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5 Inspirational Baby Photographs and How to Make Your Own

Newborn and baby
photography can be full of challenges, but it can also be one of
the most rewarding types of photography. A successful session will mean a
happy baby, happy parents and hopefully, a happy (and probably tired) photographer.
Here’s our guide to photographing babies and some inspiration to get you
started.

What You Need

Suitable Backdrops
and Appropriate Lighting

You’ll want a plain
background (and preferably more than one) when making baby pictures. If you
don’t have access to a studio, you can make your own, but be sure it’s safe and
secure if you do. Once you have that, you can drape blankets over it to vary
the colour and style of the backdrop.

Taking pictures
outside will vary your background and provide plenty of light, but make sure
the baby is protected from the elements at all times.

Harsh shadows do
not make good baby pictures so flash is a nono (it also may startle the baby). Natural light is
always best, but if you’re in a studio situation and don’t have access to that
then remember to soften light with diffusers, reflectors and soft boxes. Also
make sure that these have no chance of falling on the baby and aren’t so close
as to make the baby overheat.

Props

You’ll need
something appropriate and comfortable to rest the baby on. Bespoke beanbags can
be bought online, or if you’re using blankets and cushions, be sure that the
baby can’t roll off or that there’s nothing sticking through the blanket that
might hurt them.

You may want to
think about putting protective plastic underneath anything you use; babies
can’t choose when they go to the toilet! For that reason, it’s wise to make
sure everything is machine washable too.

Baskets, buckets,
bowls and so on are really popular items to photograph a baby in. These don’t
tend to be bespoke for the purpose, they’re picked up from home or DIY stores,
but it’s important they be weighted down and are
appropriately covered or padded on the inside to prevent discomfort or injury.

Post-Processing
Skills

How much to edit a
photo is entirely subjective to the photographer. However, images of babies do
require some attention to get them looking their best. The parents want to see
their bundle of joy in all his or her ‘perfection’, not with cradle cap, blotchy
cheeks or dried milk around their mouth. Learn how to subtly but effectively
clean up your portraits. Actions can help and I’ll go into this more a little
later.

Baby Supplies

It’s wise to have
some non-photographic items on hand when you’re photographing babies.

  • Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitiser
    (more about this shortly)
  • Towels and cloth to
    help position and support the baby
  • An app or music
    system that can play soothing sounds like white noise or the ocean.
  • A changing table to
    make it easier for parents

Important Information

Mums should be
looking to book their shoot in their third trimester at the latest, and you
should aim for a suitable date after their due date. Obviously, this could
change, so you need to be flexible. If you have the availability, it might be
wise to book in more than one date to account for early/late delivery.

You’ll ideally also
want to know why they’re having the photographs taken. Is it just to document
the occasion or will the photographs be used for something more specific? You
might wonder why it matters, you’ll do the best job you can either way right?
You will probably think about the process differently if you know the end goal.
If the image is for an announcement card, you might want to leave some empty space
on the photograph for text.

Do the parents want
to be in some of the pictures? Are there siblings and how old are they? These
are all things you should cover in an initial ‘get to know you’ meeting. That
way, you’ll be clear about their expectations and able to manage them
appropriately.

Inspiration

Sleeping Baby

sleeping baby
Image: Photodune

This is a
nice example of a non-studio setting. Even though we can see there are things
in the background, they’re a neutral colour, so there’s plenty of contrast
between the baby and the background and the shallow depth of field throws it
out of focus nicely so as not to look cluttered.

Wide Awake

wide awake
Image: Photodune

Babies don’t always have to be sleeping to make great pictures. This
baby is a little older than newborn, and able to support itself, which makes for a nice ‘just
doing my baby thing’ shot.

Surprise

surprise
Image: Photodune

Another older baby shot as opposed to newborn and this picture is full
of fun and a sense that everything is brand new. The plain white background
helps keep our attention on the baby and the blanket and pillow are nice and
clean so there are no distracting spots.

Newborns

newborn
Image: Photodune

To my eye, this picture would have looked much better in true black and white,
rather than sepia-toned, but it’s a good example of extra poses you
can think about with a newborn that also gets the parents involved.

With Parents

with parents
Image: Photodune

This
is another nice way to get the parents involved: a baby is always going to
be at their happiest and most comfortable when being held by people they know.
The plain studio background is useful but the picture might have benefited from something with a slight colour to it, just to warm it up and make it less
stark.

How to Take Your Baby Pictures Further

I’m
a big fan of actions or presets for helping to bring the most out of your
images. With shoots like maternity, newborn and wedding, they can add a sense
of continuity though your images, particularly if you’re outside and things
like the light have changed slightly.

I
took our picture of mum and baby (above) and used The Newborn and Maternity Collection of Photoshop actions. There
are several options with this action set which, when run, appear in a folder and are then broken down
into several layers which you can can fine-tune as appropriate.

options
The actions

There are also three extra helper layers, Contrast, Vignette and Sharpening to aid with finishing touches.

After Action
Our image after the ‘Lullaby’ action has been applied

This
is the Lullaby action from the set, which has added some fill layers as well as
curves. I brushed away part of the softening fill layers over mum and baby’s face, as the eyes
look better when sharp and unobscured. The result is subtle, but it’s softened
up mum’s hair, which was a little brassy and has also drawn our attention to
the eyes by softening and lightening the far edges of the image.

Technique

Newborns and Posing

If it’s very
specifically a newborn shoot that you want to do then time is of the essence.
Many photographers recommend shooting when the baby is less than two weeks old
and ideally, around ten days old. Babies are a little easier to pose at that age. Wait a while and you may have arms
flailing, fidgeting and the baby is less likely to sleep soundly while you move
them around.

If a baby really
doesn’t like a pose, don’t force them, just forget it and try another one. You
don’t want a grumpy baby or grumpy parents.

I perpetually have
cold hands, even in summer! If you’re like me, then babies and animals alike
will shrink in horror from your icy touch. Try keeping hand warmers nearby so
you can move the baby with warm, comforting hands. If all else fails, wear
gloves.

Details

Remember to photograph details as
well as baby as a whole. A macro lens is really useful for this as you can get
up really close to toes, eyes, lips and hands. Shoot fairly wide open to give
yourself a nice, shallow depth of field.

Happy Babies

A full baby is a content baby. For this reason, many photographers ask
the parents to hold off feeding until they’ve arrived at the shoot. Once
they’ve been fed, they’re much more likely to sleep soundly while you complete
your session. It also helps if they’ve been awake prior to the photoshoot so
they’re a little more tired out.

You may have
particular time-slots that you give your clients but be sure that those are
time enough to get everything done without rushing. Moving from pose to pose,
changing backgrounds and breaks for the baby’s needs all need to be factored in. Many newborn photographers recommend a three to four hour time slot because of this.

If you get
stressed, parent and baby will sense it and could feel stressed too, so keep
everything calm and fun; this is supposed to be an enjoyable process after
all!

It’s wise to have a
comfy area in the studio for parents to wait and watch, where they can relax
and also to keep them out of your way while you photograph.

Potential Problems

Safety First (and Second, and Third…)

Safety is your top priority, the baby must be 100% safe and comfortable
at all times. Here are some things you need to consider:

  • Keep nails short so as not to scratch the
    baby.
  • Never, ever leave the baby unattended. Ever.
    Have an assistant if needs be.
  • Keep your camera tight against you when you’re
    not holding it, don’t let it swing or drop near the baby.
  • Don’t wear any jewellery that might catch on
    delicate skin or hair.
  • Newborns can’t regulate their body temperature
    properly so be sure the room is an appropriate temperature and think about
    warming any blankets you place them on, first.
  • Always weight down props with something heavy
    like a sandbag. Never put a baby on or inside something that could tip.
  • Be clean. Babies can pick up bugs easily as
    their immune system is still developing. Have some wipes or hand gel close by
    to sanitise your hands before handling the baby. Also wash blankets and props
    prior to each use.

An assistant is a good idea, as it will allow you to be able to concentrate
on photographs and know that someone is watching over the baby’s safety. A
parent can help with this too, if you need to step away, have one of them come
to stand close to the baby to make sure they can’t roll or hurt themselves on
anything.

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

There are a lot of images on the internet of babies balanced on objects.
I’ve seen them perched on guitars, balls, branches, etc. These images are the
result of a little post-processing magic from composites, so please don’t attempt
to balance baby on anything, anything at all.

If you do want to try your hand at a composite, take one image of the
scene all set up, without the baby. Then take your image with the baby in
position, being firmly and safely held in place from behind. Then, in Photoshop, erase the
person holding the baby from the picture and you’ll have your composite.

Top Tips to Getting Baby Shots

  1. Have
    suitable backdrops and appropriate lighting to create soft, subtle images
  2. If
    you want to use props, make sure they’re safe and comfortable.
  3. Safety
    is paramount. Consider an assistant if needed but never, ever leave a baby
    unattended.
  4. Keep
    baby happy by being calm, having a warm room (and hands!) and making sure
    they’re well-fed and sleepy.
  5. Hone
    your post-processing skills to make your images really stand out.

Further Resources

Final Thoughts

Pictures of babies,
newborns in particular, can produce really lovely results photographically.
You’d be hard pressed to find anything sweeter than a baby all zonked out on a
soft blanket. It’s challenging though: you’re responsible for baby’s safety,
the parents’ (and baby’s) happiness and you still have to get the job done.

Adequate preparation
will save you a lot of time and worry in the long run. Have an area in the
studio, but out of the way, where parents can sit and watch without hovering
over you.

Think about your
light and remember to use things like soft-boxes and reflectors to diffuse
harsh light. Weight your props and never leave the baby unattended, even if the
setup looks rock-solid. Use an assistant where possible, but at a push you can
rope in mum or dad to stay close.

When you’re posing
the baby, never persist with anything that makes them uncomfortable and try
warming hands and blankets before placing them, so keep them sleepy and happy.

When you’re taking
the photographs, make sure your camera can’t swing or drop, and remember to
include details like closeups of hands, feet and facial features as well as
your regular shots.

When it comes to
post processing, consider using actions
to aid your workflow and give your images a sense of style. If nothing else,
they’re a real time-saver!

The most important
thing is to enjoy the whole process. If you’re happy and positive then chances
are parents and babies will be too and everyone will really get the most out of
the session. Once you’ve got a few under your belt, you’ll be able to stop worrying
about each stage as it becomes second nature, and focus on taking some great
images.