How to photograph newborn babies

Get set up for your shoot

1. In the home

A shoot like this is easily done at the family home, as we don’t need a huge space and we’re more likely to have relaxed babies and parents in their own home. Besides, as any new parent knows, getting out of the house armed with everything you need can be tricky!

2. Window light is best 

We need to find a space with large windows, so a living room is ideal. If necessary, rearrange the furniture to create a space next to the window. Here the window is to the left of the camera. We don’t want direct sunlight shining through the window, so north-facing is best.

3. Beanbags

Newborns are unable to hold their bodies up, so the foundation of our set is vital. Some photographers swear by dedicated beanbags or even dog beds. It needs to be soft enough for the babies to be comfortable, but firm enough to hold them in place.

4. Make the set

Once the foundations are laid, we can clip blankets over the top to create a mini studio. A stretchy textured blanket like this dedicated baby prop is ideal. Stretch out the blanket to minimize creases, as this will save time having to tidy it up in Photoshop.

Top tips for photographing babies

1. Posing twins

Posing is often the biggest challenge, as newborns lack the strength to hold themselves up. Plan your poses but be prepared to improvise. If necessary, ask a parent to hold the babies in place, as we did. Try to hide the arm from the frame, or clone it out later.

2. Head towards the light

People look more natural if lit from slightly above, as this is how we’re used to seeing light falling on them from the sky. This applies even if the subject is lying down, so angle the head towards the window and feet away slightly, so light falls on the head from above.

3. Details and scale

Detail shots can help to tell the story, and are easy compared to trickier wider portraits. It’s especially nice if you can include a sense of scale, by comparing the parent’s hands with the baby’s tiny fingers or toes. A black-and-white conversion is a good choice here.

4. Pin-sharp eyes

When the plane of focus is very shallow, we need to focus precisely on the closest eye, so move your focus point. Try to get the twins’ eyes on the same plane of focus. If not lined up, we can shoot two frames to ensure both sets of eyes are sharp, and combine later.

5. Retouch spots

A brief retouching job helps polish things off and hide distractions. Use Photoshop’s Spot Healing tool to remove small spots and marks, and switch to the Clone tool, set to 20% opacity, to gently smooth out rough patches or creases in the material.

6. White noise

Newborns spend a lot of time asleep, which is usually what we want for our shoot. But all the commotion might disturb them. A white noise machine is ideal, as it recreates the sound of the womb. You can play a white noise track on your phone or tablet.

7. Control the temperature 

If you’re planning on taking off their clothes or blankets, the space you’re shooting in should be well heated – warm enough so you’ll only need a light shirt. Bring along a portable heater and, if necessary, position it close to your makeshift set.

Compositing your images

At times, you might want to make a composite from two or more shots. Maybe you have one shot where the face is perfect but the background is creased, while in another the backdrop is clean. As long as both shots are in rough alignment, piecing them together shouldn’t be too tricky. Open both images in Photoshop and make a rough selection of the clean area with the Lasso tool. Right-click it and Feather by 20 pixels, then copy (Cmd/Ctrl+C) and paste in place (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+V) into the other image. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform, then use the box to fine-tune the positioning. If necessary, add a layer mask and paint black to hide parts of the newly added layer.

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