Congrats on that super-cute baby you have there! Your little bundle of joy is so precious that it’s practically criminal to deprive your online followers of a constant stream of pictures. But by now, you’ve probably figured out that photographing a baby is harder than it sounds—no matter how adorable they are in real life. Here are a few tips for taking the best possible shots of your little one, so you can stop saying, “The pictures really don’t do her justice.”
Understand the baby calls the shots
Even if you’ve only been a parent for a few days, you already know that baby runs the show now. The baby decides when you sleep, eat, shower, and do all the other normal human things you once did. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that the baby also decides when they’re going to be photographed (if you want decent results, anyway).
If your baby isn’t in the mood to giggle or wear that scratchy tulle outfit from Auntie Diane, it’s not going to happen. Babies don’t care about Instagram; they care about comfort and food. (We could all learn a thing or two from them.)
“They know what they want, and they run the show,” said Aneta DeAngelo, who owns Yellow Lollipop Photography in New Jersey and has been at this for a decade. “Some babies love certain poses; some hate them. The same goes for swaddling, props, etc.”
Even when a human being is brand-new, that person has preferences. Use your amateur photography session to learn about your baby—and respect their wishes. If the outfit, lighting, or pose is causing discomfort, move along; trying to force the situation isn’t going to do anyone any good.
Go ahead: Follow the trends
Newborn photography, like everything else in the digital era, has its own unique trends and fads. Embrace them because they’ll help make your photographs a timely reminder of what the world was like when your child was small, so you can one day look back and say, “I can’t believe we did that—but everyone did! That was the style, okay?” From naked babies in baskets, to age stickers on onesies, to the monthly let’s-watch-baby-grow-bigger-than-Teddy experiment, these photos are a time capsule.
Libby Brieger, a Brooklyn-based newborn photographer, told Lifehacker that when she started in the business four years ago, “it was popular to dress newborns up in little knit outfits with matching hats, like a baseball player or a ballet dancer or some kind of cute animal. These days, it’s more of a clean style with the baby wrapped or curled up in a blanket, holding onto a little teddy bear and sleeping peacefully.”
Today, you’ll find a seemingly endless array of floor photography mats on which you can place your baby once a month and snap a photo (or 27) to track their age and growth. It’s a huge trend right now, but probably not for much longer, so get in on it while you can.
Model calmness for the baby
If you’re over-excited, the baby will be over-excited, and then you’re not getting anywhere productive. That’s a lesson for parenting, broadly, but it’s especially true when you’re trying to coax a smile out of a suspicious, dressed-up infant.
“Something that surprised me about photographing newborns is that if I was nervous that the babies wouldn’t fall asleep, the babies would not sleep,” Brieger said. “If I was anxious or stressed about the shoot or my day or whatever, the shoot would be a disaster. I realized newborns can sense calmness or nervousness and they, in turn, will feel and act that way, too. These days, I have to really get into a headspace of being very calm and only focusing on the task at hand and being confident that the baby will behave and go to sleep.”
Yes, the baby is in charge, but you can still fake a sense of control! Like a well-curated Instagram feed, babies are all about vibes. Make sure yours are good.
Source online inspo
We’ve already gone over the trend of growth-tracking mats that have taken over Instagram, but there’s a whole wealth of inspiration just waiting for you online—if you can find a moment between feedings and changings to scroll Pinterest, that is.
Sure, there will be times your infant is just looking adorable with no prompting and you’ll whip out your iPhone and take a quick pic. (Make sure you enable the grid on your camera app to frame the shot and switch into portrait mode if you have time!) Other times, though, you’ll be setting up for the shoot, so you might as well look at what others are doing for theirs.
“I am always trying new things with babies,” Brieger said. “Flowers, hearts, teddy bears… I get inspired by images I scroll past on Pinterest or Instagram and I work off those images.”
This article also counts as online inspo, so here’s very specific, solid advice from Brieger: “Never see a baby’s nostrils in the shot. If you see a baby’s nostrils, your angle is wrong. You want to shoot from the top of the head downwards and have your light flowing the same direction.”
That tip is a real winner, by the way; DeAngelo mentioned it, too. If you take one thing away from this how-to, let it be that nostrils in baby photography are a big no-no. Who knew?
“Make sure the baby is well fed and tired before attempting the session,” added DeAngelo. “Choose one blanket and drape it over a couch. Use a wrap or a scarf and drape it over the baby. Position the couch close to a window at about 45 degrees. Angles and light are super important, so check out some of your favorite photographers and try to copy the angles.”
Like every old lady in the grocery store will tell you: Just enjoy it
Unlike so many other photo sessions you’ll have in your life, this one isn’t entirely about amassing likes online. You’re bonding with your child here and capturing memories you can look back on for years to come. Enjoy it! A fun moment laughing with your baby beats a perfectly-framed, nostril-free shot (although you should still try for one).
“Babies are only little for so long, so those moments are fleeting,” said DeAngelo. And Brieger said her favorite part of being a baby photographer is the cuddles—focus primarily on the cuddles and let the rest come naturally.