Capturing the Moment
Working in the photography industry offers a diverse range of opportunities. For the professional photographer who chooses to capture the newborn baby, their job can be as intimidating as it is fascinating. Masters of patience, they dance to the tune of unpredictability, which dominates situations that involve a camera and a small child.
From the Mouths of Babes and Those Who Photograph Them
As Tian Shongjie, a successful child photographer in Beijing, points out, “an adult can pose for a photo, while kids cannot.” She defines the main aim of child photography here, which is capturing a moment instead of a pose. Professional baby photographers, the really good ones, are geniis when it comes to deviating from the norm. This becomes even more crucial when working with newborn babies, who photograph really well – but require some imagination.
Imagine the Possibilities
Professional baby photographer, Wendy Riggens, is a great example of how to be creative with newborns. Not lacking in imagination, she’s created elaborate fairytale themed photo shoots for parents, and documented her own pregnancy with a series of creative 50s to 90s inspired snapshots; ending off the project with a shoot of her own baby girl dressed in a onesie from the 60s. In her own words, Riggens describes her job as “being there to capture life the way it happens.” Most parents with newborns wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now that we’ve heard from the pros, let’s take a look at a few professional baby photography tips for beginners:
Posed vs Lifestyle Shots
The above are two types of newborn photography styles. For purposes of form, it is important to understand the needs of your client so that you can choose the appropriate method accordingly.
Posed sessions are usually done within the first two weeks of birth. Newborns are most prone to sleep during this cycle, and as a result are very mouldable. These types of shoots are also perfect for making use of props, like blankets, hats and wraps. Also keep in mind that the editing phase of posed studio shots can be quite long, with each shot requiring individual attention on Photoshop for that polished finish.
On the other hand, lifestyle session for newborns requires a more casual approach from the photographer. The intention behind this style of shoot is to capture natural shots of the baby within their home environment. A fun, less sterile form of photography, lifestyle shoots of newborns in their homes preserve the memories that often become fuzzy for new parents.
Both types of styles are valuable and can both be used to great effect.
Prepare in Advance
Whether the shoot is taking place in a studio or in the client’s home, make sure you are prepared for the relevant scenario. Prep often includes packing things like:
- A backup camera
- Memory cards (formatted)
- Backdrops and clamps
- Waterproof pads
- A change of clothes (for unexpected messes)
- Swaddle blankets
and any other items that you might need on hand. Think about things like food for the day and a soft mat for kneeling comfort. It is also crucial to make sure the parents are as prepared as you are. Draw up a checklist that they can use to plan for your arrival.
Beware the Aperture
Unlike portrait and wedding photographers who rely on wide open shoots at f/1.2 $ f/1.4, newborn baby shoots can have extreme angles and require more aperture.
Rock -a-Bye Baby for Macro Lens Time
Don’t take the baby’s nap time for granted. The perfect time to get in some quality Macro work, these rock-a-bye baby moments usually make for some of the best professional baby photos. Close up shots that capture the adorable details of the tiny tot, the sensitive focus of the lens conveniently requires a very still newborn.
The Thing about Props
Most amateur baby photographers get very excited by props. They tend to bring props in excess to every session, and then experience mild panic attacks when they have no idea where to start. Seasoned professionals recommend collaborating with the parents. Be inspired your surroundings, and allow yourself to take full advantage of the ‘blanket knitted by grandma’ or an appropriate family heirloom. The main thing to keep in mind when using props or setting up posed shots is the baby’s safety. Make sure you are formally prepared for any photo shoot involving a newborn or small child, as parents will expect you to be aware of safety standards.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Professional baby photographers agree that the best shots usually come from the “surprising moments” that come from keeping an open mind. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by spontaneity, or give up when things don’t go exactly to plan. The growing pains are worth the rewarding work of shooting newborns and their parents. It’s a passion that never fades.