffed animals, and bean bags so plan your prop use and keep it simple. Don’t go overboard!
Use blankets for laying the baby on and swaddled pics. But keep it simple and you will get more and better baby pictures without the stress of juggling too many props.
If your client has older children they want to include in the shots plan to keep it short and sweet. Too many complicated poses can lead to fussy babies and fidgety children. Young siblings should just lay next to the baby for their pics while older siblings can hold baby for their shots. Just keep it quick and fun and you shouldn’t have any grumpy kids!
Be Safe and Roll With It
All your planning and lists should be used as a guide and not an inflexible roadmap for your session. Baby’s can be unpredictable, they may be fussy or just plain grumpy so you will want to be flexible enough to do the poses and props that the baby is comfortable with. Keep it low stress and don’t lose patience with a baby who isn’t cooperative with the planned poses. Do this and you will get the best possible images.
Being flexible will also produce some great spontaneous moments. These little smiles and scrunched up faces are often the best images you will take. Roll with the unexpected and you will love your results.