Ultimate Newborn Photography Session Guide

Is this your first baby photo shoot? Have you run out of ideas after baby number three? Regardless of whether you’re a new mom or have a gaggle of children, these do’s and don'ts, themes, outfits, props, and some helpful advice will take the the guesswork out of your next photo shoot. With this guide in hand, the big day is sure to be a lot easier.

Some Dos and Don'ts of Baby Photo shoots

Don't assume that everything is as it seems.

Scrolling through Pinterest for some pose inspiration can be quite misleading. More advanced poses where the newborn is supporting its head are always edited to look like they are doing it by themselves. The mother's hands supporting the child have been edited out in post-production. Not being aware of this can lead to some pretty high expectations, frustration, and possibly harm done to the infant. Be sure to research safe poses for your newborn if attempting a DIY photo shoot.

Do look for a photographer that specializes in newborns.

Because of the risks mentioned above to vulnerable newborns, it is that much more important to make sure that your photographer is informed. Finding a newborn photographer that is comfortable and capable will all but guarantee beautiful photos. Asking neighbors, friends, and family is a good way to find some photographer recommendations.

Don't walk in without a plan.

A lot of things can go wrong on the big day. I don’t say that to scare you but to prepare you. Extra clothes, a rattle, or a bottle will not only give you peace of mind, but make sure that you and your baby will enjoy the experience. Keep in mind that temperature, lighting, and the energy of the room are all things that might affect your baby. So have a positive attitude, keep the room a cozy temperature, and dim the lights a little.

Do test the outfit before the big day.

If you are planning to use an adorable little outfit in your photo shoot, be sure to have the baby try it on before arriving! This tip might seem obvious, but these little things can slip through the cracks if you're not careful. Showing up and discovering that your baby doesn’t fit their outfits is disappointing. A quick fix for this problem is posing without the outfit, but nobody wants to miss out on cute little jumpers if possible.

Don't force a perfect pic.

So you've shown up, and are ready to go! But your baby is just not having it. You have tried almost everything to get this little one to cooperate but they just don't seem to want to take pictures. That is OK. Somedays, newborns are not going to be in the mood to take photos. Most newborn photographers are very accommodating and will not mind it if you ask to reschedule.


As Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man.” This quote could not be more true when taking photos that are sure to be treasured by future generations. These photos are not only for your immediate family to enjoy but for their kids too. From the classic little sailor outfit to a white flowing gown, there are so many options! The following are a few unique outfit ideas for your next photo shoot.


Who doesn’t love a cute animal-inspired look? From cheetah print to cat headbands for your wild one, there is plenty of inspiration from the jungle.


This one is perfect for your little sports fan. If mom or dad loves baseball, a sports outfit will definitely be a crowd-pleaser. Having a stadium or park background is going to make this one a home run.


Classically feminine and extremely popular makes this outfit an excellent choice for lovers of the Arts. With a soft pink tutu and a hair bow, this is sure to get a standing ovation. Bravo!


Bows are versatile. Elegant, fun, and above all, CUTE! I previously thought of bows as an accessory, but it is with complete authority that I tell you that these can be stars of the show. Baby bows can make any outfit a statement. 


There is almost nothing cuter than a baby boy in a tie, considered to be the counterpart to bows. These little things will have you in awe. Striped, polka-dotted, or print, the options are almost endless.


Is mom a doctor and dad a chef? Consider dressing up your little one in either uniform; it makes for a fun and quirky photo op! Also, have you ever seen a baby in a chef outfit? Adorable.

Outfit Tips

Make sure to have the baby try on every part of the outfit. This may be how you find out problematic allergies to dyes, materials, or detergent. Check the fit of socks, headbands (especially headbands!), or hats before the big day. Sizing between clothing companies often varies and that quarter of an inch might make or break an outfit. Knowing what size your baby is in different brands helps when making decisions like this. Many brands include sizing guides on their website for their baby clothes, so make the most of your shopping time by doing a couple of quick searches before. Another thing to consider is how easy it is to put on the outfit. Buttons are hard with a wiggly baby. Snaps and zippers are recommended. Also, be sure to look for stretchy neck holes and snaps at the collar to make the experience better for you and your baby.


Themes can determine both the outfit and setting of your photo shoot. Themes lend themselves to more fun and characterized shoots. They keep your photos looking unique, instead of cookie-cutter. The following are a couple of themes that are sure to stand out.


Crunching leaves, crisp air, and captivating colors make this an attractive choice. Breaking out a little raincoat or scarf is sure to make this a success among peers. Piles of brown, yellow, and orange leaves make for a striking autumnal contrast.


Out of this world! Your little explorer will look so cute discovering aliens, playing on the moon, or hanging out with Curiosity on Mars. “I Love you to the moon and back” is a famous quote that inspires even the smallest of astronauts. 


Sweet summertime lemonade, a powerful counter to summer heat, and a cute photo-op! Grassy fields, a personal lemonade stand, or a picnic scene is sure to make this tooth-achingly sweet. Little lemon patterned onesies or stacked sugar cubes make this a refreshing choice.


So many options! Whales, sailors, mermaids, starfish, or octopi make this theme one of the most diverse. Island living, sailing, surfing, or sandcastles are all popular choices for any beach themed photos. Your photos are sure to be teeming with life if you decide that this one is the one for you.


Do sudsy bubbles, fluffy towels and rubber duckies need explanation? Tiny little clawfoot baths or galvanized tubs, allow for a vintage or rustic feel. Add a small bath mat to go under the tub and this photo is sure to be a winner.


Timeless and darling, this one is adorable and pairs well with closeups, always an excellent option to let your baby be the star of the show. Black, white, and gray look good in any home. This theme has a peaceful and classic feel to it.

Theme Tips

Themes are so much fun. It can be easy to get carried away with them. Getting excited about a stuffed octopus, jellyfish, or seahorse is understandable, but takes away from the focal point. Overwhelming viewers with a lot of background can distract them from the purpose of the photos, showing off your cute baby. A good tip is to step back and count the elements in your photo. If there are more than three or four, consider cutting some of them. Remember, we want the audience to see your baby first, not the adorable octopus.


Holidays are a time of relaxation. What could be more fun than memorializing the baby's first Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's day? Holidays are the perfect excuse to take more cute photos. 


Santa, reindeer, angels, elves, or snowflakes provide plenty of inspiration for this classic holiday. With backgrounds of snow, candy canes, or Christmas trees, the options are endless. 


Turkeys, cornucopias, fall leaves, and flannel are sure to set this autumnal scene. The popular idea is to make a "nest" out of hay (fake hay) and place orange, red, and yellow flowers around. 

Mother's Day

Pastels and quality time with mom make this holiday special. Consider a mommy and me matching outfit with a simple background. A white fur rug for some tummy time is all you need to make these photos special. 


Bunnies, colorful eggs, and baskets are signatures of this holiday. Bright, cheerful colors and soft stuffed bunnies bring a smile to viewers. Try swapping the classic rabbit for a baby chick, to spice things up.

July 4th

Fireworks, BBQ, and patriotism celebrate America's independence with red, white, and blue. Pinwheels, red gingham, and denim are all excellent choices for this holiday's photo shoot. Consider framing the photo shoot at a picnic or campfire.

Father’s Day

Darker colors and a more outdoor setting all lend themselves to be a more masculine photo shoot. Including toy tractors, dump trucks, or trains is a fun way to celebrate the men in your baby's life. 


Bats, witches, and superheroes are this holiday's trademark. Plenty of creative opportunities make this one of the most unique pictures around. Coordinated family outfits are an easy way to have fun with this holiday.

Valentine’s Day

I love this holiday; Valentine's Day is one of the most iconic "baby's first." Candy, paper hearts, ribbon, and pink! Setting up a 'kissing booth" is a great way to put a twist on this classic holiday.

Saint Patrick's Day

Rainbows, leprechauns and green are synonymous with this holiday. Using a pot of gold as a prop and placing your baby inside it shows just how much you treasure them. I wish you the best of luck with this holiday.

New Year's Eve

Black white and silver are popular choices for this holiday. Add some confetti and a cute little disco ball to the photo, to set the scene. A good tip is to swap the confetti for sprinkles if you are worried about them being eaten.


A prop is a portable object other than furniture or costumes used on the set of a play, movie, or in this case a photo shoot. Props are a low-cost way to bring uniqueness to your photos.


Angelic, feminine, and seasonal. Flowers are a beautiful way to connect with nature. I recommend using high-quality fake flowers to prevent allergies.


Favorite toys are a great way to make this process comfortable for your baby. Use wooden blocks to spell names or plushies of popular movie characters to hug. There is so much potential when using toys!


Babies and bubbles, so very cute. In addition to being the most cost-effective option, the amazed look on your baby's face is just precious. Be sure to take these photos outside and avoid carpet; the bubbles can make quite the mess.


Classically popular, this option is simply a comfortable swaddle and a soft blanket behind the baby. Usually, this picture is taken from the top down to capture your small and precious baby.


Don't be afraid to include siblings in baby's first photos! Having the baby lay on the older siblings back makes for a cute photo op.


A wicker basket is one of the most popular options for newborn photos. These photos are shot from the top-down and the basket is filled with blankets and surrounded in flowers. Perfect for a rustic theme.


Show how sweet your baby is with candy! Decorate a little candy shop with jawbreakers, peppermints and Hershey’s kisses galore.


Soft blues, whites, and pinks are all I can think to add to this one. Having both parents hold the baby adds to the loving mood of this picture. This opportunity is not one to miss.


Puppies and babies, how much more cuteness can you squeeze in one photo? The baby serenely asleep and the dog guarding over them is a popular position.


Strawberries, lemons, and watermelon are all popular summer props. Picking a color theme and including all fruits of the same color or two different colors are a sure way to make these photos pop.

Action Shots

It might be hard to capture a perfectly still moment. So why not focus on action shots? These photos are sure to be memorable and have that feeling of life. 


These photos have a peaceful quality to them. Seeing an adorable little squinched up face moments before sleep makes this choice one of the best. 


So many options, hands, feet, or lips. Remember every detail of your baby with these closeups. I would recommend a warm color pallet or stick to black and white photography. 


This might not be the most action-packed, but it is one of the easiest to accomplish. And with great results! A sleeping baby is a lot easier to pose and take time photographing, but they might be cranky if you wake them up. 

Hair and Makeup


Do not use hairspray on a newborn. Hairspray contains phthalates, which are not good for little lungs (or adult lungs). If phthalates are inhaled in large doses (hairspray qualifies) they are dangerous. A quick internet search for “baby hair spray” shows that 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp granulated sugar, in a spray bottle is a common fix for this. There are also plenty of baby-safe hairspray options online.


Do not under any circumstance put makeup on your baby. Not only is this a health hazard, but it's also just common sense. Babies have extremely sensitive skin, makeup will cause your baby to have an adverse reaction. Skin color in newborns can vary greatly — from a pink and white or yellowish tone to the typical redness. Irritating your child's eczema or other skin condition for the sake of a picture is simply not responsible. All of these things can be edited out in post (after the picture is taken) if they are really a problem. 

What to bring to the baby photo shoot?

This list is everything that you will need to make this photo shoot a success. It also doubles as a way to gain peace of mind and calm any nervous energy before the photo shoot. 

Diaper Bag

Please bring a diaper bag! The most important item on this list, a diaper bag is essential to a good photo shoot. You get security from being prepared and your baby gets a clean diaper. It's a solid win-win.

Change of Clothes

This should be in your diaper bag. Having two pairs of the same outfit, or having the second outfit coordinate with the first is a great decision. While the latter is more favorable, sometimes that first outfit is so cute you have to make sure the rest of the world sees it. 


This should also be in your diaper bag. Maybe you were running a bit late and couldn't spare the time for a snack. Luckily you have food in your diaper bag. Crisis averted. Nobody wants their baby to be hungry. 

Favorite Toy

A distraction from overwhelming stimulus can be the difference between a meltdown and a happy baby. This is an ace in the hole for any new parent.


Anything worth having takes hard work. Being patient is absolutely key to the success of the photo shoot. You can handle the meltdowns, dirty diapers and spit-up because it’s worth it.


Congratulations! You reached the end of this comprehensive guide. Now armed with the knowledge of how to pull off a successful newborn photo shoot, schedule an appointment with your local photographer. Have fun making memories that are sure to be cherished for generations to come.

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