The Cuteness Factor: Newborns
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
By Big Ben

Last month I had the opportunity to shoot one of my best bud's two month old daughter while I was out visiting and working in Kansas City.  My friend Josh and I have been friends and fishing partners since we stumbled on each other one faithful day while we were fishing one of the local rivers.  We recognized each other from several of our 8th grade classes and hit it off pretty quick as most our peers were in to other activities. I was considered an outcast as most my friends were chasing and feebly attempting to impress the opposite sex while I preferred to lose myself for a day on the river in hopes of making a fish rise.

I was a bit leery in trusting Josh up front since he was wearing a stained fishing vest and dangling a long deceased worm from a hook.  I am a fly fisherman and consider myself a purist in sporting artificial flies only with the art, finesse, and science required to be a successful angler.  Purists such as me rarely mingle with the so called "wormers" that we consider cheaters in a pristine art form.  Nonetheless, after fishing with Josh for the afternoon, I discovered he love using lures as much or more than he used bait so I deemed he was only half as evil as I originally perceived.


Throughout the past 15 years, Josh and I went on many fishing adventures and enjoyed the majestic Rocky Mountains we are privileged to call our backyard.  After High School, Josh joined the Air Force where he valiantly served his country.  After returning home and obtaining his collegiate education, he finally met the gal of his dreams.  It was happenstance that I was commencing my journey as a professional photographer when he popped the big question and I was asked to shoot his wedding. 

Several years have passed and Josh and his beautiful wife Shelly were blessed with Averie. 


Now I will tell any photographer that Newborn Portrait Sessions need to be done within the first week of their birth. -- This applies to the average full term healthy babies.  After about a week, they just simply start becoming too fussy and you'll be dealing with more problematic quirks than you bargained for.  Due to travel dates and schedules, I had to shoot Averie's session when she was close to or a little over 2 months.  Fortunately, Shelly was patient with me and during the prolonged 3 hour shoot; we were able to capture some great images.  
As I've stated in previous posts regarding shooting newborns and babies, here are some tips:

1. Crank up the heat!  Seriously... turn the heat in the studio or shooting location to 80 degrees.  This will help make baby more happy and comfortable since they were just recently inside a cozy oven for 9 months.

2. Get a stuffed animal or sound device that either plays back a mom's heart beat or similar sound. (Again the whole womb thing)

3. Schedule the shoot when baby is most happy.  Seriously, by this time mom is going to have a general idea from the lack of sleep and every 2 hour feeding schedule of when their bundle of joy is going to be most active or the most sleepiest.  Sleepy makes posing and "molding" the infant in to positions suitable for photography.

4. Safety First. Never elevate or pose a newborn off the ground or at any height where the parent(s) or your trained assistant can't hold them or have a physical point of contact at all times.  New and first time parents are most likely going to be overly paranoid and worrisome.  Remember that your model is this precious fragile brand new aspect and love in their lives that they are learning how to care for.  This brings me to my next point.

5. Patience.   You better plan on the session going a little longer than your typical one.  Newborns eat every couple of hours and process it out the other end just as fast.  Take your time, shoot what the baby will give you, and move on to the next pose if one isn't working out.

6. Shoot Soft and Shallow: The common look for most of today's newborn images all have 2 aspects in common.  They are all shot with an extremely shallow depth of field and they all are shot with soft light that tends to wrap around the subject.  Luckily we can get soft light out of most typical modifiers when it comes to newborns since they are so small in comparison.  Remember that the larger the apparent light source, the softer the light.  Many of today's "Mom-ographers" (no chauvinism intended) shoot with large natural light sources such as large windows in theirs or the client's homes.  As a professional I want to always have control of the quantity and quality of my light regardless of the location I am shooting in, so I utilize strobes with most my newborn shoots.  I typically use a medium softbox or white shoot through umbrella as my one and only light source. 

7. Stay out of firing range:  If you are just getting started on your journey as a photographer, you'll most likely go for the largest aperture lens you currently own.  Which if I had to put money on it, it's most likely a 50mm f/1.8.  A 50mm even on APS-C sensor (cropped) is not enough to be out of firing range of ever consistent bodily functions of the infant. When it comes time to get those butt naked shots of the kid in the parent's arms or laying in the basket or basinet, you are considered to be on the front lines.... Believe me; I speak from first hand experience.  Newborns don't like to be cold.  When they are naked, they get cold quick.  Get those shots out the way quickly and refer to Tip #1.  I prefer an 85mm or even 105mm to assist in not getting miserated upon.


My final point in shooting newborns is that it can be a great opportunity for repeat business and establishing yourself as the client's family photographer for the rest of their lives.  While I am still in the state of trying to grow and establish new clients, much of my business is from repeat customers.  I'll shoot them as models for commercial advertising campaigns, and then shoot their wedding, and later down the road I'll shoot their maternity photos and newborn sessions. 

Having repeat business and clientele will make you better at your craft!  You will be held to a professional standard and feel a stewardship to deliver the same or higher quality service and images each session you shoot for them.  As we are ever growing and never mastered in our craft, we strive to improve our artistic resilience and technical skills each time we pick up the camera. 

Tags: Newborns
Leave a comment:
Adit - Great Stuff man! Kudos. Your photos are definitely an inspiration, thanks for the tips too :)
-V/A Photography SF
Rahul - Dear Ben,
Though i wouldn't call myself new to photography, but in terms of DSLRs, i'm still in egg shell. That's how i came across your videos on you tube and now this blog. Man, i admire your work. You are fantastic, the creativity, imagination you put in your work appears in your pictures. Keep up the good work. I'm a fan! :)
Fabrice - Ben,

Just few words to congralute you for those gorgeous pictures. And thank you for your generosity (advices on you tube or in your blog). Really like the beautiful things you are able to produce with reasonable gears. Probably the best lesson.

And don't hesitate to produce a " behind the scenes" for those images, all young parents like me will thank you.

All the best for you and your business