Baby portrait photography can be immensely rewarding. But it can also be challenging. Not only do you have parents hovering around waiting for that perfect picture, but you have this tiny human who would frankly rather be eating or sleeping. For these reasons and more, it’s important that you know what you’re doing. This will keep the baby safe, the parents happy, and will result in the best pictures possible. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Every baby works keeps a unique routine, sleeping and feeding at certain times of the day. Parents will know the times they might sleepy and the times they might be grouchy. Speak to the parents before the shoot to gather this information and arrange a time that works well for them and their baby. If the baby gets restless, take a break, and give them ten minutes to have a cuddle and some food. These tricks will help you get great pictures of a happy and content little baby.
Babies like to be wrapped up nice and warm. It is very important to make sure it is warm where you’re working. If this means keeping a fan heater on all day that results in a bit of sweat, then so be it. One must suffer for their art! Ensure you have a neutral mix of baby safe blankets and wraps that you can use to keep the baby comfortable, just in case the parents haven’t brought their own. A baby is going to be happier and sleepier when in a warm environment. This will also enable you to shoot without the baby wearing six layers of bulky clothing.
Babies are not known for minimizing movement. Be creative in keeping the baby safe during the shoot. This might mean placing a parent in close distance, but out of the shot, so that she can jump in if the baby becomes unsettled. When placing the baby in various positions, take care to ensure you are not causing any discomfort and make sure that the head is always supported.
This is one area that amateurs often flub when photographing very young babies. Avoid the use of studio flash lighting. A newborn’s eyes can be terribly sensitive to light. So flashing great, bright lights over and over again in their direction is a terrible idea. Aim to use minimal artificial lighting, keeping the lighting fairly constant. Avoid using any flash unless it’s covered by a high quality soft box, placed a good distance away, and flashed towards the ceiling. These three tricks help to defuse the light and soften the harshness of the flash and will help to protect the eyes of the baby. In ideal-land, you’d have the shoot set up with a tripod, somewhere near a big window in a very light and bright space that doesn’t need any additional light.
Once you’ve settled the newborn into a position you are happy with, make the most of it. Don’t simply take one image and then move the little one into a new position. Get up and walk around. Capture that set-up from every angle and really make the most of it before you try something different. Take a step back to capture all the soft niceties around the baby, as well as all their tiny little features. Take a step closer and focus in on the finer details. Don’t just focus on the baby either - remember all the basics of composition. For example, don’t centre the child, but instead move them to one side. You might also add a bit of context to the shot by including a tasteful background to the image.
Don’t be afraid to get up nice and close to capture some of the finer features of a baby. They only have tiny fingers and toes for so long, so make sure you add a few more abstract shots into the mix for the parents to choose from. These shots are a great reminder of just how tiny they once were
Keep in mind that you don’t just have to have the baby in the picture. Try adding a little contrast with a parent’s hand holding those tiny fingers or feet. You might also like to include an older sibling in the images to add a story. This also gives contrast in age and size.
Make sure you have a good collection of props for your shoots. For example, a fluffy bean bag is a great way of ensuring the child is not only comfortable, but also supported on all sides. Having a selection blankets of varying colours and textures is also important. You might like to also source a few cute baby hats or soft toys to also incorporate. Remember to keep three sets of each collection of props: girl, boy, and gender neutral.
Keep everything soft - soft hats, soft blankets, soft lighting, and not too much noise. This is necessary to ensure the baby remains calm and relaxed. One trick that I often use is placing a hot water bottle or mild heating pad under soft items, to ensure they are extra comfortable for baby. Make sure that when you handle the baby, you use soft and gentle touch, allowing them to fall into as natural a position as possible. If working with a nervous mother, let her play an active role settling and soothing baby. It’s just as important to keep Mom happy as it is baby.
Keep your pictures clean and clear, with soft light and delicate details. Don’t overdo the colour. On very young babies, there may be marks and blemishes on the skin. These can easily be removed by using basic tools like the spot removal feature in Adobe Lightroom.
About the Author: Harriet Rogers is a graphic designer and photographer out of Wrexham, United Kingdom. She received her Bachelor's degree in Commercial Photography from the University of Derby.