5 newborn photography trends to try at your next shoot
Newborn and family photographer JoJo Cooper uses natural light, organic textures, and earth tones to create highly sought-after lifestyle portraits focused on the intimacy between parents and their baby.
Ana Brandt is a newborn and maternity photographer who embraces props and costumes. Her approach draws clients from all kinds of backgrounds to her studio in Los Angeles. “All the materials I use are on-trend so when they come to me, they know that they’re going to get modern work,” she says.
Thousands of miles away, JoJo Cooper works in the English countryside, photographing parents as they enjoy candid moments with their baby, the scene awash in afternoon sunlight. “My clients choose me because they want this feeling of connection,” she says. “They want to feel like I’m a little fly on the wall during their intimate moments.”
Together, Brandt and Cooper represent the two defining sides of today’s newborn photography industry: still life and lifestyle. Their mutual success proves that while there is much that remains timeless in capturing a baby’s early days on Earth, this type of art is just as subject to trends as any other form of photography. Knowing these trends, both women stress, is critical for attracting new clients and keeping old ones — regardless of whether you’re aiming for a natural or crafted feel in your own work.
Below are a few of the biggest trends Brandt and Cooper have spotted in what new parents are looking for when it comes to portraits of their littlest ones.
Cooper shot this image in Surrey, where she is based. In her experience, parents today are looking for portraits with a cinematic flair.
Trend #1: Nature
Cooper has observed a spike in demand for outdoor newborn sessions. Part of this is the result of COVID-19, which continues to make indoor activities unsafe for many around the world. But she’s convinced that’s not the only factor. “Parents today want this really beautiful cinematic landscape for their backgrounds, whether it’s hiking up a mountain or even just stepping outside your backdoor,” she says.
Cooper herself shoots mostly outside on the private farm near her home, the waist-high grass giving movement to the earth-toned portraits framed by forest and hills. Of course, there are days when the weather doesn’t cooperate (it is England, after all). Rather than reschedule, she positions her subjects in front of a west-facing window, with rattan furniture and simple floral arrangements in the background. The impact is equal parts minimalist and earthy.
Newborn and maternity photographer Ana Brandt uses layers in Photoshop to make her subjects’ skin shine.
Trend #2: Skin editing
Most newborn sessions take place before infants are at their most photogenic. “We get babies that are jaundiced, they’re born early, or their skin is orange and they have acne,” Brandt says. Back when she still shot on film, there wasn’t much she could do about those distracting features. With Photoshop, it’s a different story. “I can remove red or jaundice and everything is layered so I can always adjust the opacity or remove a layer entirely.” As she edits, Brandt’s goal is simple: “I want the skin to look amazing.”
For Cooper, cleaning up distracting milk spots or pimples is also part of producing a beautiful image — but so is preserving the skin’s natural look and feel. “I still want texture on the skin,” she says.
When it comes to texture, trends are often seasonal, Cooper observes, with clients preferring chunky knitwear in the winter and light cottons and linens in the summer.
Trend #3: Texture
One trend that’s made it onto the radar of both photographers is rising interest in eye-catching textures. For Cooper, this takes the form of chunky knitwear in the winter, and linens and cottons during the spring and summer. Meanwhile, Brandt’s clients have become increasingly fond of baskets and mohair. “Parents don’t want plain bonnetts anymore, but one that has very delicate textures in it,” she says.
The current fascination with texture goes beyond Brandt’s paying clients to include her more than 240,000 Instagram followers. “A picture of a baby wrapped with felt and fluff and flowers will get a higher response than anything else I do,” she says.
This set up — a baby wrapped in felt and mohair — is one of Brandt’s most requested. So is the dark, rich purple seen here.
Trend #4: Color
The parents Cooper works with these days are consistently on the hunt for images soaked in earthy colors. Emerald, maroon, chocolate brown, and burnt orange define her images regardless of the client or time of year.
Brandt, on the other hand, is constantly having to update her props and costumes to match her parents’ shifting tastes. “I really need to pay attention to the colors of the year because that’s how people are going to design their nurseries,” she explains. Where clients live will often impact their preferred color choice as well. New Yorkers love a good gray regardless of the season, Californians cream, and Floridians aquamarines and oranges. Yet another variable to keep in mind is the time of year, with parents preferring darker shades in winter and lighter ones as the weather warms.
Fortunately, there is one constant amidst all this flux, and that is dark purple. “Everybody wants purple,” she says. “It’s the number one on every woman’s list. Even women who come in with boys, they want purple.”
This stroller, which Brandt has in six different colors, is by far her most popular prop.
Trend #5: Props
Color isn’t the only reason Brandt is routinely swapping in and out her materials. Prop preferences are incredibly subject to change in the age of Instagram, when one viral post can trigger an industry-wide trend. Her most requested items at the moment include gardening pails, bread bowls, tiny four-poster beds, and miniature rattan baby carriages. “The one prop that everybody wants is the stroller,” she says. “I have it in like six colors and parents will hire me specifically for that prop.”
Cooper’s lifestyle shoots periodically feature a rattan peacock chair and pampas grass sprouting from a simple white pitcher — a subtle nod to the boho craze that’s gripped the world of fashion and interior design. The one prop that’s visible throughout all her work is parents. “If you put a baby in a parent’s arms, then you create this lovely feeling of coziness and intimacy and connection,” she says. “I think it’s a really lovely trend.”
Own your own style.
There are two very different styles at play in the world of newborn photography: minimal lifestyle portraits on the one hand, and carefully staged studio images on the other. Regardless of which aesthetic you hope to craft, staying on top of trends is critical for keeping customers happy and attracting new ones. Following photographers you admire is one way to keep your finger on the pulse. Tracking trends in complementary creative industries, such as interior and graphic design and fashion, is another.
Just remember, you don’t have to incorporate every fad you see. Instead, filter each one through your own style of photography, be it still life or lifestyle, even as you remain open to adopting and adapting the occasional idea from the other.
Finally, whatever your chosen style, take advantage of powerful photo editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom to craft a personal aesthetic that’s as recognizable as it is distinctive. “Back in film, you were very limited,” Brandt says. “But with Photoshop, you have such incredible control to craft a particular style and brand using presets and filters.” Meanwhile, Lightroom’s batch edit feature allows Brandt to “sync” her images even before she begins work on individual photos. “I can cull through a gallery in five, 10 minutes, straighten the images, adjust the color, adjust the saturation, then crop and batch them.”
Do all this and you are guaranteed to keep clients happy with a look and feel that is both consistent and fresh.