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When we were first asked to shoot a newborn session, I panicked. I had no clue how to get those floppy newborn heads to balance ever so perfectly on their tiny little fists. And what kind of basket is the right basket for a newborn? I had no idea. What to do??
Since I was totally useless when it came to traditional newborn posing, I had to came up with a different strategy. And, as usual, I wanted it to be as easy and stress free as possible. I searched high and low for the right props to solve my posing woes.
And then I found them. They were versatile and mouldable, and could hold that squirmy little baby in any position I needed. They were readily available and I could always find them whenever we had a shoot. And triple bonus, they were totally free! What were they?
Yep, Mom and Dad became our newborn posing props, and we never looked back. Because you know what? Newborns want to be in their parents arms. It’s science. Baby is happy because they’re safe and warm, and the parents are happy because they want to hold that little bundle of joy, and we’re stoked because everyone looks great in the photos. Happy people are pretty people.
We came up with four basic poses for newborns. Yes, you read that right. Only four. With the right approach that’s more enough to get all the variety you’ll need.
Now let’s take a look at those four poses, and chat about some other tips and techniques to make your newborn sessions stress-free!
1. Facing In
Simple simple. Hold the baby facing in towards the parent. Like this:
This pose allows for a lot of connection. You can capture some beautiful expressions from the parents as they gaze at their new little one, and those amazing moments when the baby locks eyes with them.
There’s also a lot of variety possible here. Change up who is holding the baby: shoot each parent separately and then everyone all together. Walk around the pose to get different angles. Shoot from far away, or close up and capture all sorts of great details, like the gorgeous newborn hair swirl.
It’s also a great pose for kisses and nuzzles!
2. Facing Out
Now take that baby and flip them around. And here we get a chance to capture more of a traditional “portrait”, with everyone facing the camera. If you’re patient with this one, it can result in some great expressions.
Just like before, the key here is to get some variety. Each parent alone, then everyone together. Shoot from different angles. This is a great time to get up close and get some awesome shots of the wee one’s face. This is also a good pose both for standing and sitting down on the couch, or in a rocking chair.
3. The Cradle Hold
The third pose is the cradle hold. Cradle that little lovebug in mom’s arms, and all is right in the world. This pose allows for mom and dad to hold their babies hands, marvel at their tiny feet, stroke their soft hair, kiss their forehead. You get the idea. It’s a good’er. Again, for variety, get each parent cradling separately, and then get them both in the shot.
Don’t forget to change up your angles and grab some details!
4. Lay Them Down
We had only one posing prop other than the parents, and that was a huge beanbag chair. Not a fancy one, just a regular one that you can find at any big box store. We’d slap a nice blanket on top, set the baby down when they were happy (after being held by mom and dad for a while) and then we could get some more variety. This was great for getting portraits of the little one.
And also gives you the opportunity to get lots of great detail shots of those itty bitty hands and feet.
Using the beanbag chair gave us the flexibility to set up anywhere in the house where we could find great light. We shot so many of our sessions in kitchens, because, well, they typically have huge windows!
In one particularly tough situation, where there was very little light to be had, we set up in the front foyer, getting our light in through the screen door. The beanbag chair let us be super flexible, and confident that we could shoot in any home. We’d just set the little one down on the chair, and carefully rotate it until we found the right lighting angle. Then snap, snap, snap!
Pro Tip: Bring along a portable heater to keep the babe warm when they’re not being held. They’ll be much happier, will makes your job much easier.
If the light was nice in a bedroom we could even skip the beanbag altogether, and just lay the newborn down on the bed.
Which gives you the opportunity to get the parents in there as well!
Now for a few general tips!
Keep The Heads Close
Just like with family posing, you want to keep your subjects’ heads close together. It helps show them as a tight, family unit, and makes it much easier to get everyone nicely composed within your frame.
Sometimes this requires holding the baby up a bit higher than normal, but most of the time it just means snuggling in tiiiiiiight.
Shoot The Action
I absolutely loved getting to watch parents take care of their newborns. These sessions typically lasted between 2 – 3 hours for us – way longer than a family session – because newborns need a lot of breaks. Diaper changes, snack breaks, and snuggle time really stretched the session out. And we loved it.
Those breaks in between poses were perfect opportunities to capture life with a baby, and resulted in some of our favourite images. Always keep your camera at the ready, and document the action.
Give The Siblings A Turn
Siblings are an important part of the story, and should be photographed with the new addition! They were always eager to get to hold their new little brother/sister and show off their big sibling skills.
We generally set them up on the floor, with a parent right out of frame as a spotter. Or, if there was a particularly deep couch, they could sit there with cushions nearby to help hold the baby up. Getting to see how careful and curious kids are with a new baby makes for some priceless photos.
This shot – the whole family – is the only part of a newborn session that I found stressful. It was nearly impossible to get the “perfect” shot of everyone smiling, looking right at the camera at the same time. We tried at every session, but someone – a sibling or the newborn – would be looking away. Those babies just can’t follow directions!
So we preferred to simply photograph the family interacting. Way more fun. If everyone looked at the camera, cool. If not, no big deal.
The Big Idea: Keep It Simple
As you can see, we kept our newborn sessions very simple. Clean backgrounds, soft light, and close distances. What we loved about these sessions was getting to capture the beautiful relationship that had just begun.
Really, newborn sessions are easy. Get everyone together, snuggled in close, and tell them to look at that new little person. The smiles that come are natural, genuine, and oh so beautiful. Then just take the picture. It’s that simple.