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As the proud parent of a new baby, I am eager to take beautiful pictures of my newborn daughter. However, I've found that although it is easy to get stunning pictures of older babies, the charm of newborns stubbornly evades my camera.

Are there poses, lighting techniques, focal lengths or any other techniques that will bring out the charm of a newborn?

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Only one constraint for a newborn: No Flash! –  mouviciel Apr 8 '11 at 7:13
    
@mouviciel - I don't agree with that constraint at all. I personally have used flash many times with newborns and feel comfortable doing so. See this for more information: Is camera flash actually harmful to infants or newborns? –  dpollitt Oct 21 '13 at 2:07
    
@dpollitt - Accepted answer of that question and its comments are very instructive: I don't think being flashed right in the eyes with a bright flash is very nice - I'd think that the real danger is psychological rather than ophthalmalogical - I realize now that the flash is WAY bright. I agree it's not nice at all. You may feel comfortable, but I doubt that this is shared by newborns. –  mouviciel Oct 21 '13 at 6:00
    
@mouviciel - Your statement of "No Flash!" is what I do not agree with. I didn't say that I flash with a bare bulb from < 1m. Used properly, it is a very useful tool and by most newborn photographers. This is in line with almost all comments on the linked to post. Not sure why you are disagreeing. A blanket statement of "No Flash!" is not what the linked to post recommends. If your statement was qualified with what exactly you mean by "No Flash!" that might help me to understand. As noted, it sounds like you think that zero use of flash is acceptable, I do not agree. –  dpollitt Oct 21 '13 at 13:19
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@dpollitt - You are correct, I should have given more precisions. Actually, I meant exactly what you don't use: flash with a bare bulb from < 1m, which is what the majority of new parents have. I am not against a better equipment properly used. –  mouviciel Oct 21 '13 at 14:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Photography is about telling a story. Start there. Think about the message you want to send, and then craft a picture around it.

Technique wise, there isn't much different about photographing a newborn that wouldn't also apply to other portraiture (much of which, in turn, applies to all photgraphy). The only things I can think of that might be different are:

  • Be careful with your flash, so as to not to wake or startle your kid. Lean towards natural light whenever possible.
  • "Getting in close", which is good advice, means getting in really close for your small subject. Consider getting a lens with good close-in/macro performance.

Beyond that, look for general portraiture techniques, both here and in other resources. Here's some quickies:

  • Use off-axis / off-camera lighting, including natural lighting.
  • Use diffuse lighting. (Especially important for newborns as it makes them look more delicate)
  • Keep the eyes in focus above all else
  • Use shallow depth-of-field whenever possible to bring your subject out from the background
  • Try to fill the frame with face; it makes for a more interesting photo
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+1 - I'll also add that if the photos are done sans clothing, a hairdryer is a must for keeping the baby warm. As an added bonus, the hum of the dryer is usually soothing as well. –  John Cavan Apr 5 '11 at 2:12
    
@JohnCavan - I usually use a small space heater(with a plastic front that does not get hot) which pretty much all homes in my area have on hand. That way someone doesn't have to be holding a hair dryer the entire shoot, but either one will work. –  dpollitt Oct 21 '13 at 2:09

It might help to start from, "what do I want to remember from those days?" and making a list of shots needed.

A newborn's awake time is mostly spent with parents, so I'd recommend having a parent or two on most photos as well. Interaction is the important part to look for. A baby alone in front of a weird black staring and clicking machine might easily feel (and look) uncomfortable.

Watch the background. With a little kid in the house, your room can become messy quite easily; you might want the distracting clutter stay off your photos though. Diapers and some cleaning pads should stay somewhere nearby, nature might make its call any moment.

Try black and white if color does not seem to work for you.

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Excellent advice, particularly the first two paragraphs; they tie in nicely with Craig's "Photography is about telling a story". –  Evan Krall Apr 7 '11 at 7:33

Agree with all that is said before. To simplify it a bit -

Newborns, toddlers do not like light flashed on their face. However, you will have to use flash as most of the pictures you click will be indoors.

So, the easiest thing to do is to get an external flash (something like a Nikon SB 400 or canon equivalent)and bounce it off the roof.

If you watch your baby long enough (most parents do), you will know when to click and what the best expression would be. So, take care of light and most else should fall into place.

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