Natural baby-led posing? It’s not quite as simple as it may seem…

I had a fellow photographer recently inquire about photography for her new baby. She wasn’t a newborn photographer herself but a wedding photographer. When I told her my prices she said she would just do it herself because, after all, “The baby just lies there.”

I myself was in for a shock when I took this stance for my own first baby 9 years ago.

I was a photographer. I knew what I was doing. And after all, “the baby just lies there.”

Boy was I wrong.

But let’s pull back the curtain a little bit to help you better understand what goes into posing a baby. Hopefully this will help if you decide to DIY your newborn photos!

“The Baby Just Lies There”

Alright so number 1 is that she was kind of right… in a sense. A baby does just lie there. They have very limited head and limb control. You can’t leave a baby unbuckled in a carseat because they can’t prop themselves up to make sure their airway stays clear. They slump down so much that they can literally die without our help to position and support them properly. Which brings us to number 2…

If they can’t support themselves, we have to create support for them.

Newborn photographers use a variety of methods to create support for their tiny clients. This may be an expensive posing aid made specifically for newborn photography, or it may be something as simple as a rolled up pair of socks tucked between a baby’s shoulder blades. It may also be that an assistant’s hands are never leaving the baby at all and are instead being taken out in photoshop later. (This is also called a composite image, where 2 or more images are combined together. This technique is necessary for some advanced poses to keep baby safe.)

It’s rare that you just lay a baby down and they’re perfectly posed. So we use little tricks and tools to manipulate their position so they’re better supported and comfortable- and also so we can get a better picture!

Baby is positioned safely and securely into a round nest which is then hidden under in a blanket

Same baby, same setup, different blanket puddling technique

DIY Technique to Try: To help baby into a flattering and supportive position, use your Boppy pillow as a base support. Place the Boppy down on the ground and cover it with a blanket. Put baby’s bum down in the well with the back of their neck resting on the pillow, their face looking up into the camera. If you need more support around their head you can tuck rolled burp cloths underneath your blanket layer to hide them. 

Other photographers choose not to “pose” baby at all and simple let baby wiggle and stretch into any position that feels natural. This is traditionally what is called “baby-led posing.” (Want to read another photographer’s take on baby-led posing? Check out this link!)

I tend to fall in between these two things. While I do often use traditional newborn poses, I only do it with babies who are happy to be in those positions. I never ask a mom to leave the room. I want her to be able to watch the whole thing and stay close to her baby! If a baby is upset when I turn them to a pose on their stomach I spend a minute or two trying to settle and if they don’t, we move on. I never force a baby into a position.

Another aspect of baby-led posing I love is that if a baby appears to need a minute with mom between poses, I always give them that time. They may just need a snuggle. Perhaps they need a break and a snack. They may just not like positions on their tummy! That’s all ok with me and I let them call the shots.

I find that this approach gives me the best of both worlds. It’s less stressful to new moms and it feels more natural while still allowing that polished end result.

Have more questions about baby-led posing? Feel free to email us! We’re always here to answer your questions. Hello@gleanandco.com

Boise Newborn Photographer