Guest Blog: Child and Family Photographer Tracy Sweeney
Newborn Baby Photography
I am so happy, thrilled actually, to be on the blog this week! Thank you for having me.
I am Tracy Sweeney, child/family photographer and owner of Elan Studio in Bristol, Rhode Island. I want to share with you my approach to newborn photography, specifically how I style newborns using various textures to craft natural, sweet, and emotional images. I will teach you how to create multiple images within the same set to maintain efficiency while crafting creative images guaranteed to impress your clients and fans.
I do this specifically through my ONE SET, MANY IMAGES approach. This begins with preparing one full set.
FULL BODY/FULL SET
Position baby comfortably in full set. Layer natural textures, soft fabrics to create interest and contrast. Wrap or swaddle baby to keep limbs close to body. Use extra swaddling blankets underneath layers to help position baby, lift head, support arms/legs etc. so that baby is comfortable and his/her body rests peacefully.
Using the same set/position, photograph baby from a side angle, focusing on a slight downward profile image. Keep eye closest to you in focus and shoot with a large aperture to soften features.
Use a Macro lens to focus on baby’s bitty features.
Continue to focus on additional features within the pose. Consider alternative angles and closeups.
Within the same set/position, bring baby’s feet together and hold at ankle beneath layers and focus on baby’s toes/feet.
Capture the same initial pose but concentrate on a half body or close up from above. This image is very popular for birth announcements.
Often, when styling newborns, I include seasonal elements. I think about the cyclical nature of life and documenting a baby’s entry into this world in a seasonal fashion adds interest and meaning to my images. Since I live in an area where seasons are so distinct, I am rejuvenated throughout the year with the transitional colors and textures and my images are always changing.
I do this either through natural elements, in fall for example: pine cones, leaves, pumpkins and apples, or with color: gold, brown, orange and red.
Similarly, I do this for all the seasons with various natural items or nature inspired textures.
However, remember, One set, many images. I recognize that not everyone will necessarily want a seasonally focused image, or they do not want many. So, I begin with the full set, and then detract items for a simpler look.
Tip: Do not invest a lot money in seasonal pieces as they are only used for a short amount of time and trends change quickly. Find natural items outdoors that you can incorporate (i.e. pine cones, leaves, flowers, wood, etc. Inspect everything carefully for bugs and debris prior to using. If you photograph in an urban area or prefer artificial elements, check the sale aisles after the holidays and seasons for discounts.
COLOR, COLOR & MORE COLOR
I love to use color in my work. My clients see color in my images, so generally, they request color. During my newborn session consult, I ask questions about color and what kinds of color(s) the client would like to see in their imagery. I use this information as inspiration to style my sessions.
$#x2022; Consult with your clients ahead of time.
$#x2022; Question to ask, “What color(s) would you like to see for this session?
Neutrals, pinks, whites, bright color, etc.
Tip: Ask your clients to take a picture of their baby’s nursery and send it to you prior to the session. How a parent styles the nursery can offer a lot of insight.
Prior to the session, know what colors, props, fabrics, textures, etc. you intend to use as per the client’s requests but also allow the baby to organically inspire your selections. Whether you have a studio, or travel to your client’s home, an arsenal of wraps/fabrics in various sizes will be beneficial. If you use headpieces, consider ones that can be sized/manipulated easily for babies of all sizes, and/or have small clips ready to assist in sizing. For smaller babies, use smaller items so as not to “swallow” up the baby. For babies with lighter coloring, be cautious not to wash baby out. For babies with darker hair/skin, consider color pops as well as flattering neutrals.
Tip: Some babies love to be swaddled; you will instantly see these babies’ body relax and their heart rate steady when their arms are secured. Other babies will struggle to free their limbs and pull their hands or arms to their head, reminiscent of their womb positioning. Work with the baby’s general disposition. Never force a pose or position. Instead, begin with your suggested pose and allow baby to work his/her way into a comfortable position, always holding and supporting and soothing the baby in a safe set.
Even when clients say they want color, I always create one set that is more neutral and devoid, to really emphasize baby.
While the majority of my newborn imagery is full of color and textures, I do have clients who sometimes request a more minimalist approach, which omits extraneous elements and essentially focuses on baby only.
GET THE LOOK
In styling to achieve this look, a simple wrap and fabric piece are essentially all that is required. If you travel to clients’ homes, look for an area in the home devoid of furnishings, or photograph on a bed. Bring along a neutral blanket to drape on a posing bag or cloak a chair or sofa on which you can position baby.
Remember the details. I’ve emphasized the importance of creating one set, many images. Within a full styling or simple set, break out a macro lens and capture the small things: fingers, toes, eyelashes, lips. Do not be afraid to fill your full frame with one feature.
Consider the elements you can add or subtract from one set to increase your efficiency. Maintain the same set, and yet impress your clients with various images and poses. Begin with your full set and then concentrate on multiple angles, features, and closeups.
Add or remove accessories (hat, headband, layering blankets) to change the look. When possible, instead of moving baby, physically move to a different side of subject to capture an alternative angle/pose.
Remove elements to showcase baby’s natural beauty. Pay close attention to limb positioning and placement. Image left is the same set as image right with wrap and layering blanket removed.
With the one set, many images technique, efficiently craft multiple images exceeding the ordinary and separate yourself from the competition. Pose baby beyond the traditional beanbag. Use everyday fabrics, textures, and simple props to create stunning portraiture and indelible memories.
Thank you so much for having me!