Newborn Photography: A How-to Guide

July 13, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Newborn Photography: A How-to Guide

A great deal of work goes into a newborn baby photography shoot, but posing know-how and using Baby Steps™ Newborn Lightroom Presets can make the entire process a whole lot easier.

Newborns aren’t exactly the most cooperative subjects in the world. Babies cry, make a mess and require constant attention. It comes with challenges, but if the photographer has a great eye, is attentive, and is passionate about the craft, it can be a fulfilling photography genre. There is nothing like seeing the look of amazement on a parent’s face as you give them the finished photos of their newborn child. It’s something that they will cherish for the rest of their lives, and it’s a great feeling to know that you were able to contribute in a meaningful way.

Interested in being a newborn photographer? Take a gander at this guide to get a better idea of what’s required and to know if you’re a good fit.

The 2 Types of Newborn Photography

There are two types of newborn photography:

1.Posed newborn photography

2.Lifestyle newborn photography

In posed sessions, the photographer shoots the newborn in staged poses.

In lifestyle sessions, the photographer captures the newborn in a more natural setting.

Posed sessions can last 3-4 hours. Time is needed for the baby to sleep, be fed, have garments changed, etc. Preferably the baby needs to be asleep for most of the shoot so that poses can be established and adjusted. Most photographers prefer the baby to be between 1-2 weeks old for the shoot, as they are more likely to be sleepy. Most posed sessions are done in the photographer’s studio because it’s easier to control the shoot and the setting.

Lifestyle sessions will usually last 2 hours max. Lifestyle sessions incorporate a more natural setting. Poses can be used, but there is more focus on the elements surrounding the baby. Parents and siblings are often included in these photos, and the baby isn’t required to be asleep. Lifestyle photos are more about capturing the moment—it can be as simple as capturing the look of happiness on a parent’s eyes as the newborn gazes into their eyes. These types of photos are usually taken in the home rather than the studio, which is something that helps many parents feel more comfortable. This naturalistic approach can help the photographer capture authentic, breathtaking moments.

When a client is trying to choose between the two styles, it may help to ask them these questions:

  • Ask the client to look at your portfolio. What type of picture they can imagine themselves appreciating 20 years from now—the posed studio photo, or the more natural lifestyle photo?
  • Do they feel comfortable taking the newborn to a studio for the shoot? If not, lifestyle photography would likely be better.
  • Are they impressed by the posed photos? Or do they prefer the more casual lifestyle photos?

Safety First!

Newborns are fragile, and things can easily go wrong if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Here’s a few pointers: 

No sharp objects. Don’t place the baby in overly hot or cold surfaces. Exercise common sense.

Wash your hands. The immune system of a newborn is still in development, so you should take the proper health precautions.

Don’t place the newborn on unstable objects for the sake of a pose. Many of the elaborate poses that are common in this genre are merely composite or edited photos. For example, the popular “frog” pose where the baby’s head appears to be propped up by their arms is the result of a post-production photo editing technique. The baby’s head is usually held in place by the photographer or their assistant. The photographer’s hand is then removed in the post-production process via photoshop. Don’t risk the safety of the infant for the sake of a creative shot, exercise common sense and take the proper precautions to ensure that the infant remains unharmed.

Be Prepared

Here’s a list of things that you’ll likely need for your shoot:

  • Newborn beanbag. A popular surface to pose the baby.
  • Space heater. To help regulate the temperature so that the newborn is comfortable.
  • Big blankets. You may want to wrap the baby in a blanket. A blanket can also be used as the background.
  • Props. Baskets, cradles, etc.
  • Change of clothes. Request the parent to bring extra clothes in case there’s a mess.
  • Diapers/pads. Newborns aren’t potty-trained so this is a must.

In addition to all of this, you need to make sure that the parents are also prepared. It’s your job to inform them of anything that’s needed for the shoot, the estimated length of time that’s needed for the shoot, and other miscellaneous requirements. It’s important to manage the expectations of your clients. Explain why it’s necessary for the baby to be fully fed before the shooting, list any items that you need the parent to bring, request that the room temperature be warm for the shoot if you’re shooting in the client’s home (around 85 degrees is preferable).

This is all done to ensure that the shoot goes smoothly. Perfection is impossible to achieve. Newborns are unruly: they cry, make a mess, and are generally unpredictable. You want to control the environment as much as possible to get the most out of the shoot. For that to happen, both you and the parent need to be fully prepared.

The Light and Angle Matters

Your photo gear (camera, lenses, etc.) is important, but at the end of the day, the lighting, angles and overall creativity of the shoot will determine the quality of the photos. If the photographer’s eye isn’t attuned to the shot, the most high-end equipment in the world won’t suffice. Here are a few general tips that will help any newborn photographer:

  • Go easy on the flash. With newborns under 3 months old, natural light is your best friend. A studio flash can stun the baby—not to mention that high powered lights are bad for a developing child’s brain.
  • When using natural light, know where the sun is in relation to the room, and figure out the direction the sunlight is going to move as the shoot goes on.
  • Position the baby near the window. We can write a whole post on finding the right lighting for your photo, but to keep things simple, use window light to your advantage and use a reflector to bounce light back into the subject and fill in some shadows. A large circular reflector will suffice.

Learn Post-Production for Newborn Photography

First, it’s important to note that post-production isn’t a substitute for skill. You need to know how to shoot. Post production can help to make a great photo even better, however. Some post production touching up will likely be needed for your newborn shoot. Skin correction, exposure, and lighting are often what’s adjusted and Baby Steps™ Newborn Lightroom Presets by MCP Actions are fantastic for doing these types of edits.

How to Become a Newborn Baby Photographer

Build your portfolio. Don’t have much professional experience? Trade your time for a notch in your portfolio. See if anyone in your network of friends and family has a newborn on the way. Offer your services in exchange for a testimonial. Do this for a few projects, and you’ll soon have the experience under your belt to begin charging for future shoots. If you already have professional experience, but not in the newborn photography niche, you can likely charge for your services, although it still might be better to rack up some on-the-job experience.

Dealing with newborns in a professional shoot can be a challenge—especially if you have little experience with these types of shoots. If you feel uncomfortable taking on work find some professional newborn photographers in the area and offer to be their assistant for a few jobs. You may not get paid much for being their assistant, but you will acquire some valuable on-the-job experience.


Here’s a funny truth: you’re not the boss of the shoot, and neither is the parent. The newborn calls the shots—when they’re fussy, you need to be patient and wait it out; if they’re hungry, they’ll need to get fed; if the baby doesn’t want to sleep for posing, you’ll have to adapt and take more natural lifestyle photos. If you’re an impatient person, newborn photography isn’t the genre you want to jump into, but if you’re able to be patient, it can be very fulfilling. Although it’s one of the more difficult branches of photography, it can be one of the most rewarding—especially if you’re passionate about the craft and love dealing with newborn babies.

Here are some final tips to keep in mind while shooting newborns:

  • Keep the baby warm. You want the room to be 80-85 degrees F. This temperature will keep the baby comfortable and happy. Colder temperatures can make the baby a bit cranky and harder to manage.
  • Avoid strong fragrances. A baby’s sense of smell is sensitive, which means that strong scents can bother the baby very easily. Perfume and cologne should be avoided for the shoot, and ensure that the room is free of any distinctive scent.
  • Use white noise to soothe the baby and drown out the sound of the shutter. In general, keep the room as quiet as possible, especially if the baby is sleeping.
  • Make sure you have everything you need for the shoot: props, blankets, heater, lenses, food, whatever. The more prepared you are, the smoother the shoot will go.

Keep your mind open. Creativity can be sparked from the most random of sources—perhaps it’s the curve of the newborn’s smile, or it could be the look of joy on a sibling’s face as he stares at his little brother. Pay attention to the details, and you will be able to find the perfect shot. Be confident about what you do, keep your mind (and your eye) open, be patient, and have fun.

If you do those things, you’ll excel as a newborn baby photographer, and you’ll have a blast in the process!


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