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Infant photography can provide some of the sweetest, lasting memories of the wonder of new life. Here's what you need to know to get started.
Infant photography is one of the more unique forms of portrait photography. The memories captured will be valued by the parents for years to come and sometimes are often passed on for generations. The first couple of weeks after birth is especially precious, when the wonder of a new life still suffuses everything. That’s when unique—even priceless—photography can take place. But infant photography isn’t quite as straightforward as standard portraiture, and there are a few things you should know before embarking on it.
While some must-have shots are taken with the infant awake and happy, just about all newborn posing is done with the child asleep. And even with infants sleeping a lot during the first two weeks, it will often take a good long session (3-4 hours) to get just a handful of shots because of the infant’s needs. The more the child sleeps through the session, the easier it is on everyone.
First off, aim for doing the shoot after the first five days but just under the ten-days-old point. This is when the child has filled out a bit after the birth but is still very sleepy. That being said, it will still be easy to wake the child during the shoot. That’s why you should take these precautions:
Provide soothing background music or white noise so they won’t wake from the clicking of the camera or other odd noises.
Make sure the parents dress the baby in something that’s easy to slip out of, even just a swaddler or a blanket. Clothing that doesn’t have to go over the head is particularly helpful.
Keep the baby cozy and warm. Definitely be sure to bring a space heater and a heating pad, and maybe even gloves if your hands tend to be cold. Some say that if the photographer isn’t sweating, it’s likely the infant isn’t warm enough.
Make sure the baby has been fed right before the shoot.
Newborn photography is unique in that it’s the only portraiture where the photographer is 100% responsible for the safety and welfare of the subject. Bring only soft and comfortable objects as props, and never place the newborn in any kind of precarious position—this includes high or unstable surfaces. Believe it or not, many of the classic, molded baby images out there are composites—the object they’re lying on was shot separately and then combined with the shot of the baby.
Also, always use a strap when holding the camera anywhere near the proximity of the baby. (Most infant photography is done without tripods.)
There are two definitive types of shooting sessions with infants—studio and lifestyle. In studio sessions, the focus is on posed shots, often with props (i.e. blankets, wraps, hats, & headbands). Lifestyle shots are more focused on the baby in it’s environment—with parents, siblings, in its home, in the yard, etc. Which one you choose will depend on the parents’ needs and wishes, but come prepared to do both. There will always be moments in the studio when the baby is being held or fed by a parent that you can slip in a lifestyle shot or two. If the baby falls asleep during a lifestyle shoot, that’s a perfect time to do some posing. (Be sure to bring your posing materials—a posing bean bag, a boppy pillow, some blankets, etc.)
Also, make sure to get shots of the mom and pop with the baby. And if there are siblings, include them too!
While your standard portrait lenses will work for much of the shoot, make sure you also bring a a macro lens. Macros shots of the newborn’s face, tiny feet, cute nose, and whatever else strikes you in the moment is the perfect way to “fill up the corners” of a shoot.
You really don’t need to get too fancy with the lighting. Many make do with just a large window for their key light and a 5-in-1 reflector for the fill. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a softbox or other lighting gear, but many infant photographers prefer natural window light.
While having too many props can be the bane of any photographer’s existence, bring the ones that will resonate most with the parents. Consider incorporating the parents’ culture, their hobbies, their favorite colors, or anything else that brings out their uniqueness. Aside from that, the must-have props include blankets, headbands, baskets, and wraps. Make sure the colors work with the overall set-up you’re using.
Use your creativity and remember that in the end, your shots will look their best if the baby looks relaxed and comfortable.
Once you’re ready for post-processing, be sure to check out the excellent selection of portrait presets that come with Luminar. Or, if you’re looking for more creative options, you can check out Luminar’s newest downloadable presets. For quick and painless editing, the Accent AI filter, Luminar’s new “quick and awesome” editor that does all of the photo analyzing work for you and lets you get create great images in mere minutes.
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