Everyone with a newborn wants the chance to make their own treasured collection of memories from these exciting and special early days. Photography has become an essential element of these memories, and the newborn photo shoot is practically something of a tradition, with a huge number of must-have cliché shots as well as a wide window for experimentation and visually exciting photography with these endlessly evocative subjects.
While photographing newborns might not offer too much of a technical challenge to the photographer, there are a great many details which go into making the most out of a newborn photo shoot. To get the best shots, you will need to be aware of an attentive to the needs of the newborn, able to communicate effectively with the parents, and always be patient with the changing whims of an infant who is probably totally disinterested in your desire to get a good shot!
Tending to Babies Needs during Photo Session
The best newborn photos aren’t of grumpy babies being corralled by photographers into different poses. The classic image of the smiling baby, or the peacefully resting newborn, or the babe safe in its parents embrace – all of these images rely on having a relaxed, happy, and if you’re really lucky possibly even cooperative subject.
Always assume when photographing newborns (or even children!) that your subject may mess with your well-laid plans. The key to getting good photos of newborns is being patient: let them call the shots, do their own thing, and only when they are relaxed and happy snap your photos or coax them into a pose. For this reason, long duration photo shoots are often the best way to capture great photos of newborns.
Keeping the mood of the shoot and the atmosphere in the overall environment on a good note is important. Remember that newborns will likely be very attentive to and influenced by the moods of their parents, so your job is not only to keep baby relaxed, but mom and dad too! A stressed-out parent can be a serious detriment to a newborn photo shoot. To help avoid this, make sure you are as attentive with the parents as possible before the shoot: make sure they understand all the details, what lighting, poses, locations and so forth you plan to use. Pay careful attention to their needs and any details they wish to include.
Having everything planned out and carefully accounted for helps to reduce stress for all parties and make the shoot run smoothly and produces the best results.
The Classic Newborn Shots
When I think of newborn photography, a specific set of images come into my mind. These are the tropes which are iterated upon by almost every newborn photographer, and produce the classic images parents are looking for to immortalise the memory of their newborn. They fall into three basic categories:
The Organic Photos: Non-posed photographs of baby behaving normally: eating, sleeping, interacting with relatives. This is sort of a catch-all category for photographs which aren’t specifically set up or posed for an exact concept. Most parents like to include a few of these “natural environment” organic photos in their collections.
The Growing/Fragile Photos: These photos emphasise the tiny and fragile nature of the newborn. This effect is often achieved by providing a sense of scale by including something in the shot, such as an object, or a parents hand or other body part, or even making it blatant with a ruler or measuring tape. Particular focus can be given to the newborns hands, feet, and head. These shots are quite effective when the newborn is shown cradled in the parents arms.
The Relationship Photos: These can often be the most cherished and important to parents, and can have the most emotional impact. Relationship photos highlight the newborns relationship to its caregivers and relatives. Classic examples include shots of the newborn with its parents, grand-parents, siblings, and other close family. Intimate portraits featuring the gaze of both the parent and the child are a recurring and potent example of this. Be sure not to neglect members of the family other than the parents when taking such shots, as an all-time favourite is the elder-sibling and newborn relationship photo.
The Sky Is the Limit
Knowing the classic newborn shots is important, but these ideas should be taken as suggestions and never as limitations! Photographing newborns is ripe with potential for creativity and producing beautiful, artful shots. The goal with a newborn photo shoot should largely be to please the parents and provide them with high quality photographs they can cherish for a lifetime to come, but along the way clever photographers have the potential to create stunningly gorgeous works which stand on their own as engaging pieces even without the loving attachments of a new parent.
Take a lot of time to understand the desires of the parents: what they want to highlight about their newborn, what family members they want to include, what locations are important to them, which classic shots they want to include, any sentimental items or interesting visual props they want to include in the shots. Talk with them at length and offer your own suggestions and creative flair.
Emotional Impact Of Newborn Photography is Everything
Photos of newborns press a particular button for us which almost nothing else can evoke. Photos of newborns have the power to carry exceptional emotional impact, and the manner in which this is directed and framed can have huge consequences for the end result of your shot. What do you want to showcase in a particular photo? The fragility of a growing newborn? The budding curiosity of a new mind? The bond between a father and his newborn daughter, or the lifelong companionship of a new brotherhood in its earliest days?
Depending on how the photo is taken, newborn photography has the potential to showcase all of this and much, much more. Telling these stories with your lens is entirely possible, so always keep a narrative in mind throughout your newborn shoot.
Don’t be Afraid to Fail!
My final piece of advice is simple: you can’t predict a newborn, so don’t be afraid to fail. Your plans could be totally knocked over by the call of nature or the encroachment of nap time. Do what you can with what you have, experiment, and never be afraid to fail!