The Newborn Session – How to work with a newborn – tips, tricks and ideas to make your session a success

If you want better newborn images, take our Online Newborn Photography Workshop.

First of all I want to say Thank You to Jodi for inviting me to be a guest speaker on her blog.When she asked me if I would like to talk about Newborn Photography, my answer was “of course!”Newborns have long been my favorite subject and while I find them the most challenging and longest sessions I have they are so rewarding and amazing to work with.There is nothing more beautiful than a new life and capturing those first few weeks is such an amazing gift to parents.

If you have questions after reading this post, please add them to the comment section here on the MCP Blog.  I will come check and respond to questions either in the comment section or in another post, depending how many there are.


To start with I would like to talk about the Newborn Session itself and how to make it successful as a photographer.My first bit of advice is to approach newborn photography as a journey.It will take you several sessions to really start perfecting your skill set and style.While this can be frustrating as a photographer just be patient with yourself.I still after almost 5 years of photographing newborns feel like I am learning new skills with every session.A good way to practice is to have a casting call.Offer clients a free session and maybe a wall portrait.This will get you the practice you need and also give the parents something in return.You can structure these in many different ways. For example, if you would like more multiples or you want to practice specific poses include that in the description of the casting call.Once you have your sessions set up here are some general guidelines that will help make them more successful.

1. Get them young.

Try and encourage your clients to book their session as soon after birth as possible.I like to shoot newborns anywhere from 6-10 days.I like them sleepy and small but I would prefer them at least 6 days so that mother’s milk is in if they are breastfeeding.It also gives mom and dad a bit of time at home with their new little one.I have photographed newborns up to the age of 6 weeks and sometimes it works out.So while I can usually get them to sleep it is harder to keep them asleep as you pose them.Around 2 ½ to 3 weeks is when baby acne sets in too so it is good to try and get them before that happens.That being said I will take a newborn at any age.If the parents are game for trying so I am as long as they understand I cannot promise a lot of sleeping shots.Here is an example of some of my older babies.

6 weeks old- she really did quite well.She took a bit to get to sleep but once she was she was pretty easy to position.


4 weeks old- while he slept fine if we moved him he would wake right up.So mom and I really had to work for every shot we got.


2. Keep them warm.

This is crucial if you want a good sleepy baby.I always use a space heater, which doubles as a noise maker and a heating pad if the room is particularly drafty.I always put the heating pad on low and under several layers of blankets.Then once the baby is on the heating pad I turn it off so that baby doesn’t get too warm.A good rule of thumb is if you are hot then the baby is probably happy.


3.Take control.

This was a hard lesson to learn.But I always handle the baby myself.I purposely wash my hands in front of the parents so that they know I am clean and then I take the baby from them.I start with the beanbag so that I can undress and swaddle them if I need to.If baby is asleep when I get there then carefully undress them on the bean bag and get them nice and comfortable.I find on their bellies or on their side is a good place to start.Let them settle and then position them.Don’t move too fast.Sometimes new parents are nervous holding babies and this can lead to them being startled and waking them up.As you develop your skills you will develop methods to move baby around without startling or waking them.I often tell parents to have a seat and relax.Let me do the work.They are usually grateful for the break.


4. Have a plan.

I always go into a newborn session with a general plan of what I want to do.It doesn’t always work out but if the baby is sleepy it makes the session go so much smoother and faster.So have a list of poses to do.I start with the beanbag poses and have several I like to do there, and then add a few other props (baskets, bowls, ect) and I usually end with shots with mom, dad and sibling.If I know my goal ahead of time it really makes my session go smoothly and ensures I get the variety I want.I always let the baby run the show though.I go by their lead, if they are not tolerating a pose, I move on and try it later or skip it all together.I want them to be comfy and happy the whole time.


5. Be prepared for everything and anything.

I always make sure I have my camera gear and blankets prepared to go the night before.My list of equipment and props are as follows.

Canon 5D Mark II- with the 50 mm 1.2 L
Canon 5D – for backup and I keep my macro lens on this camera
135mm 2.0L in case I get to go outside.This is my favorite lens and what I use 90% of the time outside.
35mm 1.4L – this is a new lens for me but will make overhead shots easier and possibly group shots in tight spaces.
Plenty of compact flash cards.I usually shoot 300-350 shots at a typical newborn session.
Canon Flash – just in case, but I never use it.
Beanbag – I got mine from is a small black vinyl one.Your beanbag needs to be somewhat firm so that they baby doesn’t get too deep into it but not too firm so that you can’t manipulate it.
Many blankets- I use them for layering as well as in baskets and on the beanbag.I bring one black blanket and many cream ones (as opposed to white).I prefer the light backgrounds to the black but black is nice for variety.
Hats- some cute newborn hats
Swaddling blankets
A few bowls and baskets- you can also use the client’s personal items if you are on location.Or ask them to bring anything that they might want to incorporate into the session.
Space Heater and heating pad

Accidents almost always happen.Have back up blankets, extra towels, burp cloths and wipes close by.I also bring extra clothes in case I am holding baby when they decided to go to the bathroom.It has happened to me more than once.I always assure the parents that it doesn’t matter what they do on my things.That everything is washable.This takes the worry out of their mind.And I don’t panic when accidents happen… it is just part of the session.

6. Be prepared for long sessions.

My newborn sessions often last 3 hours.With breaks for snacks, soothing to sleep and cleaning up messes it takes a while.I try to get them to sleep with pacifiers, swaddling and rocking before resorting to nursing because the more they nurse the more they poop and pee. Remember to dress nicely but comfortably.Jeans and a white T-shirt are my uniform most days.The white T-shirt allows you to be your own reflector in some cases and ensure you don’t throw odd color casts into your images.


7. Enjoy those babies.

Only photograph newborns if you truly love them.Nothing makes a parent more comfortable than seeing that their photographer truly enjoys working with babies.Showing patience and compassion for their new little life will make them trust you and refer you to all their pregnant buddies.

Tune in next time and we will talk about Styles for Newborn Photography.


This post was written by Alisha Robertson of AGR Photography

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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  1. 1


    Great post! I can’t wait for the next one and especially the lighting and posing ones. But I’m happy to know I’m on the right path. I had the opportunity to photograph my niece and another baby. I had them young. I had the beanbag, lots of blankets, a nice warm room. Only thing I lacked was good light. Plus I had an audience…our family got wind of the photoshoot and everyone showed up at my house. I was nervous enough doing something new but to add an audience to it. Ugh…

  2. 2

    Jennie says

    Awesome post! So specific. This is just what I needed to learn and build my confidence. Do you have any advice on how to get clients? I don’t have many pregnant friends anymore! :)

  3. 3


    This is fantastic!! Thank you so much.

    And I have to grin at Stephanie’s comment (above) — there was a house full of people (kids, adults, older babies) at my first newborn photo shoot and I was SO GRATEFUL! I was able to do my thing without much interference or interruption, for the most part, while everyone else was socializing, munching, or chasing after the older kids! To each their own, eh?

    Thanks again for this series.

  4. 4


    WOW!!! This is great as I have only done a couple of newborn sessions and I have a couple scheduled in the next couple of weeks so all the help I can get is much appreciated.I am looking forward to the next posts and am excited to try my new newborn shoots. Going to get a beanbag right away……

  5. 5


    Awesome post! Thank you so much for sharing your newborn secrets!! I am learning a lot and have a couple of newborn shoots coming up! One of which will be 5 weeks old so I am hoping she cooperates!

  6. 6


    I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one leaving a three hour newborn session soaked in baby pee. I truly enjoy newborns and thought I was doing something wrong because they were taking so long! Thanks for this I am so excited to learn more!

  7. 8

    Tracy says

    THANK YOU so much for posting this amazing info!!!!! I love working with babies and really want this to be my specialty. This makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction. The info you shared is so helpful! I can’t wait until the next post…

  8. 9

    Tracy says

    THANK YOU so much for posting this amazing info!!!!! I love working with babies and really want this to be my specialty. This makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction. The info you shared is so helpful! I can’t wait until the next post…

    Question: The first few images have a beautiful softness to them. Would you mind sharing your post processing info? Also, what camera lens and settings are you using? Thnaks!

  9. 10

    Silvina says

    Great post! I just had my third newborn session today and have another one tomorrow, so this is all very timely. I can use help and ideas on different poses and how to achieve them. Can’t wait for the next one!

  10. 14


    Very good post. Thank you. I have only done two newborn sessions, but hope to do more. I would love to hear specifics on how to do the poses, particularly how to get them to “curl” properly. I’ve also found it’s hard to get good light in some client’s homes. Thanks again for this great series!

  11. 16


    I really had given up on newborn shoots after my first one. I was sweating like a cow when I was done because I was nervous and so was the mom. She was a first time mom and she was very awkward holding the baby. You have some great tips in here and I am really looking forward to reading thru the rest of your postings.

  12. 17


    Thanks so much for this post! It is great info. I’m also wondering about lighting – what kind of lighting do you use if you aren’t able to position next to a good natural light source? Do you usually do newborn sessions in the mornings?

  13. 18


    WOW! that was an awesome post. So much information. Your images are wonderful.
    I am JSO and think I really want to concentrate on newborns.
    I will be anxiously awaiting post number 2.

    • 19


      I find that making things comfortable for mom and dad is helkpful to the photography too. After all, a happy. relaxed mom and dad usually helps create a happy, relaxed (sleepy) baby.

  14. 21

    Amy Mann says

    Awesome post…so clear and specific…thanks for sharing your secrets! I cannot wait to read your next one.

  15. 24


    As I am breaking into the newborn market, your information was invaluable to me! I mainly concentrate on children and families until a few newborn sessions ago, now this is the area I really love and want to concentrate on….so, thank you so much for posting this! I can’t wait to read the next post!

  16. 25


    Thanks so much! You mentioned you bring your flash but never use it— do you bring studio lighting to any shoots or is it all natural? Sorry if im rushing the lighting question, I know it will be covered on a later post… I cant wait!

  17. 28


    this was so helpful. i’ve never done newborn photography before and i have a mother at my church that is asking me to take pregnant mommy pics and newborn baby pics. i am excited but nervous because both are very new to me. i appreciate all your tips and advice :)

  18. 29


    Wow! Thank you so much for the insight on working with newborns. I can’t wait to get more comfortable with them. I had my third “itty-bitty” session today and it went okay, but your tips are wonderful and so helpful that I’m sure next week will be even better! Lighting seems to be my biggest problem with newborns.

  19. 31


    Great post! Newborns are quickly becoming a favorite for me. I LOVE the entire experience. I hadn’t thought of wearing a white t-shirt to be my own reflector, though… what a great tip!

  20. 32


    Very nice!
    My question is about sleeping vs awake babies. I photographed a 6 week old and the mother was clearly wanting awake baby photos. From this post it appears that having an awake baby is not even an option for you. Do you ever photograph babies when awake, and how do you explain to parents that sleeping babies are preferred?

  21. 34


    This is so great! So many good tips!! I’ve never thought about what I’m wearing could affect the picture. Maybe it’s a “duh” for most photographers but it’s new to me! I can’t wait for more!

  22. 35

    Shaila says

    Oh, I love all these beautiful pictures! Newborns are my absolute favorite. Such great advise and ideas. Thanks for much for all that you shared!

  23. 39


    I LOVE this post! I just posted a question about this on thebschool forum. So I’m so glad to find this post. I do have two additional questions:

    -do you ever place anything underneath them to catch any accidents?
    -would you mind posting the specifics of the bean bag? I went to that website and I must be blind. I could only really see charis. Is that what you use, or do you have something smaller?

    Thanks again for your selflessness in being willing to teaching the rest of us.

  24. 42


    Wow! That was such a great, informative post! Thank you so much for sharing your talent and knowledge with the internet world. It really is about encouraging one another, isn’t it!? I am not in photography for business, but love learning more to help me in my passion. I appreciate you, and others like you, who are willing to share freely. Your examples were amazing. The parents and those children will love what you have captured for many generations.

  25. 43


    Great post! I wondered why my baby sessions were tough to get a sleeping shot. they were all too old!

    can’t wait until the next post.

  26. 45


    I have only done a few newborn shoots and they can be a bit terrifying until you get into the swing of things. I have one this weekend and I feel so much better about going into it…prepared! Thank you for sharing your tips with us! What a treat!

  27. 46

    Sherri says

    Oh wow this is awesome – I cant thank you enough – I have my first newborn
    shoot this weekend (weather permitting) – these tips were very helpful

  28. 47

    Michelle says

    You have tons of great info. I would love to see some images of your set up from a distance. To see how you position the baby on the beanbag in relation to your light source. I have done many newborns but I have never used a beanbag. Also do you use a reflector or any other help for shawdows. Thanks

  29. 48


    I love that you use available light, only. So much simpler than the other setups I’ve read about! What about photos with the family/parents hands, etc. included? Do you still use the 50mm? I only have two lenses so far, and the 50mm is by far the best one, but I have trouble including family in tight spaces.

  30. 49

    DawnS says

    Your post is so exciting for me to read. I just recently started to learn to use my Canon SLR and I really want to photograph babies. I just had my first baby and absolutely love taking pictures of him. I hope to find time between work and mommyhood to pursue this dream. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and adorable pictures.

  31. 50

    Heather says

    What a wonderful post…what I have been looking on the internet for. I have a 7 week old baby and have been shooting to my heart’s content…I also convienced the hubby to buy me a new canon 50d with two lenses so I can shoot my third little boy. Thank you for the advise here !!!!

  32. 52


    Had my first newborn shoot this morning, and I didn’t come across this blog till this afternoon…it’s a shame I missed it, but it will definitely help me out before my next session. Thanks!!

  33. 55


    Awesome! I can’t wait for the next one, my studio and a friends’ have really been trying to get into newborns and it can be kind of overwhelming, babies are so precious, I just love them!!!!

  34. 63

    Dionna says

    Thank you so much for these pointers.My sister just had a baby and I was trying out my amateur abilities with my Canon Rebel xsi. I was getting a little frustrated on getting the shots I wanted when I came upon your blog. I feel ready to try again with our little angel and look forward to seeing the end results thanks to you. I will be following you regularly…

  35. 67

    Albert says

    Great article, I believe the photograph skills can be learn and practiced but is there anywhere you can suggest to learn how to carefully handle newborns.


  36. 71

    Vanessa says

    Love the ideas…so helpful for someone starting out such as myself. I just purchased my black vinyl bean bag from Thank you for taking the time to write these tips, they are great!!!

  37. 72


    Woah this blog is wonderful i really like reading your articles. Keep up the good paintings! You understand, lots of individuals are hunting round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  38. 74

    Lena says

    I now have a few babies under my belt. Most parents are confused as of the why shoot early. I explain it but have had not much luck photographing babies under 10 days. The ones that were under ten days, have been my best sessions. The ones 2 weeks and above, have been awake and cranky b/c mommy wants them to sleep. Advice to those who have 1 month olds and want that sleepy time, use your best position first, the one that you can take the most photos with. (feet, hands, etc) Baby may just wake up and not want to go back to sleep once moved! And each of those one monthers, did not want to lay on their bellies at all! :(

  39. 75

    Jennifer Conard says

    I LOVE this article. I have been struggling with newborn shoots. I always go to the shoot fully prepared with ideas and props. But, I never get what I want from the shoot. Thanks for the tips! I am going to use them well :)

  40. 76

    andrew says

    Im sorry but I would not hire you.
    1:You should never ever have a heating pad near a baby.
    2:You can, will, and probably have cause distress in breastfeeding mothers by offering soothers to newborns. They shouldn’t have those things because it causes confusion
    3:sleeping photos aren’t everything, if that’s all you got shots of you would find that the check would be cancelled.

  41. 81


    I am fairly new to photography and have only done one newborn shoot (my sister’s last year). I loved it so much but had no idea what I was doing. Thanks for all the tips. I hope I get to use them sometime soon. I love your pictures! Stunning!!

  42. 82

    April says

    Seriously, thank you! My friend and I recently started our own photography business and there are some amazing tips on here! The one about wearing a white shirt, so simple yet I never thought of it! Thanks again!

  43. 83

    Lizelle says

    Thank you so much. Great Post!!! I’ve done newborn photography for a while, but it’s always good to get another point of view, especially the part of handling baby yourself…I find that parents sometimes get a little over enthusiastic and then you struggle getting baby to rest…

  44. 84


    I love how you’ve laid out these points so clearly in a list. Each one of them is so true. I especially like that your statement around newborn photography as a journey. The mark of a great blog post – that it is relevant even 6 years after it was written! Thank you.


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