“Do you have any recommendations for a newborn photographer?”
With my maternity leave approaching, I’ve had to turn down a lot of potential newborn photo sessions. So, understandably, this is the next question I get. While, I have given out a few names, there are a lot of newborn photographers out there, so I thought it may be better to actually give you an idea of what I think makes for great newborn photos and then you can apply that when making your decision. While most of these things are widely accepted principles of newborn photography (and photography in general) some of these are also a bit of my own personal preferences.
***This is not meant to discourage any photographers who are just starting out. As you can see from the bad photos I use here (from my first three newborn shoots), I’ve had a lot of learning to do myself!***
So, here we go…
When choosing a photographer, first pick the style you like best:
Posed or Lifestyle
Generally, I categorize newborn photography into one of two main styles: “posed” or “lifestyle”. I love both of these styles and neither one is better than the other, it’s just a matter of what you like best. (If you were drawn to the photos that I do, you prefer the posed style).
In a nutshell, “posed” newborn photos are typically done in a studio, use a beanbag and props for posing the baby in and on and feature a variety of blankets, hats, headbands, wraps, etc. Typically, most of the photos will be of the baby posed alone. A “lifestyle” session is done in your home and is a little bit more relaxed and natural with the posing and captures some moments of the baby and new family in their own environment.
This is posed:
This is lifestyle:
I love both of these styles a lot, but since I’ve chosen to focus my business model on “posed” newborn photography, the rest of this article will apply only to the posed style. With that, I believe there are three main areas you want to look at when choosing your ideal newborn photographer.
*Proper posing of the baby
*Good photography principles and pleasing post-processing of the images
*You should like the photographer’s overall style as well as the photographer herself
1. Safety- a newborn photographer should never put a baby in a position where the baby is uncomfortable or unsupported. A photographer should also know how to properly shift the baby from one position to the next. I worked with another newborn photographer for the first 6 months I was in business until we both knew we were 100% comfortable and safe posing a newborn on our own. Even now, I still ask for parent’s assistance for certain poses. There are also some things that have to be achieved with an extra set of hands and a little Photoshop help, like the photo below.
2. A baby’s face should be up and forward, not “into the blanket”. See the photo below. This is the first newborn photo I ever took. It is my own son when he was 6 days old. At the time, it looked pretty decent to me but now all I see is that his face was in the blanket and it looks suffocating. I should be able to see all of his face in a pose like this.
3. Along those same lines, a baby’s face should never be blocked by his hands. Depending on the pose you are doing, hands should be tucked under the baby’s cheek, chin, a wrap, or relaxed on their side or stomach. You always want to see baby’s whole face.
4. Speaking of hands, I prefer to always straighten out a baby’s fingers. A clenched fist makes me think baby is uncomfortable and I don’t want my photos to convey that.
5. Another thing I am picky about is making baby look their best. I prefer that a baby not have a double chin showing and that their lips are closed. I think we can all agree that a double chin and an open mouth while sleeping are unattractive on adults so I prefer my baby’s to be photographed by those same standards whenever possible.
6. Similar to that is photographing the baby from pleasing angles. No photos “up the nose” or from behind. Also, a baby should always be framed well in the photo. You don’t want to have the baby look like they are falling or tilted the wrong way because of an odd camera angle or crop.
7. A very important one to mention is that the baby should never have any lower frontal nudity showing. Period. Chest and bum are ok.
8. Lastly, the baby should be posed with blankets and props that are pleasing to you and do not distract from the baby. The colors, hats, and headbands used in the session should complement the baby and not distract from him. Background blankets should be wrinkle free and hats/wraps/headbands should fit snuggly but comfortably on a newborn. (Also, the colors used throughout the session should coordinate or compliment each other so that if you display the photos as a grouping in your home or for a birth announcement, they look good together).
Good Photography Principles and Pleasing Post-Processing
1. Every photo that you see on the photographer’s website/blog/Facebook etc. should be clear sharp and in focus. It kinda bums me out to even have to say this one, but with so many photographers out there of all experience levels, I’ve seen some photos that are “soft” and should not have made the final cut from the session, let alone be displayed as a photographer’s best work on their page. This tells me that the photographer didn’t get enough good shots to show or, even worse, doesn’t know how to properly use and focus their camera. Yikes!
2. The photo should be well exposed. Not too dark, not too bright.
3. Whether it’s natural light from a window or a studio light, the light should be soft and coming from the proper angle. The photo should convey depth with tiny soft shadows in the correct places. Lighting should not be flat or “ghost-like.”
4. The baby should be framed well in the photo. This is a bit of a personal preference, but I like my photos to show how tiny a newborn really is so I prefer wide angles for the full body shots. The baby should look small in relation to the overall photo…a lot of negative space. This is an example of my son where you can’t really see how small he was because I framed the photo too closely. He looks much bigger than he actually was.
5. Most baby’s skin tones tend to be slightly on the red or yellow side and I also see some purple hands and feet. Not to mention dry skin, scabs, and sometimes a few pimples. This is all fine and perfectly normal on a newborn baby. However, it is my job as the photographer to take care of those things in post-processing the image. See some examples below.
Here, Lily’s skin was a little on the yellow side. I fixed that in Photoshop with a selective color layer mask. I also smoothed it as I always do.
This photo required some skin smoothing, and a reduction in the red tones. I also fixed the blanket where I had shot off the edge.
Similar to the last photo, this one also required some skin smoothing and removal of a few scabbed spots and red areas. Although it wasn’t wrinkled, I also used a layer to add a bit of an extra smooth look for the blanket.
In this image, I did the following: straightened the angle because I accidentally held my camera a little bit crooked, smoothed and blended the backdrop, removed the bits of the crate chippings from the carpet, cloned in the spot on the gray rug so you can’t see the towel underneath that was propping her up, changed the camera profile which fixed the magenta cast on her skin and toned down the highlights, smoothed her skin, lightened and got the red out of her foot.
(This is a good time to note that when hiring a newborn photographer, you are paying them for more than just their time to shoot the session. There is a lot more that goes in to creating and perfecting the final image.)
Making the final decision
So, after you’ve reviewed the photographer’s galleries, keeping all of the above points in mind, there are a few things left to consider.
1. Experience-Does the photographer specialize in newborns or have a lot of experience with them? If not, you may want to steer clear. Newborn photography is special because the photographer is handling and caring for your baby for hours at a time. No matter how great of a wedding or family photographer they may be, you want someone who is experienced in caring for, posing, and photographing an infant.
2. Is there consistency throughout the posts and galleries of newborn photos? You don’t want to hire someone who only has a few good photos to show.
3. Do you like the photographers overall style? For example, do you like their blog? Do you like how they process their images?
4. Do you like the photographer herself? Was she quick to get back to you when you contacted her? Did she answer all your questions? Most importantly, did she make you feel good and excited for the session?
Well, that’s it…
Choosing a newborn photographer is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Having a baby is a HUGE thing and deserves to be captured in quality photography. Hopefully this information helps you on your path to choosing the right newborn photographer for you!
Thanks for reading! I can be reached at: email@example.com to book your newborn session for 2014.