This post is by Andrea Thomas of Speechless Photography.
It seems like there are countless vendors selling expensive newborn props these days, and when you are first getting started it can be overwhelming to think of all the things you need to buy. However, with a little imagination, you will find that fabulous props can be found all around you at very reasonable prices. You may already have some items that will work in your home right now!
Before my first session, I relied heavily on Amanda’s post about her newborn photography kit and setup. She has tons of great tips and ideas and also includes a checklist of the things that you will need. She covers the “essential” items in that post, so be sure to check it out!
If you have a child of your own, then it’s likely you already have some newborn photography staples, although you might need to dig them out of storage. My kit of things that I already had includes:
- Variety of receiving blankets that I fold into small pads and use under my background blankets to help raise and position the baby
- White sheet to cover windows if there is direct light shining in onto where I want to set up
- Waterproof pads to layer between each of my blankets in case of accidents so that only the top blanket gets soiled. You can find these in the baby bedding area at Walmart.
- Large neutral colored, tight-weave blanket to use as the very first layer in my newborn setup. The baby is never actually posed on this blanket, but having this thick layer underneath my other blankets helps to prevent wrinkles in the blankets above.
- Heating pad to warm the top blanket and remove before laying baby down (Note: NEVER lay a baby directly on a heating pad and always make sure that the area that you have warmed isn’t too hot before placing the baby on the warmed blanket)
- Any blankets that have a nice texture, the one in the photo is the Ophelia blanket from Ikea
- Noise machine to help soothe baby
- Patio bricks (found in outdoor section of hardware store) to weight the bottom of baskets and buckets
I’ve found inexpensive posing buckets and baskets from various sources. Larger baskets can also work to prop up older babies or keep toddlers in place long enough to get a few cute shots. When using any sort of bucket or basket for newborns, I always weight the bottom using patio bricks (shown in a previous photo) and have a spotter near by, just in case the basket were to tip. Be sure to use a soft blanket inside your baskets to make sure that a baby’s delicate skin never rubs against the rough surface. Some of the baskets and buckets I’ve used include (in the photo above):
- Red bucket is a planter from Lowes (purchased from the end of season clearance section)
- Round basket is from Target (I use Photoshop to add text to the chalkboard tag, instead of trying to actually write on it during the session.)
- Wire basket was found online
- Wooden crate is from a local antique store
When I got the chance to photograph my first newborn, I was lucky that it was a boy, since I also have a son. Because of that I was able to make use of some of the beautiful blankets that were given to me for my own child. I also purchased a few knit hats on Etsy to use for this session. Since then, I’ve found fun hats at Old Navy and Babies ‘R Us for just a few dollars each (check out the clearance sections when holiday or winter items go on sale).
Swaddle wraps come in handy for fussy babies or those times that you aren’t quite ready for the diaper to come off, but don’t want it to show in the photos. I love the stretchy knit wraps that I have purchased online (red, blue and green wraps in the photos below), but if you are looking for a less expensive option, you can buy cheese cloths and dye them yourself. You can also use lengths of almost any fabric for wraps. I have found that materials that are not shiny and have a little stretch work the best for me. I had 1 foot wide strips cut of a few different colors and types of fabric to use as wraps the last time I visited my local fabric store. You can see a few of these folded in the wire basket in the photo below.
There are even more props available for baby girls, and you can really get crafty! I already had some purchased silk flower headbands that I had used before, but I wanted to do something different for my most recent session. I picked up some cheap fabric remnants from my local fabric store to use to make “rag roses” (if you’re looking for instructions online, you can also search for fabric flowers).
Any fabric with edges that fray will work great! I cut 1″ x 24″ (or so, the length depended on the size of my remnant) strips of fabric and then just started folding the strip around the center, hot gluing every so often. For the band itself, I cut 10 inch pieces of elastic and hot glued the ends together. Then I hot glued the cloth flowers onto the band and covered that with another piece of felt (also glued on), so that only the soft felt would touch the baby’s skin. You can also add pearls, beads or buttons to the flowers, if you would like.
Flowered headbands can also do double duty to accent a knit hat. Just slip the elastic through a hole in the weave of the hat for a completely new look!
While I was at the fabric store, I also found some great textured material (the black, white, pink and purple fabric in the wire basket above) to use as a background. I had 2 and a half yards cut (although you could probably get by with just 2 yards, if the fabric was on the expensive side). The bonus to this material was that both sides were usable and each side had a different look.
When shopping for fabric to use as a newborn background, look for something that is machine washable with great color and texture. Avoid fabric that is shiny or easily wrinkled. Remember that fabric that is sheer or has open areas will need to be used with another blanket underneath it to make it opaque.
Some of the best props of all come from my clients’ homes! Be sure to ask the baby’s parents to think of anything they have that you can use or that they would like included in the session. These props will often have special meaning for the parents and truly personalize the session. Including personal items as props in your session will guarantee that the parents will treasure the photos even more. And in this case, the best things truly are free!