The funny thing about newborn photography is that it looks really easy, right? Just a content, sleeping baby on a pillow or blanket…except when you try it yourself you suddenly find out that it’s not that simple! Your first step towards creating memorable (and simple) newborn photos is to create a scene that is comfortable for your newborn, but also looks good in a photograph.
Setting One: Mattress + Window
This setup for newborn photography combines a soft surface with some natural light – a perfect start for newborn photos. Simply place a crib mattress on the floor near a large window or sliding glass door. You can choose the sheet you would like (solid, lighter colors will usually work best) and place the mattress at a bit of an angle to the window, so the light isn’t coming right over the back of the baby.
Yes, you’ll have to get comfy on the floor for this one, but it is well worth it! Alternatively, you could put the mattress on a kitchen table and move it closer to a window, as long as it’s safe to do so. It can help to have another adult on hand (or a reliable child/teen) to keep an eye on baby while you setup up and take photos.
Extra tip: If you have flowers, plants, or dried arrangements try putting them in the background. With a large aperture (such as f/2.8), you won’t get much detail, but it can add a bit of interest. Feel free to throw a sprig of baby’s breath or a flower near the baby to tie it all in.
Setting Two: Beanbag
If you have a beanbag, then this should be your go-to setup for newborn photography as it offers the most flexibility for the photographer, as well as the most comfort for babies. Beanbags are also handy if you want to try posing your newborn.
You’ll want to combine the beanbag approach with a backdrop – check out the next setting for details. You can also use this setup with setting number four (layers) if you want to try a longer photo shoot with more options.
Setting Three: Lots of Layers
If you think you’ll have a cooperative newborn, this setup takes a bit more time to get arranged but will give you more flexibility when it comes to shooting. Essentially, you want to use a soft surface (such as on your bed) with a backdrop of a white sheet (which also helps to reflect light). Now you need to build a few layers, so as you go you can remove layers and get different settings. Grab blankets of different colors and textures and layer them on top of each other. As you take photos, the baby can be moved while a layer is taken off to reveal the next one.
This approach works well with props like baby wraps, headbands, and hats – you can combine the looks you want to get really different photos, all in one photo shoot!
Extra Tip(s): This type of shoot will go much more quickly if you have an assistant who can quietly move your newborn, so you don’t have to put down your camera. Also, if baby is going to be diaper-free, put burp cloths (or puppy pads from the pet store) between each layer to soak up pee (which happens) so you don’t have to end your photo shoot prematurely.
Setting Four: Sheet Time
In a pinch, a sheet can work wonders as a backdrop. All you need is somewhere to clamp it to – such as the back of a few chairs. Next, create a comfy surface for your newborn by placing pillows under the sheet on the floor. Remember you need lots of light, so put your setup at an angle to a large window (but not in direct sunlight) or another light source.
Extra tip(s): Black sheets are perfect if you’d like to explore some black and white newborn photography. Also, this setup works well for fussy babies as someone can be under the sheet, cradling baby while you take photos. Finally – if your newborn(s) just don’t like being re-positioned after falling asleep, take photos while they are in their crib or playpen!
Other than that, make sure your newborn is well fed and warm and put on some music or background noise. Have fun taking amazing photos of your lovely newborn!