Newborn Photography

One of the most important factors in making a good photograph of a newborn baby is to remember, they get to do what they want.  You have to try and convince them through hard work and persistence to pose.  Nine times out of ten the pose will fall apart in an instant, you have to stay on your toes.  I was a Studio Manager and trainer for two portrait studios that focused on children and newborn photography.  This was about 10 years ago but the kiddies haven’t changed much.

I was called upon recently to dust off the cobwebs and photograph a one week old baby on my day off.  After working a long week shooting product I was actually happy to do this as Dell and Mac notebooks can get a little boring and we all need to be sure to keep challenging ourselves even after 15+ years.  I made use of a few simple tools to get these shots.

  • Black cloth backdrop (any color)
  • (1 and sometimes 2) “CONSTANT LIGHTS”-(Strobes can startle them)
  • A diffuser or reflector
  • A simple but sturdy table
  • 2 towels and a trash bag
  • A fuzzy baby toy
  • A camera
  • My patience

I will explain all of the weird sounding things in a moment but first I want to start with the ones that probably don’t sound “as” odd.  The Black backdrop is one that I love because my preference for newborns is “Low Key” lighting.  The black backdrop makes this work a bit easier, it can be done on white but then you have to constantly fuss with the lights and maintain a proper distance from the background.  Photographing little ones is hard enough work and I find that maintain focus on the expression is the real key here.

On the subject of lighting I emphasized the use of constant lights.  This is a very important tool if you want to maintain for a time frame longer than 10 to 20 min.  When I ran “chain” studio’s I found that the constant 500Ws to 2000Ws strobes popping would wear a baby and even most small children very quickly.  If you haven’t sat on the other end of the camera before give it a try some time for twenty min 3 to 4 shots per min.  A soft diffused light through a diffuser or off of a reflector will give you the focused even light source that you will need to harness the light.  The camera of course goes without saying, just be sure that you have a good fast memory card and a solid lens that will give you a focus lock quickly.

The table is a simple compliment that gets the black backdrop draped over it but the weird stuff goes under the backdrop.  You can use a whole assortment of different backdrops and materials. The setup goes; table, folded towel, trash bag, folded towel, backdrop.  The reason will be obvious to many of you now but for the uninitiated it is for; baby pee, poop, spit up.  It happens and its part of the game babies have no shame the just let it go.  This last shoot that I did was no different.

The toy and patience are important when getting eye direction as well as maintaining the pose that you want.  I like sleeping pictures, but there is a lot to be said for a nice shot of an alert newborn as they are not as common.  You have to maintain the participation of mom or dad, they are good props for the images but also they work well as the safety net.  Babies can jerk quickly in all directions and keeping mom within reach as your safety net is an important addition to the process.  Be aware of family members that want to stand off to the side and try and draw an expression for you, the baby will look at them and not right in the camera and that can kill an otherwise amazing image.  Hunt down some different poses online and in baby magazines and give it a try. I will be making a how to article soon on how to set up these shots.  Remember less is more try and avoid adding busy outfits and tons of multicolored props.  In the end it is all about the Newborn baby!

Photography By: Douglas Coon

Photography By: Douglas Coon

Photography By: Douglas Coon

Photography By: Douglas Coon



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