Ideas for newborn photography props are endless. But finding props that are safe for newborns and beginning photographers is much more difficult.
Many of the images that you see on Pinterest and Instagram are actually Photoshop composites. Hanging a baby from a hammock or balancing a newborn in a fireman’s hat isn’t actually safe. Not without someone holding the baby in place.
Thankfully, there are several different types of props that are not only safe for babies, but easy to use for photographers just starting out in newborn photography. Or even hobbyists who want to photograph their own children.
Here are 12 different newborn photography props that are not only safe to use (when used properly), but cute and, often, affordable.
A note on newborn photography props safety
Always prioritise infant safety over a cute prop – a photo is not worth injuring an infant. Make sure props are sturdy and well-built. Even props that appear sturdy can be thrown off-balance if a newborn decides to wriggle out of that swaddle.
If you have even the smallest doubt, find something else.
Ensure the prop is large enough that the baby can be placed inside without restricting circulation.
Make sure to also look for newborn photography props that will not irritate delicate newborn skin. Use a blanket between the prop and the baby to keep the baby comfortable. Make sure the blanket is soft and washed in an unscented detergent.
Warm babies are happy babies. If your shot idea has the baby in his or her birthday suit, turn up the heat before the session.
Always keep a parent or assistant within arm’s reach of the infant. And always be ready for that ‘first’ — most newborns can’t roll over, but some can.
Make sure the baby’s not going to go anywhere if he or she decides to learn how to roll over while placed inside your prop. Or if they otherwise startle mid-photo. If you are a beginning newborn photographer, stick with props that baby can easily be positioned in on their own, without help.
Save the tricky props and poses that require composite work — like a baby hammock or Stork blanket — until you have enough Photoshop savvy to understand how those images are created without actually balancing a baby in nothing but a blanket.
Always put safety first — but, now, the cute things: newborn photo props.
12 Newborn Photo Prop Ideas
Wraps are not only cute but practical. Babies like to be warm — and most babies also like to be swaddled. Using a wrap will help keep baby warm and comfortable enough to keep snoozing through your shoot. A snug (but not too tight) swaddle will also help keep baby in the pose. And keep them from moving around too much.
But besides keeping the baby happy, wraps are very versatile photo props. Infants can be comfortably wrapped in a number of different ways, from a traditional swaddle to an open egg shell.
Wraps can also be placed between the baby and the prop. Even if you’re shooting unswaddled to keep the baby comfortable. Wraps are also excellent for adding a pop of color to the photograph.
And if that’s not enough, newborn wraps are often inexpensive. Photographers can find inexpensive handmade wraps on Etsy or from photo supply stores.
Wraps designed for newborn photography often work best because they are long and stretchy. A muslin blanket from a baby supply store can also work in a pinch. But they tend to be more difficult to get into a tight wrap and less versatile.
Remember to make sure the fabric is soft enough for the baby. And it’s important to wash the blankets after purchasing as well as before using the wraps with a different infant.
Besides wraps, blankets are often used with many different newborn props to make the baby more comfortable. In addition to blankets, faux fur rugs and fabric from a craft store can also work for newborn shoots.
Hats and headbands
Even easier than newborn wraps? Hats and headbands. These newborn photo props keep baby snug and add interest to the shot.
Hats and headbands can often be switched without waking the baby up too much. This makes these types of props great for adding variety to the same pose. Re-posing newborns often takes a little bit of time to get them to settle back into sleep.
Size plays an important role in choosing the right hats and headbands. The hat or headband should be sized for a newborn. If a headband is too big, you can sometimes tie a small rubber band around the excess and hide the tie in the back.
Look for headbands that are proportionate to the baby.You don’t want a flower that’s larger or as large as the baby’s head.
Like with blankets, just make sure the hats and headbands are a baby-friendly material. As far as finding great hats and headbands, the options are endless. Etsy, photo prop stores, baby supply stores and craft stores are great places to start looking.
Sturdy baskets make great newborn photography props. Baskets are easy for photographers new to newborn posing.
Place the basket on a nice floordrop, a blanket in the basket and the baby in the basket. Shoot straight down for a sweet photo that doesn’t require elaborate posing.
Baskets can also be used for other poses and compositions, like shooting from the side of the basket. This makes them versatile newborn props.
As with other newborn photo props, just make sure the basket is sturdy and roomy enough to keep the baby comfortable. Use a basket that’s low to the ground — placing the baby at the top of a tall basket could make the prop too top heavy.
Baskets are easy to find at craft stores, as well as online retailers and photo prop stores.
Similar to baskets, boxes and crates can also make excellent newborn props if they are sturdy. Placing the baby on top of a blanket in a wooden crate is an easy but cute newborn pose.
Make sure the crate is well-built and low to the ground. Crates can also be placed on their side with the baby inside for variety. Be sure to never place the baby directly on the wood because of potential splinters. Use a blanket between the baby and box.
Look for sturdy wood crates at craft stores and online retailers. Some photographers also find vintage wood crates from flea markets and thrift stores. Besides making sure these are clean and sturdy, you’ll also need to make sure there’s nothing that could harm baby, such as lead paint.
Mom or Dad’s hands
Who says props can’t be free? Even if you are just shooting newborn photos and not family photos, a close up of mom or dad’s arms is a sweet photo that’s also safe and easy to do.
A parent’s arms will help show scale and remind mom and dad just how little their child once was as they grow.
Ask mom or dad to hold their arms in a V out from their body with the baby inside and zoom in on just the baby and the hands. Alternately, place a background on the floor and have a parent create a circle on the floor with their arms.
Place the baby inside those arms and shoot from above. The shot will look similar to that baby hammock, only with mom or dad’s arms and without requiring a Photoshop composite for safety.
Beanbag and blanket
Getting a newborn into that perfect position is an art form. A beanbag can help get the baby in that perfect position, covered with a blanket or fabric backdrop.
Beanbags offer a bit of flexibility — you can dig out a shape to have the baby’s head and butt curve up slightly. You can also place rolled up towels underneath the blanket to help get the baby’s head (or tush) in the right position.
Beanbags are soft and comfy for newborns. The key to infant safety here is to ensure that the baby isn’t going to startle and roll off.
Be sure to place the baby in the middle of the beanbag (not on an edge) and keep a parent or assistant within arms reach.
Bean bags are easy to find at local stores. Newborn beanbags tend to be a bit better for the tasks because they are stiffer and use a waterproof fabric. Llet’s face it — pee accidents often happen when shooting a naked newborn.
Newborn beanbags can be a bit pricier, but they can be found online for from photo supply shops.
Stuffed animals are a great prop for showing scale. Ask the parents if they have a stuffed animal picked out for the baby. They can even use one left from their childhood.
As the child grows, continuing to use the same stuffed animal creates a fun series. The animal adds a sense of scale for how much that little one has grown.
If the parents want to continue using the stuffed animal, you’ll use one that the newborn owns. But stuffed animals can also be purchased and used for multiple newborn photo sessions.
Stuffed animals can be great for finishing a prop theme and coordinating with other props.
Tutus and ties
Clothing is not only baggy on newborns but can also date the photo. This is why most newborn photos are done in the birthday suit, in wraps, or in clothing specifically designed for photos.
Tutus and neckties can be exceptions as cute photo props. A necktie on a baby boy is a cute but simple prop while tutus are great for adding feminine flair.
Both will also help keep the baby’s privates covered while still essentially photographing them in that birthday suit.
Like hats and headbands, the key is to find ties and tutus that are appropriately sized. Look online, in craft stores and in infant clothing stores for tutus and ties designed to fit babies.
Vintage suitcases are an excellent variation on using boxes and crates for newborn props. Suitcases are versatile props — the baby can go inside an open suitcase or on top of a closed suitcase.
Like baskets and crates, be sure the suitcase is sturdy and clean. Use a blanket as a buffer to make the suitcase cozier for the baby.
Teepees are excellent newborn props that work with older babies and toddlers as well. That makes them a great option for photographers working with youngsters of different ages.
A traditional stick-and-fabric teepee works great. But photographers can also create their own by draping a piece of fabric over a branch or similar item.
Thanks to their popularity as children’s toys, teepees are now easy to find. Try a toy store or looking online.
Tying the props into the season is a great way to add variety to your newborn photography. And you can illustrate when the baby was born.
Seasonal props can be used with other props to create a colorful image. A basket with apples, for example, works great for a fall baby.
Look for inspiration in the time of the year the baby is born, as well as any holidays near the baby’s birthday.
Seasonal flowers, foliage and produce work well. Think tulips in the spring, greenery in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.
Snowy seasons can be a bit tougher — try bare branches, evergreens, or a vintage sled.
Props inspired by the parents
Like other portrait photography, the more personalised your props, the better. Newborns don’t have hobbies and interests besides eating and sleeping. But you can look to their parents for inspiration.
A favorite hobby, like fishing, reading, or music can serve as inspiration. Careers can also be just as inspiring, particularly for men and women in uniform. For example, those who serve in the military or work as firefighters, policemen or EMTs.
Even a favorite item, like a pair of boots or family heirloom, can serve as inspiration.
Props inspired by the parents are often items the parents already have on hand. This allows you to add to your newborn prop options without as much investment.
Other times, you can purchase miniaturised versions for photo props.
The possibilities for photo props are nearly endless. But newborn photographers need to put safety first.
There are still dozens of ideas that are safe even for new photographers not quite ready to master the newborn composite yet. The best newborn photo props are safe, versatile and affordable.
From wraps and baskets to seasonal props and items inspired by the parents, newborn photo props add variety and interest to the shot. And draw more attention to the star of the show: the new baby.