If you’re a follower of the Shoot Me: MCP (Photoshop, Lightroom, Photography) facebook page, you may have noticed comments regarding the difficulties of photographing babies who aren’t newborns, but who aren’t old enough to move around on their own. This can be a tough age to photograph.
The best place to begin is by understanding what most infants are physically capable of.
3 Month Old Baby Milestones
- lift their head upright while on their stomach
- smile spontaneously and possibly laugh
- hold head steady if propped upright
Most infants won’t learn to sit up without support until 6-8 months old, which is also when they may start crawling. Occasionally, a younger child may be able to “tripod sit” – sitting up with arms in front to support their weight. If this is the case, capitalize on it, but make sure mom or dad is close by in case they begin to topple over. Knowing that, here are some tips for photographing these young babies!
Tip #1: Mazimize the Newborn Set up
A lot of the same setups and props that work for a newborn will still work for the post-newborn baby. Blankets cascading from the backdrop to the floor still work great – look for blankets with a knitted or furry texture. You can still use the posing bean bag if you choose, but I’ve found it’s not even necessary. You can pose the baby right on the floor (I suggest that you double up the blankets if it’s a hard surface).
Tip #2: Tummy Time
Most babies at this age will enjoy some tummy time, or at least tolerate it long enough to snap some pictures. You could put the baby right on the blanket setup, either with or without the posing bag. I’ve had success both ways.
Tip #3: Baskets
Baskets work great for keeping infants upright, and can be placed right on the blanket setup mentioned above for a neutral backdrop. Typically at this age they can’t sit up on their own yet, but can hold up their head. It is helpful to prop them up in a basket, wood box, or metal bin. Put a pillow and/or extra blankets in the bottom to keep their head above the basket. I have found it also helps to put their little legs crisc-cross and lean them forward, with one or both arms hanging out of the basket or holding onto the edge – it keeps them upright and not too slouched over. Leaning back against the side of the basket works, too, just make sure it’s not off balance and could topple over, weighting the bottom can help with this.
Tip #4: Familiarity
For lifestyle photographs, include the parents in any way you can. Have them hold the baby in their lap, bring the baby face to face, or pretend to toss the baby gently up over their head. Or, if possible, you could do the photoshoot at the client’s house and use the baby’s room for some sentimental photos.
Tip #5: Toys
Around three months, most babies are just beginning to enjoy looking at or batting at toys, and by 5 months, they will love playing with any toy you have. Hold a toy next to your lens to attract the baby’s attention. A rattle or squeaky toy is especially good – but act quickly, because the sound will only work a few times! Sophie the giraffe seems to be a very popular choice of toys among babies these days.
I hope these tips have given you some inspiration for photographing babies who aren’t quite newborns anymore!
Erin Niehenke is a family photographer from the Pittsburgh, PA area who has been in business part time for the past three years. When she’s not teaching high school science, she can be found enjoying spending time with her husband and 5-month-old daughter. You can see more of her work at her website or on facebook.