Newborn photography has taken the world by storm over the last ten years, and it only continues to grow in popularity.
As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m so in love with the authentic connection of in-home sessions, yet also connected to the beautiful simplicity of naturally posed sessions. With the use of soft window light, a posing beanbag, beans, and neutral backdrops, I gently guide babies into poses that they can settle into comfortably.
I’m here to share with you how I use just two basic newborn poses plus creative angles to create a full gallery for my clients with every newborn photo session. You don’t need to master a dozen difficult poses to create a gallery full of variety. I achieve a full gallery, save time, and ensure my clients are happy by keeping things simple and using soft directional light.
My secrets to a successful newborn session are simple:
- white noise
- a full-bellied, sleepy newborn
- keeping safety of the baby in mind at all times
Heat and white noise are what I call the “behind the scenes magic.” Newborns love warmth and it is essential to keep babies comfortable, particularly in posed sessions where a newborn is undressed. I warm my shooting area by turning up the heat or using a space heater. White noise has a calming effect. The constant rhythm assists in keeping the baby asleep.
Last but not least, newborns should have a full belly for their photo session. This last contributing factor is particularly important, as a hungry baby is not going to settle peacefully into a pose.
Here’s how I gently pose newborns:
Let’s talk about the specifics of posing, and most importantly, getting the most out of each one. My workflow consists of two main poses with minor adjustments in between. While in each pose, I’ll move the baby’s arms or legs, adjust the angle of the head, or add/remove wraps and outfits. Out of those two poses, I will create a gallery of 25-30 images. It’s a misconception that you need a large number of poses to deliver a gallery full of variety. Here’s how I do it:
1. The side lying/tushie up pose
I have discovered that one of my favorite newborn poses is a combination of two. To achieve this pose, I have posing beans under the baby’s head to start, and then beans are added under the leg to change the pose up a bit, without having to move the baby. My biggest tip here is to rest baby’s head on the side of the bean instead of trying to get it completely under their head.
It’s the little details such as this that can fine tune a newborn pose. Who doesn’t love a finishing touch?
One of my fine-tuning details is to always have a hand placed under baby’s chin. I like to mix up which hand for variety, but always with the fingers straight and visible.
I have been known to work for several minutes on straight fingers, often leaving the parents laughing, telling me that I have so much patience. The truth is that I know that those straight little fingers add polish to the finished portrait, and that is very important to me.
This pose is where I get a variety of full body shots and close-ups. In this pose, I am often shooting from straight on.
In addition to straight fingers being on my list of priorities, having the baby’s bottom placed back slightly, places him/her at a slight angle. This will allow the feet to be on the same plane as the face.
From there, tilting the leg forward just a bit will create those beautiful little back rolls. I try to get the elbow and knee as close together as I can.
2. The back lying pose
In my opinion, there is nothing more versatile than posing a baby on their back. This is where I really test baby’s comfort level. Where do they naturally lay their arms? Do they curl their legs in on their own, or do they tend to straighten them out? Each baby is different, and I customize the pose based on their natural tendencies. I am still intentional in placement of limbs, but I do allow the baby to guide me.
For this pose, or any variation of it, I use a mini Boppy pillow along with a large posing bean to create a donut hole shape for baby to lay in. I almost always place baby at 90 degrees to the window here. That way I can take advantage of different light angles by moving myself.
With the baby’s bottom dropped into the “hole,” her feet will be on the same focal plane as the face when shooting from above.
Now comes the fun part. The possibilities with a baby posed on his back are endless!
You can curl them up towards or away from the light.
You can shoot from above, behind, or down at baby’s level.
It’s also a great time to put a macro lens on your camera to capture details like lashes, lips, and tiny toes.
As you can see, with only two poses, we have covered a lot of ground.
If I have completed my basic workflow, and baby is still fast asleep, I will sneak in a “head on hands” pose (shown below). For this shot, I am also using 90 degree light. I absolutely love to use lots of negative space and fun angles here.
Using posing beans, I create a nice little ridge for baby’s elbows to rest on. I will have a parent or assistant hold baby’s head in place, moving their hand just enough out of the frame for the second it takes me to get the shot.
What about fussy babies?
Opposite of an extra sleepy baby, I am most often asked about fussy babies. A good swaddle is my cure-all for this dilemma. As much as parents have told me that they’re impressed with my patience, they’re also often shocked at how well a tight swaddle, combined with the heat and white noise, can send a baby off to dreamland in a matter of minutes.
Once the baby is fast asleep, I will slowly unwrap her and continue on with the back lying pose as it’s a nice and easy transition. The less you have to flip baby from back to belly through the session, the better.
It’s no secret that posed newborn sessions are hard work. By developing a simple workflow, getting the most out of every pose, and using light to your advantage, you can customize your sessions to work for you. You’re creating tangible artwork of a fleeting moment to last a lifetime, and that is priceless.
If you’d like to learn more about my approach to posed newborn sessions, along with how I incorporate in-home and hospital sessions into my brand, Newborn Stories | Documenting New Life in the Hospital, Studio, and at Home, is available for purchase.
Words & photos by Brittany Blake
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