Photographing Newborns Without a Studio
When it comes to shooting Newborns, you can pretty much set up anywhere as the ‘studio’ only needs to be quite small.
I make a point of offering to shoot my clients babies in their own home, as being a mother myself I understand just how hard it can be getting out of the house in those first few weeks! Especially when everyone wants to visit and see the gorgeous new baby! Then there is also the matter of whether mum is able to drive after giving birth.
I usually set up at least a couple of different set-ups which can be easily adjusted to get a few different looks in without upsetting baby too much.
Before you start there are a couple of things that will help you keep bubs asleep and cosy, which is what you need when working with a newborn. The main reason for this, is if you’ve ever tried to photograph a newborn, you will notice their arms and legs go everywhere and they make all sorts of strange and wonderful expressions with their mouths. Although this can be cute, it’s very hard to get the adorable shots we’re after! Firstly make sure the room is really warm. I usually work in about 28-30 degrees celcius. This can get uncomfortable for the adults in the room, but baby will be nice and cosy. You can always use a under blanket heating pad, and I also find if you’re using an oil heater in the room, you can pop a blanket over it for a minute to put over the baby once you have them positioned to make sure they settle. Secondly the use of white noise will help them settle as well. You may need to feed baby several times throughout the shoot to keep them sleeping. Having a bottle and/or dummy on hand can be helpful as breastfeeding and then repositioning the baby means you need to essentially start all over again. I always allow about 4 hours for a newborn shoot as you never know how it’s going to work out. Even if you are the baby whisperer!
I have a couple of adorable canvas backdrops perfect for babies, that consist of a vintage wallpaper and floorboards all printed on one piece of canvas. I have a couple of different skirting boards that I then clip to where the designs join and ‘viola’, an instant backdrop! These are great as they are very portable and can be setup anywhere where you can find some wall space. I use masking tape to keep it all secure as the tape won’t peel off paint or varnish. You can also use a backdrop stand but I find they sit better when secured to the wall.
The second setup I have ready to go is a draped fabric over a beanbag. I’m always on the lookout for beautiful textured fabrics that will work well. I will layer them up for a quick changeover, and use other wraps and fabrics to position the baby exactly where I want them. Finding the right fabrics and beanbags can be quite hard. The beanbag needs to be really firm, so that they don’t sink into it too much. You also need to take into account that a naked baby will probably pee, poop or spew all over everything, so make sure they can be easily washed. I recently found an outdoor square beanbag which is perfect for this.
I always have a black backdrop handy in case we need to set up something for the whole family. It also comes in handy if you want to get some shots of mum or dad holding the baby and you only want to see their arms.
Here dad has black sleeves but his shirt was white, so we picked up the backdrop from the floor and clipped it to his shoulders.
Depending on the location you may not need a backdrop. Here we just used the curtain in the family home.
These family shots have been photographed using a softbox, but when photographing newborns, it’s always best to try and use natural light where possible. If you are in a room where it’s not possible to use natural light, or it’s just not the right time of day, you can reflect a studio light off a wall or a reflector for a similar effect.
These are just a few tips I have learnt along the way. I hope you find them helpful in photographing your newborns.
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