Professional newborn photography guide

If you want to spend your career around some of the most adorable subjects out there, becoming a newborn photographer just might be the job for you. It’s a photography niche that allows you to be a part of one of the most special times in your clients’ lives, and there are many ways you can get creative, have fun, and develop a signature style that will land you more gigs.

Another reason to love newborn photography is that unlike many other kinds of photography, there isn’t much seasonality to it. You don’t have to focus on making the bulk of your annual income in a few hectic months, the way you might as a wedding photographer. Babies are being born all the time, meaning there’s plenty of work available year-round. You can also do it wherever you are in the world, and if you move, you’ll find demand no matter where your next destination is.

Ready to learn more about newborn photography so you can start building your portfolio? Read on!

What is newborn photography? 

Newborn photography is the photography of babies in the very first stages of life. Your subjects will usually be somewhere between a few days old and 2 weeks old. Beyond that age, it’s no longer newborn photography but rather baby photography.

Why the distinction? Because babies in those first couple of weeks are still quite malleable and are comfortable in some adorable poses that are only possible during this time. They’re also very delicate during this time, so newborn photographers are extra aware of how to ensure the babies they photograph stay safe and comfortable.

Why newborn photography is important.

Newborn photography is important because it captures a precious but very fleeting moment in a baby’s life. There is something magical about these brand new humans, and they start growing and changing very fast. Newborn photography enables your clients to preserve a memory of the very brief first couple of weeks of their baby’s life. 

Types of newborn photography.

Like any other photography niche, there are lots of different directions in which you can take newborn photography. While it’s nice to be versatile, you might want to consider focusing on one type or style of newborn photography in your portfolio. This way, you’ll be able to develop a more easily memorable and distinct look that clients come to you for.

Creative newborn baby photography.

Creative newborn photography is all about developing dreamy imaginative scenes for newborns. This style is characterized by props and styling to create a little set in which the newborn is placed. 

The most famous newborn and baby photographer in this style is Anne Geddes whose images of newborns dressed as flowers, bumblebees, and other adorable animals became hugely popular in the 80s and 90s. Creative newborn photography has been a hit ever since.

Working in this style requires building a collection of props and developing concepts in advance that you can use in shoots. Examples you can try are creating little clouds that it looks like the baby is floating on, using miniature beds or little baskets in which to place the baby, or getting a variety of headbands that can be placed on the newborn for different cute looks. 

Fine art newborn photography.

Fine art newborn photography tends to focus less on playful scenes and props, and more on capturing an artful image of this special time. This isn’t to say you can’t use props as a fine art newborn photographer, but they’re less of a must-have element if you go in this direction. 

Fine art newborn photos might feature the baby sleeping in a neutral scene, the parents’ hands holding the baby, or a parent kissing or otherwise interacting with their baby. Black and white photography is not essential but is also popular within the niche of fine art newborn photography. Black and white lends newborn photos a timeless, classic look that many clients love. It makes the images feel extra special, and distinct from the types of images they might normally take themselves. 

Modern newborn photography.

Modern newborn photography can be characterized as falling somewhere between creative newborn photography and fine art newborn photography. It isn’t quite as silly and playful and creative as newborn photography usually is, but it’s also less serious than fine art newborn photography. While the fine art approach might feature bolder lighting to create high contrast, modern newborn photography tends to be bright, clean, and fresh.

Some clients will love the idea of a playful, imaginative scene for their newborn shoot, while others will be more drawn to the clean, minimalist look. It all comes down to what you’re most drawn to and which clients you’re most interested in working for. A perk of modern newborn photography is that you don’t necessarily need as many props, since you can get away with reusing a few basics in most shoots.

Posed vs lifestyle newborn photography. 

The creative newborn photography approach is a very posed kind of newborn photography. A scene is set up, props are arranged, and the baby is posed to fit into the scene to create the desired look. 

Conversely, the lifestyle newborn photography approach eschews the props and setups in favor of photographing the newborn in their real environment: in their parent’s arms, in their crib, hanging out in bed with mom and dad, or any other scene that is faithful to real life. 

In posed newborn photography, there is a range of photos that newborn photographers study and learn to use safely. For example, you’ve probably seen the newborn photos in which the baby is resting their head in their hands. This, of course, isn’t a natural pose. Newborns can’t prop themselves up like that by themselves, but it’s a well-known and adorable pose that newborn photographers use frequently.

With lifestyle newborn photography, rather than using these poses, newborns are generally shot as they naturally are. This approach aims to be more true to life rather than whimsical.

Newborn baby photography.

While photos of the newborns themselves are of course key to the practice of newborn photography, there are some other kinds of images that you’ll likely take as a newborn baby photographer. Here are some of the most common ones to consider next time you have a gig. 

1. Maternity and newborn photography.

Since newborn photography takes place so soon after the baby is born, it’s not uncommon to be hired to do a maternity shoot before the newborn shoot. This often takes place shortly before the birth, when the mother-to-be has a big, photogenic belly. 

If you’re hired to do both a maternity shoot and a newborn shoot for the same client, think about creative ways in which you can tie the shoots together. Not every shot has to be part of the same content, but you might want to consider a shot of the pregnant mom-to-be cradling her belly, followed by a shot of her holding her newborn in a similar position and with similar clothing and lighting. This draws a beautiful connection between the last moments of pregnancy and the first moment of the baby’s life. You can come up with your own concept, but this example illustrates the way you can go about creatively linking the two shoots. 

Another consideration if you want to incorporate maternity photography into your practice is offering maternity and newborn packages. This encourages prospective clients to book both shoots with you, increasing the value of each client for your business.

2. Newborn with parents photography.

Whether you specialize in creative newborn baby photography, fine art newborn photography, or modern newborn photography, you’ll want to include some shots with the parents in each shoot. Every parent will treasure a professional image of them with their little one when they were brand new.

There are lots of different ways to go about capturing these images, but here are some of the classic shots you can consider:

  • Forehead to forehead: have the parents face each other and touch their foreheads while gazing down at the newborn.
  • Holding each other: have the mother cradle the newborn so they are facing the camera, and the father or other parent hold the mother from behind. This pose evokes love and togetherness.
  • Hand in hand: this shot is all about capturing the contrast between the adult’s hands and the baby’s tiny hands. You can have one parent hold onto the baby’s hand, or have both parents cradling one another’s hands with the baby’s little hand on top.
  • Over the shoulder: have the parents stand facing away from the camera shoulder to shoulder, with one of them cradling the newborn in front of them. Then, shoot the newborn from behind the parents, with their silhouettes framing the shot. 
  • Lying down: have the baby and parents lie on the ground, and shoot from above. You can play around with this shot, like having the parents and baby fanned out in different directions.

3. Newborn and family photography.

As a newborn baby photographer, you may be asked to include more than just the parents in some shots. For example, if the baby has older siblings, your clients will certainly want some shots with the siblings together. 

Capturing kids with their new baby siblings is sure to result in special images that will be treasured by the family for a lifetime, but they require some planning ahead and preparation. That’s because the siblings are often toddler aged, and this can be a difficult age to work with. The toddlers need to be happy and in a good mood, while the newborn requires constant attention to make sure they’re safe and comfortable. 

In general, keeping the shoot fairly short and scheduling it for after the toddler’s usual nap time can give you the best chance of your newborn and family photo shoot going well. 

Some popular shots include: 

  • Everyone gazing at the baby: have the parents and siblings sit together in a symmetrical formation gazing down at the new addition to the family and smiling.
  • Sibling kiss: have the sibling or siblings gently kiss the newborn baby on the forehead.
  • Holding the kids: have the parents hold up and cradle all the children. Have them look at each other and laugh or smile for a candid look. 

Events, moments, and locations.

There are lots of different places you’ll likely be asked to do a newborn baby photoshoot, and each has its benefits, drawbacks, and creative potential. Here are some of the most common locations, events, and moments that newborn baby photographers regularly capture.  

Newborn hospital photography.

These newborn photos are taken – you guessed it – in the hospital shortly after they are born. These can have more of an intimate or even documentary style compared to the playful creative newborn shoots that some photographers do, or the artsy approach others take. The major challenge with this location is that you likely can’t have much equipment with you, so you have to pack light.

Some hospitals may also have limitations on the possibility of having photographers come in, so make sure you and your client are aware of the rules well in advance. 

Newborn delivery photography.

Of all the different kinds of newborn photography you can do, delivery photography is definitely the most intense. It involves being present for the birth so that you can capture the very first moments of the baby’s life. Not a lot of mothers will be comfortable having a photographer around for such a vulnerable and grueling event, but the images that come from these shoots can be incredible. 

If shooting a newborn delivery session, it’s critical that you take every precaution to follow the hospital’s guidance for hygiene and other concerns. Or, if you’re shooting a home birth, prepare to be flexible and go with the flow, since it’s not possible to plan these shoots to the minute. You may have to wait around for a long while, but the results will be worth it. 

Breastfeeding photoshoot ideas.

Capturing a mother nursing her child will make for some of the most tender and intimate images you can capture as a newborn photographer. Here are some ideas for your next shoot:

  • Mother kissing baby’s forehead as they nurse.
  • Breastfeeding outdoors for an earthy, natural image.
  • Close up to the baby.
  • A faux candid shot from a distance.
  • Sitting at the edge of the bed, creating a contextual image that captures the home.
  • Nursing both twins at once, if you’re lucky enough to shoot newborn twins.
  • An artful black and white shoot.

Outdoor newborn photography.

Newborns are little natural miracles, so shooting them outdoors seems like the perfect setting. Outdoor newborn shoots can go very well, but there are some important things to keep in mind to make sure the shoot goes without a hitch.

Firstly, get to know your location well before the actual shoot. This can help you determine if there’s a backup plan you can move on to in the event of bad weather. It also gives you chance to make sure the location is peaceful enough for a newborn.

Secondly, avoid placing the newborn in direct sunlight. Their skin is very delicate, and it can be dangerous for them to get too much sun as newborns.

Finally, bring along some extra blankets in case it gets chilly and the baby needs them. The parents will likely be prepared, but it’s always good to have extras. 

Indoor newborn photography.

More often than not, you’ll likely be shooting newborns indoors. Wherever you’re shooting, keep in mind these tips to get the best results:

  • Find natural light, but avoid strong direct sunlight.
  • Consider bringing some soothing sounds, such as a white noise machine or quiet classical music. This can help keep the baby calm.
  • It’s okay if they fall asleep.  Many of the best newborn photos are of sleeping babies, which can be posed into a variety of cute positions.
  • Reflectors are your friend. You may not always have a ton of natural light or the space for studio lights, but reflectors can help you beautifully illuminate your subject. 

Newborn nature photography.

Newborn photos in nature can be really precious, but it’s important to take precautions to make sure to do it safely. For example, keep in mind that some of the newborn nature photos you see online of babies nestled on branches and in other improbable locations are largely the product of photoshop. Newborns are very delicate, so care should be taken to keep them safe at all times.

First and foremost, make sure they’re securely bundled up and that they have a bed or carrier they can rest in whenever needed. 

Next, look for shaded areas that still have ample light. Reflectors can help you bounce more light onto your subject. 

Finally, plan to move fast. You likely won’t be able to keep them out in nature for very long before they get fussy, so start snapping as soon as you can.

In home newborn photography.

More often than not, your newborn baby shoots will be in the parent’s home. This tends to be most convenient for them: remember that they’re probably exhausted and going through an exciting but intense few weeks, so coming to them and making the process as easy as possible for them will always be appreciated. 

You can either bring along your full collection of props or better yet, have the parents select any props and accessories in advance so you can travel more lightly.

You’ll also want to get a sense of the space before the shoot. Ideally, you could see their home in advance so you can plan your setup, but if not, get photos from your clients to see what the light and space situation is. 

Newborn studio photography.

In a studio, you get the most control over lighting, equipment, and setup. The studio setting is ideal for both creative newborn photography and fine art newborn photography. You certainly don’t have to have a studio to work as a newborn photographer, but if you do, you’ll have the flexibility to create more high-concept shots. 

Make sure to stock your studio up with everything a newborn born needs. You’ll need a variety of propping pillows on which to prop up the newborns, blankets, white noise machines, and hopefully a quiet space where parents and baby can rest if needed.

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