Newborn Photography: Starting From Scratch

Newborn Photography: Starting From Scratch

Newborn Photography: Starting From Scratch with Lisa Rapp

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Have you thought about becoming a newborn photographer but have no idea where to start? You don’t have the fancy equipment. You don’t have the funds or the endless prop supply to get off the ground. I was there too. I know that feeling of doubt, confusion and helplessness. Here are a few things that might help you start your journey into the mysterious world of newborn photography.

I always loved taking pictures of my family, but had only a simple point-and-shoot. When it finally gave out on me, I upgraded to a DSLR, my very first big-girl camera. I had no intentions of becoming a professional photographer, and a big-girl camera to me was a Canon Rebel XS (I now own the Canon 5D III). It was around this time that I ran across newborn photography and was instantly hooked. I took tons of pictures of family and friends, but had no interest in doing it for a living until I found the wonderful world of newborns.

I started searching out photographers who had a style I loved. I found an entirely new world. I joined photography forums and asked around about how to get into newborn photography. A lot of people were not willing to help. But then I found some amazingly helpful, supportive and talented people who didn’t mind helping out a beginner. Thus began my newborn photography career. I jumped in feet first.

Where to Start

There are tons of YouTube videos and creativeLIVE courses that teach how to pose newborns. I prefer to learn hands-on, so I invested in my education and took a workshop with the insanely talented Kristen Betts Mackey of Son Kissed Photography. This was one of the wisest investments I could have made. Take an in-person workshop. If it is out of your budget, watch online videos. Choose instructors who teach the style you’re pursuing.

Networking is also a powerful tool. Join forums and talk with other creatives. You will learn a lot from your peers, and may just gain some lifelong friends who will support and encourage you in your journey.

Newborn Safety

Posing newborns is a delicate matter. Many magical images are actually a Photoshop illusion done by compositing. A composite is two or more images that are placed/layered/blended together in Photoshop to achieve one final image.

Newborns should never be left alone in a prop or on a surface. They should always be kept warm. If you are wrapping a newborn, keep an eye on them so they do not get too warm. It is a delicate balance and a big responsibility. You have parents’ entire world in your hands. Never take that for granted. Treat this new baby as if it were your own.

If you don’t have a money tree, here are a few suggestions for how to get by on a budget. Everyone wants to have the latest and greatest products, but it’s hard when you are starting out.

Posing Bag

After I invested in the newborn workshop, I bought a posing bag. These things are huge and awkward to haul around if you are traveling to clients’ homes, but there are options. You can also use a travel-size posing bag or a bed, ottoman, tabletop or floor. You just need to make sure your bottom surface under your posing fabric is large enough, soft enough and stable enough to support the baby. If you don’t have a backdrop stand to clamp your fabric to, use two chairs to support and clamp the blankets to. You can also stack pillows up on the bed and drape the extra fabric over them. Be creative and use what you have at your disposal.

Backdrop Fabrics

Photographers use different types of fabrics as backdrops. Take a trip to the fabric store when you are starting out. Get at least 2 yards of neutral-colored fabrics that are super stretchy. Until you start making some money to build up your inventory, you can get away with a couple of gender-neutral fabrics. A few color choices could be cream, ivory, tan or brown, and you can accent with different-colored wraps, hats or headbands with these color choices. It is all up to you how much you want to start out with or wish to invest.

Prop Heaven

Bonnets, headbands, caps, bracelets, pillows, wraps, flokati rugs, bowls, buckets, dreamcatchers, little lovies, matte floors, the list goes on forever. You can buy these props or make your own. Get creative. Get out a glue gun and start crafting. When purchasing, make wise choices because it is so easy to get caught up in all the prop goodness, and buyer’s remorse can set in quickly. This is where networking and communicating with other newborn photographers comes in handy. You can share vendor names and find out which ones are more economical than others. There are also many options for little posing stuffers that go under your fabric to help hold the baby in positions. You can use hand towels, washrags, burp cloths and receiving blankets for the same results.

Let There Be Light

When I started out, I used only natural light. I had no funds for or knowledge of studio lighting, but I was determined. The thought of using studio lights scared me so much that I was totally against them. I photographed out of my home, in my living room in front of windows. I felt like I had everything under control—that is, until storms would rain on my parade. I would then have an internal meltdown because I would have to raise my ISO on my poor little Canon Rebel. I would cancel shoots because I couldn’t get enough light through my windows. I would have to schedule my sessions based on the weather forecast. I made it work because I was determined.

A big reflector offers a good way to bounce light. There are many makes and models, but if you don’t want to buy one, you can make one out of white Styrofoam or put aluminum foil on a sturdy piece of cardboard. Keep in mind that if you use a white posing fabric, the fabric will also act as a reflector. It took me a while until I decided to buy my studio lighting, and the comfort of knowing I didn’t have to worry about cloudy days made the decision a little easier.

When you are ready to purchase strobes and learn lighting, check out the online Illuminate course from The Milky Way. It will help you figure out what to buy and how to set it up, and teach you how to use strobes to light newborns like a pro.

When to Start Charging

If you are brand-new to newborn photography, doing a newborn model call is a good way to start. Get some posing experience and practice before charging clients. You never want to practice on paying clients. Build up your portfolio and get a good, solid foundation by producing consistent images, then start charging.

It has taken me many years to get to where I am in my business. Newborn posing isn’t an exact science. It takes time to learn and grow. Make wise choices and be creative. You can achieve beautiful, classic images with a minimalistic approach. Practice and be patient. Chance favors the prepared mind.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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