As the weather becomes pleasant, I become very excited as I am able to get newborns outdoors for portraits. I just enjoy the striking colors of bloom and the natural light. People ask me how outdoor newborn photography sessions are planned and done. With this article I am going to go over a few tricks and tips for taking baby pictures outside.
Outdoor baby sessions are one of my favorite photo sessions. There’s something sweet about new life that’s surrounded by the majesty and beauty of nature which inspires me. I liken it to taking them on their own little adventure.
What that said, these photoshoots are logistically complex to schedule in the first place. Everybody involved has to be easy going. First, you’ll have to win over the mom of the newborn into going out on a walk in the summer, the weather should be perfect, and the newborn has to be happy. All this typically occurs after a small in-studio sitting because who doesn’t want pictures of the baby in the studio? If everything goes according to plan, then you’ll get AMAZING photos.
So, I’ll now walk you through on getting these AMAZING photos of your newborn and what to do and what not to do.
Once I’m outside, I invariably have two assistants. I’ll have a person at the baby’s side while photographing them. One person watches the baby and ensures they don’t move and sleep soundly. If the newborn begins to fuss, I immediately stop what I’m doing and go over to soothe the baby. I’ll have a second person holding a shade and watching the surroundings to make sure there aren’t any bugs or insects flying about. I just cannot emphasize enough the significance of safety in these shoots and how having two assistants is extremely important.
#2: Knowing your Surroundings
This is a no brainer. I always inspect my outdoor locations carefully for any insects, critters, or other possible risks. Mosquitoes are especially nasty during the summer. I mostly avoid rainy weather as bugs come out in full and forest types of areas wherever possible.
I always go over the area to make sure there are no insects in or around the location. I only use essential oils on myself as I would be working closely with the baby and always avoid insect repellents.
#3: Mind the Shade
If the baby is in a bowl/vessel or a parent is holding them outside, it’s EXTREMELY important that they are in the shade or appropriately shaded. Newborns and young babies have very tender skin. You do not want them to have sunburns just for some photos. If I can’t find natural shade, I look at alternatives such as large umbrellas, or an overhead reflector.
When there’s dappled light coming through the trees, I strategically position dad or mom merely out of the frame so that they’ll block the light that would fall on the baby.
#4: Warm Weather
I’m lucky to live at a place where the weather gets warm early and stays this way through to August or September. Just as you have your studio kept warm it is extremely important you not attempt an outdoor session in cooler or colder weather. I do not go to an outside location unless it’s at least 80F. Newborns and young babies lose body heat rapidly and you do not want them to be taken outside in colder weather, specifically when they’re in their birthday suits or jammies.
#5: Settling them
When you are around newborns, you will find they settle down when they are warm and cuddled. This means if you are looking to photograph them outdoors, then you’d be successful if you start indoors first. While inside, wrap them up warmly. Babies like warmth, so put them in their jammies under the wrap.
Don’t forget to rock them when making shushing sounds till they are nicely asleep. Then, lay them into a bowl or basket which has been seamed with fluffy blankets and settle them in. Once they’ve settled in, you can move this outside.
Photographing babies outdoors is a hastened affair, as a small sound can awaken them. To be successful, it’s best to scout the location close to your house before beginning. Even in ideal situations, babies won’t settle down outdoors. If you’re experiencing this, don’t get frustrated!
#6: White Noise
I always keep the studio bustled with white noise. I have also got a white noise application on my smartphone which I carry at all times. The baby hears this white noise always soothingly playing. Most of the time I hide my smartphone behind a prop letting the baby hear this white noise when I’m shooting. It gives the baby reassurances and keeps them calm and less irritated with all the things going on during the photo session.
#7: Get somebody to hold them
Shooting primarily on location? You’ll see that all families do not have ideal spaces for indoors family portraits. Many times the physical size or shape of the area isn’t apt for group portraits, or their decor does not match what you had in mind.
On many occasions, families will have beautiful outdoor areas that are just perfect for the shoot. Regardless of this, I mostly ask the dad or mom to hold them during outdoor family portraits. I use this when I take “candid” or “lifestyle” photos.
You may experience babies who won’t settle down outdoors at all. So, let them be held by the dad or mom and it might be a totally different story. On occasion, babies are just looking to be in someone’s arms. I experiment with these scenarios until I’ve got the one that works best for each family and baby.
#8: Containing crawlers and walkers
While photographing younger babies outside, there’s a sweet spot in-between crawling and sitting babies where photography is the easiest. That being said, I don’t always work with the ideal developmental phase as every baby hits those phases at varied ages. So, I try to be the best prepared I can using a couple of tricks so as to make snapping crawlers and walkers a bit easier.
#9: Entertaining them
There are times when crawlers, sitters, and walkers are not happy at all by being contained. I just try to go with it. I won’t push things along, as this mostly ends with the baby in tears, and nobody wants that at a photoshoot.
As I see even the tiniest sign of annoyance, I transition the baby to activities or games and entertain them, and then it’s back to taking photos. Many early walkers and babies love holding hands, and standing up or walking. It’s best to let them do these activities. I mostly let dad or mom play airplane with the baby. I love these opportunities as they give me great poses for candid photos of them having fun.
#10: Keeping an Assistant at Hand
I’ve always loved stepping back and capturing wide-angle shots of babies surrounded by nature, although I make sure that I’ve always got my spotter or assistant nearby. It’s important to have one, not just because the shoot is happening outside but for safety also. You can have them sit adjacent to the baby and prop until your shot is ready.
I have cloned and edited my assistant’s hands/legs/arms out from images before, but those extra five minutes of Photoshop work is worth it realizing that the baby is safe, a 100%.
#11: Nature Lover
If you’re anything like me and love the outdoors and nature, having an indoor session will not be your style. There is a great chance that your baby also loves to be outside much like you. This is the best way to familiarize them with the love for nature. After all, your baby is going to be looking through these images forever.
Though outside newborn sessions have been gaining popularity recently, most parents are still choosing to do in-home or studio sessions. There are only some photographers in the Bay Area that even offer this outdoor session option.
If you want to have something unique and get portraits that are different from the photos your family and friends took of their newborn, then these might be just perfect for you!
I mostly make outside photoshoots of newborns fun and enjoyable. I have always kept them safe. I will not attempt to put an alert baby in a prop outside of the studio. It’s best to keep their skin safe and away from the sun and have a minimum of two assistants always at arms length. Parents always help out and it’s a great way to have them involved!
I can plan to have these sessions from April to September; nonetheless, I always make a backup plan for moving these sessions indoors if needed. It can be due to the weather or the baby’s health. In any case, I can offer a reschedule if you’ve got your heart set on an off-studio shoot but the weather is not cooperating.
Due to the time that these sessions will take, it is always scheduled two hours before sunset. I do not schedule these sessions for locations that don’t have shade. I don’t want to have the newborns in the sun for a long period and the sunlight can become harsh at the session’s beginning for taking amazing portraits, so shades are a must.
Want to learn more about these photo sessions and looking to reserve your spot for this summer, please visit https://artinphotography.ca/contact/
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