Newborn Photography Tips for the Perfect Shoot!

10 “Must Know” Newborn Photography Tips!

Newborn photography can come with many surprises, especially if you aren’t a parent.  I’ve compiled a list of newborn photography tips that have helped me tremendously and I am sure will be helpful for anyone interested in learning more about newborn photography.  Of course every photographer will have a different way or style of doing things but these are just some of the top things I’ve learned through the years as a newborn photographer.  Update: due to the popularity of this post and by requests of viewers, we have created the ultimate, comprehensive online newborn photography workshop giving you all the tools & resources needed for a successful newborn photography business, it’s on a special sale today – click here for more details.

1.  Posed vs Lifestyle: Know Your Clients’ Expectations

There are two types of newborn photography – posed/studio & lifestyle.  I love both for different reasons.  However, it is important to make sure your client knows what type you intend to do so there are no surprises during or after the session.

Posed/studio sessions – Typically must be done within the first 2 weeks of birth when the baby is very sleepy and “mold-able”.  The focus in this type of session is on shots of the baby looking perfect, usually in blankets, wraps, hats, & headbands.  The session can last up to 4 hours with feeding, potty breaks, and posing.  Editing this type of session also takes quite a bit of time as each image needs to go through Photoshop individually to get a polished end result.

newborn photography tips
newborn photography

Lifestyle newborn sessions – Are a bit more casual approach to newborn photography.  There may be some posing but the intention is to capture more natural images of the baby and their home.  These sessions can be done up to 6 weeks old and usually last 1-2 hours max.  My favorite thing about lifestyle newborn photography is capturing the wonder and amazement between the family members.  Newborns are incredible but so is the love in the air.  Memories of this time-frame often become fuzzy for new parents and that is precisely why I feel these types of shoots are so important.

newborn photography tips

Personally, I value both types of styles so I approach it as a posed session, but use the breaks in between poses to get my lifestyle shots.  The breaks do not have to be wasted time for you.  Have the feeding take place in the best light and you have yourself a great opportunity for some lifestyle shots.

newborn lifestyle photography

2.  Be Prepared

If you are doing the session in the client’s home, posed newborn sessions require nearly the same amount of prep as a wedding.  You need quite a bit of “stuff” and it is easy to forget something so I make sure to pack the night before and use a checklist so I don’t forget anything (I’m a mom with a very limited memory).  To make your life a bit easier, I’ve made a print ready checklist you can use which is included in the newborn photography toolkit – one of the FREE limited time bonuses included in our online Newborn Photography Workshop.

My prep includes packing the following:

  • Camera and backup camera
  • Formatted memory cards
  • Lenses
  • a few loud and funny kid toys (if there is a toddler that will be joining the session)
  • Newborn posing beanbag
  • Backdrop stand and clamps
  • Space heater
  • Step stool
  • a Boppy pillow (for posing)
  • Waterproof pads (to catch messes)
  • a change of clothes for me (in case of a mess)
  • Props (baskets, crates etc…)
  • Big blankets for backgrounds
  • Small swaddle blankets
  • Hats/headbands
  • Loud enough music to hide the startling sound of my shutter (usually just my phone and small speakers – some photographers prefer white noise).

Since the sessions can be up to 4 hours I make sure to eat a lot before I go.  Also, because it will be very warm with the space heater blaring, I make sure to wear cool & comfortable clothing.  Some photographers bring a soft mat for kneeling comfort but I’ve found using one of your blankets work just as well.

3.  Prepare Your Client

The #1 way to ensure a successful newborn session is to make sure your client knows what to expect and how to best prepare for the session.  I send my prep tips a few days before our session to get mommy and daddy prepared.  In fact, in our newborn workshop includes the email templates that I send & has a full chapter dedicated to adequate preparation before the session.  Many moms choose to feed while I unpack and setup.  I have them feed the baby in only a diaper and a loose swaddle blanket so we don’t have to bother the baby with undressing them.  I also let them know what I’ll be bringing, the approximate length of the session, to expect messes and frequent feedings, and to warm the house, even though I will be bringing a heater.

4.  Let the Baby Inspire You

Inspiration is everywhere – probably even in the form of Pinterest emails from your client.  It is a great idea to have some poses in mind before you arrive at the session.  However, like letting the love story of a wedding day unfold organically, I believe the best images are unplanned and inspired by the uniqueness of each baby.  Whether it is cute dimples, big beautiful eyes, full lips, or a great head of hair, try to highlight the beauty of the baby.


Be in the moment…

Let the baby move, yawn, and stretch.  Babies have wonderful, perfect, sweet movements, do not stress over having the perfect pose in every frame.

Get lifetime access to all the tools, knowledge and resources you need to create a thriving newborn business with our online Newborn Photography Workshop on sale today!

newborn photography tutorials

When you are posing, though, my top tip is to open up their fists.  Sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle, but relaxed hands will add a much more peaceful feel to the image.

Newborn Photography Tips

5.  Be Mindful of Your Aperture

I know many portrait & wedding photographers love to shoot wide open at f/1.2 & f/1.4.  However, with newborn photography many of the baby poses can have extreme angles and you often will have better luck with your depth of field and sharpness by shooting around f/2 & f/2.2.  Remember, it will be rare that the baby’s eyes are on the same plane of focus all the time and by closing down my aperture a bit from wide open I get that little bit extra of depth of field that is often needed.

6.  Baby Sleepy Time = Macro Lens Time!

Aside from posed and a few lifestyle shots, the other big “to do” in my mental shot list is macro work.  I love to capture close ups of the baby’s toes, little bits of hair on their shoulder, pouty lips, & ears, etc…

These close-up “detail” shots are not only adorable but they are great accompanying images for albums and accordion books.  Because of the sensitive focus on a macro lens, the best time to get these images is when the baby is very still (in their deepest sleep).  As shown with the newborn workshop where you get to shadow me on an actual on-location shoot, when I notice the baby is deep in dreamland, I’ll just stop whatever I’m doing and I’ll pull out my macro for 10 minutes and get all the shots that I need.

nikon 105 VR Macro for newborn photography

7.  Encourage Mom to Get in Front of the Camera….Gently

After I had my babies the last thing that I wanted to do was have my picture taken and put much effort into making myself camera ready.  I know firsthand how hard it is for a mom to get in front of that camera.  But I also know how important it is.

Mothers work the hardest and they also love the hardest.

They love that baby so much that they will spend their days and nights, taking photos of the baby asleep, awake, yawning, having a bath, eating, cuddling with siblings, & cuddling with dad.  There will be so many images by the time the baby turns one and the sad reality is that mommy will hardly be in any of them.

Get her in that image.  She will treasure it and so will the baby years from now.  The important thing is to keep mommy/baby poses easy and without much effort needed on behalf of the mother.  Chances are, she’s still uncomfortable and in pain and possibly even recovering from a surgery so being gentle is crucial.

newborn photography photos

8.  Props – Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy

One of my biggest mistakes when I was starting out was that I brought all my props/wraps/blankets/headbands to every single session.  When I got set up, I would have a mini panic attack because I had no idea where I should start.  Now I plan 3-4 different setups (based on the client’s preferences and expectations) and that’s all.  I am often inspired by something the client owns as well, such as a blanket knitted by Grandma or something else that’s special to mom and dad, so it is not uncommon for me to not even use everything I bring.

9.  Siblings Are a Whole New Ballgame

If the baby has older siblings, I try to make the sibling shots my very first priority and then let them go play while we finish the session.  Toddlers simply don’t have the attention span to sit quietly and wait for you to call on them for their picture so get their poses done first while they are curious and excited about your visit.  By the time the session is over, they are usually open to participating again and that is when I try to get some lifestyle sibling shots.  If they don’t want to participate, I’ve found promises of ice cream & candy have magical powers! (as long as that’s ok with Mom & Dad).

newborn photography tips

10.  Be Flexible, Safe, and Don’t Give Up    

One thing I learned when I became a parent, was that the baby is the boss regardless of how much control I pretend I have.  The same is true for newborn photography.  If the baby doesn’t want to go to sleep for posing after you’ve tried everything, take some lifestyle shots & keep shooting.  Swaddle tight and try to get some eye contact.  Get images of mommy rocking the baby, be open and flexible – the session doesn’t always go as planned and that might just be the best thing that happens to you.

The best shots often come from open minds and surprising moments…

Aside from being flexible, be safe.  The most important thing on this list is to research newborn photography safety before you start. Many traditional poses are actually composites with spotters and safeguards in place so the baby is out of harms way.  Lastly, don’t give up.  I remember the first time I went snowboarding, when I got back, before I could open my mouth, my friend said I need to do it 5 more times before I decide to give up, that the learning curve is steep and that it gets easier.  The same is true for newborn photography.  My first session left me feeling very defeated, but I’m glad I got back up and did it again (and again and again)…and hopefully this list removes some of your growing pains.

In addition to this tutorial, if you want all the info you need in one simple package with lifetime access, check out our Newborn Photography Workshop for the On-Location Photographer which Cole and I have spent months putting together all the necessary knowledge & tools to be adequately prepared for the lovely world of photographing newborns.  On sale for a limited time and all workshop participants also will get Cole’s Essential Newborn Lightroom Collection Presets, the Pricing & Positioning Yourself for Success pricing handbook, exclusive discounts & a whole lot more.  Click below to see the workshop details.

Newborn Photography Workshops

Any questions?  If so – please leave a comment in the form below, I’d love to hear from you.

Good luck! I know you’ll do great!
Chrystal

san diego newborn photography chrystal cienfuegos

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So What Do You Think?

About the Author
Chrystal Cienfuegos, owner of Chrystal Cienfuegos Photography, offers a natural & organic style of newborn & portrait photography in Southern California. She is passionate about telling love stories through elegant and timeless imagery that is inspired by the unique beauty of each client. She's a San Diego native and mother of two fun little ladies. Among her favorite things are Chargers football, swimming, impromptu family dance parties, wine (of course), and evening walks with her neighbors.
  1. Karen Reply

    Thank you!! I am not yet enrolled in photography classes, but at 32 if I hear one more person say “so why aren’t you a photographer?” I will cry. I love photography, just got my first SLR which I completely don’t understand yet, (aperture what??!?) but I will be learning. And since I am 7 months pregnant I was looking for some good tips in taking my own newborn photos, I appreciate you writing this! Very good info and depending how it goes, I may be pursuing a new career!

    • Cole Reply

      Hi Karen! So happy that you love this tutorial! Congrats by the way – you are going to have a blast with your little one in a couple more months :) Don’t be a stranger!

      Cole

  2. Kristin Reply

    This is wonderful information, thanks so much for sharing! =)

    • Cole Reply

      You’re very welcome!

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  4. Donna Goldie Reply

    Thanks for all the information, really inspiring. I will be signing up for the toolkit. Just bought my first Slr 6 months ago and am loving practicing on friends and family. Have shot a few newborns but not managed to get the perfect sleepy poses yet. Just building up my equipment and props, looking forward to reading your suggestions. Donna

    • Cole Reply

      Sounds awesome Donna! Don’t be a stranger :)

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  6. Brigitte Roux Reply

    Hi there, thank you so much for all the info. I have my first newborn shoot coming up and very nervous. Im 52 and have decided to take up photography and yes my camera’s language is very confusing at times but if I don’t try I will never know

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  8. Sherry Dornblaser Reply

    Wonderful information!! I have this camera and no other lens yet. What would you recommend I purchase that would work with my camera to get such beautiful clear photos of newborns? Or do I need a new camera like a Nikon or Cannon?

    Thx so much!!! Sherry

    http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921666375303

  9. Sherry Dornblaser Reply
  10. Kelly Harris Reply

    Thank you so much for taking your time to share with us. Prior to reading this article and others on your site, I was ready to throw in the towel on newborn photography (which made me sad). I really love newborns and I know I can do this! I am going to put on my game face, try a few new techniques (thanks to you) and try again. Thanks a lot!

  11. Britt Reply

    What is the name of that material you have the babies swaddled in and where did you get it? I can’t seem to find any locally. Thank you!! And beautiful work!!

    • Chrystal Cienfuegos Reply

      Britt – The tissue knit wraps are from Van Klee Imports, I ordered online. I prefer to order softer fabrics but those do the job well for the price. :) HTH!!

  12. Linda Reply

    Thanks for the tips. I like how you said to just bring a few props in order to not get overwhelmed. I was just going through my props to do a photo session tomorrow and was going to bring everything but the kitchen sink. I will now figure out exactly what I want to do. Thanks again.

  13. Alexander John Reply

    Fantastic tips! Thanks for the food for thought.

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  15. Linda Reply

    Thank you so much for this post – it is so rich with information! I just got my first DSLR and I’ll be attending a kid photography workshop offered by Nikon in Johannesburg, South Africa in a few days.

    I’m very excited to be taking up newborn and baby photography – it’s long overdue :-) I actually intend to practice on my baby girl who’s expected in a month and a half.

    Thanks again for sharing all this information. I really enjoyed reading the article!

    • Cole Reply

      Hi Linda! Perfect, so glad you love the article I hope you signed up for our mailing list to get your newborn toolkit and other freebies to help get you going quickly and lastly, you are among the first to know that we are working on finishing up our complete Newborn Photography Workshop Course which will be out at the end of the year…it will be an amazing product though which we are so excited for!

      Thanks for the kudos! Talk soon.
      Cole

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  18. Denise Crites Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I too am trying to “learn” newborn photography, just did a shoot of my friend’s 10 month old daughter (they turned out beautiful!), but the little one month boy was another story! I am shooting another one month old little girl tomorrow, hopefully I will learn from my mistakes I made today! I am doing the pictures for free to learn, but this is so hard! I wish I knew what I was doing wrong, or do I just need to practice? Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Oh, I was raised in San Diego, my whole family is there, will be visiting for Christmas this year. Will be there for 2 weeks to pack up my mom and move her! Maybe I can get in on a photo session??? Hopefully I will have it figured out by then!

    • Cole Reply

      As with most things, there is no substitute for practice and experience…with each shoot you will get better and better, just keep your head in the game! A fellow “kinda” San Diegan?! Cool :) We actually are working on a Newborn Photography Online Course/Workshop teaching everything you need to know, start to finish, including an actual on location photo shoot so you can see exactly what its like and how to deal with common pitfalls when shooting on-location! Make sure to subscribe to Cole’s Classroom so you’ll be in the know when we release it in a few months :)

    • Chrystal Cienfuegos Reply

      Hi Denise! I hope your session went well. :) I find that trying to do traditional posed newborn is really hard past 10 days most the time. I have had one (and one only) over 4 weeks that let me pose them. Definitely try to get in there very soon after the baby is born. You learn more at every session so just keep at it! You will be great. :)

  19. Sherry Garcia Reply

    Hi there,

    My name is Sherry Garcia and I am a beginner in the world of photography. I was just wondering about how you felt about some of the online editing sites such as PicMonkey.com, BeFunky.com and Fotor.com
    Being as I am just started out I figured it might be a good idea to get my feet wet in those editing programs before I take the big leap into Photoshop and pay it’s ungodly price!! (lol) anyhow, if you can think of a better site where I might get a little more practice editing pictures please let me know. And please let me know your honest opinion of the aforementioned websites.

    Happy Shooting,

    Sherry

    • Cole Reply

      Hey Sherry! Thanks for stopping by & saying hello! I am not familiar with those editing websites (although I did just visit the homepage to check it out)…I CAN say however though, you should forget about the high price of photoshop and get yourself a copy of Adobe Lightroom 5. Lightroom is an amazing program for not only editing but easy storage/file/folder handling of photos and most important it is very easy to use. In fact, I have quite a few tutorials on our YouTube channel. It is “only” $150 or so, and I gotta say, whether someone is a pro or just hobbyist, that $150 will be among the best money you’ll spend on your photos… head over to the adobe site and try it for a free 30 day trial and see for yourself if you’ll like it or not :)

  20. Shannon Mulcahey Wong Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m also a newbie to the world of professional photography, but I’ve been a photographer for most of my life. I would usually simply do shots with friends and their families, or just my own, but I’m actually starting to get paid for it now. I had the privilege 3 days ago to shoot my friends newborn son and her older 2 kids. It was my first newborn shoot, and I was thrilled at how the pics came out, but I felt like I could have done better. Fortunately, I get to try again tomorrow, because Daddy was working last time! Your list and examples are fabulous, and I can’t wait to put then into action!

    • Cole Reply

      Awesome Shannon! Sounds like you are off to a great start! Way to go, keep up the great work :)

  21. Hera Kelly Lloyd Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing. Your tips and advice is great :) Looking forward to applying them next time I get to take newborn photos

  22. Ginni Tuggle Reply

    Thank you so much for this article! This past weekend I did my 3rd newborn session which happened to be my grandson. It took 4 hours and I had such difficulty getting him into the poses that I had planned in my head, that when the session was over with I felt totally defeated. I experienced everything you mentioned, including overwhelming myself with too many props. I started doubting myself and wondering if I was even cut out to be a newborn photographer. Your article was very helpful and encouraging at the same time. Thank you so much!

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  24. Harry Reply

    Such great tips for starting out. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  28. Mitchel Morales Reply

    what kind of lighting do you use if there is no naturals light?

    • Cole Reply

      Hi Mitchel – as long as there are windows in the house there will always be natural light you can use :) We go over room setup and finding out how to find the best light in our online newborn workshop!

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  31. Lina Reply

    It’s amazing post! Clear a lot of my question. I always like to do a photos but just couple month ago I found myself in babies photography. I am just learning but I really enjoy it like never before anything. And I really want to create my carer towards baby and kids photography. I am only concern that I don’t have any qualification, curses or higher degree and that can put people out from me…

    • Cole Reply

      Hi Lina :) I am so happy that you loved this post! Many find their true passion is with Newborn/Baby Photography, but aren’t sure where to start. This post is a great start for quick tips but because of all of our readers who wanted more info, and more detailed information, we created a very detailed and complete Newborn Photography Workshop, it might be something that would be perfect for you. Feel free to check it out right here. If any questions, just email me :) Thanks for stopping by!

  32. Caryl Anne Reply

    Excellent advice! I’ll have to keep these tips in mind for my next newborn photography shoot! Thanks for sharing your information!

    • Cole Reply

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment ;)

  33. carmen Reply

    wow these are absolutely gorgeous newborn images, Chrystal. I love the lifestyle pics especially. Great newborn tips too :)

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  35. Eduard Kooij Reply

    Beautiful family photographs,baby looks so cute.. You have share really useful tips, these tips are really important for everyone.Who has take picture of newborn baby .

    • Cole Reply

      Thank you :)

  36. babynurserywallstickers.com.au Reply

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?

    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Thank you

    • Cole Reply

      Not at all, go for it :)

  37. Jessica Reply

    I was wondering if you had another recommendation for a macro lens for Nikon. I am still building my portfolio and sadly do not have the funds to dump in to the lens you are using yourself..(not yet :) )

    Also, for your class or seminar online that is mentioned, will we see tips for shooting those smaller details?

    Thanks!!

    • Cole Reply

      Hey Jessica! Without knowing what camera body you have right now it is sort of a guess…but I’d look into the Nikon 60mm macro. Brand new (newest versions) are around $500 which is about 1/2 of the 105 macro…you can find used for even cheaper. If you aren’t using a full frame camera I’d actually RECOMMEND that 60mm length over the 105 anyway ;) The class allows you, the viewer, to tag along on a professional shoot in which you will certainly see and hear Chrystal work throughout the shoot, including when she is getting the close details vs other shots/poses. Give it a shot!! I think it’ll be perfect for you.

      Thanks!!
      Cole

  38. Lisa Molino Reply

    Hello fellow San Diegans!
    I want you to know how much I love love the blogs and community you provide. I have learned so much! Thank you for you support.

    Lisa

    • Cole Reply

      Thank you Lisa! Thanks for being a part of the community :) You’re in San Diego too aye? How awesome.

  39. Christina Reply

    Very well said. Been doing most of these and they are indeed very helpful in all aspects of newborn session.

    • Cole Reply

      Thanks Christina, appreciate the comment :)

  40. Jasper Davis Reply

    Timing and pose should be perfect during photo shooting. It brings the quality of the image and the true sense of the moment. The idea behind photo shooting that you mentioned are good and appreciable. Hugh-tech camera already plays a vital role during shooting.

  41. Natasha McCarthy Reply

    Lots of great information. I love the lifestyle images.

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  44. Arlene caraway Reply

    Hi there fellow San Diegan and fellow Charger fan ;-), I don’t think there’s anything I can say that hasn’t been said already. Wonderful tips and insight especially for newbies like myself. I can’t even call myself a photographer considering I’m still getting to learn my camera. But I will say that after reading your post, it definitely seems more doable and less scary. Not saying that it will be easy. I’m hoping to get together with a photographer and go on a “ride along” so to speak and maybe get some hands on experience before I venture out on my own. I literally came across your post about an hour ago and I’m looking forward to reading and learning more!

    • Karen Reply

      Arlene- join the Facebook group called Coles Classmates-Photo School and you will learn ton more!

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