Top 4 Must Have Items for Baby Photographers

If you’re starting out as a baby photographer, you might wonder what things you really NEED to get started. Despite what you might think, you really don’t need much. My advice to all photographers just starting out is to start simple. Master your lighting and posing instead of trying to buy every cute baby outfit on Etsy. The secret to good photography is lighting and posing after all!

Here is a list of the most important items (other than your camera of course!) for baby photographers:

Item #1: Good lighting

The number one item without a doubt is light! Be it natural light (sunshine) or studio light – light is the only thing we as photographers can’t do without. The first thing you need as a baby photographer is to decide whether you’re going to use natural or studio light, and then purchase whatever you need to use that light to your advantage. For natural light photographers that would mean finding yourself a large window and installing sheer curtains to make the light beautiful and soft. For studio light photographers you will need a light, light stand, a trigger (if you’re using flash) and light modifier (I use a PLM with continuous lighting – here is more information about my set up here in this blog post). Most photographers I know have started with natural light as studio light can feel a bit intimidating at first (I was totally intimidated by it until I did the Milky Way Lighting Class).

Item #2: A soft surface to place baby

The second most important item is somewhere soft (and safe!) to place baby while you photograph them. Lots of baby photographers use a firm bean bag or I know many use a dog bed. You don’t really need to invest in anything special though when you’re just starting out. If you have a bed or even just placing lots of soft blankets on a floor or carpet, this could easily be enough. I have used a ShootBaby bean bag for many years. This bean bag is great as it has a faux leather surface – perfect for wiping up any accidents.

best newborn photographer in sydney

Keep it simple! With only 4 items you can create beautiful, timeless photographs of babies. Photograph copyright and taken by me: Amy Tong Photography

Item #3: A scarf or other textured material

I’m a huge fan of simple baby photography – where the baby is the main focus of the image without lots of flowers, props and “stuff” in the image. If you’re starting out and you’re being inspired by established photographers you might be fooled into thinking that you need to spend thousands on all the latest props. Honestly – you really don’t need to! Start with just a neutral coloured scarf or textured wrap to lay over the baby. Some of my favourite images are of babies with only a scarf or material over their nappy.

Item #4: A good quality camera and lens

Of course you can’t take a photo without a camera and a lens. Buy the best quality camera and lens that you can afford. Modern day DSLRs are incredible so don’t feel like you need to have the latest model – truth be told I’m still using an older model Nikon (one day I’ll upgrade!). If it’s a choice between affording a better quality lens or a better quality camera body, I’d choose a better quality lens every time. My current favourite lens is the Sigma Art 35mm 1.2 (although ask me in a few months time as it’s constantly changing).

For more information on my camera equipment check out this blog post

Honestly – these 4 items (plus a happy baby of course!) are all you really need when you’re wanting to photograph babies. It doesn’t need to be complex (or expensive!) to have everything you need. I hope this inspires you to take your baby photography journey to the next level.

Did you find this blog post handy? I’d love to hear from you!

Amy xx

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    How to Learn Newborn Photography

    I get a lot of messages and emails from people who are interested in learning newborn photography. It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked! How do you learn to be a newborn photographer? In 2020 I am SO jealous of the amount of resources out there for people wanting to pursue newborn photography – be it as a profession or a hobby. What I spent thousands and years learning is at the fingertips of most people for a fraction of that cost (and time!). If only these were available back when I was first starting!! Here are some of the most productive things you can do on your journey to learn newborn photography:

    ONLINE BABY PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS (MY FAVOURITE!)

    When I first started as a newborn photographer, it was long before the advent of the incredible amount of online workshops that there are today! Back in the dark ages (ha!) of around 2011 I ordered a DVD from Wild Spirit Photography (who has since given up photography I believe) in Queensland. It was a collection of DVDs discussing lighting mainly – it was so long ago I barely remember it! Around the same time I also purchased a series of videos by Lana Bell who was a leading newborn photographer in Australia specialising in posed newborn photography. I remember I used to watch those videos over and over trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be doing!

    Here are my favourite online workshops for baby photography:

    • CreativeLive
      CreativeLive is a treasure trove of educational videos from all the top professionals in the world (in pretty much every field from photography to writing to SEO). You can watch videos live for free, or you can purchase videos to keep forever so you can re-watch them again and again. The classes are very cost effective and cover a range of topics from lighting to posing – for all levels of experience. For Newborn Photography, my favourite classes are by fellow Aussie baby photographer Kelly Brown (who is an awesome teacher and all round lovely person).
      >> DISCOVER NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSES AT CREATIVELIVE
    • Milky Way
      The Milky Way is another fabulous online resource for newborn and baby photographers. There are classes specifically on posing, editing, and lighting and yearly boot-camps with fresh content from some of the best baby and maternity photographers from all around the world. I learned all the basics of studio lighting here when I made the switch from natural light to studio light and the content is so great and easy to follow. I highly recommend it if you’re wanting to take your baby photography to the next level.
      >> DISCOVER THE MILKY WAY ONLINE CLASSES
    how to learn newborn photography
    The Milky Way is a fantastic online resource for baby photographers covering everything from posing to lighting and editing. Online classes are the most cost-effecting bang-for-your-buck way to learn how to become a newborn photographer!

    For me personally, I have always found that I learn best from online workshops as these allow you to watch and re-watch them over and over until things “click” for you, or if you need a refresher after a bit of a break from photographing babies. The best learning is always when you do it yourself so doing online classes allows you to watch and focus on one particular thing and then to practise it and come back to the next thing. They’re also a lot more cost effective than in-person workshops!

    IN-PERSON NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS

    As much as I love online workshops, in-person workshops can also work really well. I have done quite a few in-person workshops over the years – particularly in my first few years in business. The benefit to in-person workshops is that you get to meet other photographers (I have met some wonderful people at workshops and made life-long friends). Being a photographer can be super isolated, so getting the opportunity to meet like-minded photographers at workshops is a great way to build a support network in the industry.

    Which in-person newborn photography workshops should I do?

    I’ve done workshops by Erin Elizabeth, Barb Uil, Minna Burgess, Kath V, and Lana Bell and 1:1 mentoring with Kelly Brown. I came away from each of these workshops/days with some great knowledge which I still use years later. You may find like me however, that after you’ve done a few of these that you come away from each one learning less and less. I decided about 5 years ago that I wasn’t going to do any more and I’ve stuck to that. Each class can be upwards of $1000 to attend (plus travel expenses etc) and I find that so much is covered when you’re first learning that it’s hard to retain everything! If you’re wanting to really make leaps and bounds in your baby photography journey, I would opt for online workshops first, and perhaps one or two in-person workshops with a photographer whose work you really admire (and has great reviews! Remember that good photographers aren’t necessarily the best teachers).

    I hope that these suggestions really help you on your baby photography journey!

    Amy xx

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      Baby Photography Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

      Last week I asked my Instagram followers (Follow me at: amytongphotography if you don’t already. I’d love to connect with you!) to let me know any questions they have for me – whether it be baby photography related or business related. Thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch! I got some fabulous questions that I thought I’d answer in a blog so that they can help lots more people 🙂

      Q: How did you first get started in photography? What made you want to specialise in baby photography?

      I first got started in photography as a hobby waaaay back in 2008. At that time I was working with my husband in his business looking after his marketing. Some of you may remember that 2008 was the year of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Being in the finance industry – that year was probably the most stressful year I can remember for us as a couple. Dealing with all that stress and anxiety – I really wanted to find a bit of an outlet… something else to focus on other than the stresses going on at work. I’d always wanted to learn how to take good photos so I signed up to a weekly night time course at my local community college. The rest as they say is history!

      Initially I took photos of anything and everything. Lots of streetscapes, landscapes, portraits of my nearest and dearest (thank you dear hubby for being my guinea pig!). I was getting up at 4am to capture dawn photos. You name it, I photographed it! I hadn’t settled on any specialty at that time though. It wasn’t until the birth of my daughter in 2011 that I stumbled upon baby photography and became fascinated at how these perfect little people could be posed and photographed so perfectly. To be honest – I initially started specialising in baby photography because it suited my life at the time. I was a new Mum was a baby of my own. I took so many photos of my little girl. Branching out into taking photos of other peoples’ babies was just a natural progression. It also fit in well with my time as a Mum – I could set aside one day each week where a nanny would care for my baby girl – and I could take photos of babies. Over time I came to fall in love with the genre of newborn and baby photography. At that time in Australia it certainly wasn’t the huge industry it is now. It’s amazing to think it’s now almost 8 years since that time and here I am still photographing beautiful babies. How lucky am I?

      newborn photography sydney

      Q: What sort of lighting equipment and lenses do you use?

      For lighting – I use a continuous light with a PLM softbox. Initially I was a natural light photographer. Then I moved to strobe. I’ve now found my happy place with continuous lighting. I have another blog here all about my lighting and why I made the switch (and can’t ever see myself changing!)

      >>Read more about my lighting equipment and why I use continuous lighting

      As far as lenses go – I think I’ve tried them all! My current “go-to” lens is the Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4. I use this lens for probably 99% of all of my work (as well as all my personal family images as well). It’s a great focal length to allow you to be close to baby, but not needing to be too close, as well as being able to shoot families and overhead shots without needing to switch lenses. I used to always be worried about lens distortion. Honestly it’s really not all that noticeable. Plus – just click profile correction in Lightroom and voila anyhow!

      Q: Are you a Nikon or a Canon girl? And why?

      I’m a Nikon girl through and through. I’d love to give you some sophisticated reason as to why. Honestly? My husband had a Nikon that I borrowed (nabbed!) when I was first starting out so that’s just what I started with. I’m so comfortable with the layout on Nikons now I really don’t think I could switch over to Canon (I think that the dials are reversed on Canons which would completely mess with my brain!). I think both brands are as good as each other though. It’s more about the photographer than the equipment anyhow!

      Have more questions? Comment below and I’ll be sure to do another post soon with some more answers 🙂

      Amy xx

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      • Isabel SweetI just found your website.. not only is your newborn photography stunning but you have so many helpful tips.  Thanks for sharing!

      • AmyTongHi Isabel. Thank you SO much for your kind words. I’m so glad you’ve found my tips helpful 🙂

        Best wishes!
        Amy

      Backing Up Your Photos and Why It’s Important

      We live in an amazing digital age. Most of us have a camera with us 24/7 in some form or another – be it on a mobile phone, or a DSLR. Instagram and Facebook upload more images every minute of the day than our grandparents ever took in a lifetime. It sure is a wonderful time to be alive and capture all the special moments in life. But are we really capturing them to keep forever? Or are we at risk of losing them all before our grandchildren get to see any of them? Digital photos can be so easily lost with the loss of a phone, a few accidental clicks of a mouse, or a hard drive failure. So – what are the best ways to back up your photos?

      Step 1 – Back Up to an External Hard Drive

      A great thing to do is to back up your files to external hard drives. You should do this on a regular basis with at least 2 hard drives. Preferably at least one of these should be stored at a different location (in case heaven forbid your house burns down!). Be aware that external hard drives can fail so be sure to keep tag-teamming your multiple drives to prevent loss.

      Step 2 – Back Up to a Cloud Back Up System

      Syncing your photos with a cloud back up system is a great way to “set and forget”. There are lots of options out there including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc.

      I personally use Smugmug for my online backups. I have folders set up for both my personal and client work going back to when I first started getting interested in photography.

      Fancy getting a 20% discount off of the first year of your new Smugmug subscription? Visit: https://secure.smugmug.com/signup?Coupon=L6jOTHgzKS4AE

      There are also lots of apps you can download which will sync your mobile phone photos whenever you’re within range of your Wi-Fi network.

      Looking for a great online cloud system for your phone? Try PhotoSync. You can set it up to synchronise your phone images to your cloud backup system. You’ll find it on the App store.

      newborn photography sydney inner west
      Making sure that my clients have backups of their precious photos of their babies is important to me. Along with information about how to preserve their digital files with proper backups, I also provide complimentary prints of all the images my clients order in their gallery.

      Step 3 – Scan and Digitise Your Old Images

      It’s easy to forget about backing up your old pre-digital images, but that box of old prints at your Mum’s place is just as important to preserve for the future. You’ll need to scan these to be able to back them up digitally. This can either be using your camera on your phone and a scanning app, or for higher quality scanning you’ll want to use a standalone scanner.

      This can be an overwhelmingly huge job so just take it in short bursts. If the task is too overwhelming – you could also consider outsourcing the task to a professional scanning service.

      Step 4 – Print Them Out!

      Prints don’t need any software to be viewed. And if you print them on quality paper, you can be assured that they’ll be safe for your grandchildren to see in years to come. Of course, you don’t need to print out every image you take, but it’s a great idea to make a shortlist of your favourite images one or two times a year and get them printed out or made into an album.

      The great news is that you can order professional quality prints online in Australia to be delivered to your door.

      Wanting to get started making prints and other physical products with your beautiful photos? I can highly recommend MyProPhoto.  They are the online retail branch of a well-established professional printing lab in QLD.  They offer a range of products including prints, canvases, albums, desk art etc. 

      Just follow this link to sign up – www.myprophoto.com.au  be sure to pop in my client number (31326) to ensure that you get the trade discount.

      I hope this information helps you to keep your treasured images for the future generations!

      Amy is an award winning baby photographer in Sydney’s Inner West specialising in natural, timeless images of babies and their families in the first year of life.

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        Top 5 Tips for Photographing Siblings in Newborn Photography

        When a newborn comes in to my studio with an older sibling/s, the sibling photo is almost always at the top of every parent’s list of “must have” images. There’s nothing sweeter than a photo of your children together – welcoming your new member of the family. But any baby photographer will tell you that, depending on the age of the sibling and their cooperativeness on the day, the sibling shot can be the hardest photo to achieve!

        Here are my top tips on working with siblings – especially the under 3s (the most notoriously difficult older siblings to work with!).

        Tip #1 – Engage the Older Sibling

        On first meeting your clients, make a special effort to engage the sibling in a non-threatening but friendly way. You’ll gauge very quickly the personality of your little subject. They may be very shy or they may be more outgoing. If they are shy you’ll need to take your time with them a little more so you don’t scare them. Get down to their level. Make funny jokes – a favourite of mine is to pretend to guess their age and purposely get it very wrong to help them feel at ease. Remember that to a little person you are a big scary stranger in a big scary new environment. Take your time with them and let them warm up to you and the space. Also remember that they have just experienced a HUGE change to their little world – the arrival of their new sibling. No doubt they are feeling overwhelmed at the change to the family dynamic and all the attention that this new little person is having. Most siblings react really positively to a grown up showing them some attention instead of the new baby which may have been stealing the limelight.

        Tip #2 – Attempt the Sibling Photo First

        When a sibling attends my studio, I always make a bee line for attempting the sibling image first. Why? I find that when young children first arrive in a new space they can be a little more shy and less inclined to be running around exploring every nook at cranny of their environment. They’re usually a little intimidated by the new space, the lighting equipment, the new face (mine!) and camera. I try to take advantage of this small window of time and capture the sibling image before they get too comfortable and less interested in me and what I’m needing them to do.

        I’m also mindful that it’s my goal to get the sibling out of the studio space as quickly as I can for all of our sakes! They typically find the studio environment very boring and it can be distracting for the parents (and me as the photographer) if they’re running around the studio getting in to everything. Not to mention that there are lots of hazards around – lighting equipment that can be pulled over, heaters that are hot etc etc. I also find that when the older ones leave the studio there is an obvious sigh of relief from my clients who can focus on their newborn and creating a calm space to focus on getting their photos.

        With all this in mind, I usually attempt the sibling photo first. And then I do the family portrait including the sibling. If all goes well – this usually takes about 15-20 minutes. I inform my clients that they need to arrange for Dad to take the sibling home/to a local cafe or park, or a family member/friend/babysitter to come and collect the older sibling.

        Tip #3 – Keep the Newborn Safe

        As the photographer, you will need to gauge very quickly the type of photograph that you can safely achieve with the sibling. This will depend on a few factors such as the age of the sibling, how cooperative they are, whether they are calm and happy to follow instructions, or whether they are very active and not inclined to sit still for long. As a rule of thumb, I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to the types of sibling photographs I will attempt. The very safest newborn shot is of both the sibling and the newborn laying down with an aerial image of them both. You can take this image with the sibling cuddling the newborn, or in cases where the sibling is very young or otherwise not cooperating/very fidgety – with the sibling simply laying down next to the baby. This means that if they suddenly decide they no longer want to lay on the blanket, that the baby is not going to be harmed.

        ALWAYS have Mum or Dad sitting right next to the older sibling for safety. This will also help them feel more relaxed as well by having them close by.

        If you have a very young sibling under 3, or you have any concern that the sibling is going to roll on/drop/get distracted and run off – then the laying down pose is the best thing to do.

        Of course, if the sibling is older or is very mature (you will still need to have parents there just in case) and calm, you can attempt other types of sibling shots which are more advanced such as sitting poses with the newborn held by the sibling. ALWAYS have a parent sitting right out of shot though just in case!

        Sibling images are often the most treasured photos from a newborn session for parents. Understanding how to deal with different sibling personalities and ages is the best way to achieve success!

        Tip #4 – Composites to the Rescue!

        Knowing how sibling images are usually so important to our clients, we need to try our very best to get them the shot. Sometimes this means that we need to enlist the help of some Photoshop trickery to achieve this if the older sibling is not cooperating. In cases where I have a sibling who really doesn’t want to be near their baby sister/brother, I enlist the help of a favourite toy or other distraction to help. I can photograph both the baby and the sibling separately and then merge the two images together in Photoshop to make it look as though they are blissfully besotted with each other 😉

        When it comes to photographing tricky siblings – Photoshop is your best friend. You can stitch together two or more images to make one sibling image for your clients. You might like to use a special toy or doll to encourage them.

        Tip #5 – Bribery and Corruption

        Older children are clever. They can sniff out a parent’s desperation for the elusive sibling image a mile away and use this to their own advantage. I have had cases in the past where a 2-4 year old has thrown a whopper tantrum just because they don’t want to have a photo. (Don’t be embarrassed by this if this happens! It happens to the best of us). While it’s probably not something you want to do day-to-day at home with your child, if all else fails sometimes a bit of bribery can be the difference between getting a sibling photo to treasure forever, and getting no photo at all. I always leave this up to the parents to decide if they want to partake in this. But if you’re comfortable with bribing your child with a reward for cooperating the results can be astounding. I have literally witnessed children pick themselves up from a crying, screaming pile on the studio floor, brush themselves off and lay down next to their sibling cuddling them sweetly. The power of bribery!

        I hope these tips help you with your siblings in your next newborn session!

        Amy Tong is a newborn photographer in Sydney, Australia specialising in natural, timeless images of babies and their families since 2012. She is a fully accredited member of the Academy of Newborn Photographers.

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          About amy - newborn & baby photographer sydney
          - Academy of newborn photography
          certified photographer

          - Over 8 years experience

          - Current CPR & Infant first aid

          - current whooping cough vaccination

          - multi award-winning
          experience & Safety

          Hi! I'm Amy Tong. I'm a newborn baby photographer in the Sydney Inner West surburb of Balmain, Australia. I'm Mum to 3 little ones, and wife to my best friend of almost 20 years. I've always been creative. A lover of music, art and history. Photography has been an important part of my life since I first picked up a camera as a hobby back in 2008.

           

          I began my career as a professional baby photographer back in 2012 and have had the honour of photographing over 300 babies since then.
          To me, photography allows us to preserve moments in time for future generations. I can't think of any better job in the world. I'd love to hear from you and help you hold on to these special moments too..

          Amy xx

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