DIY Newborn Shoot: 10 Tips For Photographing Like a Pro

They’re more important than senior class pictures, get more exposure than a drivers license photo, and serve as a visual debut to the world… The birth announcement photo! If you’re like me, newborn photo announcements are a standard parent operating procedure. I have a huge collection of my friends’ and families’ newborn announcements, most of which are still stuck to my fridge.

Professional newborn photos are wonderful, but if cash is tight you can hit up Target and Sears photo studios for a newborn shoot for less than $100.

Better yet, if you’ve got a decent camera, some flair, and a bit of time, you do your own newborn shoot.

DIY Newborn Shoot – ten tips to get you started

1. Do it early! The first few days is ideal. Anything before 10 days works. After that babies don’t sleep as deeply, so you can’t pose them as easily. Also, after 10 days newborns start to get baby acne and God forbid your little one has a blemish for his first photo!

2. Bring a space heater. Even if it’s summertime, newborns get the chillies something fierce when they’re changing clothes or in their birthday suit. A space heater on the spot will help make things comfy for your munchkin model.

3. Wait until baby is good and sleepy before you start your newborn shoot. This way you can pose her however you like. If you catch your baby in the first few days of her life, this won’t be a problem. But if, like us, you try to do the photos around day seven or beyond, be prepared to twiddle your thumbs for an hour or so until the newborn is snoozing steadily.

4. Be sure baby’s recently fed and changed. If you want to prevent a mid-photo-mishap, change your baby right before the newborn shoot. You’ll also want to be sure he’s well-fed, relaxed and content.

5. Pose baby on a beanbag or a bunch of pillows. This soft perch will enable you to set her into various positions in a safe and comfortable manner. Of course you never want to leave baby unattended in such a setting!

6. Get a black backdrop. Want those classic black and white photos of baby isolated against a black background? Grab a large piece of black fabric, blanket, or anything similar, drape it over your beanbag, perhaps pin it to your wall behind you, and, voilà, instant home studio.

7. Think texture. If you want something more interesting than the black backdrop, think textures. Shoot baby against a thickly woven blanket, fuzzy fleece, or a corduroy cloth. These patterns pick up nicely in photographs and create an organic feel.

8. Experiment with settings. We’re used to seeing photos of babies in cribs, in beds, the bath, etc. But how about asleep on dad’s chest, nestled inside of a box, or positioned atop a decorative rug? Unexpected settings can add visual interest to your shots. Of course, you want to be extra careful with creative settings too! Most of the amazing pro photos have a spotter’s hand in the shot to keep baby safe, and then is later photoshopped out of the photo. Don’t ever pose baby in a precarious position and then step back to take a photo.

9. Sink to their level. Great photography’s all about perspective. Experiment with photos down at your baby’s level. Your shots will feel like you’ve entered the baby’s world rather than looking down on them.

10. Seek inspiration from the pros. Do a Google image search for newborn photography. Browse some of the most popular photographer’s blogs. Or hit up Flickr for some inspirado for your newborn shoot.

Please add to our list! Any tips you can share with us on having a great newborn shoot?

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6 Comments

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  1. The picture at the top of this page is a composite (fixed up in Photoshop) image and isn’t safe to do by yourself. Maybe put a picture that isn’t a composite so people don’t try it in their homes and hurt their newborns neck? People who don’t do photography might not know this and could try it without safety measures.

  2. I used to do newborn photography myself. I had an excellent mentor who still does most of her business off of newborn photography. I would really agree with everything Mama Natural has to say here. Except possibly to recommend some place like Sears. That is a REALLLLLY hit or miss thing I have seen some really awful photos come from places like that. It’s worth the extra to hire a reputable photographer but l guess if you really have to it’s better than nothing.

    I would add the following suggestions:

    1.) Keep lights off so baby is comfortable. Use the guiding light on your strobe. Not only will baby be more comfortable but battling multiple light situations are gonna kill your white balance and cause you problems in editing.

    2.) Plan for poo. If you are on a normal newborn shoot poo (and pee) it’s going to happen there is no doubt. How you set up is going to make all the difference. If you are using a posing beanbag you need to set up 4-5 sets at one time and layer hospital pads between. That way when baby kills one you literally just say next flip over to the next set and keep truckin.

    3.) Baby wrinkles are good but blanket wrinkles are bad.

    4.) Baby safety is #1 paramount. Know that babies aren’t really hung from trees. That when you see something that looks unreal that’s because it is. It’s called composite and babies are never put in harms way. So if you are trying to re-enact a photo that you saw research it first and decide the safest way to achieve. That photo with baby on dads bicep for example… you don’t see moms had there on his tushy holding him steady but guess what, it was there 😉

  3. If you are putting baby on any elevated place please, please have someone there to help you while you take the pictures! Babies sometimes startle in their sleep. Always safety first.

  4. I do TONS of newborn shoots professionally. The #1 best advice I have ever received along the way is that if you are comfortable, baby is freezing (assuming s/he is down to the diaper or less). You should be sweating. I bring a big heating pad and leave it on low and use a space heater. On top of that I put a flat (not fitted) diaper station changing ‘sheet’ (they are about 2 for $7 at Target and washable). Then, whatever blanket/backdrop we want- layer them if you want multiple. All of this is over a bean bag. Baby will be completely moldable because they will be OUT! ALWAYS have baby freshly fed and changed. Other than that, newborn shoots can be some of the easiest. Make sure to get the details- the toes, hands, ears- put them onto something big to show how small they are. And unless you’re doing that- showing how small they are- get SO CLOSE. And for all portraits, focus on a specific eye to get the shot perfectly sharp!

    • Thank you for sharing, Sara! Love the tip about baby being cold if you are comfortable – too true!

  5. Just make sure you don’t try any of the composite portrait poses- you know those cutesy poses such as froggie. Those take multiple shots with the baby’s head being carefully supported and blended together.

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