Guide to Newborn Photography Props
Newborns are a beautiful subject, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t challenging. Every newborn photographer experiences some difficulty adding diversity to their pictures, especially at the beginning.
Props are a great way to solve this. Whether they’re original, timeless, fun or sentimental, they’ll help you achieve a variety of moods.
That said, you will have to keep in mind some issues like safety, comfort, and size. Here’s a guide to help you out with finding and choosing amazing photo props for newborn photography in 2020.
Safety Tips for Newborn Photography Props
Newborn babies are one of the most delicate subjects a photographer ever has to deal with. As a result, safety is a top priority for newborn photography.
From flash that could hurt their eyes to props that are hazardous, you need to be very careful when you’re planning a newborn photo shoot.
Use soft materials
This tip is kind of a no-brainer. Even if this is your first newborn photo session, you probably already know that everything that’s made for babies is made with soft materials (think fleece blankets, cuddly plush toys, etc).
So, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t follow this rule with your newborn photography props. Newborn babies have delicate skin and you should take care of it.
As for what fabric is best for newborn photography, choose a wrap that’s super-soft and stretchy (4-way stretch is best), such as jersey or t-shirting fabric.
I know this might sound exaggerated because not every parent is on the hunt for pillows, detergent, soaps and other baby items that are strictly hypoallergenic.
Yes, that’s ok for the parent, because they know their baby and what they can use without a problem.
However, you’re not going to be dealing with one baby that you know perfectly well. You’re using your photo props with different newborns and each of them can have different needs.
A fabric softer that didn’t cause any problem with this newborn can give an allergic reaction to another. It’s best to stay on the safe side with your newborn photography props and use hypoallergenic soaps and fabrics as much as possible.
Stay close to the ground
Try to stay as close to the ground as you can during newborn photo sessions. Build your set on the floor when this is possible, which shouldn’t be a problem because photographing babies from the top is a great angle.
Then, use props that aren’t too high, especially if the baby is going to be on top of them and not inside (like with a bean bag, for example).
This way if the baby starts to move or roll, there’s no risk that they can fall and get hurt.
If the ground is not ideal and you want to shoot on a sofa or bed, try to keep the baby far from the edge. Also, put safety pillows around, and have your assistant and the parents keep an eye on the baby.
Make sure things are sturdy
If you’re going to use props that hold the baby, make sure they’re sturdy enough. For example, if you’re using a vintage wooden box that you found at a flea market, make sure the wood is still in good condition.
Also, your tripods, backdrop holders, and other photography gear should be strong and firmly set up to avoid anything falling or destabilizing the set.
Keep the baby comfortable
The most important rule is that the baby always comes first. It doesn’t matter how beautiful something is; if it’s not safe or comfortable, leave it out of your newborn photography session.
Keep this in mind when choosing your photo props and positioning the subject. Avoid placing the newborn in any prop that’s too small or that requires them to bend unnaturally.
Also, if using a swaddle, make sure it’s not too tight or restrictive to the baby’s circulation or breathing.
Temperature is also essential to a newborn baby’s well-being, so be wary of keeping the room comfortable and not overdressing or under-dressing them.
Make sure that all of your newborn photography props are baby proof. Don’t use anything with sharp edges.
Keep an eye out for anything that could be toxic if they suck on it, and avoid any photography props with small pieces that could be accidentally swallowed.
Wash, wash, wash
Always wash things before you use them, regardless of whether they’re new or second hand.
Then, wash them in between photoshoots. Never use a blanket or a piece of clothing that hasn’t been washed since the last newborn photography shoot.
The same goes for hard materials: sanitize surfaces and toys, even if they don’t look dirty. Hygiene is the key to keeping a safe environment for a newborn baby.
Get the parents on board
Never use a photography prop that concerns the parents or makes them feel uncomfortable. If they think the baby could get hurt or if they don’t agree with anything that you’re doing, just don’t do it.
To avoid this kind of situation that can throw you off on the spot, it’s important to have a meeting and agree on the plan of action. Let them bring their props and choose from your collection.
Stay open to their concerns and answer their doubts. After all, it’s their baby, and if it’s their first-born they’re still going to be learning about what could be good or not.
Always be helpful and polite, but stay professional and be clear about your creative view. Successful newborn photography is all about finding that balance.
No matter how much thought you put into your props, accidents can happen. To keep the risk to a minimum, always be aware of any sudden movements.
Though most babies don’t start to roll on their own until around 4 months old, even those that are newly born can slide or roll on uneven or unsecured surfaces. Think of a bean bag, for example – the shifting surface can be unstable for the newborn.
Keep this in mind when choosing your newborn photography props and stay alert during the shoot.
Also, look for any signs from the baby that could alert you that they’re uncomfortable, and fix whatever it is that’s causing it.
Ask your assistant and the parents for help in this matter. Sometimes you could get distracted with the light or the composition, and having extra eyes for safety is never a bad thing.
Where Do Photographers Buy Their Newborn Photography Props?
There are many places where you can get props for newborn photography. Keep in mind that you can get generic props that are proven to be a success, and also some original ones that can help you develop your personal style.
Let’s look at some choices of where you can buy both kinds of photography props and start building your stock.
- Specialized stores. These are great because they have beautiful things that are out of the ordinary. They can be a bit expensive though, so this is a choice if you have a big budget and enough clients to justify the investment.
- Baby shops. A lot of newborn photography props can be found in generic baby stores – for example, blankets or rattles. These are inexpensive and useful.
- Craft store. Here you can find items that are ready to use as props – for example, a ball of yarn that matches the sweater of the baby, or even a small bean bag. You can also find raw materials to craft your own newborn photography props that will be unique and reflect your style. This is one of the components that will ultimately define you as a photographer.
- The family’s home. Yes, personal items are the best props that you can get. Of course, you have to make sure they look good on camera; but they’re free and they add emotional value to the photos. Let the parents choose some things that they want to include. If possible, you can also have a look around and see if you can find something creative and unexpected.
- Flea markets and thrift stores. Here you can find all sorts of amazing objects – vintage and modern – to use as newborn photography props. Remember that many families sell things as their children grow, and newborns grow so fast that most things will be as good as new. Make sure to sanitize everything before you use it.
- Etsy. Online stores are huge sources for props. A personal favorite is Etsy because it specializes in artisanal pieces that can make a real difference in your photos. Most things on Etsy are handmade, so you know you can find one-of-a-kind baby photo props.
10 Great Newborn Photography Props
If you’re about to go out for your first newborn photo shoot, or if you’ve been doing this for years but you find yourself lacking new ideas, these tips are for you.
1. Baby-size furniture
To place a newborn baby on regular furniture can be good for certain effects, like giving a sense of proportion.
However, specially-sized furniture will complement the baby instead of it getting lost in the picture.
Plus, most things that are tiny size make us go ‘awww’. Just see how people react to a baby’s sock or shoe. Well, the same thing happens with sofas, beds or bean bags.
Also, because these are not something everybody has in their house, the inclusion of tiny furniture will make the baby pictures all the more unique and professional.
Whether it’s a wrap, a blanket, or faux fur, you should have a wide variety of materials to choose from when setting up your baby photos.
They can be placed down to soften the surface where you’re positioning the newborn. For example, you could turn a wooden crate into a cosy faux fur nest.
You should never put the baby down without a fabric that protects them because hard materials could hurt the skin.
You can also use them just to cover the baby. Remember that babies love to feel warm and protected.
Play with colors and patterns to make the photos fun and vivid, or keep it neutral if there are more elements and you don’t want to make it look too busy.
Finally, you can also use these textiles for swaddling the baby. This is not only a natural thing for any newborn, but it will help you to keep them positioned and still for the photograph. Swaddles as a newborn photography prop are also highly requested by parents.
You can photograph a newborn in regular clothes… But why would you if you can use an adorable costume?
Let’s face it, dressing up is fun. That’s why holidays like Halloween or Carnival are so enjoyable.
Unlike adults, newborns can dress up every day of the year, especially on the day of their photo sessions.
Having some costumes around can give variety to your photos while enhancing your subject. It’s best if the costume doesn’t have to cover the entire body.
Bows, headbands or crowns also work great as newborn photography props, as you can use them with most newborns without having to worry about the right size.
Also, be sure to have at hand some gender-neutral costumes. Not every parent wants their baby girl as a ballerina or their boy with a tie, for example.
Having something like bunny ears or bug antennae are items that will work for all babies.
4. Family treasures
Keep in mind that you don’t have to provide every prop for the photo session. Asking the family to provide some of them will make the photos personal and give them emotional value.
Try using the new things they bought when they were expecting, or the fun and crazy presents they got for the newborn.
Especially touching in newborn photos is the use of family treasures. These could be a number of things – a blanket crocheted by a relative, say, or a storybook that belonged to one of the parents that they’ll now read to the baby.
It could also be some treasure inherited from the grandparents, or just something that reflects the family values or the parents’ personalities and hobbies.
Whatever it may be, adding it into your newborn photography props should be done with care and respect for the item and the meaning it holds for the family.
5. Seasonal items
Something that’s always a hit and adds a touch of fun to the photoshoot is creating a seasonal picture.
This can be related to the time of the year, a holiday, or even the baby’s zodiac sign. This is the perfect time to get creative because it can be completely fresh.
Some clients might want to have a seasonal picture that’s not related to the time of the year when you’re doing it. Maybe it’s November but they want a little cupid to use as a Valentine’s Day card the year after.
Sometimes using seasonal newborn photography props becomes the whole theme of the shoot. You can do twelve seasonal photos so that the parents can make a calendar out of them and look at their newborn all year round.
6. Members of the family
Not all photographer props need to be objects – and incorporating other family members into your baby photo shoots is one way to take them to the next level.
Whether these are the parents, the siblings, or even the furry members, this is a beautiful way to enhance the newborn with all the love that surrounds him/her.
A new baby is part of a whole family, and despite them being the main subject, some pictures with other family members is a perfect way to complete the photoshoot.
7. Crates, baskets and other storage items
Crates, baskets, buckets, bean bags… Any of these need to be part of your stock of newborn photography props; they are a must-have. I’m sure you’ve seen them in every newborn photographer’s portfolio because they’re such a hit.
Placing the baby on or in a wooden crate, a woven basket or even a vintage suitcase is a classic that you can’t miss.
You can, of course, put your own touch to it. Find original objects in second-hand markets or thrift shops. Try painting them or covering them with a particular design – anything you can think of to stand out from other photographers.
You do have to make sure that it’s safe for the newborn and that it’s big enough to fit them comfortably. Add some pillows and blankets to avoid any hard edges, splinters, etc. Just be sure that these don’t interfere with the baby’s breathing.
Also, you can use them as set decorations in the background and vary your photography props to add originality from one picture to another.
8. Stuffed animals
Stuffed animals are another classic photo prop, but unlike crates, these can be much more than a decoration. Usually these are one of the first presents a baby gets.
It will probably become their first ‘best friend’, so a picture of them can be a memory that will keep adding emotional value as time goes by. You can always repeat this through the year and make milestone sessions.
You’re free to bring one from your stash of photography props if you have a specific image in mind. But more often than not, you’ll be using one from the family.
Articles of clothing and costumes aren’t the only things you can use to dress-up newborns. Actually, it’s a bit complicated to be changing them continuously.
That’s why accessories are extremely useful to add some personality to their birthday suit, or the plain diaper.
You can use headbands, hats, knitted shoes, you name it. These are easy to put on and take off, so you can change them numerous times to give some variety to your photos.
In many cases, the family will be happy to supply these props. They’ll probably have some that were knitted by grandma or were gifted by close friends.
If you’re bringing your own to the session, just make sure that all the fabrics are soft and that everything is washed.
10. Utility props
Props are not always in the frame. Sometimes you also need some useful items behind the scenes to make your photography session run smoothly.
You might consider keeping some baby wipes and one or two diapers on hand. Yes, the parents also have all of these things with them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If they didn’t bring enough, if they forgot the bag because they were excited and had to pack some unconventional things… you never know.
Small pillows are another must. These can be used as a prop to decorate the image, to pose the baby, or to hold things in place.
For example, if a basket is too deep, put a pillow to fill the space, then cover it with the blanket you chose for the photo before placing the newborn on top.
And lastly, stands and clamps. The last thing you want is for something to fall and hurt the baby. So, everything you use in your photography setup needs to be safely positioned and tightened – for example, the backdrop stand, diffusers and reflectors.
Finding props for newborn photography is very easy. Newborns are adorable on their own, and basically anything you put around them gets swept up in this cute feeling.
What, then, is the criteria for choosing your photography props?
First and most importantly, all newborn photography props need to be safe for the baby. Never use something that could be a risk, it doesn’t matter how much you like how it looks.
Secondly, your props need to reflect your style as a photographer. You might think that you should comply with everything the parents want, but remember, you’re the professional.
They chose you because they liked your work. That’s what they’re expecting for you. So, always listen to them, include them in the process, but don’t compromise your personality.