Photographing newborns can be hugely rewarding, and is one of the key areas in which portrait photographers can find work. There is nothing more precious than those first few moments, and the images you create will be a memory that the parents treasure for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but making the images truly special for first-time parents could guarantee you more work in the future if and when they have more children.
Creating a really fantastic newborn session is about more than just a cute face. You have to get the whole set-up right, and there is a lot to consider – props, outfits, lighting, safety, and backgrounds all come into it. The good news is that you can easily get your hands on everything that you need. Don’t miss out these key items from your studio kit: they are essential if you want to be taken seriously as a newborn photographer.
Lighting and backdrops with stands
This is of course essential for getting the shot, but you also need to make sure that everything is safe. Make sure that your stands are secured and that your backdrop and lights pose no risk of falling down unexpectedly. Also watch out for trailing wires, raised edges, and other elements that may be a tripping hazard. The last thing you want is for mom to fall over with a baby in her arms!
This is what you actually put the baby on, and it’s really important that you get it right. You don’t want to just use any old beanbag, which may sag in the middle and cause a safety hazard. It’s much better and safer to buy a product which is actually designed as a newborn poser. Even if you don’t use it for every shoot, you do need to have one available that will allow you to pose the baby safely and for maximum effect.
Babies like to be warm! Even if you are sweating, you need to keep the studio nice and toasty so that the baby is not uncomfortable. You don’t want a crying newborn all the way through the shoot – remember that you’ll likely be posing them naked or wrapped in very little fabric, so they will be colder than you are.
Blankets are not only for wrapping the newborn up to keep them warm, but also for providing a soft and fuzzy surface for them to lay on. This also has a big advantage – if an accident should happen, you can move that blanket out of the way and carry on shooting with a new, clean one instead of having to stop and clean up!
Towels and a hamper
Towels are for wiping up any kind of bodily function that rears its head – and when you are dealing with newborns, they all will! The hamper is a necessary storage item for throwing in those soiled towels, blankets, and props. Keep them out of the way where they can’t mess up other items, and you can quickly gather them up for washing later on.
Mini fridge and baby items
The mini fridge is for storing milk or formula, as well as bottles of water to keep you hydrated in the warm studio. You will also want plenty of other spare supplies: pacifiers, bibs, nappies, and so on. This is just to help out the parents, who might not be used to bringing everything along with them – or might not realize exactly how many spares they need to keep on hand!
Light hats, headbands, wraps, and so on
A really simple way to dress up a newborn is to use a head-based item. It has to be very light, and it should not cover their head so much that you can’t see their face. A feathered headband, for example, can lend a dramatic but elegant look to a shot. A wrap can be used in just about any way to dress up a baby. Also think about items like tiny tutus, leg warmers, scarfs, and so on – that little touch that might bring up the look of the overall shoot. You can work to themes, such as animal print, or go for traditional blues and pinks.
Weights and baskets
A basket is a classic newborn posing prop, but it also carries its own risks. Make sure that you get hold of some small, flat weights – the kind used for measuring – to put into the bottom of the basket. This will stabilise it and prevent it from slipping off any stool, chair, table, or so forth. It also means that if the baby rolls over, especially while sleeping, the weight shift won’t tip the basket over. Please note that you should never rely on these weights alone, as you should always also have a spotter.
A sink and hand sanitizer
It’s super important to keep babies clean of germs where possible, and they also carry a fair few of their own. A sink is necessary for washing hands as well as for washing any item that you are bringing into the shot – a pacifier, for example. You can also keep hand sanitizer around for an extra barrier against germs to keep your clients safe.
Newborns aren’t ready to sit and play with toys just yet, but they can appreciate the softness of a plush toy – and it makes for a super cute photograph to pose them cuddled up to one. Just make sure that all of your toys are rated as safe for use with newborns: there should not be any small loose parts, nothing that can be ingested such as long fur, and of course no allergens. You can check the label to find out if any toy is suitable. If the age rating is too high, simply don’t bring it into the studio.
Digital backdrops are a great way to be able to get creative results quickly and easily in Photoshop. You will be able to provide more set up options (which are a great way to upsell to clients), save time and money by not having to set up elaborate sets in studio, and more. You can find an array of adorable newborn digital backgrounds in the Summerana Membership here.
If you have wanted to try baby photos outside, but lack suitable weather or props, try out our new outdoor digital backgrounds.
These items should certainly get you going, but what else can’t you live without? Newborn photographers, let’s hear your essential items in the comments!