Baby Photography: Photographing Babies Without Losing your Mind

Babies, babies everywhere! It seems like everyone around is either pregnant or has a new born! However sweet they may be, they are NOT the easiest of photographic subjects! Here are 6 tips to nailing your next newborn session with flying colors.

1. Plan ahead of time!
Here are some things you’ll want to discuss with Mom and Dad about a day or 2 prior to your scheduled shoot.

  • Talk to Mom and Dad about the baby’s schedule. They may or may not have one, but one way or another, 9 times out of 10 Baby’s parents will be able to tell you which time of day their baby tends to be at their best, most calm state.
  • If you’re shooting the baby at home, be sure to get specifics as far as where Mom and Dad would like to shoot. If you don’t have studio lighting, you’ll want to make sure you know which way the windows in the chosen room are facing at the time of day you’re shooting to be sure you’ll have adequate light.
  • You’ll also want to know how Mom and Dad feel about wardrobe (or lack there of) for the baby. Be sure to discuss this with Mommy and Daddy before you get to a shoot, ask Mom to strip the baby down, and then have to deal with awkward tension when she says “no way!”
  • If the parents are comfortable with shooting baby in the buff, be sure to request that they remove all baby’s clothing at least an hour in advance of the scheduled shoot so that the baby won’t have any funky clothing lines on their skin. Tell your clients to fasten the baby’s diaper loosely during this time as well.

Make sure that you have EVERYTHING you need VERY well organized and easily accessible. Babies are fidgety, fussy and very impatient, and you’ve got to take the initiative to plan accordingly.

  • If you’re using studio lighting, you should be set up at least 10 min before you’re scheduled to start shooting. That will give you time to run a few test shots before the baby is brought into the room.
  • This next one is a given, but remember that sensors and lenses should be checked before the shoot and cleaned if necessary. You can’t afford to stop in the middle of a newborn shoot because you notice a spot on your sensor. Babies are not as forgiving as their adult counterparts.
  • Get a good night’s sleep! You have got to arrive a vision of patience and with energy to spare. Remember, you’re likely walking into a home where NO ONE has gotten more than an hour of consecutive sleep for days on end. The last thing everyone needs is another exhausted, grumpy adult, whose patience has run dry to add to the mix. YOU set the tone! Come with a full tummy and a good night’s rest.

3. Get the Details!
Don’t be afraid to get in close and focus on the details. Most images of babies are shot with very low apertures (wide open) to encourage very shallow depth of field. This does not mean that this is right for everyone, but a lot of photographers choose this particular style, and they do this for many reasons.

  • They are only tiny tiny for a VERY short time. you may like to focus in and capture little feet and toes for example, before they slip away into roller skates and ballet slippers. . . it happens sooner that you know!
  • Shallow depth of field creates a mood of tenderness and intimacy which are so very appropriate for a shoot of this nature.
  • The main reason that they shoot the majority of their infant sessions with such shallow depth of field is that shots like this help depict how suddenly your whole world is about that little person. Though everything else around you may be out of focus, the one thing that matters is perfectly clear.

4. Establishing Shots!
Establishing shots are images that establish the feeling, location, etc of the time during which an event took place. In this case you’re trying to tell a story about the feelings surrounding the birth of a new child. The welcome of another little person into an already established family unit. Each family unit will be different than the next, but each is special and should be documented as such. For example:

  • If you’re shooting in a home, most likely you’ll be in a nursery. Grab a shot of that! Establish the environment. It will be a treasure for the family to remember what their home was like at the time that they welcomed their little sweet heart into their heart and home.
  • Whether in studio or on location, try to grab a shot that establishes the whole family as they were at the time of the birth.

5. For Heaven’s Sake: BE FLEXIBLE!!!!
You’ve got to be flexible. There are so many variables when shooting a tiny baby. They can be SO unpredictable. Remember to:

  • Handle each hiccup in a loving way. Babies can sense our tension and frustration and that they will respond in kind. Likewise, if you can remain calm and collected, they will find it easier to relax as well.
  • If you have to stop, STOP! If the baby is on the brink of a full blown freak out, TAKE A BREAK! Let Mom and Dad pop in and calm baby down, feed, burp, change a messy diaper, whatever. NEVER push a baby to the point of no return. If you let a baby get to the point of total freak out. . . well, sorry sweetheart, you may just be plum out of luck. . . and with no one to blame but yourself. Be in tune to baby and let him/her run the show.
  • If baby is fussing just a bit, you may not be bothered by it. Mom on the other hand may be totally on edge. Part of your job is to be aware of that. Ask her if she’d feel more comfortable continuing after she’s had a chance for a little snuggle. The last thing you need is a Momma bear worried about her cub.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Infant shoot takes longer than 30min-1hour. Always schedule a 2 hour block so there is time to feed, change, soothe etc between shots if necessary.

There are SO MANY more things to remember when you’re running an infant shoot. Hopefully the few will be helpful.

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