Newborn photography is gaining in popularity, and an increasing number of photographers are trying to add this photographic discipline to their skill set. Newborn photography is not a new phenomenon. The pioneers, or rather the female pioneers, are the Americans, who have been working with it since approximately 2002. Throughout my career, two photographers in particular from this field have inspired me — Carrie Sandoval and Brittany Woodall.
These types of sessions require special consideration, and I believe the most important thing is that you like babies and that you have infinite patience. In my opinion, if you do not possess these two qualities, you will find it difficult to achieve the tenderness we are used to seeing in these kinds of images. Newborn sessions usually last anywhere from 30 minutes up to 3 or even 4 hours.
Thanks to a wealth of experience photographing newborn babies, I have devised a standard workflow for every newborn photography session. This system has proven very successful, irrespective of the baby’s temperament.
Newborn photography — Concept
The concept of newborn photography applies exclusively to babies in the first days of their lives, between 12 and 15 days old, with a few exceptions. However, sometimes newborn photography is used with infants aged one month or older, though I do not believe this is appropriate. The session becomes complicated, and the aesthetic that we all have in mind in terms of posing is practically impossible to achieve.
Following the first two weeks of life, the baby tends to sleep less every day and may suffer from acne and/or colic. For this reason and others, it is preferable to avoid carrying out newborn photography sessions on babies older than 15 days.
Set and props
In my opinion, the set and props constitute one of the most important aspects for achieving optimal results. I imagine that my colleagues will agree that props for newborn photography are not cheap, but they are essential.
I always use high-quality fabrics, which bring special elegance and delicacy to the images. My studio becomes the set and is perfectly suited to ensuring parents and babies are comfortable. We have everything necessary to run a smooth session.
Finding the perfect lighting
Lighting is essential for getting good newborn shots. I have worked with all types of lighting in this discipline. In newborn photography, posing is only half the battle. Lighting can mean the difference between a work of art and a plain, uninspiring baby photo. In my experience, beautifully lit images do not start in Photoshop but rather by a window in the studio or at the client’s house.
I started working with flash three years ago, then switched to continuous incandescent light for another two years. For First Communions last year, I decided to switch to continuous LED and worked with it for the entire season. In the summer, Profoto came out with their Try & Buy option, which allows you to try any Profoto product wherever you want. I then fell in love with the Profoto D2.
I had it for a week and made all the relevant tests. I don’t have access to natural light in my studio, so the critical test for the Profoto D2 was to find soft and filtered light, like the natural light coming through a window. The result proved to be a success. I use my D2 with an RFi Softbox Rectangular 3x4’. This setup, hardly 20–30 centimeters away from the baby, generates exceptionally soft lighting, allowing me to take full advantage of the optics. I am able to work with very wide apertures, achieving the delicacy and softness that this type of image requires.
As a general rule in all my newborn sessions, I don’t go above f2.8, f3.2. The best thing about light generated by flash is that it is constant; unlike natural light, which varies as the day progresses, thus requiring corresponding adjustments to your camera settings. Therefore, the first step to mastering any type of lighting is learning to recognize good light independent of the light source.
I decided on Profoto due to the light range, quality, and speed, as well as the wide range of accessories. It was so easy to try Profoto products before buying.
Venturing into outdoor sessions
Outdoor newborn photography sessions are no mean feat. When shooting outdoors, we take the same precautions that we would take in the studio, and more.
Here, we are faced with elements that we would not normally need to worry about in the studio — temperature, wind, insects, sunlight, noise, etc. The studio is a controlled environment perfectly adapted to newborn babies. However, when we venture outdoors, there are a lot of risks beyond that which we cannot control, such as sudden gusts of wind or loud, unexpected noises. These risks must be taken into account when looking for locations. Everything should be as controlled as much as possible to guarantee the newborn’s safety for the duration of the shoot.
Another important factor when photographing outdoors is ensuring that the newborn stays warm at all times. After all, a warm baby is a sleepy, happy baby. So, in between taking photos, make sure to cover the baby. These types of sessions are recommended only in spring and summer.
When dealing with the outdoors, where electricity is unavailable, I always like to bring a touch of light in addition to what is already available. On this occasion, I used the Profoto B1X and the Umbrella Deep Translucent XL with the backpanel for the entire session, creating soft, filtered light.
In my opinion, this lighting brings an extra touch to our photography by enhancing the available light in a natural way. The modus operandi for lighting outdoors is the same as that for the studio lighting. In any given location, I consider the available light, and I try to get it to fall on the baby from as low and wide an angle as possible, while relying on the additional light provided by the Profoto B1X and the Umbrella Deep Translucent XL.
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Thank you to the parents for allowing us to share the images of their babies.