When choosing props for a newborn photography session, it’s easy to get carried away—after all, pretty much anything paired with a brand new baby becomes cute. But, babies won’t tolerate a lot of reposing, which means you’ll likely only use a few props for each session. The key to finding great newborn photography props is to keep it simple, while still adding a sense of creativity. The best baby photography props will also add a sense of scale, since it’s hard to see just how tiny the baby is when there isn’t anything else in the picture.
If you’ve got a newborn photography session on your schedule, here are 25 prop ideas for babies that are sweet and simple.
A Note on Safety: Everything isn’t always as it seems in newborn photography. If a baby is perched precariously on a prop, chances are, that’s a Photoshop trick. It’s best for beginners to stick with simple, safe poses and props. But, if you want to use a certain prop that’s not so sturdy, you can accomplish that safely by taking two photos and merging them together. Set your camera up on a tripod to make the process easier. Then, take a picture with everything in place (prop, background, etc.) except for the baby. Then, add the baby to the scene, but with mom/dad or an assistant using a hand to keep the prop steady. Using Photoshop and that first picture, you can clone out the hand, so you have just the baby and the props. Always put safety first!
1. Blanket and Beanbag
To avoid getting too carried away with props, start a newborn session with a simple set up using a blanket over top of a beanbag. Every newborn session should include a few basic poses, without props, focusing solely on the baby. There’s just something sweet and simple about a naked baby folded up into a tight bundle. Start with a blanket and beanbag and take a few different poses (or a few angles of the same pose) with nothing to distract from the baby—then start adding props from there.
2. Basket and Wood Floor
Once you start brainstorming baby props, you’ll walk around stores asking yourself, could a baby fit in that? Baskets and other containers make great props. They show just how small baby is and often keep baby pretty snug. Make sure to add a blanket to keep it comfortable—coordinate the color of the blanket and basket with other elements in the photo. As always, put safety first—make sure the basket is sturdy, and have a parent or assistant close by just in case.
Wrapping baby tightly isn’t just cute, it will also help keep a fussy baby clam during the photo session. Use plain colored, thin blankets that are large. You can purchase swaddles specific for newborn photography, or make them yourself by dyeing cheesecloth (suggested link: http://www.cardstore.com/blog/how-to-make-newborn-cheesecloth-wraps/)—just make sure to leave the cheesecloth much larger than you would expect to allow for a good swaddle.
4. Egg-Style Swaddle
There’s more than one way to wrap a baby. Instead of using a traditional style, try using this egg-style wrap, with the blanket around the head and toes, leaving the belly bare. This different take still keeps baby snug, while showing that cute new belly button and those tiny fingers and toes. Swaddles make great, simple props, but there’s certainly more than one way to use a simple blanket (suggested resource: http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Gami-Wrapping-Beginners-Fern-Drillings/dp/0811847640).
5. Mom or Dad’s Hands
Who says props have to be objects? Including mom or dad’s arms in the image give a sense of scale, while still focusing more on the baby (though family portraits with a newborn certainly have their place too). This is great for a baby that is fussy unless he or she is being held.
Hats are great ways to make a newborn session more unique, without dressing the baby up in clothes that are simply too baggy and don’t look right. The possibilities are nearly endless when adding a hat as a prop, just be sure it fits well. Etsy (www.etsy.com) is a good place to shop for crocheted hats for photography props.
7. Wooden Crate
Wooden crates add a bit of rustic flair to the image, while still being a good simple prop for newborn photos. You can add a blanket inside to make a snug spot for baby to lie. Or, you can turn it over and add a blanket then the baby on top—just make sure to have someone holding the baby in place and edit them out of the picture later to keep it safe. Crates and containers can be easily found at craft stores.
Faux fur is a nice alternative to using a blanket as a prop, adding a bit of nice texture without distracting from the baby. While it may sound expensive, you can usually buy a few yards of faux fur at a fabric store rather inexpensively.
Typical baby clothing is generally best avoided, as it’s usually baggy on newborns, and well, that naked birthday suit is much sweeter. However, there are a few exceptions. Tiny costumes, like this mermaid one, designed specifically for newborn photography can be a great way to get creative with your shots. Crocheted costumes, lace rompers and diaper covers usually work well for newborn photography. Again, try Etsy for some great homemade costume options.
10. A Family Pet
Adorable puppy + adorable baby = adorable photo. While this only works with the most docile of pets—or with Photoshop tricks for safety—it can be a cute way to remember both the new baby and the pet that was likely the first “baby” of the family. Getting both the pet and baby (or babies, in the photo above) to sleep like this at the same time would be a huge challenge; you could also try having the pet sniffing or looking at the baby in a basket.
11. Beach Gear
You don’t have to head to the beach to get a beach-themed photo, like this shot. This photographer used colored blankets for the sand and water, a mini surfboard and a crocheted newborn swimsuit costume. There are many ways you could get creative with this theme, try sea shells or place baby inside a lifeguard ring or on a beach towel.
12. Airplane or Travel
Do the little one’s parents love to travel? Incorporate that into the newborn photo props. This airplane with aviator costume is a perfect setup for showing a love of travel. If you can’t find (or afford) an airplane, search garage sales for a vintage suitcase as another way to get that travel theme.
13. Seasonal Foliage
Get some prop inspiration from the season the baby is born in. Colorful leaves can make a great prop for autumn. Or, try daisies in the spring, sunflowers in the summer or fake snow in the winter. This prop also works well incorporated with as basket or crate too.
14. Seasonal Produce
The seasonal inspiration doesn’t have to stop at foliage. What about incorporating the season’s taste into the photos? Apples and pumpkins work well for fall. For a summer baby, try colorful fruit like watermelon slices or lemons with a icy pitcher of lemonade. Again, this prop works well with baskets and crates. Try tying everything together by using a blanket or hat with a complementary color.
Instead of a hat, dress a little girl up as a princess with a crown. Like a hat, this adds some flair and personality, but unlike a hat, allows the little one’s hair to show too. Crowns could be soft and crocheted, or an actual tiara, but make sure it’s going to be comfortable for the baby.
It’s anchors away for this prop idea. The little boat makes a nice snug resting spot for the baby, while the blue background is intentionally wrinkled to look like water. This photographer also added a sailor costume to tie everything together.
A unique take on the traditional baby-in-a-basket pose is to instead create (or purchase) a nest for baby to rest in. The nest adds a natural element as well as great texture for the shot. A blanket or faux fur on top can keep it comfortable for the little one.
18. Stumps and Sticks
Another way to add a natural flair and texture to a newborn photograph is by using a stump or some sticks as a prop. Stumps and sticks can even be gathered from your backyard for free. Again, just be sure to keep it comfortable and safe—a blanket keeps the shot above comfortable, while a parent’s hand was likely edited out of the image to make sure the baby didn’t fall.
19. A Miniature Bed
Since baby will likely be sleeping in your photos, why not place them in a tiny bed? These props designed specifically for photography are available from prop stores, which make them a bit more expensive, but they are also a bit more versatile. You could add in other elements to create a theme, like the three little bears fairy tale in the photo above, or simply adjust the background and blankets to get a variety of looks between clients from the same prop.
Headbands make great simple props for baby girls, adding a tiny bit of feminine flair while still keeping the shot simple. The best headbands are small—avoid using flowers that are so big, they compete with the baby’s head for attention. You always want the main focus to be the baby, not what they are wearing.
Tutus are also easy ways to add a bit of feminine flair. They aren’t too expensive, but they are also easy to make yourself by tying tulle around a crocheted headband or piece of elastic. If you make it yourself, you can actually leave a section of the tutu open, so the baby isn’t lying on uncomfortable material.
Here’s one for the boys (or even both boys and girls)—sports. A football, baseball, soccer ball or other type of ball or sports equipment makes a great prop. Go with the parent’s interests to find a setup that works well for that particular family. Sport balls are great for showing scale—maybe someday the little guy above will be playing football, and look at this picture and realize he wasn’t much bigger than the ball once.
Holidays offer great prop inspiration—and not just when the baby is born around Christmas. Think cupid for Valentine’s day, eggs for Easter, flags for the Fourth of July, and pumpkins for Thanksgiving. Of course, Christmas items make great props too—like a Santa hat, tree bulbs, lights, and presents (wrapped or unwrapped).
What do the newborn’s parents do for a living? This is a great example of why it’s important to plan ahead and know a bit about who you are photographing. The mom or dad’s career is often a great source of inspiration for props. Incorporating a helmet, uniform or boots for a military member, police office or firefighter makes for some very memorable photos. Many other careers make for some great props too—perhaps the baby fits inside daddy’s work boots, or inside a camera bag, or on top of a stack of books. Remember, something unsteady like the helmet above is kept safe by editing out a hand keeping everything stable.
Unlike taking an adult’s portrait, photographing newborns requires props to keep the baby in position. Props can be as simple as a beanbag and a blanket or as complex as career-inspired or holiday-themed sets. The important thing is to first make sure the prop will be safe for the baby (whether it’s sturdy on its own or needs someone holding baby up that can be Photoshop later). Props should also be comfortable, or the baby certainly won’t look calm and peaceful in the photographs. Search craft stores, Etsy, prop stores or even garage sales to find more newborn photography prop inspiration.