We all start somewhere! When I became a newborn photographer after the birth of my daughter in 2012, it was a difficult learning curve. I really had very little idea about how to capture beautiful images like the ones I had seen online. I didn’t know anyone in the industry, and at that time there were very few photographers offering workshops to learn. I made a LOT of mistakes. So today I decided to write a blog post about my top 8 mistakes that I made in those first couple of years as a newborn photographer. If you’re a beginner newborn photographer, or you aspire to be one, I hope that these help steer you on a better path!
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #1: DON’T USE RED!
Looking back, I can’t believe I ever thought that buying a bright red blanket to use in my newborn sessions was ever a good idea. In those days, there weren’t really many prop vendors here in Australia – we certainly didn’t have the amazing range of fabric vendors that we do now. So what was a girl to do? I went to my local IKEA store and bought blankets in all sorts of colours. Any photographer knows that red skin in newborns is the bane of our existence. We spend a lot of time removing red skin tones in post production. How could you add more red to make it worse? Photograph a baby on a bright red blanket for a beautiful red colour cast. Don’t do it!!!
These days I naturally gravitate towards neutrals and pastels: browns, creams, pinks and blues. My favourite fabric store is A Little Life. I think I have one of every fabric she has!
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #2: DON’T EXPECT TO GET IT RIGHT FIRST GO!
Newborn photography is challenging. It’s physically and emotionally draining – particularly when you’re first starting out. When you’re just learning there is a huge learning curve to getting the photos just right. Mastering the poses, your camera angles, working with babies who just don’t want to cooperate. There is so much to think about! If you’re anything like me you’ll see amazing photographs online from photographers you look up to and expect that you’ll be able to replicate the shot (or at least something similar). When it doesn’t quite work out as you had planned – you get a challenging newborn who doesn’t want to play ball, or you are all excited to see the photos from your session only to look at them on your computer screen and realise you’re so far away from where your idol’s work is. It’s really easy to get disheartened. I used to put so much pressure on myself when I was first starting out. I wanted to get it perfect right from the start. I put so much pressure on myself that I wouldn’t sleep the night before a photo shoot and I would be (literally!) sweating bullets during a session. It was scary!
The trick is to take is slowly. Understand that you’re not going to be perfect straight away. Start with simpler poses, get those perfect and then try another one.
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #3: NAPPY SQUARES ARE YOUR FRIENDS
If you’re doing posed newborn photography, no doubt a lot of the photos you take will be of babies with no nappy on. Make life easy on yourself and make sure you have some sort of protective layer between each of your backdrops on the beanbag or under your baby in a prop. I learned this the hard way. At one of my very first sessions I had 5 blankets all perfectly set up on the beanbag ready to go. I put baby on there and about 5 seconds later he promptly pooed all over it. Silly me had forgotten to put anything in between the layers and it went through all 5 layers of blankets. Joy!
I quickly learned that nappy squares have a multitude of uses. I use a stack of them at every session. I place one between every layer on my beanbag to prevent accidents from going through more than one layer, and I also keep a stack of them folded and use them for supports under baby to give them more of a curly look.
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #4: GET THE LIGHT RIGHT!
When I first started newborn photography I had a little experience as a photographer but I really underestimated just how specialised being a baby photographer was. One of the most common beginner mistakes is to “ghost light” babies – that is, to place your baby so the light is coming up their face rather than from the top of the head down. This is a fundamental rule of newborn photography. Sometimes when you first start out you’re so focused on everything going on that you can forget. Before you take the shot, take a quick breath and check the direction of light. Look for a butterfly shadow under the nose. If you are finding it hard to see it, squint your eyes a little. It helps!
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #5: NAIL YOUR EXPOSURE
I can’t tell you how many people contact me to ask me the “secret” to getting nice skin tones in babies. Honestly the two most important factors are good light and good exposure in camera. When I first became a newborn photographer I had a terrible habit of underexposing baby’s skin. I would try to fix it in Photoshop but once you underexpose it is so much harder to get nice skin tones. It seems to grab more red from the babies skin and leave you with yucky looking images. If you get it right in camera, the results will be so much better and need far less work in post-production (who wants to be staring at a screen all day?! Not me!). For caucasian babies, you should be aiming to overexpose the skin by about a third of a stop for the best results and that lovely dreamy creamy skin that everyone wants!
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #6: TAKE YOUR TIME TO GET IT PERFECT
With more confidence in your newborn photography you’ll find that you don’t rush through sessions quite so much. In my early days as a newborn photographer I used to get so nervous about not getting “the shot” that I would see something that wasn’t quite right and wouldn’t fix it. Nowadays I really take my time much more. I make sure that wraps are tight and don’t have creases, I fix backdrop fabrics to remove wrinkles, I spend more time adding support to make baby more curly. Obviously if you have a very fussy baby you can’t always be such a perfectionist as they will wake up and you might not get anything, so the best thing to do is to follow your instincts and get a “safe shot” before you go perfecting things just in case!
BEGINNER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MISTAKE #8: DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS
When you’re first starting out as a newborn photographer it can be difficult to be yourself. Often people see images online that they try to copy and replicate without thinking about their own creativity. I found that with more experience I actually spend so much less time looking at and comparing my work to other people. I often think about the lyrics in that old 90’s song ‘Sunscreen’… “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself”. I used to get so disheartened by comparing my photos with photographers that I admired. It was only once I stopped doing that, and I started focusing on my own work, my own creative voice, that I fell more in love with what I do. There’s someone out there for everyone. To shine in this industry you need to find what makes your heart sing and do it! People who love what you do with gravitate towards you. You and your photography are unique. Don’t try to copy anyone else. Look at other photographer’s work for inspiration, but never try to copy them.
No one else is better qualified”
So if you’re a beginner photographer. I hope these tips have helped you somehow. Remember to keep on striving to get better. It takes time, courage and a lot of determination! Be sure to get in touch if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you
P.S If you enjoyed this blog post you might also like to read The Reason I’m So Passionate About Photography