Ana Brandt on Newborn Photo Posing and Prepping

August 15, 2016

By Ana Brandt

© Ana Brandt

While newborns tend to look cute no matter what pose or props they’re in, California-based photographer Ana Brandt has a way of making the tiny bodies look particularly precious. You may have seen Brandt at WPPI 2016 hosting two hands-on workshops and also presenting “The Art & Business of Pregnancy and Newborn Photography.” Brandt also owns the Belly Baby Love studio in Tustin, California, and offers educational workshops across the U.S. on newborn photo posing. Here, she offers her tips on how she poses miniature humans in a way that’s safe, comfortable and downright adorable.

When shooting from the side, be even in height with the baby.
I tend to pose my newborns on a Paloma Shell beanbag and shoot straight to the baby. I like to sit on a yoga ball so I am even in height with the beanbag.

When shooting from above, stay above. 
Too many photographers squat down and end up shooting “up the nose.” If you are shooting into newborns’ nostrils, it won’t look amazing. Instead, stand right over the baby. I shoot my above shots with a Canon USM 24-70mm II lens that allows me to stand flat on the floor and shoot over a newborn. If I were using a fixed lens, then I would have to climb on something, which can be a safety hazard. (Note: When I do need to stand on a ladder, I have an assistant helping me.)

Don’t underestimate the feet shots. 
Even if a baby is crying, you can give them a pacifier to calm them down and capture feet images. It is most parents’ go-to image when creating announcements.

Start with a wrapped baby. 
Whether the baby is on the floor with a head support or in a basket, I know if the baby is wrapped, it’s a guaranteed shot. Even if a baby is awake, they are usually more settled if wrapped, which also helps me achieve great sibling photos. Be sure to check out this video to see how I wrap newborns as well.

Extra tip: When it comes to wrapping a newborn, I start with arms down to the side. If I put the arms on top of the chest, they tend to burst out like Houdini. For those new to wrapping, have an assistant or parent nearby to help hold the arms down, then wrap the legs and tuck the wrap under the bum. Once I get the baby fully wrapped, I can easily access the feet and get the toes out. From there, I can wiggle the hands out and slowly unwrap.

When shooting from an angle, keep the head higher than the body. 
I tend to curve my babies in a banana shape, curving the head up on one side. I will tilt my camera down toward the head to achieve this angle.

Extra tip: When it comes to props and additions on set, I always keep a heater close by for warmth as well as a baby shusher, which are essential for newborn shoots.

Other things to keep in mind:

Before the session starts, feed and burp the baby. 
I have a newborn workflow we follow and it starts with mom feeding the baby, and then I hold the baby upright for a bit to make sure they burp and any gas comes out. I find the baby will enter a deep slumber once they relieve themselves. If they do not, then I try to photograph the baby awake and hopefully calm them. We also have two yoga balls in our studio that, if you bounce the baby gently, are also helpful for calming fussy babies.

Use colors, materials and textures when the palette is more neutral. 
Make sure colors are complementary and soothing when paired. For backgrounds, I love the textured Dreamweaver backdrops from Intuition Backgrounds by Becky Gregory. I can use them on the wall or on the floor. The soft texture is great with newborns and not too distracting. For fabrics, I look for things that are delicate and soft—mohair wraps that have beautiful detail and soft colors, felted items and faux flokati. We can also cast mom’s belly during pregnancy, which makes for a great neutral prop.

Never leave a baby unattended or force a pose. 
Babies can have sudden movements that can cause them to roll or move right out of a prop. It is very important to either have an assistant or a parent spotting at all times. I also don’t think you should ever force a baby into a pose—it takes two seconds to take a picture, so take the time to invest in safe posing. Not every baby curls up into a potato ball, and not every baby likes to lie on its tummy. Work slowly and spend time learning the baby’s movements and pose in a natural way.

Ana Brandt has been photographing newborns and pregnancy in her California studio for over 17 years. She is on her fifth year as the photographer for 11 cover issues a year with Parenting OC magazine and is also the creator of The Art of Pregnancy and Newborn

CreativeLive Video Tutorial: Newborn Posing, Hosted By Ana Brandt

Related: 5 Transitional Newborn Setups

Newborn Tips From Kelly Brown