16 Tips for Amazing (and Adorable!) Baby Photography

The post 16 Tips for Amazing (and Adorable!) Baby Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

How to capture adorable photos of babies

This article was updated in June 2024 with contributions from Darren Rowse, Chas Elliott, Elizabeth Halford, Beth Jennings, Candace Lindemann, Christina N Dickson, and Natalie Norton.

Babies. Do you find them challenging to photograph?

They gurgle, spit, vomit, laugh, cry, smack their hands together…In other words, they do a lot of things that we don’t want to memorialize in a photograph!

But in between all that uncontrollable baby behavior are those moments that parents see every day and would love to keep alive forever in beautiful photos: the big eyes, cute smiles, tiny fingers, soft skin, and round cheeks. All those wondrous little details that only come with brand-new life! Those are the things that connect to a parent’s heart in the moment, and they’re what the parent longs to remember once the child has grown up.

And in this article, I’ll show you how to capture those adorable baby photos, whether you’re an up-and-coming baby photographer looking to impress clients or you’re a parent hoping to capture amazing images of your own child.

1. Do some planning in advance

How to photograph babies

If you’re photographing a baby for a client, here are some things you’ll want to discuss with the parents about a day or two prior to your scheduled shoot:

  • The baby’s schedule. The parents may or may not have one, but 9 times out of 10, the baby’s parents will be able to tell you the time of day their baby tends to be at its best, calmest state.
  • If you’re shooting the baby at home, be sure to get specifics as far as where the parents would like you to shoot. If you don’t have extensive studio lighting (I personally don’t!), you’ll want to make sure you know which way the windows in the chosen room are facing at the time of day you’ll be shooting. You want to ensure you’ll have adequate light!
  • You should also get a sense of how the parents are feeling about clothing for the baby. I love a naked, pink, wrinkly baby booty; however, not all parents share my affinity. Be sure to discuss this before you get to a shoot! You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you ask the parents to strip the baby down, and then have to deal with awkward tension when they say “No way!”

2. Consider your timing

How to photograph babies

This can be rather tricky as all babies seem to be on their own schedule, especially those ultra-photogenic newborns. Here are three things to be aware of:

  • First, babies can lose the adorable newborn baby curl within about 10 days of birth. If you’re looking for that little rump to be up and the baby to be moldable, try to shoot within this window.
  • Second, coordinate with the parents beforehand to ensure you come when the baby is sleepy. The sleepier, the better!
  • Third, if you’re planning to photograph the baby naked, make sure the infant is dressed in something easy to take off without disturbing the baby. Clothing that doesn’t have to go over the head is good, though a swaddle is great, too. You need to be able to undress the baby without losing the deep slumber. Don’t be afraid to ask a parent to help you move and mold the baby. With practice, you will feel more comfortable with newborns and babies, but in the beginning, advise the parents on how they can help you position the baby, then start shooting away!

3. Come up with a few simple baby photography ideas

If you are a fan of Anne Geddes or an avid baby photo lover, it’s easy to set your expectations too high and overload your photo session with so many “concept” shots that you end up with a big headache and little to show for it. So keep it simple. Choose two or three poses only, and if you nail those, take a break and try a couple more later.

As always, I recommend doing a quick Google Image search for baby photographs to stir the creative juices. For babies, I really do think that simple is best. Unless you have a human-sized flower or clamshell lying around, don’t go prop-crazy; babies are so new and perfect that they can easily stand alone as the center of your photograph. Have fun with them (and make sure the parents know they have the cutest baby on Earth!).

4. Come prepared

Make sure that you have everything you need very well-organized and easily accessible. Babies are fidgety, fussy, and very impatient, and you’ve got to maximize your shooting time.

  • If you’re using studio lighting, you should be set up at least 10 minutes before you’re scheduled to start shooting. That will give you time to run a few test shots before the baby is brought into the room.
  • This next one is a given, but remember that sensors and lenses should be checked before the shoot and cleaned if necessary. You can’t afford to stop in the middle of a newborn shoot because you notice a spot on your sensor. Babies are not as forgiving as their adult counterparts – they’re like ticking time bombs! (I guarantee that any parents reading this are currently nodding in agreement!)
  • Get a good night’s sleep! You have got to arrive with a vision of patience and with energy to spare. Remember, you’re likely walking into a home where no one has gotten more than an hour of consecutive sleep for days on end. The last thing everyone needs is another exhausted, grumpy adult whose patience has run dry! As the photographer, you should set the tone. Come with a full tummy and a good night’s rest. (The full tummy thing is particularly important for me as I tend to have low blood sugar. My patience, not to mention my creativity, goes out the window if I don’t have something in my belly.)

5. Heat up the room

How to photograph babies

As a baby photographer, the shots you will generally be attempting to capture will include cute baby buns, baby feet, and baby bellies. All this clotheless shooting can quickly result in a cold, cranky baby. You might want to invest in a small space heater to get a little extra heat in the baby’s direction. Be sure to turn the heat up to around 74 degrees about an hour before the shoot.

If you are shooting in a client’s home, this will require prior planning. Regardless, I would suggest bringing your space heater because the baby is usually not used to hanging around in just a diaper!

6. Bring some handy props

How to photograph babies

As mentioned above, the baby usually provides enough aesthetic appeal for most shots. But props, when used tastefully, are wonderful. They help convey perspective, size, and fragility, and they add a hint of color that can also be nice.

But just be aware that things won’t always go to plan, and prepare for your props to get peed (or pooped!) on.

In one of my sessions, we wanted to create the popular “baby on a stack of ultra-soft towels” look. The list of what I needed for this was short: clean white towels, pink ribbon, and some baby wipes.

But things happen, and when I took the baby’s diaper off, a quick cleaning was in order. (It saved me from staring at baby poop particles magnified at 10x in Photoshop!)

A couple of shots into the pose, the baby decided she didn’t like her bedding and peed on the top layer of towels. Fortunately, she was lying on a large stack of replacements. Although I didn’t notice until the shoot was over, after Mom lifted the baby and I rotated the top two towels, I wasn’t as precise in layering them back neatly.

It didn’t completely ruin the shot, but remember to take your time and be delicate with the baby and the props. Babies can sense when there is stress or tension. This is not high fashion; it should mellow and beautiful!

7. Find the right angle

In the days following birth, it can be especially difficult to capture great baby photos, as your subject tends to be kept swaddled in bunny rugs and all you end up seeing of them 99% of the time is a little head. Add to that the complication of the bumps, marks, scratches, and misshapen heads that newborns also tend to arrive with, and finding a flattering angle that will make more than just the proud parents “ooh!” and “aah!” can be difficult.

Don’t give up, though! All is not lost. Here are a number of things that you might want to try to help with the above problems:

  • Get down low. One key to many natural baby shots is to get down on their level. I’ve spent quite a bit of time lying on the floor next to my own baby. It’s something I think we both enjoy, but it’s also a great place to use your camera. Getting down low and getting in close does present some challenges in terms of focal length, but it means you end up with shots that feel like you’ve entered the baby’s world rather than looking down on it from above.
  • Try some close-ups. Another way to improve the angles and make your shots seem more intimate is to get in close by either physically moving in or by using a longer focal length. I personally like using a longer lens for the really close shots as shoving a camera in your baby’s face could freak them out a little.
  • Try nursed shots. Some of the best shots I’ve taken of my baby have been when he is being nursed by people. This puts him into a more upright position, which makes him look a little more human-like and opens up the angles for your photos. Try a number of positions (over the shoulder, sitting them up, laying them back in arms, lying them on their tummy, etc.) as each one opens up different possibilities. Also remember that your baby is not the only potential subject; parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends can all add context to the shots, and parents will undoubtedly appreciate having more than just photos of the baby by themself!

8. Create a shallow depth of field

How to photograph babies

Most images I shoot of babies are captured with very low f-numbers (I often photograph wide-open) to create a very shallow depth of field. I’m not by any means saying that this is right for everyone, but it’s my particular style, and I do it for many reasons:

  • The baby will only be tiny for a very short time. With a shallow depth of field effect, I can focus on and emphasize little feet and toes, for example, before they slip away into roller skates and ballet slippers.
  • Shallow depth of field creates a mood of tenderness and intimacy. This is very appropriate for a shoot of this nature!
  • But the main reason that I shoot the majority of my infant sessions with such a shallow depth of field is that shallow DOF shots, in my humble opinion, help show how the parents’ world is suddenly all about that little person. Though everything else around the baby may be out of focus, the one thing that matters will be perfectly clear!

9. Consider the outfit

It’s special for the parents to have you there to photograph their baby because it’s something they can’t generally do themselves. Advise them on having their baby’s preferred outfit clean and ready in advance, as well as a back-up in case of accidents.

In order to feel safe and warm, babies also do well with accompanying blankets, bottles, beanies, and soft toys. Check that the items all work well together in terms of colors. If you have some clashes on the day and can’t make changes while shooting, then photograph anyway and consider black and white for post-production to help strip it back a notch.

10. Use the right baby photography settings

The ideal camera settings for photographing babies will depend on your particular situation and style, but here’s some basic advice:

Aperture: Use a wide aperture, such as f/2.8, to isolate the beautiful child from the background. This will also help you capture well-exposed photos without needing to boost your ISO to an extreme value.

Shutter speed: I generally like to handhold my camera when photographing babies, as it allows me to have greater mobility and flexibility. That’s why I always use a minimum shutter speed of 1/125s. But if the baby is moving, I’d recommend using a faster shutter speed like 1/200s and beyond.

ISO: This should be chosen after you dial in your aperture and shutter speed. Basically, choose the ISO that gives you a good exposure, but go no higher! If you’re using studio lighting, maintaining a low ISO should be easy, but if you’re working with natural light, one easy way to keep the ISO down is to place the child near a window.

11. Pay attention to the light

How to photograph babies

Lighting is essential to any photograph – it illuminates your subject, adds dramatic contrast or subtle texture, and creates the mood. You can use strobes or flashes to photograph the baby, but be careful not to overdo it!

Personally, I often work with natural sunlight, which I think is very flattering for human subjects, especially the warm, soft rays just after dawn and just before dusk. This gentle lighting bathes photos in a romantic glow.

Noon sunlight can add energy and drama. Dappled sunlight, filtered through the leaves of a tree, can even create a bouncy rhythm in your photos.

If sunlight is not available, a soft shaded desk lamp can also set an intimate scene. If I need to use a flash, I like to experiment with the slow flash setting.

12. Set the scene

Considering your surroundings will greatly improve your shots! If you’re photographing your own baby, I recommend selecting a space in advance, then clearing out the clutter and ridding yourself of visual distractions. (One of my biggest disappointments is when I capture the perfect smile, only to notice a lamp growing out of my baby’s head!) Remember that most of the action with a baby will be down low, so consider that when selecting your location.

And if you’re photographing a client’s baby, communicate the importance of a clean environment in advance. And when you arrive, spend a couple of minutes checking out the different locations and (with the client’s permission) making adjustments as needed.

Depending on the age of the baby, don’t forget to think about the outdoors and its seasonal settings. The natural colors will provide a beautiful backdrop in addition to giving your photograph context. Traditional seasonal decorations also provide a great frame of reference for your baby pictures!

13. Aim for eye contact

How to photograph babies

In most shots, I strive for eye contact. Discourage well-meaning assistants (i.e., other relatives) from trying to get the baby to look at them – I’ve noticed that this usually results in a vacant stare above or past the camera.

I prefer instead to make the baby’s favorite sounds or ask questions about the other objects in the frame (What do flowers do? Which color is your favorite?). Babies learn fairly quickly that you are behind the camera, and with this technique, you can often get cute shots of babies laughing or those special expressions they make when you say their favorite words.

That said, the baby does not always have to be looking in the camera to make a great shot. A child’s concentration as they study a new mystery or the joy that lights up a grandparent’s face as they hold the baby can tell its own story.

14. Take some wider images

16 Tips for Amazing (and Adorable!) Baby Photography

Establishing shots are images that communicate the scene at which an event took place, and they can be a very effective part of a baby photoshoot! In this case, you want to tell a story about the feelings surrounding the birth of a new child: The welcome of another little person into an already established family unit. Each family unit will be different than the next, but each is special and should be documented as such.

For example:

  • If you’re shooting in a home, most likely you’ll be in a nursery. Grab a shot of that! Establish the environment. It will be a treasure for the family to remember what their home was like at the time that they welcomed their little sweetheart into their heart and home.
  • Whether you’re in a studio or on location, try to grab a shot that shows the whole family as they looked at the time of the birth.

15. Edit your baby images

16 Tips for Amazing (and Adorable!) Baby Photography

A lot of shots that you see of babies online make them look unbelievably smooth. The reality is that many babies are not quite so “perfect” (however much their parents think they are). Little scratches, sleep in the eyes, snotty noses, dried milk around the mouth, blotchy skin, birthmarks, and bumps are common for all babies.

You might like to keep a warm, wet face washer handy to wipe away some of those things, but in some instances, they’ll end up in your photos.

I don’t mind them most of the time – I think they show the baby as they really look, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But some parents prefer images without such distractions, and even if you’re photographing your own child, you might be inclined to do a bit of editing on those images that you plan to print and give as gifts.

Most post-processing programs have some sort of retouching tool. Learn to use it, even if it’s just to smooth over the most obvious marks, and you’ll be amazed by the results!

16. Be flexible!

How to photograph babies

When photographing babies, you’ve got to be flexible. There are so many variables when shooting a tiny human, and they can be so unpredictable. Remember to:

  • Lovingly handle each hiccup. I am convinced that babies can sense our tension and frustration and that they will respond in kind. Likewise, if we can remain calm and collected, they will find it easier to relax as well.
  • If you have to stop, stop! If the baby is on the brink of a full-blown freakout, take a break. Let the parents cut in and calm the baby down, do some feeding, burping, change a messy diaper, whatever. Never push a baby to the point of no return. If you let a baby get to the point of a total freak out. . . well, you may be plum out of luck, and with no one to blame but yourself. Be in tune with the baby and let them run the show.
  • If the baby is fussing just a bit, you may not be bothered by it. The parents, on the other hand, may be totally on edge. Part of your job is to be aware of that! Ask the parents if they’d feel more comfortable continuing after they’ve had a little snuggle break. The last thing you need is a parent worried about their cub.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. I have never had an infant shoot that has lasted longer than an hour or so, but I always schedule a two-hour block so there is time to feed, change, or soothe the baby between shots if necessary.

How to photograph babies: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know how to capture plenty of outstanding baby photos – and you’re ready to create some amazing shots of your own, your friend’s, or your clients’ children!

So remember what I’ve shared. And get ready to have the photo session of a lifetime!

Now over to you:

Do you have any additional tips for baby photography that I’ve missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The post 16 Tips for Amazing (and Adorable!) Baby Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

The post 16 Tips for Amazing (and Adorable!) Baby Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse. This article was updated in June 2024 with contributions from Darren Rowse, Chas Elliott, Elizabeth Halford, Beth Jennings, Candace Lindemann, Christina N Dickson, and Natalie Norton. Babies. Do you find them challenging to…

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