If you’re considering newborn photography, it’s probably because you’ve fallen in love with sweet images you’ve seen online, or perhaps you have kids of your own.
This guide will help you figure out if newborn photography is right for you, along with some tips to get started.
There are two primary kinds of newborn sessions that take place after baby leaves the hospital: traditional and lifestyle. If you’re interested in posing babies with tiny props, in precious outfits and in front of beautiful backdrops, then traditional newborn photography might be for you.
For photographers who aren’t as interested in newborn posing or props, consider lifestyle photography, where you capture babies and their families in a more natural way.
You’ll provide gentle guidance to encourage connection between family members and focus on capturing moments and relationships.
For me, newborn photography is a passion as well as a source of income. It’s one of the main services I provide in my studio, Kristal Bean Photography – and I’m here to share my experience and techniques with you.
What training do I need?
Assuming that you have excellent working knowledge of your camera, lenses and off-camera lighting, the next concept to master for traditional newborn photographers is newborn posing safety.
Safety is the most important aspect of any newborn session. Parents need to have complete confidence that you value baby’s well-being above getting the perfect shot.
A great way to learn about newborn posing safety is to shadow an experienced newborn photographer who specializes in traditional newborn portraits and poses babies regularly.
Lifestyle sessions require less formal training, but baby’s safety is still paramount. Because these sessions focus on capturing moments between brand new parents and their babies, you’ll likely want to know swaddling basics, since tightly wrapped babies are usually calmer and happier – and the swaddled shots are adorable, too!
What camera, lenses and other gear do I need?
Any of the newer DLSR cameras should work well for newborn photography. For lenses, I tend to favor primes (I always have my Canon 85 mm 1.8 and my Canon 50 mm 1.8), in addition to a macro lens like a Canon 100 mm 1.8, or even macro filters (which are much less expensive!).
The macro lens or filters allow close-up shots of tiny features that change so quickly, like baby’s eyelashes, nose and lips.
I suggest a speedlight, particularly if you’ll be photographing in client homes where you may not always have access to natural light.
Use care with flash around newborns, and you could ask parents if they have any concerns about using flash before the session.
Traditional newborn photographers might also look into posing bags, props, backdrops and additional off-camera lighting, especially if you’re setting up a studio.
What other costs are involved?
Because safety is critical, you definitely want to invest in insurance coverage before you start working with clients and their babies.
There are a number of companies that offer policies for photographers and you may want to consider general liability and equipment coverage.
You’ll also need a solid contract and photo release before you start working with clients. If you purchase a contract online, consider tailoring it to fit your business and have it reviewed by a local lawyer to give yourself peace of mind.
Instead of investing right away in props that you can buy any time, first devote time and money to your education as a newborn photographer by shadowing a pro and/or attending newborn photography workshops. It will save you so much time and effort versus trying to learn everything on your own!
You’ll want to set aside a marketing budget, and keep in mind that word of mouth marketing will likely be what brings you additional clients. Parents are much more likely to recommend you if they loved the experience of working with you – not just the photos themselves. This means you need to focus on not only delivering quality images, but working with baby and the family in a confident, friendly manner.
How much can I charge for a photo session?
You’d need to do some research and call photographers in your area to get a feeling for how much you can charge.
Ultimately, I think this comes down to two things: an unbiased assessment of your work and an honest review of your local competition, along with their pricing. If the best newborn photographer in your area is charging $1,000 for a newborn session, how does your work compare? How much experience does he or she have? What is included in her session fee (ie, print credits, digitals, length of the session, etc)?
It may take trial and error to set your pricing for newborn sessions, and that’s ok. You can always consider reduced rates to build your portfolio and raise your prices after you have some experience.
Should I use a studio or the client’s home?
Most photographers work up to having a studio, and in the meantime, it’s certainly workable to shoot in the client’s home. Traditional newborn photographers might run into a few extra challenges because there is so much you need to take with you – camera, lenses, lighting, props, posing bags, wraps, backdrops, etc. Not only do you have to load and unload all of it, but you’ll also have set up at the client’s home!
Lifestyle sessions require you to bring less with you to the client’s home. You can send them a list of tips to prepare their house a few days before the session, and then you might not need more than your camera, lenses, optional off-lighting and a few swaddling blankets.
How to prepare for a session
Help your client feel at ease before your session by providing them with a “what to expect” guide that answers common questions like how long the session will be, the kinds of photos you take, what to wear recommendations, when they can expect their photos, etc. You can find examples of these guides online and even purchase them where all you insert is your own photos.
Have a shot list on your phone or in your bag.
If you have a studio, keep snacks, drinks and extra diapers/wipes on hand for parents.
Pack a change of clothes for yourself in case you get dirty while working with baby.
How long does a session take?
Babies call the shots during a newborn session and I always advise parents to plan on about three hours. This helps you and parents avoid the unnecessary stress of worrying when a baby nurses longer than expected or is fussy during the session!
What is the ideal age for a newborn session?
For traditional sessions, most photographers prefer for baby to be less than 10-14 days old because this is when they are the most flexible and sleep so deeply, making it easier to pose them.
Lifestyle sessions can happen when parents are ready, and because you aren’t worried about newborn posing, the timing of sessions is really up to you. I like working with newborns from two-six weeks old because they can hold eye contact with parents and with the camera at this time..
How do I get clients?
Here are my top tips and ways to get new clients – apart from word of mouth which is very effective as well:
- Offer discounted model calls and advertise on Facebook and Instagram. Hosting a model call is a simple way to build your portfolio because you’ll offer discounted sessions/products.
- Reach out to local moms groups and advertise your sessions.
- Use your personal network and photograph family or friends who have new babies.
- Donate a session to a local silent auction or raffle benefiting a charity or group related to newborns or children.
- Blog every session and stay on top of your search engine optimization (SEO) terms. The higher you rank on Google/Bing, the more likely potential clients are to contact you.
What products and add-ons can I offer?
I think it’s easiest to sell what you can show. I have studio sample prints, albums and canvases that allow clients to hold each item, see its craftsmanship and view my work all at the same time.
You can offer items a la carte or package together your most popular products. Some clients want physical items, like albums, canvases and prints. Others want digital files. Consider a mix to satisfy most people.
How far in advance should the session be booked?
I prefer to book newborn sessions before baby arrives because life is less hectic for parents! It’s usually easier to get the contract signed and learn about what expectations and preferences parents have before they are sleep-deprived with a newborn. However, you can definitely schedule sessions after baby arrives, too.
10 important tips to help you get started
- Keep flexibility in mind if you schedule a newborn session before birth and remember babies can come early or late.
- Communication is so important to build trust with your client – remember, she is trusting you with her brand new baby. Check in with her about a week before her due date to see how she’s doing and remind her you’re excited to capture these memories for her.
- Being calm and confident is important when working with babies. If you’re stressing out, babies can pick up on that and it makes them fussy.
- For lifestyle sessions, ask for a tour as soon as you arrive at the client’s home. Plan to use rooms with the best light first.
- For all newborn sessions, keep in mind what you wear matters because you don’t want to cause color cast on delicate newborn skin. I like to wear a white shirt for newborn sessions because it acts as a natural reflector.
- Shoot for the photo album by telling baby’s entire story. This means photographing details too, like tiny outfits, the nursery, little hats, pacifiers, special blankets, documents from the hospital, etc.
- Make good use of your time. When mom needs to nurse, you can ask if she’s comfortable with breastfeeding photos. Snap a few if you have permission, and then use the time she’s busy with baby to photograph the detail shots mentioned above.
- Sometimes families like to be photographed engaged in some kind of activity with baby. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and ask families to read to baby, give a bath, take a walk if the weather is suitable, etc.
- Some babies will stay awake for most of the session – especially when you’re counting on sleeping baby photos! When things don’t go as planned, take a deep breath and keep shooting!
- If you shoot for a photo album, pre-design one for your client and send the link along with her photo gallery. This will let her see how special memories come alive in a photo album.
Newborn photography is incredibly rewarding and inspiring.
Like any other genre, you’ll learn and grow as a photographer as you work with clients and their newborns.
Focus on delivering memories parents will cherish and you’ll almost always have happy clients who appreciate your work!