Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Just starting out shooting newborns and not sure how to approach the shoot? Going into someone elses home where you don't know what to expect can be super intimidating and I remember feeling so overwhelmed about where to start!! Like any shoot, once you have a system it becomes much easier to just focus on the important things like interacting with the client. So to help start you off here's seven tips for a successful newborn shoot in your clients home!
1. Get inspired.
If you’re not sure where to start, or just need some inspiration try Instagram or Pinterest and save some examples that resonate with you. Is there a common look or theme that runs through these images? Are they natural ‘lifestyle’ images with baby's natural movements or more posed images? Once you’ve clear on this it will inform some of your next decisions.
2. Pre shoot prep
Giving your clients a list of ways to prep will help your shoot run smoothly! I send my clients a guide so that they know what to do before I arrive as
well as what to expect during the shoot. One key thing to share is that a baby with a full tummy will generally sleep better so encourage your client to feed their baby around 20 minutes before you plan to do the shoot. If you are getting baby naked or just in a nappy tell the client to heat up the house, or the rooms you’ll be using to around 27 degrees. This may feel super hot but remember that our babies have just come from inside our bodies which is around 37.8 degrees and you want to replicate the womb to help the baby drift into that deep sleep. I send my guide several times over the course of my workflow with the client, once when they first book and once again before the shoot in case they would like a refresher!
This is the most important thing to consider for your photos. You don’t need fancy lights to take newborn photos, natural light is free, abundant and easy to use!
Look for a good amount of soft natural light, which you can find near windows and doorways. I will often move couches or chairs into the right position within a room so that my clients & baby are being lit from the front or from the side. Positioning the baby, and or anyone else in the photo to look towards the light source rather than away from it is always going to be more flattering (looking into shadow will make the face dark).
I encourage you to experiment with the position and distance, whilst keeping your eye on the way light and shadow falls on baby’s face and ask yourself these questions:
Is it soft and gentle? Soft light is when the lightest part in your image softly fades into the darkest part and is usually the easiest and most flattering light to work with. Does it highlight the baby's eyes, forehead, nose and cheeks? Or is it coming up from the other end, illuminating up the nose? (try to avoid this). If you see catchlights in the eyes (little dots of light) chances are you’ve nailed it in terms of position.
I used to rely on just using what clients had in their home, but now I also have a few bits and pieces I bring with me to ensure a consistent result. Key pieces to have in your bag would be a light coloured sheet or rug, and some wraps, or fabrics with a lovely colour or texture such as fur or sheepskin. Patterned or coloured wraps can also be lovely (although I recommend not overdoing it with the pattern!). These can be layered over top of each other or over a duvet or other fabrics. A bean bag, moses basket or bassinet that can be moved around can also be helpful. A nappy cover is a great addition to any shots where you want to whip babies clothing off but don’t want to go full nakey.
5. What to Capture - your shot list
You can get variety from your newborn photos by taking lots of shots of the same set up. I suggest starting with baby wrapped on their back, then going through the shot list. Then unwrapping the baby and going through the shot list again. You can go through the shot list again and again using different poses, baby on side, baby on tummy etc. Shoot from multiple angles and perspectives for a variety of newborn photos without even needing to move your baby. Sometimes, baby is happier on a parent and this makes for beautiful images as well!
Get in close and shoot the details
Step back and take full body shots
Get down low and shoot side on
Stand up and shoot directly down
Compose from baby’s head down,
Compose from the feet up
Step back for a wide shot
NOTE: Be careful not to crop off little limbs at the knees, or elbows!
When you include older children in your photos, the best piece of advice I can give (especially when the older sibling is a toddler) is to get your location ready, get the baby ready, then bring in siblings. In the past I’ve had an adult read a book to siblings from above while I photograph from above while they look up, or have someone tickle the sibling/s to get those beautiful smiles!
For these images choose a comfortable location near good light. For example, the family bed is a great place to pose them as it’s big enough to place them in the middle of the bed and keep the baby safe at the same time. If you don’t have good light in the family bedroom, positioning the baby on a bean bag or bassinet for their photos means you can move the baby to wherever the good light is! You can then bring siblings around the outside. I try to do these shots at the end of the session as baby will often wake up if siblings get a little to close!
I hope this helps with a strategy to nail your lifestyle newborn shoots! Enjoy!