It takes a special kind of photographer to tackle the many challenges of photographing newborns. It’s hard enough to get adults to smile and pose for the camera; add in the inability to talk, understand what you’re saying, or sit up on their own, and newborns represent a whole other challenge altogether. And that’s not even taking into account their tired and stressed out parents hovering over your shoulder!
If you need some help learning how to pose babies for portraits, consult this list of three can’t-miss strategies for getting the best photos of newborns.
On the Stomach
Most babies will quickly settle into a stomach position, meaning this one is perhaps the easiest with which to work. You might find that the baby nods off pretty quickly, which makes it much easier on you to get the photos you need.
Once the baby is asleep, you can gently manipulate their head, arms, and legs into a more photo-worthy position. Obviously, there is a need to be gentle and careful here - babies are stronger and more resilient than we tend to think, but when you’re posing them, take extra care that there isn’t undue pressure or tension, especially in their neck area.
Once everything is set, there are multiple options for photos:
Top-down - Position yourself over top of the baby, taking a photo from a top-down perspective. Try both close-up shots of the baby’s face looking to the side of the frame, as well as full-body shots to give some context regarding the baby’s size at this stage in their life.
From the side - This angle provides a lesser seen view of the newborn, as it is often obstructed by the crib. As a result, there are opportunities here to create a precious portrait that parents are sure to appreciate.
From the front - As babies get a bit older and are able to hold their heads up, a frontal shot offers a unique perspective on the growing baby. Get down on your stomach, get all the noisy toys you can find, and work to get the baby to look your way. This is the most difficult of the three stomach poses to get right, but the rewards can be many!
On the Back
Like the stomach pose, placing babies on their backs is a natural, comfortable position that often induces them into sleep. Again, take care to manipulate their little bodies into position, ensuring that they are well supported and that their little heads and necks are in a good resting position.
There are several variations of the back pose that you will find beneficial for your portraits:
Up Top - With a full view of their face, the back position is an ideal pose for cropped photos of the baby from the waist up. You can pose the baby’s arms, like folding them across their stomach, or you can opt to let the baby do a little stretching for a more natural and active pose.
Down Low - A back pose also gives you access to the details of the baby’s body, such as their hands and feet. Highlighting these details will fill out your portrait session nicely, and give parents unique photos of their baby that show aspects of their newborn that will seldom be the subject of photos in the future.
The Full Monty - This is the ideal positioning to capture the newborn in his or her full glory. Posed shots certainly have their place here, but consider this another opportunity to capture the baby in a more natural and active position. Doing so gives the image greater depth and helps prevent it from being too static and boring.
On the Side
Getting a baby to lay still on its side is one of the tougher tasks when it comes to posing. However, if you can get the baby into position, a side pose affords you the most intimate view of the baby and is an ideal position to get both close up and full body shots as the baby sleeps.
The key is to begin with the baby on its back, and then once it is asleep, gently roll it over onto its side, resting on one arm. Then, to keep them in position, place their other arm across their body and cross their top leg over their bottom leg to keep their weight centered.
As with the other two poses, this one has several variations you can use:
Curled Up, Side View - An ideal pose for a sleeping baby, this positioning creates a peaceful, calm view of the baby that highlights the details of their face, but also shows off their little arms, hands, and fingers. This is an especially good pose if the baby has chubby cheeks as they will be slightly squished, increasing the cuteness factor.
Curled Up, Top View - For shots of the length of the baby’s body, consider posing them on their side and taking a top view approach. Side lighting in this situation gives depth to the shot, and costumes, props, or decorations add warmth and character.
Perspective Shot - You can also take the opportunity with a side pose to angle your shot for an interesting perspective. Shoot from beyond the baby’s feet, upward across it’s body towards its face, or conversely, position yourself beyond the baby’s head for an angle across its body towards its feet. This creates an intimate shot and offers opportunities to use a shallow depth of field to focus attention on the baby’s face.
Whatever pose you choose, you’ll be at the mercy of a temperamental little human that may or may not cooperate. The key is to keep your calm, speak in soothing tones, have a nice, warm studio, and a ton of patience. Use these poses to get started off on the right foot, enlist the help of the parents for posing and soothing the baby, and hope for the best!