My newborn photography style includes the use of props in baby’s session. This not only gives us a bit of variety in baby’s images, but allows us to accommodate a baby that might not be as comfortable in the typical newborn posing on a blanket. Some props call for baby to be swaddled which may help you with a fussier baby or one who refuses to sleep.
Prior to any newborn session, parents and I have discussed their color preferences and any favorite props that may have caught their eye from my portfolio. Even though we have a plan for baby’s session, I always have backup ideas that complement what we have already discussed in case baby is just not feeling whatever we are doing. This article will discuss the most favorite newborn props in my arsenal, and how you should use them safely.
How to choose newborn props
If you shoot newborns, props can do wonders in adding variety to a gallery for your clients. Having a selection of different props on hand can also allow you to continue on with your session should baby prove difficult in certain poses or is extra fussy. You can cozily wrap baby and transition him or her into different props and layer wrap colors to add more looks to the final gallery.
Consider the following when investing in newborn props:
- Versatility – Can you use the prop for more than one type of pose? Can the props be enhanced with different accessories, or colors? For instance, my bucket from Hello Little– features magnetic pieces that snap onto the front for easily changing the color or pattern of the bucket. One bucket, endless combinations! Versatile props not only allow you to use them more, but also save on storage space. For very specific themes, many parents may already have some things in their nursery that we can add onto the styling of a particular prop.
- Whether props are gender neutral – can you use them for any baby? The majority of my props are in white, or varying wood tones. They can be used for any baby, regardless of the colors you individually pair with them for each session. Bold props, or themed props will highly limit their use to very specific setups.
- Size of Props – good newborn props will be sized appropriately for babies. When purchasing your own baskets and other props, make sure they are a good size to fit baby comfortably, but not be so large that baby looks lost in it.
- Safety – The safety of your choice of props must always be your top concern. They must be safe for baby, and you must take the precautions necessary to ensure baby’s safety in any prop. See more on this below.
A word on newborn prop safety
As with any newborn session, and any prop, safety is key. There is always a spotter on baby, there are always hands on or near baby to keep them safe. We set up for the image, I often take a “blank” shot without baby in the set to be able to use if I need to afterwards, and a spotter is always there and removes their hands just as I take the shot. Anything that involves them being any height off of the floor tucked into a prop requires caution. And NEVER, EVER suspend baby from anything.
Any hanging type of images that you see with a newborn, should ALWAYS be a composite, with baby safely on a surface, and then composited into the “hanging” prop. Parents are often surprised when they request a swing shot of their baby, that baby isn’t actually upright on a swing. It would seem obvious to most of us as photographers, but it isn’t always. Never, ever, hang baby from anything. Babies have a tremendous startle reflex and anything could happen.
Bucket and basket props are weighted down if necessary as well with a base weight in the bottom. Babies heads are the heaviest part of their bodies, so you want to make sure that the weight in any prop is evenly balanced to ensure safety and no tipping over. A prop should never be lifted while baby is inside, it should already be in place and prepped for baby to be positioned within it.
Newborn props should not have sharp edges, splintered wood, be glass, or have rust. The babies themselves should be resting on soft, padded surfaces to avoid any injury.
Along with the proper training, newborn safety is a feature of such educational sites as The Milky Way, & Accredited Newborn Photographers Association, and MyClickMagazine, where you can read corresponding articles on baby safety.
How to use props during your baby’s newborn session
We will be covering the following favorite newborn props and how to use them safely. Here are the 10 best newborn props to use during your session and how to use them.
- Wooden Moon & Moon Pillows – great for sleepy newborns
- Basket Props – perfect for swaddled newborn poses
- Bucket Props for your newborn
- Newborn Bed Props – A variety of beds to suit your style
- Wooden Heart Prop – a favorite for newborn parents
- Carriage and Pram Props for Baby Sessions
- Furs as a Prop for Newborns
- Swing Props for a Newborn Session
- Headbands and Hats
- Little loveys or stuffed animals
11 Best Newborn Props
1. Wooden Moon Prop & Moon Pillows
So many parents choose my wooden moon prop for their baby’s session. Alternatively, they will also choose one of my cuddly moon pillows to snuggle their baby on. There is just something sweet and cozy about a baby sleeping on a moon. It makes you think about them dreaming softly during nap time, nursery rhymes, and lullabies. For those with a celestial themed nursery or name, this is often a key theme in their session! I personalize the moon per parents’ requests, often tying in other colors from their session with accent fur colors or florals. The wooden moon is also a great prop to incorporate with a smaller sibling. BUT, please note that, as mentioned above, there is always a spotter on baby, and with toddler and younger siblings, I always create this image as a composite. You can find more information about the importance of composites here.
My other moons are plush designs where baby can be snuggled sleepily onto the moon. I have a few different sizes, and for wrapped babies, we can snuggle them within the moon’s crescent too.
My large wooden moon’s vendor has gone out of business, but my pillow type larger moons are from Luneberry.
2. Baskets – perfect for newborns that may not start out so sleepy, or older newborns
For the unwilling, sleep-resistant baby, a basket prop may just do the trick. Sometimes, newborns JUST. DON’T. SLEEP. It is what it is. We may have a great plan for their session, and the only thing that they are comfortable in, is in a swaddle. This also tends to happen with older newborns (3-4 weeks), that may have discovered their limbs are free and don’t want to be tucked into poses.
Generally, when presented with this personality filled new baby, a nice snug wrap and swaddle will do the trick in soothing baby and getting them nice and cozy for a basket prop. The key here is to make sure that they are a) securely wrapped so they won’t wriggle out of the swaddles, and b) making sure they have appropriate neck support behind their heads when in the basket. Depending on the basket, you may need to weigh the base down – I like using those patio tent weights that go around the legs of popup canopies.
The basket is padded appropriately where baby needs support, with decorative fabric or fur layers added on top and then baby is nestled in. Typically your sleep resistant newborn will be happily on his or her way to dream land and you get adorable sleepy images. I like to source baskets from a few different vendors, including The Original Photoblocks Props, and Luneberry.
3. Using a bucket prop during your newborn session
A bucket is a super simple prop to use during a newborn session, but one that must be weighted as well. Again, baby’s head is the heaviest part of their body, so the weight must be balanced, given that their top weight is balanced on one rim of the bucket. A spotter must be used at all times as well. For the bucket, once appropriately padded and some layers added for additional comfort on the rim of the bucket, baby is generally posed on one arm or two for a few different looks. Again, with siblings I would generally composite this image based on the sibling’s age. I have one bucket with interchangeable magnetic “faces” to give me a bunch of different styles in one space saving piece! You can find it at Hello Little Props!
4. Bed Props – Suitable for all styles
Beds are another favorite for shots of your little baby. I have a couple of different styles so we can find one to complement your other session choices. These can be used with swaddled babies, as a laying in bed shot, or with baby propped up on the footboard too. It really is a versatile piece.
5. Wooden Heart Prop – Different uses for a newborn
The wooden heart is a perennial favorite. Most parents’ favorite use is as a silhouette with baby within the heart. This is achieved by layering the heart bowl under the fabric layer you are shooting on. Then baby can just lie in there- I prefer baby in a more natural pose here. I have also used this as a standalone prop, accentuated with layers and flowers. Lastly, it also looks great standing upright behind baby, as a sort of frame. Of course, this must be held at all times, with hands photoshopped out in post for baby’s safety. My wooden heart bowl is from Luneberry.
6. Using a Carriage or Pram during a newborn session
When you think of babies, naturally you think of those sweet little prams, or carriages to roll them along in. My vintage carriage is chosen quite often for baby images, and mostly when there are siblings involved in the shoot. This is an image I always do as a composite where siblings are also present. Wheels and wiggly toddlers do not mix. For the smaller prams, baby can nestle comfortably in those for solo images.
7. Keeping newborn props simple with furs
Sometimes the best styling is the simplest. I use a lot of different furs during my newborn sessions. I love the texture and dimension it adds to the images. They come in beautiful colors, and they are super super soft for baby to snuggle in. I like to use these as layers in props, but also on their own on solid blankets, with baby wrapped in various ways on top of them. I have a ton of different colored fur pieces from Luneberry designs.
8. Using a swing prop for a newborn
Please never use an actual swinging swing for a newborn. I made my swing prop myself in a more rustic style, but there are vendors that sell similar ones. The swing itself is actually set on a posing bed over the fabric drop, and clipped to the top edge of it. Baby is positioned on the “seat”, but is laying down the entire time, so there is nowhere for baby to fall or roll away. There is no need, when this method achieves the look. Of course there are composites of babies on swings, and digital backdrops, but I am not a fan of those and prefer to photograph everything personally.
9. Headbands and Hats or Bonnets for newborns
Headbands and bonnets or little hats are simple props that easily change the look of the baby’s portraits, while keeping the backdrop or physical prop the same. It adds variety to the baby’s overall gallery and can significantly change the options for parents to choose from.
10. Miniature Loveys and Stuffed or Felted Props
Parents just absolutely adore their baby cuddling a soft little felted toy. There are so many to choose from, sweet little bears and animals, themed items, stars, hearts, little clouds, balloons, and more! The cuteness factor just makes your heart explode!
11. Flowers as newborn props
I love nestling babies in florals for their newborn images. There is just something so dainty and delicate, but also full of joy when a baby is surrounded by blooms! You can use fake or real flowers for your setups- I prefer fake when in this close proximity to avoid any allergens with pollen. I created a soft underlayer first so nothing is poking baby and then surround with flowers.
I also like adding florals to other props as you can see above in several images!
Do NOT use the following props for your newborn session
Photographing anyone’s baby requires the utmost care and safety considerations. Please never photograph a baby in the following:
- Actual hanging props
- ANYTHING GLASS …. EVER!
Always make sure that baby is properly supported within the prop, and that their neck and airways are not compressed in any way.
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Sofia Ribeiro is an NJ Newborn, Maternity, and Family Photographer servicing North and Central New Jersey, NYC, and Delaware. Union, Essex, Monmouth , Middlesex, Somerset, Bergen, & Passaic counties, as well as Staten Island included.