For a long time, I felt nervous whenever I got client inquiries about newborn or baby photography . But after gaining some experience over the years, I realized there’s no need to be intimidated. Creative baby photography doesn’t require specific props, lights or instructions. It requires heart, soul, patience, time and — most of all — imagination.
Before shoots, I tell my clients that I’m a lifestyle photographer; my shoots are about 50 percent posed and 50 percent candid. I believe strongly in both approaches, and I love to set up the environments and just see what happens. Again, just be patient — sometimes the posed and “intentional” candid shots come out great, but sometimes it’s those shots I take in-between the baby chaos that really shine.
Gear You Need for Shooting Baby Portraits
- A macro lens for close detail shots, as well as sharp full-length images.
- Your favorite portrait lens . Mine is the 50mm 1.4.
- You always need a light source. I have an external flash unit (580exii) but you can also use lightscoops. They’re cheap and easy to use.
- A reflector, which can double the amount of light hitting your subject when positioned correctly.
- Honestly, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on backdrops. You can use plain white bed sheets for backgrounds for full-length portraits.
- You’ll also need toys and books. They’re vital for keeping babies happy, engaged and connected.
- Meaningful and colorful blankets, sheets, curtains, etc. You can be creative with anything.
Photographing the Babies
1. Capture the Baby’s Age
Babies change by the day in their first year of life, which is why it can be so much fun to take photos that capture their age. Whether they’re a scrunchy-faced newborn or celebrating their first birthday, find a creative way to capture their stage of life. An easy way to do this is to make some signs and do a monthly photo shoot. (It’ll give the parents something super cute to put in a baby scrapbook , too!)
2. Go Black and White
A desaturated image can create a compelling, dramatic and emotional portrait that just begs to be framed. And getting the perfect monochromatic image is all in the editing, so there’s no difference when you’re shooting your subject!
3. Mama and Baby
Photos of Mom and baby are a no-brainer, and these typically go pretty smoothly — Mama is much easier to direct and work with than babies and little siblings. Some moms might also want to do a few nursing shots, so work that out with her beforehand and come up with a game plan for your shoot.
4. Bring In the Siblings
If you’re taking photos of a family’s second or third child, sibling shots are a must. There’s nothing parents will want to frame more. Depending on the age of both the new baby and the sibling, take some precautions (mainly, making sure everyone is nice and stable).
5.The Stomach Shot
When they’re around three or four months old, babies can hold their heads up and give great big smiles. It’s so cute, you’ve just gotta capture it. Position the baby against something soft and sturdy and lay them on their stomach. You might have to use a few tricks (like toys or funny faces) to get them to look at you and crack that toothless grin.
6. From Up Above
Stand directly above the baby and take a photo as they lie on their back. It’s a cute, classic photo and a great way to capture their entire little body. Make sure to use a solid, clean background (or one with a simple pattern that won’t distract) and hold up a toy to get their attention!
7. Get Up Close
When photographing baby portraits, don’t forget about those little details! Use a macro lens to focus on baby hands, baby feet, baby eyelashes…. everything! These are details the parents don’t want to forget as their kiddo grows.
8. Sit ‘Em Up With a Prop
Babies tend to sit on their own at about 5 or 6 months old, and posing them with a prop makes for fantastic shots. I also like to add in books because the baby may be able to flip through pages (or at least look like they are). Another creative idea for early sitters is lining up favorite stuffed animals next to the baby.
9. First Foods
Trust me: you’ll want to have a camera ready the first time the baby tries different foods. Who knows what kinds of funny faces you’ll have to laugh about forever!
10. Get a Generational Photo
This can’t be stressed enough: generational photos are some of the best you can get. They’re ones that will be kept in family albums forever. If you’re lucky enough to be there for these moments, whether posed or candid, capture them.
11. A Big Personality
A baby’s personality really starts to show around 6 months. Capture the crazy hair or put ’em in a big hat with oversized sunglasses — or any other details that show off their personality.
There’s nothing like belly crawlers, full-on crawlers or wobbly walking. These moments absolutely beg to be photographed.
13. The Cake Smash
First birthdays are wonderful to shoot — the atmosphere is joyous and you get to strike baby photography gold: the cake smash. It’s cute and messy and a memory that the parents will want to remember forever.
More Tips for Baby Photos
These are some tips that can improve any baby photos, whether you’re a parent snapping on your smartphone or a professional preparing for a shoot.
1. Get Down Low
A key to taking great baby portraits is to get down on their level.
2. Get Close
Another way you can improve your photos is to fill the frame with your beautiful baby. I personally use a longer focal length as to give the baby some space.
3. Use Natural Lighting as Much as Possible
Find open shade when you’re outside, or face your babies toward open windows and doors when inside. That way you’ll also get catch lights in their eyes.
4. Pick Simple Backgrounds
Make sure your backgrounds are as clean and uncluttered as possible.
5. Capture the Motion
As babies get older, they rarely sit still for long, so capitalize on this by taking photos of babies in motion. Your camera’s burst or continuous mode setting can be a great tool.