As a bit of a disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer. The hints tips and tricks that I share I’m going to make you one either, since there is a lot to know about the great wide world of photography. That said, there are a few things which you can do to improve the quality of the photos that you take yourself, and that’s what I’m hoping to share here.
Newborn baby poses come in a huge variety from swaddled babies to babies hanging in a basket, nude babies, smiling babies, and everything in between. Some of the poses that you’ve seen in photos may have taken a long time to set up, some of them even need an assistant to hold the baby in position, and a number of them actually require post processing to edit out the hands of those supporting the baby safely. A lot of these photos are quite whimsical and can actually be quite cool, but I find myself gravitating more towards photos with natural positions and poses.
Since we’re getting ourselves set up to take our own photos, more natural poses are going to be much easier to achieve; ones that don’t necessarily need extra people or extra equipment to get to look great. Even the most natural poses do need a little bit of positioning; newborns have a tendency to flail their arms around and they’re still getting used to their own bodies, which means that sometimes they don’t look quite as glamorous as you would like. They also have a tendency to borrow their face into something nearby because it is more comfortable feeling a little bit more like a parent’s embrace.
One of the easiest poses to do with your newborn is to lay them on their tummy with their head on their hands and their legs tucked in underneath them. It is one of the most peaceful positions in my opinion, and is one of the easiest to achieve just after baby has had a feed. (Having baby fed just before the photograph will make them more likely to fall asleep and be easier to position.) This is also a fantastic position from your little one if you like them to be nude in their photos, as you can see little arms and legs without anything else exposed.
Have you ever heard the phrase “never work with children or animals”? One of the biggest reasons for this is because of the amount of patience that it takes to work with someone who can’t communicate with you as you do with other adults. The real key here is to take your time, backspace; patience is one of your most valuable assets here.
One thing I found that helps is to get the baby naked but then wrap them up tightly in a blanket, holding them close and snugly to help settle them back to sleep. (yes, there’s a risk of getting weed or pooped on from here on out!) If the baby has just been fed, or was sleepy beforehand it shouldn’t take too long, but plan on waiting for a little while until they’re fully asleep.
From here, gently unwrap your baby but keep the blanket on the back, lay them down on the tummy on your prepared set, and keep them covered with a blanket for the moment just to give them some time to settle again. It may help here to give them a gentle pats, shushes, or anything else that you find settles your baby. Again, you want to wait here until they’re settled back to sleep before starting the next step.
With warm hands, slowly tuck their legs up underneath their body. Your newborn is incredibly flexible, so moving their legs and arms around into almost any position won’t hurt them, but one of the easiest ways is to cross their feet together and then gently tuck their legs up underneath their body.
Once they’re settled, gently lift your baby’s head and position their hands and arms comfortably underneath it, then settle their head down on top of their hands; turning it so they’re looking out at you instead of downward. If you’re feeling adventurous you can leave their hands free, but in my experience your newborn’s hands will end up in front of their face. If this is the look that you are going for, great, otherwise propping their head on top of their hands and arms is the way to go.
When you’ve got this far take a step back to admire your baby’s position, and subtly adjust anything that doesn’t look quite right. Again if you’d like their hands to be visible in the photo, you might need to adjust them; newborn hands tend to end up tucked into a fist which can look a little strange in some photos. If your baby’s eyes are slightly open, you can gently stroke down the bridge of their nose which should encourage them to close their eyes all the way. Pull out any fabric wrinkles in your set, adjust any accessories as required, and finally make sure baby looks calm and peaceful. They may need another gentle pat or shush to help them along the way.
From here, you’re up to the actual act of photographing! Start by getting some square on full body shots; these will be the most important pose wise, so getting these at the start helps to make sure the pose is just right.
Next, get up close to your newborn either using the zoom on your camera or physically getting closer, or both. Take photos standing up, sitting down in front of your baby, from different angles, and at different distances from baby. There are so many details to capture! You’ve spent so long trying to get each pose just right, so don’t worry about checking photos during the shoot and concentrate on getting as many photos as you possibly can. Sometimes a pose that looked really sweet in person doesn’t look quite right in the photo, but by taking a wide variety of shots you’re sure to find something that works in each pose.
Again, be prepared to exercise some patience as your newborn wriggles and moves; you may even find they settle into a more comfortable position that looks better than you ever imagined. Once you have a good 15 or 20 shots of a particular pose, have a think about how you might be able to change something about their position or your set without disturbing your baby. Things like changing the background of your set, laying a little blanket on top of baby, or adding little accessories such as a favourite toy (or one from your own childhood!) can create whole new opportunities for a different looking shot.
As you move things around, you may find baby wakes up. If you’re not quite done with the more sleepy looking shots, try covering them with a blanket to resettle them. The opportunity here though is in those first minutes after a good sleep; there is often a chance to capture some shots with their eyes open, but before they’ve moved out of your pose too much.
After getting a good collection of pictures of your baby on their tummy, try rolling your baby on to their side or back. This is a little bit more tricky to do naked, since you have to make sure baby’s legs stay crossed, but they’re another great opportunity to get a different looking shot.
You may find it easier here to start again the same way that you did for the tummy shots; keeping baby naked in a blanket in your arms. Once settled gently lay your baby down on their back and remove the blanket. The easiest pose here is to cross their feet and bend their knees outward, positioning their crossed feet just over their hips to keep all the important bits covered. When baby relaxes in this position you can slowly remove your hand, and most of the time baby’s legs will stay crossed.
For more wriggly babies, or to get a different look from the shot it might help to have something gently wrapping around the baby to hold their legs in this position. A light cheesecloth fabric or stretchy blanket could work great here, or a little bowl or peapod (plenty of handmade ones on empty) will keep your newborn’s legs tucked in position.
Often babies posed on their back are best shot from directly above, so taking the cushions off of your couch and positioning baby on the floor, or getting out your stepladder could be a go here. It’s super cute to have baby’s head looking directly at you and the camera, but if they settle with their head to the side it could be an opportunity to get down next to them and take some shots that show off their face a little better.
By far the easiest pose to achieve in your DIY baby photo shoot is when baby is swaddled. Wrap them up like a little burrito, pop them down on a nice blanket or fake fur, and shoot away! This is a shot best saved till last, since your little one is probably almost done with the photo shoot at this point and the pose is a little more forgiving. The swaddled pose looks great with their eyes open or closed, and even though they may almost be ready for their next feed they will often stay reasonably calm if they’re wrapped tight enough.
If you’re lucky enough to have your newborn still sleeping you don’t have to wrap them as tightly. This is a perfect opportunity for a more loose flowing shot, and one where you can place them in a basket or bowl for something different. Look for something shallow, stable, and relatively neutral in pattern and colour to keep your baby the highlight of the photo. If you have your heart set on something a bit deeper though, fill the basket with blankets (more than you might think) and lay baby gently on top to keep them in full view. Again, don’t forget to take plenty of detail shots and get up close to all those fresh new features.
More gently wrapped babies, and ones who are awake but settled, are opportunities for shots that look a little like they’re in bed with a blanket tucked up gently underneath their arms. Have a bit of fun here; poses like this might be a little less natural, but they’re familiar and will still look super cute.
To make the most out of every shot one other thing I’d recommend is to make sure that if the face of your baby is visible to shoot either perfectly square to their face, or slightly higher so that you’re not looking up their nose; it is a whole lot more flattering to your newborn.
Do you have any easy poses to add to these? Feel free to share in a comment below!