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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Photography Thursday- Newborn Photography Tutorial part 1

Do you ever wonder how photographers get those beautiful photographs of newborns, they call them newborn art. Here are a few examples:

These are all pictures I have shot with newborns recently. Here is what you will need:
Disclaimer: These pics for the tutorial were taken w/ my point and shoot because I was too lazy to use my SLR. You will notice they are slightly blurry as they were underexposed on this less than lovely grey day.
SLR camera- I use a Canon 5D- and I am not going to claim that someone with a point and shoot won't be able to do this as well- just a SLR gives you more control over your settings.
Boppy pillow (if you don't have one of these- use a rolled up towel or blanket)
Backdrop stand (or use two chairs or tape your background to the wall, whatever works, right?)
Backdrops- I highly recommend 3-4 backdrops. Babies when naked will often surprise you :)
I use fleece for my black background and blankets for light colors. It is all the rage now to use textured blankets, especially the bobble throw. Be creative, I have seen people use curtains, sheets, shower curtains, and comforters.
Puppy piddle pads (wonderful under your backdrop to catch those little surprises so it doesn't get on your beanbag or boppy)
Space Heater- babies love it warm, especially if you are going to get them undressed.
Accessories (hats, tutus, other prop kinda things)
PATIENCE- #1 necessary tool you are going to need.

This is the note I always send the parents before the session: (or some variation, it is never the same)
Newborn sessions should ideally take place in the first 11 days of life, this makes them more likely to sleep and more flexible to posing. However don't stress if it doesn't happen. Please turn the temperature up in your home by one or two degrees, at least 1 hr before I arrive. I suggest feeding baby 30 min-1 hr beforehand as well. Loosen baby's diaper so that we don't have red crease marks. What to expect: Your session will last 2-4 hrs in length. Ideally baby will be asleep, but if not I love open eye pictures too. Be patient, and don't worry about me. This is all about baby, so if baby wants to eat, or have a cuddle, that is just fine. I don't want you to feel like you need to hurry baby's eating so we can get back to taking pics. And don't stress if baby poops or pees on the backdrop- or your hands. It won't be the first or last time. Daddies tend to be impatient with the whole process so if you want pictures of baby w/ daddy, we should either do those first or last.

So lets get started:
Setting up the baby nest
I use natural light whenever possible. I try to find the biggest window available and place my backdrop at a 45 degree angle whenever I can. Place your beanbag in front of your backdrop (but not on top of, because your backdrop is going over the beanbag). Place the boppy pillow (or rolled up towel) on top of the beanbag. Which direction you turn the boppy pillow depends on the type of shot you are going for. If you want baby's head on hands then turn the curve of the boppy forward, if you want back wrinkles (so cute!) then turn it with the open part of the boppy toward you. (see pics below)
Put your backdrop over the boppy/beanbag combo, smooth out the wrinkles in the background as well as over the boppy. If you don't do this step you will have to do some major cloning of the background in my final pic. If you are going to use the piddle pad, you will want to put this in place before putting the backdrop over it.
Make a little indention into the center of the boppy. This is your "nest"
At this point, I turn on the heater on low and ask mommy to undress baby to his/her diaper. I settle baby into the nest, face up and put a blanket over baby. Let baby settle. In my experience babies are usually asleep when put down, so while baby is settling, I will test the light, set my white balance, and exposure. Take a couple of test shots, and chimp for all your worth :) It is better than a underexposed or overexposed mess when you get home. If you check your histogram, you can see if you are blowing out in any specific areas.
Begin your shoot by removing the blanket and shooting a few pictures of baby facing up- this is usually a profile shot (you should be sitting or squatting at baby's level. Be careful of your angle- you do not want to shoot up the nose, not an attractive pictures! Turn baby on his/her side and let settle. Shoot a few more and then slowly take baby's diaper off. Allow to settle (are you sensing a theme?) This is why you need the heater. Babies this young cannot regulate their own temperatures. The heater will keep them nice and comfortable. I keep a running dialogue with the baby, it seems to soothe them, at least it has worked for me. We discuss about keeping boy or girl bits covered with their feet, and I will cross their ankles, usually over the specified bits. At this point you can slowly and carefully turn baby onto his/her tummy. I will start out with their legs curled underneath them and then sometimes straighten them a little to bring their toes up by their chin (see below)
This pose should not be done with babies who are older than 2 weeks as they are less flexible.
Next, I usually try to get some variation of baby's head on hands or arms pose:This is an ideal time to get out your hats. They are all the rage now, and really emphasize how small baby is. I love the square hats with the tassels on the corners, and the helmets.
At this point, right after the chin on hand pics, my babies usually wake up. This is a challenging pose for them, and for you to get them in because they don't have the ability to hold their head up. I am extremely slow and careful about putting their hands in position, and making sure their head is supported so they don't tumble sideways. If you are concerned or the parents are, don't try it. Like I said though, they usually wake up about this time. This is a great time for baby snack and cuddle time, and for you to check your pictures and make sure that your lighting is looking okay. It is also a good time to change out backdrops or move on to your next move, whether it might be on a large piece of furniture that showcases how small baby is:Or setting up a basket to put them in. The tall twig basket from Hobby Lobby has been very popular with the long fringe blankets. I never could find either the throw or the basket so I don't have any of those in the repetoire.
Did I already mention back wrinkle shots and how cute they are? Check them out:

In Part two, we are going to examine loving contact: newborns with their parents shots. I showed a peek at a connection when showing the pic of baby in daddy's hands (above) but I want to take a closer look so you can start to develop the skill.
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Elaine's Semi-Homemade Life said...

Beautiful pics and great advice! :)

Laney said...

I found you on Tip Junkie. I could never take photos like that! They are beautiful.

Teresa Pomerantz said...

You could so totally take these pictures. Just lots of patience and a cooperative baby :)

Teri said...

where's part 2???

Teri said...

emiail me the link terirouse at yahoo dot com