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How to become a Newborn Photographer

Updated: Feb 26

Back in the day, when I was still working for Google, after having my son, I started reflecting on changing careers and becoming a Newborn photographer.


I actually offered to photograph the baby girl of one of my colleagues and the pictures turned out nice or so I thought back then. If I look at them now I'm ashamed so I prefer not to look.


The thing with being a Newborn photographer is that it seems a pretty easy job: you place the baby in a basket and take a shot. The reality is, however, far from this.


When I opened my studio in Lugano, I knew that I wasn't ready to photograph newborns and that I needed to invest in some sort of training before starting working with newborns. So I took the first opportunity and went to Zurich for a newborn workshop which was the best thing I could do at the time.


The mentor of the workshop was Daniela Ursache, a worldwide known newborn photographer that teaches fine art newborn, safety & correct posing and also editing.

I learned many things from how to correctly place a newborn in a pose or how to wrap them using different techniques.


When other photographers ask me where to start, what props to buy, what clothes or anything similar, I tell them that education is the first and most important thing to invest in, simply because you can't be a successful newborn photographer without proper training. It shows.


After the training, you also need a lot of practice so offer to photograph newborn babies for free or do it for your friends. Either way, practice is the only way to get better at posing, wrapping, soothing. Other than education & practice, there are at least 3 important things that you need to master in order to be a good newborn photographer: LIGHT, POSING and EDITING.


LIGHT

One essential aspect that you need to learn is lighting. How the light falls, the angles, intensity of light and the 'don'ts'. Why is this important? You can have the most beautiful setup, even a sleepy, perfect baby but if you don't have good light or you use it wrongly, you'll end up with a bad picture.


If your light falls at a 45 degree angle from the top down on your little subject, meaning light touches their heads first from a side, lateral angle, that's good. It's light you can work with and light that renders beautiful pictures. If your light is, however, too vertical, too abrupt or worse, coming from below the face (this includes reflection), you'll get a less beautiful picture with strange shadows and unflattering features.


For some of my newborn portraits I use artificial light, for others natural light. It's not just a matter of preference but also a matter of where in the studio I take the shot. If I work on the newborn station (which can be a beanbag or a posing table), I bring it close to the windows so I use natural light. If I photograph different prop scenarios, I'll be further away from the window so I need to use my flash. I'll write another post on what flash I use and how.


POSING

Another thing that I consider important for newborn photography is posing, how to get the baby in a safe, comfortable pose and how to create a workflow of poses that allows you to get diversity in your gallery without disrupting the baby's sleep too much. You can learn the posing in any newborn training but the workflow is more personal so you need to practice a lot to develop a line of poses that works for you.


For instance, I don't do unnatural poses such as 'froggy' or strange props like swings and when I work on the posing table, I tend to transition from 'chin on hands' pose to 'tushy up' and then to side pose. When doing props, I use the 'easy' ones that require back posing and are less stressful for the babies. I've learned that focusing on the connection, details and natural rhythm of the baby is more rewarding. So I prefer photographing newborns as they move and turn naturally, without me forcing them into a pose.

I often ask the parents to hold them or to touch their heads, kiss them, etc so I can capture the bond. This is, to me, more important than any prop or accessory that is out there.


EDITING

Lastly, you can't be a good newborn photographer if you have no idea how to edit your pictures. Whether it's smoothing the backdrop, taking out unwanted elements, adding softness to the skin or correcting blemishes, you need to master Photoshop or Lightroom or any other editing tool.


I don't like to over edit the skin of newborns, so I stop at a natural look and don't push it. But I do edit backdrops, blemishes, tones. One super important detail for newborn photography editing is white balance. You need to understand if the skin tones are too cold or too warm and correct it. Many newborns will have red skin or sometimes yellow, so you need to adjust that and reduce redness. It took me a long time to get it right but the secret is to keep doing it.


There are tons of tutorials on the internet about editing and you won't believe it, but I learned Photoshop on my own, never had any course. It took me years to get to a good level but it was totally worth it and it's one of the things I'm proud of.


To conclude, this is a journey, you can't become a Newborn Photographer overnight, just because you set your mind to it, but you can set up small goals and achieve those and overtime you'll get there. First and most important, educate yourself through proper training. Second, understand and learn 1) light, 2)posing, 3)editing. Lastly, practice, practice, practice! :)







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