20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know

20-dirty-little-secrets-every-newborn-photographer-should-know-the-photographers-elementAfter working with newborns for years, being in the trenches, having the good with the bad come my way, I’ve learned valuable lessons and even more valuable tricks.

I’m not talking about posing, camera settings or lighting techniques to use.

I’m talking about the down and dirty, the behind the scenes tips your camera manual won’t tell you.

If your a newborn photographer or know a newborn photographer, then you’re well aware of  how much effort, time and detail goes into planning every session.  From thoughts of what to wear, for yourself,  to finally discovering out how to wash baby poop out of your $40 blankets. We leave no detail unturned.

For those just starting out or a few newborns under their belt, it could take weeks, months and years to figure out some of the smallest details such as these.

Well, I’ve got a treat for you!

I’m sharing a list of die hard questions and answers over the years that are the industries dirty little secrets ( literally, some are that dirty)!

All for you, in one spot. No more searching Google for hours or emailing other photographers.  Now this list is not limited but something to get you started with.

Here are the 20 dirty little secrets every newborn photographer should know:

  1. What’s the best way to get baby poop out from blankets?  Poo is for sure going to happen. The best secret… Oxi Clean Spray, follow the directions on the bottle.
  2. How should you wash your fabric and props?  Depending on the material of the fabric wash in cold or warm water in the washing machine on delicate. You can even hand wash if your machine doesn’t have that cycle or the material is super delicate. Hang dry EVERYTHING!  For small shorties and pants, place in a zipped laundry bag for protection, wash on cold, as they WILL shrink if not, line dry or lay out on a flat clean surface to keep the form. For props, you can use your favorite antibacterial all natural wipe or spray to wipe off a prop or your bean bag after baby use. IMPORTANT: keep a clean safe environment always, it’s healthy for your tiny subjects.20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element
  3. What is the best laundry soap to use that is safe for baby?  There are several natural dye free products out there, the most common, Dreft and ALL Free & Clear. Some parents will ask what you are using so make sure it’s gentle for babies skin types. 
  4. What do you fill your posing bean bag with? Packing peanuts, you can find them at shipping stores or even buy online. They are large and in charge and get the job done for a firm, firm bean bag.
  5. Is there something between fabrics that can protect them when baby pee’s or poops while on the bean bag?  Puppy pee pads are super helpful, they are small enough and can provide protection between layered fabrics if any accidents should occur.
  6. Newborns have different head sizes, what’s a tip to keep a headband or hat in place if it slides down or is a little too big in size? A small alligator hair clip does the trick, to tighten girls headbands in the back. Use tiny claw clips  to hold hats in place or gather in the back of the head  and clip if hats are oversized.
    newborn-photography-secrets-the-photographers-element-hats-and-bonnet-tricks,20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element
  7. How should you dress, as the photographer, for a newborn session?  It’s HOT, so dress in comfy clothes that allow you to move freely. Remember newborn sessions are kept warm for sleepy babies so dress accordingly. I prefer yoga/workout pants and a long loose tank top or shirt. It’s best to also dress in neutral colors or black/white as your clothing could cast colors on baby when photographing.  A hot pink or green shirt is NOT ideal. Lastly, wear clothing that doesn’t have exposed buttons or zippers that could possbily scratch baby.
  8. Should you wear scented items like perfume or lotions?  That would be a BIG no. Babies senses are strong and could be bothered by strong perfumes or lotions you wear. Since a lot of your session is spent holding baby close, be conscious of how you smell. Deodorant is totally recommend and encouraged though!!what-to-wear-for-a-newborn-session-the-photographers-element,20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know
  9. Can you wear jewelry during your session with baby?  Again be conscious of anything sharp that might scratch baby like large rings, watches, bracelets and necklaces. I suggest no jewelry to be safe (except a wedding ring).
  10. How long is a typically newborn session? This will depend on what style of newborn photography you capture, posed or lifestyle. The session time can vary, for posed, it can take up to 3hrs. For lifestyle, between 1 1/2-2hrs depending on your intended shots. Plan your time accordingly and tell parents to as well.
  11. Posed newborn photography can take a toll on the body, what are some ways to help with that? There is a lot of kneeling and bending. I suggest for you knees, having a mat, like a thick kitchen mat. You can also use a low stool to sit on so you are not bending over during beanbag posing. Your back will thank you.
  12. How warm should your environment be for posed newborn photography? Between 82-85 degrees, you want to feel sweat. Remember you are mimicking the womb for baby. Have a small space heater or if you travel you can ask parents to turn up the heat.
  13. What is the best time of day for a newborn session? The morning time, baby is usually their sleepiest as they have been up most of the night. I tend to plan sessions around 10:00am.
  14. When is the ideal time to photograph newborns? Between 5 days and two weeks old. Babies are going to be sleepy, flexible and their baby acne hasn’t set in yet.
  15. How do you keep baby asleep? Besides a warm environment, have some white noise cranked up loud. This will drown out any background noise and keep a consistent sound like it was in the womb with moms heart beat. I use my iPhone or iPad to lay next to baby with my White Noise App (from app store, the pink icon), set to the fan noise.  There are heart beat apps and even plain noise machines you can use, find something that works for you.20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element
  16. When posing baby on the floor or on a beanbag what do you use under that fabric to prop them up?  Folded cotton receiving blankets, folded into a rectangle to slide under the fabric for their heads or tush depending on the pose. Stack the blankets for extra lift or support. Not sure about the folding part, check out my video demo here from one of our Mastery Monday Tips .20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element
  17. How much fabric should I buy to place over my beanbag for the posing? 2 1/2 yards of a stretchy,non-shiny, smooth fabric. Jersey knit is fab for this.  Cut the extra 1/2yd off, and you have a perfect sized wrap that now you can swaddle baby with that matches with the posing fabric.
  18. What is the best size for a newborn prop? For a newborn to lay in , use your arm to measure an appropriate size. Make a fist and place your fist to your elbow inside the prop, if it fits, baby will fit.  For girls headbands, I use the ‘OK’ rule. Make the ‘OK’ symbol with your fingers,  if the accent on the headpiece fits within the ‘OK’ its perfect size to fit on baby and will not be too overwhelming.newborn-prop-rules-20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element
  19. How do you get the coiled blanket look? The secret is rolled up towels or my favorite those draft door stoppers, place your door stopper or rolled towel on the  desired blanket and then roll up like a “snake.”  Then coil up the roll in your basket or bowl. Voila!20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element
  20. How do you get those perfect shiny baby lips? Some babies tend to have flaky skin because they are shedding their “womb” skin, this is the same for lips especially breast feeding babiesApply a very small amount of Aquaphor or wipe lips gently with a baby wipe to create a little moisture for those perfect kissable baby lip shots.How to achieve kissable lips with newborn macro photography, 20 Dirty Little Secrets Every Newborn Photographer Should Know, The Photographers Element

Do you have any dirty little newborn secrets you’d like to share? We would love to hear yours, comment below !

malia b


malia battilanaAs a former school teacher, and now a full time newborn portrait photographer, Malia has combined her love of children and teaching to help others spark their passion in their own newborn photography journey. She believes emotional connection makes for influential newborn portraiture and that anyone seeking that, can find it.  Malia lives in sunny Phoenix, Arizona with her most supportive husband and her 3 fun-loving children. As the owner of Malia B Photography, she photographs the cutest babies in the Valley of the Sun.

There’s more where this came from. Want to learn more secrets and personal instruction when it comes to newborn photography?  Sign up for our VIP list to see when the next course opens and visit the newborn course page for more information I’m teaching: Click here: Newborn Beginnings &  Click here: Newborn Flare Courses

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Malia Battilana

AS A FORMER SCHOOL TEACHER, AND NOW A FULL TIME NEWBORN PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER, MALIA HAS COMBINED HER LOVE OF CHILDREN AND TEACHING TO HELP OTHERS SPARK THEIR PASSION IN THEIR OWN NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNEY.

It’s an honor to be photographing the world’s newest little human beings. It takes that special touch, patience and a pure love. She believes emotional connection makes for influential newborn portraiture and that anyone seeking that, can find it.

Malia lives in sunny Phoenix, Arizona with her most supportive husband and her 3 fun-loving children. As the owner of Malia B Photography, she photographs the cutest babies in the Valley of the Sun.