Photography specialists are the new gold standard for clients who want the best newborn photographs, wedding photographs, and more. Here’s why. (Featuring Chaya Braun)
“Those first few weeks of a baby’s life fly by in a haze of sleepy feedings, endless diaper changes, and infinite kisses,” newborn photographer Chaya Braun reminisces from her Baltimore, Maryland, studio. “Lacking the foresight to hire a professional newborn photographer, this precious stage easily disappears into a foggy memory of exhaustion.”
Families with the means and forethought to hire a newborn photographer have these fleeting first weeks documented by in-home lifestyle photographers or newborn-focused studio photographers.
Because of their well-rounded skillset, wedding photographers often find themselves enhancing their wedding businesses with family portraits of previous clients, or commercial images for caterers and jewelers. But photographers like Chaya recognize the value of booking specialty talent.
“When I want family portraits, I gladly hire a reputable wedding photographer for the shoot,” Chaya shares, acknowledging the extensive portrait skills wedding photographers develop. And yet, as Chaya knows all-too-well, the creating stunning studio portraits of newborns requires a vastly different skillset.
One Size No Longer Fits All
In the early (and not-so-long-ago) days of photography, a photographer was a photographer was a photographer. A lot has changed, however, since the one-size-fits-all days of the jack-of-all-genres photographer. Now, the industry’s most successful creatives choose to specialize.
Because they focus their energies on a single genre, specialist photographers’ images are among the best newborn photographs, wedding photographs, storytelling moments, family portraits, and commercial imagery in today’s flooded market.
“Your Baby Deserves A Dedicated Newborn Photographer”
When Chaya describes her work as a newborn photographer, her focus is 100% on her tiny clients and their parents. “Your baby deserves a dedicated newborn photographer,” she says passionately. “The best newborn photographs in-studio are all about posing tiny humans lying down – or safely upright.”
As a mother with over 500 newborn clients to her name, Chaya is well-versed in the needs of newborns. “When we start our journey on Planet Earth, we only know how to suck and cry. In their first few weeks of life, babies are so innocent and sweet, yet they completely lack the ability to hold their heads upright or make eye contact.”
“This can be daunting for a photographer who primarily photographs humans between ages one and 100!”
Below, Chaya outlines the studio skills needed to make the best newborn photos for your clients.
Ambiance Is Everything
The best newborn photographs require the same preparedness as, say, proposal photographs. Chaya’s shutter syncs with her strobe at only 1/250th of a second, but it can be a challenge to settle an infant for even that brief moment.
The Studio Environment
“I set my studio temperature to 80 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This creates an atmosphere reminiscent of the warm womb, and encourages a peaceful sleep,” says Chaya. “Attempt to pose a newborn in a 68-degree studio, and you’ll only get red-faced portraits. Newborns are not yet old enough to regulate their internal temperature.”
Sounds Like “Shhh”
Chaya relies heavily on white noise machines to emit a womb-like whoosh in her studio. “Calming sounds help the baby relax,” she says. She is also a loyal fan of the Baby Shusher, a dedicated tool for soothing fussy infants. Relaxed, happy babies are necessary if you want to deliver the best newborn photographs to your clients!
Safe & Sterile
“At one to two weeks of age, a newborn’s immune system is not yet fully developed,” Chaya acknowledges. “Use lots of hand sanitizer, properly wash and disinfect props, and maintain a sterile environment to ensure a safe newborn experience.”
If you think you can plop a baby in a basket and nail a darling newborn pose, think again! “It takes practice, practice, and more practice to pose a newborn’s little hands and feet,” Chaya iterates. “A soft stroke is insufficient, and forceful touch will engage the baby’s startle reflex. That’s when the baby flails her little arms and legs and undoes the pose completely.”
The correct touch? It is firm yet gentle – and it takes time to master.
Posing Parents With Their Baby
When a mom or dad holds their baby, the most natural embrace tends to hide the baby’s face or present an awkward angle.
“Photographs up the nose are universally considered incorrect and unflattering,” offers Chaya. “Nobody has cute nostrils – not even the most adorable one-week-old baby!”
Repeated experience with flattering angles and poses is the only way to guarantee the best newborn photographs of every baby.
Retouching & Post-Production
“Infant skin is another obstacle that separates the proverbial men from the boys in newborn photography,” Chaya laughs. “Newborn skin is very thin, and can carry a red or magenta tinge. Additionally, new babies are often jaundiced, which further complicates their skin tone by adding yellow to the mix. When babies are cold, their limbs turn blue or cyan. And if a hand or foot has too much pressure on it, a purple tint appears in those extremities. In fact, you can find newborn babies whose skin tone is virtually every color of the rainbow!”
With years of experience behind her, Chaya says confidently, “Editing newborn skin to that perfect healthy glow requires a comprehensive understanding of both color theory and Photoshop’s mechanisms for dealing with the RGB and CMYK palettes.”
For the uninitiated, Lightroom and Photoshop actions that are marketed for newborn photos can cause more problems than they solve. An action intended to eliminate red skin can result in a cyan hue. And fixing a magenta hue can render a newborn green, rather than flawless. It’s also easier to overexpose a new baby’s skin than the skin of older subjects.
Chaya pointedly says, “If you prefer auto white balance and loathe retouching, newborn photography is probably not for you!!”
Tiny Props for the Best Newborn Photographs
“Purchasing newborn props is an art unto itself,” reminds Chaya. “When a basket is too small, the baby won’t fit inside comfortably. At the other end of the spectrum, a bowl that’s too large will figuratively swallow the baby. This results in an image that lacks a strong focal point.”
Chaya and other newborn specialists spend extra energy ensuring their wraps and blankets are soft against the babies’ skin, without being too plush for portraits. Chaya instructs, “Babies sink several inches into the overly-plush furriness. That’s when you lose precious details of the newborn’s features.”
Rehearse or Refer
With all the unique skills required to truly make the best newborn photographs possible in a studio, Chaya advocates for photographers to “rehearse or refer.” If you want to accept newborn clients, you’ll need to research, rehearse, and learn newborn photography the way you would learn a second language. (The same goes for any other photography genre!)
If you don’t want to photograph newborns, or if you haven’t quite developed the necessary skills, do yourself and your clients a favor. Refer them to a dedicated newborn photographer. When you build a beautiful network of specialist colleagues, clients get the most capable pro for their needs – every time.
What’s YOUR Photography Specialty?
If you’re not yet sure, what are you doing to uncover your creative preferences?
Comment below with your thoughts and experiences!
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Featuring CHAYA BRAUN