1) Make sure the baby’s hands are used to support the head
You want both eyes of the baby clearly in your photograph when you take the shot. Often times, without some sort of support the baby’s head tilt sideways and it is very hard to get both eyes to look towards the camera (even though the baby is likely to be sleeping). By putting his/her hands underneath the head it acts as a support so you can turn the baby’s head more showing both eyes when taking your photographs.
2) Use manual focus
When it comes to focusing it is very important to focus exactly at the baby’s eyes. In my free photography ebook (which by the way you can download it here after you signed up), I talked about focusing at the contrast point so that your camera know exactly where to nail the focus. For newborn photography, however, since the baby’s eyes are so small sometimes your DSLR’s focusing square in your viewfinder covered the entire eye. So I encourage you to take one step further and use manual focus to pinpoint the exact area you want to focus on.
3) Use a tripod and turn on your live view
Even though the baby is sleeping and nothing is really moving, it is still smart if you to use a tripod for this type of photo shoot. This is handy because you can MOVE AROUND while pressing the shutter release button (assuming you have a wireless trigger). You can then adjust the baby’s position, change the props or move the backdrops without worrying your composition being messed up.
4) Choose higher focal range (eg 85mm-100mm)
Treat newborn photography similar to a portrait photo shoot. You don’t want to use 24mm focal range because distortion will occur (for example the baby’s nose looks bigger than it is etc). So similar to portrait the optimal range for newborn photography is around 85-135mm. You can also use a macro lens to get closer to the baby and get amazing brokeh.
5) Use exposure compensation when near windows
Natural light is the best. I try to use every single bit of light available until I start pulling out my external flashes. However, one thing to be careful is that if your subject is not placed probably you could get sharp difference between the whites and blacks of your photograph. In another word, say the baby is facing a 90 degree angle from the light source, half of his/her face will be extremely dark while the part facing the light will be extremely bright.
You can avoid this situation simply by facing the subject about 45 degree from the light source, if it is not possible you have to at least adjust the exposure compensation. This can be done by changing the exposure setting at the bar at the bottom of your DSLR’s viewfinder that looks like this.
Please note that this only works outside of manual mode. If you want to change the exposure in manual mode you need to adjust the ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. It’s the manual mode after all right!
Another great suggestion is to use a reflector so you can fill light to the darker areas of your photograph. If you don’t have an assistant holding the reflector for your consider getting yourself a white board and fold it in a V shape. Now it can stand by itself and you don’t need anyone to hold it for you!
6) Photoshoot in the morning
Photo shoot newborn in the morning is much better than doing it in the afternoon! Yes, the baby is going to be less grumpy and your chance of a successful session is much higher. Also, the baby is likely to be well rested for the night and this is your perfect chance to take pictures. The last thing you want to happen is to redo the photoshoot because the baby isn’t cooperating.
7) Wrap the baby well and place him/her near a heater
This is a reminder that a small heater is a very important tool for newborn baby shoots. It’s not only to keep the baby warm but to also make he/she feel like being inside the mother’s womb. Also, use a small blanket to wrap around the baby to avoid any sudden movements and give the baby a sense of comfact. He/she will sleep much more comfortably when feeling something is wrapped around them. So next time if you are shooting in a cold environment (even in studio), make sure to bring a portable heater and blankets with you.
8) Over feed the baby
This sounds terrible but I mean to just over feed the baby a bit so he/she sleeps better. I’m sure every photographer agrees that the last thing you want is a crying baby in your studio. In order to minimize this from happening it’s good to tell the parents to feed the baby more than usual before going to the photoshoot.
9) Use texture props
You don’t need to spend a fortune buying baby props. Check out Etsy.com or go to places like Joanne, Hobby Lobby, Michaels when they have sales. You can even try Ikea to find great baby props. When choosing props it’s often better to choose something with textures on them such as gunny cloths so it stands out more in the photo. You can also try buying beans bags and colorful baskets so that you can put the baby inside the basket and place bean bags underneath the baby so they have some support.
10) Have the parents right next to the baby
One of most important etiquette is to make sure the parents are staying right next to the baby during the photo shoot. You definitely don’t want the parents stand behind you and leave the baby alone while you are snapping pictures.
So make sure to let the parents hold the baby until you get the desire pose. Tell the parents to move away for just a second from the baby when you are ready to take the picture instead of doing all these yourself. Overall, the parents are nervous!
So there you have it, my 10 practical newborn photography tips. If you follow the points above they should keep you covered for the most important information about newborn photography. Remember even though we are taking newborn pictures don’t forget to mingle with the parents as well. Expect great result and prepare for the unexpected. Cheers!