From blankets and buckets to ribbons and bows…here are some items to stash on your list of best newborn photography props!
Having a gorgeous newborn in your studio is a treat. Their sleepy smiles and tiny little noses are pure perfection in and of themselves. But experienced newborn photographers know that having some additional props on hand can help turn plain images into dreamy newborn shots that any new mom craves. Whether you are a studio photographer or an in-home lifestyle photographer, you might find you need a little something extra to pull off the shot. Here is our list of the Top 10 Best Newborn Photography Props!
Wraps are the best of the best when it comes to newborn photography props. They are versatile, flexible and don’t take much room to store. Wraps soothe the newborn (most babies tight swaddling) but they can also add a quick pop of color, texture and visual interest.
Wraps are essential for many of the classic newborn poses like the taco pose, Huck Finn pose or tucked in or simple swaddle. You can also use the wrap loosely to create other poses! I think wrapping the baby before attempting sibling poses is also really helpful.
Invest in wraps in different shades, textures, lengths and materials. I find the best wraps are neutrals or subtle pastels. You can purchase wraps or make your own from fabric purchased at a craft store. You can also cut up other blankets, shirts or sheets! Cheesecloth, lyrcra and microfiber are some favorites.
Even if you’re a lifestyle shooter, having a few wraps on hand and knowing how to do a simple swaddle like the Huck Finn is a great tool to have in your arsenal. One example of this is a simple swaddle using a soft cheesecloth wrap of baby lying on mom and dad’s bed. Classic and charming!
Posing pillows or bean bags
If you’re a posed newborn photographer, consider investing in a posing bean bag or posing pillow. A posing bean bag or pillow helps create the perfect surface for layering and posing the baby. Most are also waterproof, so if the baby has an accident, you aren’t ruining your couch or the client’s favorite chair.
Posing pillows or bean bags also take the guesswork out of where you’ll pose the baby in a client’s home. You can take your pillow into any room, add and stretch your background fabric tight and you have a perfect pop up studio. You aren’t limited to dark living rooms or cramped bedrooms.
Posing beanbags can be adjusted to your preferred level of fill. Posing pillows come in different shapes and sizes as well. Choose from a donut-shaped pillow, a butterfly pillow (full on either end and shallow in the middle) or oblong posing pillows. Use smaller pillows as fill for buckets, bowls or to support baby in different poses.
I think rugs are the second-best props for newborn photographers if you’re a lifestyle photog. Like wraps, rugs can add immediate color, texture and visual interest to your images. A small rug is also ideal for transforming ugly green and gold shag carpeting into a dreamy newborn wonderland!
My favorite rugs are Flotaki rugs. These woven wool rugs are shaggy and thick and work perfectly as a background for newborn photography. You don’t need a genuine flotaki rug…there are some great synthetic options available for a lower price. I have a white, navy and gray flotaki style rug that I take with me on lifestyle newborn shoots. They can be used flat or draped strategically to add texture to a scene.
Braided rugs and other types of fur-like rugs are great as a base layer! Try different shapes like a square, rectangle, and round rug and see which style you prefer the most. Rugs will also pull double-duty if you shoot milestone sessions or sessions with young kids.
In newborn photography, blankets can be used as a traditional blanket, like a rug or as a layer between baby and the posing elements.
Any type of fabric will work, but the best blankets are a bit thicker and offer contrasting texture. Look for something around 20 inches square or just slightly larger. Crocheted and knitted blankets look amazing in photos because of the textures and patterns they provide. I also love burlap (just keep its scratchy surface away from baby’s soft skin).
Larger, patterned blankets, such as receiving blankets, can also be used to add dimension or color to a scene without adding a ton of bulk.
So clamps aren’t exactly a prop. But they are such an essential piece of equipment that I didn’t want to leave them off this list. Use clamps to hold up a paper or cloth background, to stretch your fabric tight, or to clamp a wrap in a place where it can’t be seen. You can also clamp lights where you need them or keep curtains out of your way for extra light. They are like duct tape…always helpful (but not as sticky!).
Hats, bonnets and headbands
Headbands, bows and hats also make some of the best newborn photography props. Bows and headbands can instantly identify a baby as female. Hats for boys can add a masculine, yet soft, touch.
Any headwear is an easy way to compliment or create a theme or feeling within your shoot while still using more generic props. For example, a lace bonnet can make a newborn photography image feel vintage and timeless. A bear hat can make the image feel cozy and warm. A floral headband can add a feeling of spring or summer, or a darling knit Santa hat can add a touch of Christmas whimsy without dragging out all the decorations.
Bowls, baskets and buckets and drawers
I am continually amazed at how newborn photographers are able to use the most basic of “containers” and make a gorgeous, timeless scene.
Bowls, baskets and buckets make great props because they help frame the baby or add depth to an image. You can lay the baby inside the bowl or lean the baby on the edge of the bucket (with support of course). Baskets can do a little of both! And don’t forget about empty drawers or shallow boxes.
Again, these props are versatile in that you can use them in a variety of different ways. They are also usable in sessions with older babies or toddlers. Look for baskets, bowls and buckets made of wicker, wood, rope or metal. Try not to select anything that is highly reflective as that can add glare into your scene.
If you do find a really shiny prop that you just can’t live without, hit it with a blast of dulling spray to tone down the glare and reflections!
Beds or benches
Beds and benches add structure, dimension and height to your image. They can be wooden or metal and can be any color that fits your style. Shoot them from above looking down at the baby or from the side as the baby nestles in a pile of buttery softness.
There are beds built exclusively for newborn photographers. But you can also get creative with sturdy doll beds, antique beds or any bench, as long as the baby is well supported and safe.
White duvet and pillows
This idea is for the lifestyle newborn photogs out there. Ask your client what kind of linens they have on their bed (better yet, have them send you a picture!) If their bed is covered in busy patterns or bold colors that won’t photograph well, take your own! A white duvet or quilt and a few crisp white pillowcases can turn any bedroom into a clean, elegant space other moms will drool over!
photo by Allison Spaulding Vasquez
Often, the best newborn photography props are ones supplied by the parents. An heirloom onesie, a favorite stuffed animal or other items that fit with the sessions themed. My newborn photographer asked for permission to wander around our house and gather some items. She made a newborn flat lay of sorts, using moose antlers, my husband’s hat and my favorite sweatshirt shirt from my PR days with our state wildlife agency. That’s one of my favorite images because it tells our story…we met through the agency and continue to be outdoor people.
Sometimes clients will bring pieces for you to incorporate into their session that might not match your vision. That’s okay. My advice is to take a few images with the family provided props. The props might not be perfect but the parents will still love them!
Really anything can be a prop in a session, especially if you’re going for a certain theme. I’ve seen cowboy boots, police uniforms, firemen’s helmets, baseball bats and Denver Bronco sweatshirts all incorporated into newborn sessions! Use your creativity and imagination. The best props evoke emotion and sentiment from the parents, which often leads to increased sales for you. Win-win!
Where to get the best newborn photography props
Here are some great online resources for newborn photography props:
- Denny Manufacturing (also a great source for backgrounds!)
- Beautiful photo props
- Newborn Studio Props
- Baby Bliss Props
- Tiny Tot Prop Shop
Other ideas include places like Amazon, Etsy, Walmart, Target, Michaels, TJ Maxx or Hobby Lobby, or Facebook groups. For a more rustic look, check out western stores or home and garden centers (hello galvanized buckets!) If you’re creative and inventive, the best newborn photography props are all around.
And don’t be afraid to scour garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets. One of my favorite props is a vintage suitcase I snagged for $.50 at a garage sale! It’s held babies, puppies and I used it for a vintage themed session I did with my daughter. That was $.50 well spent!
I’ve also circulated a list of items I’m on the lookout for with other friends who antique or go to garage sales…they help shop!
Make your own newborn photography props
If you’re the crafty sort, making your own photography props is a fabulous idea. Do you weave? Knit? Sew? Crochet? Throw pottery? All of those talents can help make your own props.
There are also plenty of other craft souls who can help guide you. Check out these DIY tutorials and make your own stuff!
Safety first. Always
I don’t care how totes adorbes your prop is…the safety of the baby should always come first.
- File any rough edges down on baskets, bowls or buckets. If you can’t make it smooth, use some clear silicone to seal in the sharp or scratchy bits.
- Weigh down buckets or baskets if there is a chance baby could tip.
- Use a spotter for more complicated poses or to help ensure baby is ALWAYS safe.
- Check. Double-check and then check again to make sure baby is safe!
- If you are new to newborn photography, shadow an experienced photographer for a few shoots or take a newborn photography training course.
- When in doubt, leave it out! Never let the desire to use a prop outweigh a safe and secure set.
Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
It’s easy to start acquire a ton of newborn photography props. But eventually, you’ll run out of space to store them and possibly budget. So start small, and try to invest in props that provide a ton of versatility, either as newborn props or for props in milestone sessions or child photography. For example, that wooden plane might be super cute, but will you have many clients that want to use it on a regular basis?
It’s also a great idea to go through your props once a year and purge items you don’t want anymore. Offer them for sale or donate them to an up-and-coming photographer in your area. I’ve also participated in a few prop swaps with other photographers. We each took items we didn’t want or need anymore and traded with one another…instant new stuff without spending a dime!
The best newborn photography props add to your image, not be the star of the show. Pick props with different colors, textures and loft (fluffiness) so you can use them separately or together to create plenty of different looks. Use your imagination and your next favorite prop might be one you already own!
Thanks to our contributing photographers: