Table of Contents
- The BEST Newborn Photography Resource
- Newborn Posing Guide
- Newborn Safety
- Newborn Composites
- Newborn Photography – More Content Being Added
The BEST Newborn Photography Resource
This newborn photography guide is designed to provide you with basic newborn posing examples, safety information, newborn workshops, inspiring newborn photography, and will even point you in the direction of some great newborn photographers. The information is comprised of mostly existing articles combined and paraphrased with appropriate references to the original resources.
Newborn Posing Guide
The first step for newborn photographers is to familiarize yourself with the different poses and styles utilized in newborn photography. Below we will provide an examples for the most commonly used poses. Please DO NOT ATTEMPT a pose without educating yourself extensively on how each one is achieved and precautions to take. Remember that photographers often use composites (combining 2-3 images into one) to safely achieve some of the poses displayed in this article.
The 6 Basic Newborn Poses by Definition
There is a limit to the number of poses you will be able to achieve with a baby due to the fact that the range of the joints are limited physiologically. While itʼs true you can vary a pose with a slight change in the placement of the hands or feet, a tad more rotation at the hips or otherwise, there are still generally a limited number of basic positions in which to pose a baby.
Below we will demonstrate the 6 basic poses. Most of these poses can be achieved on a simple and safe beanbag setup as well as within or on top of props (including slings) or in parents hands. You could actually achieve at least 18 different varied setups utilizing these 6 primary poses alone. Realistically it provides and unlimited number as each parent, prop and baby will require individualized adjustments to these poses. 1
Bum Up Pose | Butt in the Air Pose
Side Lying Pose
Chin on Wrists Pose
Supine Curl Pose
Convincing mom and dad to get in the pictures with their newborn may sometimes prove to be difficult at times but almost always are irresistible come proofing time. Sibling shots have been reported to be a newborn photographers best seller on many occasions as well. Below we provide a few different examples of parent and sibling relational poses.
Parents Relational Poses
Sibling Relational Poses
Natural Poses | Safe Risk Free Poses
These are poses you might find baby doing naturally on their own. The poses that lend best to this scenario are most notably the side lying, bum up or supine curl. They also happen to be the least likely poses to cause injury to babe as you can lie a sleeping babe naturally on their tummy, side or back and they will almost always pose themselves accordingly. 2
Utilizing blankets and wraps and several combinations of relational images can also help when aiming for a minimalistic posing approach.
Outdoor Newborn Poses
Outdoor newborn photography has become increasingly popular among photographers and their clients. The thought of bringing a fresh born baby outdoors can make some very nervous but when handled by a properly educated newborn photographer it can be very safe yielding stunning results. Again, composites are often utilized so do not attempt any pose without knowing the safe approach to handling the setup. We will briefly go over an example or two later in this article.
Parents often give us the privilege of handling their own personal miracle within the first week or so of their life. As adults we know that with every privilege comes great responsibility. It is EXTREMELY important to be well researched and educated on a pose you are going to attempt BEFORE ever attempting it! One false move and it could devastate our industry forever and cause unthinkable pain for a beautiful new family. 3
In-Door Safety Tips for Photographers
While it’s safe to say that a baby has likely never died from crying, they certainly have died from falls and concussions. Less severe, but still notable is that newborns can also suffer Dysplasia, dislocations, muscular strains and ligamentous injury. Mentioned below are a few ground rules to preach and follow. 4
Never leave a baby unattended on a beanbag, in a prop or with young siblings etc. It’s unlikely that a newborn would roll itself out of position, however their startle reflex can be strong enough to jolt them into an unbalanced or precarious position. If you HAVE to step away for any reason, ALWAYS make sure an adult is extremely close by with a set of eyes and hands devoted to baby.
Newborns Immune Systems
A newborn’s immune system is not fully developed leaving them much more sensitive to germs and the like. If you or those in your home are ill, it is highly recommend to reschedule any newborn sessions. The last place you want your clientele to end up is the NICU thanks to their visit with you! Furthermore, ALWAYS wash your hands before, and multiple times throughout, handling baby. Your hands carry the highest concentration of germs on your body and they will be in contact with baby’s fingers and face. It’s a great idea to have a big bottle of hand sanitizer ready for your sessions and to use it frequently.
It seems pro photographers are trying more and more to push the envelope when it comes to their setups and originality. A good rule of thumb is to use items that are soft, comfortable and / or that come with a low risk of injuring your subject. Do not use glass jars or bowls in newborn photography (even if you intend to complete the shot as a composite). Microscopic faults and minor cracks can result in a cracked or shattered prop, either of which could be fatal to a newborn client. Should you decide to pose babe in or on a hard or wooden prop of any kind, refer back to ground rule #1 and be extra vigilant in spotting and / or supporting babe in the pose. When it comes to stork, suspended or hanging poses, you should test your materials with at least double the amount of weight of a typical baby for a period of at least 20 minutes. This helps to ensure the thread count and quality of materials are sufficient to handle the weight of the subjects.
Immature Circulatory Systems
It’s common for newborns to be born with a condition called “acrocyanosis” in which the hands and feet are slightly blue in color. This condition typically resolves after the first few hours of life and occurs because blood and oxygen aren’t circulating properly to the hands and feet yet. It also typically clears up in the first days as the blood vessels in the hands and feet open up though babies do remain subject to reoccurrence and will more readily become blue in the extremities if circulation is compromised. What this means is that you should always keep an eye on the hands and feet when posing to make sure you have not positioned babe so that circulation has been cut off or compromised. Discoloration is particularly common in the hands with the chin resting on hands pose and the feet in the classic taco pose. If you see baby’s extremities begin to turn dark red, purple or blue, you should relieve pressure on the extremities, allow for recirculation and more likely reposition baby entirely.
Top Heavy Newborns
It’s estimated that the newborn’s head holds about 25 percent of their total body weight. The adult human’s head is estimated to be in the range of only about 10 percent of total body weight which means… newborns are quite top heavy. Thus, any position in which the newborn will appear upright should (read DOES) require support. Positions such as the hands supporting the chin and the potato sac shots should always be done as composites in which two images are combined using masks in Photoshop to achieve the final product. In other words, newborns should not in fact hold these positions on their own. Many setups are in fact composite shots in which babies are fully supported and at a much lower risk of injury or falls thanks to the support of their weight by external sources (i.e. your assistant or the parents’ hands).
What this also means is that positions in buckets and props require special consideration. It’s a smart move to counterweight your prop by adding hand or ankle weights or a large ziploc bag full of rice to keep your prop from tumbling forward as babe is posed inside and draping over the front edge.
Babies are born with a multitude of reflexes. These reflexes have developed over generations and are meant as measures to help the newborn survive in a world outside the womb. It’s prudent to pay particular attention to such reflexes as the rooting and startle reflex as ignoring or paying little consideration to them can lead to situations in which your baby is at risk of injury, even when positioned on soft surfaces such as a beanbag. If rooting is noticed, in most instances, this newborn should feed. This reflex is quite strong and ignoring it can lead to your newborn working their way right out of position sometimes face down on your posing surface. Rooting is particularly risky in the bum up pose as the newborn’s attempts to suck can cause them to roll right out of position towards the front of the posing surface.
Likewise, be extremely conscious of loud noises or disturbances when posing babies supine (on their backs) within props with their arms and / or legs free of a swaddle. The startle reflex is strong and can cause babies to hit their hands or feet on the edges of crates or bowls. There are other reflexes which can be of concern but getting a good handle on these two will definitely decrease your subjects chance of injury.
Attaining Every Pose
Babies are individuals. Just like you and me, not every person can crank themselves into a pretzel position. If you feel resistance getting baby into a pose, stop and move on. There is enough variety that you need not attain every pose with every baby. Some of the most popular images are those in which baby’s are naturally posed anyhow.
Unintentional injuries (including falls) are rated as the 6th leading cause of infant death in the United States. Please ALWAYS consider safety when attempting any type of pose with a newborn in which they are more than a few inches from the floor, or beanbag. There are ways in which these poses can safely and easily be accomplished either as composites or through other safety measures. Never suspend a baby more than a few inches above anything other than a large soft supportive surface such as a beanbag, couch cushions or bed. Even a spotter located underneath of your setup leaves a margin for error. There are ways in which these poses can be accomplished safely without leaving anything to chance.
There are a MULTITUDE of courses out there providing newborn posing instruction. If you are unsure about anything posing or prop related, invest in yourself and your client’s safety by seeking out opportunities to educate yourself on the safest methods to achieve those beautiful poses. Thoroughly research the backgrounds of the instructors, their education and experience as well as the way in which they work so that you can learn from someone knowledgeable who poses similarly to the ways in which you do.
No matter how safe you are, NEVER practice newborn portraiture without first attaining an appropriate business insurance plan. Even a hobbyist should consider their liability when working with models. Contrary to popular belief, your home owner’s insurance etc will NOT sufficiently cover you, even when shooting in your own home.
Outdoor Safety Tips for Photographers
When shooting outdoors we take most or all of the same precautions that we would take in the studio and more! There are elements outdoors that we don’t have to worry about in the studio: temperature, wind, bugs, sun, noises, etc. A studio is a controlled environment that is often perfectly suited to naked newborns, but when we venture outside we take on a lot of risks we can’t control like a sudden gust of wind or a loud unexpected sound. We have to take all these risks into consideration when we are spotting and shooting to ensure the baby’s safety at all times. There are specific set ups that allow for a much more comfortable baby while also being safer. 5
The Bucket Pose
A favorite outside setup is the baby in a bucket. Why? First of all it’s extremely cozy! A blanket is swirled inside the bucket so the baby is tucked into a nice and warm little spot. The baby can also be wearing a diaper, socks, and pants in this set up without them showing at all. Those layers help ensure the baby is always warm. In addition to being tucked into a warm spot you can utilize the use warm knitted hats to keep the newborn’s head nice and toasty! You can also tuck a phone into the setup which is playing white noise sounds. The white noise can help mask unexpected noises you may encounter outside. Some babies startle easy with loud noises and you don’t ever want your baby to startle out of a bucket or basket- even if you are close by with a spotter. It will likely upset the baby even if he or she is still perfectly safe and sound.
Keeping Warm & Bugs
The key to safe outdoor newborn photography is really warmth. After all, a warm baby is a sleepy and happy baby! A good way to check if a baby is warm is to check the tip of their nose or their little fingers for warmth. If a baby begins cooling those are two spots that will typically cool first.
When practical, if you are venturing outdoors it’s a good idea to do a full test setup while inside first. This includes prop set up, posing and dressing. This allows you to prepare everything while in the warmth, which is something that newborns will appreciate! Once everything is setup you take a very warm blanket and drape it over the head and arms of the baby (leaving the face uncovered. This way skin is not unnecessarily exposed to any cool air). Once setup and test shots for settings are complete you can remove the extra blanket from the newborn.
Always have an adult very close by when outdoors. This is not only to spot the baby, but also keep an eye out for bugs. Sometimes a gust of wind will come up suddenly out of no where. Whoever is spotting the baby can easily re-cover the baby with the blanket to prevent him or her from chilling or startling from the unexpected wind.
Below is a quick test shot example prior to blanket removal.
Beach shoots can be breezy and when it comes to getting the perfect lighting at sunset you often don’t have a lot of time to work with. In these scenarios be quick and use a set up that ensures the baby is kept nice and warm. In breezy evening conditions consider setting up everything in the car in preparation. Often times these breezy beach shots can be accomplished in minutes. If sand makes its way onto a newborn, baby powder can work wonders in removing it quickly and easily. If ever in really cold conditions consider utilizing items such as a warm bag of rice to keep near the baby.
As noted a few times earlier in this guide, it is extremely important to understand that many of these newborn photography shots are achieved safely as a digital composite. Digital compositing is the process of digitally assembling multiple images to make a final image. Below we have provided a couple different examples as to how this is achieved.
Newborn Swing Composite
Below we demonstrate one way to safely achieve a newborn photography swing composite. 6
Newborn Frog Pose Composite
Below we demonstrate one way to safely achieve a newborn photography froggy pose composite.7
Newborn Potato Pose Composite
Below we demonstrate one way to safely achieve a newborn photography potato pose composite.8
Click here for in-depth information about how to do the Newborn Potato Pose safely.
Newborn Photography – More Content Being Added
- Stephanie Robin (Buckman). Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 1 with Stephanie Robin ↩
- Stephanie Robin (Buckman). Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 1 with Stephanie Robin ↩
- J Simoneau. Newborn Safety Week: November 7th, 2011 ↩
- Stephanie Robin (Buckman). All indoor tips provided unless otherwise noted. Newborn Safety Week – Day 1 ↩
- Brittany Woodall. All outdoor tips provided unless otherwise noted. Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 2 with Brittany Woodall ↩
- Cris Passos. South Florida Newborn Photography | Newborn Safety Week 2013 ↩
- Stephanie Robin (Buckman). Newborn Safety Week – Day 1 ↩
- Stephanie Robin (Buckman). Newborn Safety Week 2015 with Stephanie Robin ↩