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this blog is mostly a personal peek into my thoughts, anywhere from my husband and kids, to the photography industry, client work and random musings. glad you're here. :)

Getting this off my chest…


This blog is going to sound funny coming from someone who teaches other/new photographers newborn photography for a living. I *may* be all over the place, so bear with me, k??

I am getting increasingly annoyed, disturbed and confused with many new photographers. It’s like, photography is no longer a passion or a job, but a race. A race that many are trying to cut corners and do a crap-job to attain some silly “Facebook Celebrity” status. Obsession with getting “X” amount of likes on your page. Obsessing over what JoeBob Photography down the street is doing and how it *kinda* looks like what YOU did last week. Obsessing over what JoeBob Photography charges compared to you. The list goes on.

Honestly, I’d be fine if that was where it ended. Really, I would. But it doesn’t end there, especially in the world of newborn photography, where cutting corners is placing a very small and very fragile HUMAN at risk. Where trying to win some invisible race means going for crazy stunt poses before you have even mastered an easy, “level 1″ shot of baby just laying and hanging out.

If I hear/see ONE more person talk excitedly about their first newborn session coming up and can’t wait to try this:

…I will scream.
Okay, I won’t scream, but come ON people. Have we forgotten the saying about learning to crawl/walk before you can run? Do you have only 5 months to live and want to be a famous newborn photographer in that amount of time? I really don’t get it. I’m giving you the same speech I give every photographer who attends my workshops or purchases an eWorkshop. I pretty much tell EVERYONE after leaving a workshop that I don’t want to see them attempt this pose until they are solidly producing flawless easy poses. I tell them do not post pictures from workshops as their OWN poses, or else parents will want them (or the props used) and it’s simply false advertising.
Do you know it was TWO. YEARS. of doing photography before I attempted this pose? I hesitate to ever post online how this is done as a composite, only because I have seen so many new photographers rush out and skip ALL the basics because they have some weird obsession with nailing the above shot. What they typically produce is a badly composited shot of a baby still looking wildly uncomfortable.
Can someone just tell me WHY? Like honestly, is this not precious?
You have no idea how many people can’t pull the above shot off, but want to jump straight into attempting the “head in hands” pose or the hanging baby poses (which I don’t do for no particular reason).
I thought it might be helpful if I include a quick timeline of my newborn work…from when I first started through two years into it. So you can see the types of poses I worked on. You can see I didn’t have much in terms of cute props and fun blankets. I was just starting out and I had enough sense to know that you could have seven grand worth of blankets and hats, but a crappy pose is still going to look like a crappy pose. On the other hand, if you only have a cream blanket and a black/brown blanket (what I was working with for months) if you could nail a pose/angle, your clients will love it and the focus will be on both the adorable little human you’re photographing AND your hard earned effort at getting newborn posing down to an art.
below is the first time I attempted this pose. It happens to be a composite, although in my inexperience I didn’t think that all had to be composites. This was nearly two years after starting…
below is the infamous “three month old NICU twins” that I like to tell other photographers about–it was a good 5 hour long shoot to get about 15 images!
I hope this blog post doesn’t ruffle too many feathers. The photography community has enough mud slinging and petty drama as it is. I hope, truly, that it’s a wake up call for people who may not have realized how long many of us established photographers have been doing this—and how EVERYONE has to start somewhere and the smart place to start is at the beginning. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training for a 5k first…take advanced calculus without a solid foundation in lower math classes..newborn photography is no different and has the added risk of throwing a new little person into the mix.
For parents/clients will be reading this. PLEASE do your research. With workshops/mentoring today, a photographer can attend a class and photograph a baby that the teacher actually posed, slap it on their website and “trick” clients into thinking that they took it. Make sure the photographer YOU choose for your little one has many many images of different babies looking comfortable and happy. Or, if you are trying to save money and use someone who is portfolio building or just starting–make sure to stay with your child at ALL times. Please speak up when your baby is placed in a potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situation. Unfortunately, I *have* heard horror stories from random people about their experiences with another photographer…newborns “toppling” over, or rolling off props. ALL photographers should have spotters with their hands on or within inches away from baby at every moment of the shoot.
For photographers looking to take a mentoring/workshop. PLEASE do your research. I can’t tell you how many “workshops” have popped up all over the country by people who have little to no newborn experience. Like less than a year or two. This simply isn’t enough time to really grasp all the complexities that make up this profession.
I’m leaving you with some more images that I consider “the basics”. If you can’t nail these consistently at every session, then hold off on the harder ones. This isn’t rocket science!


  • Molly

    I can’t even tell you how my friends (or better said aquaintences) I have that have started ‘photography’ businesses in the past 3 years. There is no quality and it seems like they are trying the hard shots but in way over their heads. Not to mention horribly over processing the photos. Know that people will always pay for good quality and there is no fooling anyone. Non-photogs, like me, notice too! (And think it’s annoying).

  • Melissa C

    This is an amazing post! Thank you for sharing your timeline. It sometimes does feel like a race because the comparison game is so prevalent. Oftentimes I have to remind myself that the only one I need to compare myself to is myself. And I feel like a weird-o because I really don’t want to do head in hand shots or hanging baby shots anytime soon. Now I don’t feel so weird.

    BTW you are a fantastic photographer!

  • Robyn

    I have been following you since the Whitt Wedding 2 years ago and although I have a secret desire to be a good amateur photographer for my own family, I would never do it for a living. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy the art that you produce and have enjoyed seeing your daily photos pop up on Facebook. I appreciate your candor here as I see so many new photographers popping up doing similar newborn work. Never forget that imitation is the best form of flattery.

  • Rachel Vanoven

    High-five fellow weirdo! I don’t have any particular reason for not doing hanging shots, just not something I’m interested in and people ask me why all. the. time!

    And Molly, always glad when non-photogs “get” the issue here!! :)

  • Donna Macauley

    I am not a newborn photographer. As a matter of fact, I refuse to even attempt any of the newborn shots that are so popular right now. Don’t get me wrong, your shots are beautiful and amazing. But, I think it’s false advertising because parents do not know that these shots are composites. You, at least, post behind the scenes shots to educate everyone. This trend toward posing newborns like little adults or with dangerous props has become so huge and it’s so dangerous. Even with an assistant, there’s the risk of slipping up.
    I took pictures of my new nephew, but the first thing I told his parents was, “I don’t do props or cutesy poses.” They were fine with it. Parents should do research on the photographer and should chose one for their experience and if they like their style. Do not ask a photographer to do another photographers style: 1. It’s unethical, 2. It’s dangerous. The blame is solidly on both parties, parents and new photographers. Everyone is looking for a deal, but forgetting about the risks.

  • Brandy

    Thank you Rachel for posting this. Learning the basics of safety with these precious newborns is the basic starting point for anyone and I’m so glad you take the time to educate other photographers. I hope parents will read this and realize the chances they take when booking a newborn session with someone who is just ‘cheap’ and not all photographers understand how to safely pose a baby.

  • Becca

    Thanks for writing this article – it is so true. It seems like everyone wants to one-up each other with some sort of WOW factor. But I think the best newborn pictures are usually the simplest – where the focus is one the beautiful baby and not the crazy pose or prop. I have been photographing newborns for about a year and have yet to attempt the head in hands pose (and that’s with shooting 2-3 newborns each week). Parents have asked for it (even though that pose is nowhere on my site) and I have explained that it is just not something that I feel comfortable with. I understand the pressure of wanting the give clients what they want but I have never had a parent be anything but grateful that I have their baby’s safety and comfort as my top priority.

  • Britneye Ladner

    Thanks girl! I do feel pressured to be in the race sometimes. Newborns are absolutely my passion. Love everything about it, and I treasure each second I get to spend with a new little miracle. Very refreshing to have some honesty about how it’s a slow start. Thanks a bunch! Hope you are blessed in everything you do!

  • Larisa

    I have followed your work for the last two years and have seen your evolution. I could never imagine these shots not being composites!! It is sad to see this photog “race” on FB. I do love getting on FB and seeing what everyone has been up to etc, but these are people’s children we are talking about. It is really sad that new photogs are shortcutting their way through the extensive learning process! It’s also funny when these new photogs ask you what lens you used, etc. Figure it out and learn for yourself guys! :P I can’t wait for you to photograph my kids! (When I have some~ LOL)

  • Heidi D

    Thank you for posting this. It’s always refreshing to know it’s okay to go slow. I can’t imagine trying to do the head on hands pose until I have mastered basic poses. Newborns can be tricky and I am still working on just keeping them asleep long enough to setup a simple on tummy pose! I think your work is amazingly gorgeous and I love that you are not afraid to speak up :)

  • Rachel Vanoven

    @Jerry—pretty cute little one with the rhinestone headband, no? ;)

  • Ashley

    I love this post Rachel. Absolutely LOVE it. I just started my own business and I will not do newborn pictures, even though I know they are in high demand, because I am not comfortable in it or trained in posing these infant babies. Maybe one day I can take one of your seminars! ;) It makes me very nervous to know that there are lots of amateurs out there. Great post and well spoken!

  • Heather Stockett

    I could not agree with you more. I actually purchased your first posing guide before ever trying any kind of “pose”. Your guide has been my learning tool, and I refer back to it often. I want to thank you for all that you do to educate photographers and parents on newborn safety. And who cares if you ruffle some feathers! Got nothin’ but love for ya!

  • Rachel Burnett

    Bravo to you Rachel! ;0)
    I am so over newborn photography, I’m finding it too cliched. You are right it’s all about the props, the poses and definitely not about the art.
    While I will still continue to offer newborn sessions, I have decided to tackle something I really love, which is fashion photography.
    After reading a few forums of late, by true professionals I’m getting an uneasy feeling that the ‘newbie’ market is gonna come crashing down leaving a lot of devastation. The sad thing is that the true newborn photogs like yourself and Kerry Meyers will be left to pick up the pieces.
    Sorry if I sound a bit dramatic, but unless every ‘newbie’ reads your blog post nothing will change.
    You are a beautiful photographer and I hope people who are reading your post take some great advice.
    Cheers, Rachel B

  • Heather

    Thank you for sharing this! My sister and I have been doing photographs officially for about a year and a half, have always taken them for fun but started a business, hence the “officially” :) We have gotten better at families and children, you are an inspiration for babies and we hope to be apart of one of your workshops someday! We are still working on the very basic poses for newborns, it was encouraging to see your timeline. Hopefully in a few years we can try the trickier stuff too!

  • Christy Cohen

    Thank you! I just posted this to my FB page. I’m so tired of people just shopping for the best price and not researching quality and experience! Would you get laser surgery from a dr “just starting out?” Like weddings, it only happens once. You can’t go back a few weeks later and capture these newborn moments.

  • Cindy

    I don’t do those poses. Frankly, I just don’t think they’re aesthetically pleasing. I like photos that tell a story about the person I am photographing, and a baby propped up in some kind of origami is not telling anything about that baby- in fact it is lying about what a baby can do! I understand some people want them. I wonder if there is a point where all the professional photographers can come together and decide a baby is cute as it is, no need to prop it up in an unnatural pose, and then they are not inspiring others to do dangerous things. I hope that soon these propped of poses will be obsolete and sound as silly to professional photographers as selective color does. Safe newborn posing=in mommy’s arms, in daddy’s arms, cuddled up comfortably on a blanket. Babies are people, not props.

  • Donna

    Thank you for this, Rachel. I love all you’ve said. While I do aspire for good looking newborn poses, it’s motivation is rooted in work, persistence, and realizing I’ve got far to go.
    I am not primarily a newborn photographer so maybe that’s why I haven’t been swept up in the zeal of attempting the “money shot” like other photographers that are fresh out of the gate. But I hope to see my work improve over the years like yours has. Thanks again for a realistic perspective. :)

  • Amanda Tonagel

    Thank you for the confirmation that I need to spend my money on education(workshops) and not fancy props right now. I need to learn my basics and not get so caught up in having elaborate setups. Great post! Thanks!

  • Margaret

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I really appreciate the timeline! When I first got excited about newborn photography I was obsessed with the head propped on the hands posed. I tried to get a little guy to hold it once and after 30 sec of realizing I had no idea what I was doing I stopped and spent the weeks after scouring blogs. You are the first one who showed it as a composite and also said don’t do this until you’ve mastered other shots. Thank you! I also really appreciate you showing your behind the scenes shots with your prop setup and SPOTTER. It’s embarrassing for me to admit the mistakes I’ve made, but you have absolutely saved something devistating from happening in my situation. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. PS, I started following your photography after seeing OhSoPosh post about you.

  • Amanda

    I am a newbie, and newborns are so hard I can’t even imagine trying a pose like that yet! People doing this also give clients an unreal expectation about what to expect when hiring and new photographer because they don’t understand how difficult the advanced poses are because everyone else has them advertised. I hope tobe able to do advanced poses someday, but for now I will focus on nailing the basics. Thanks for this post!

  • kim hall

    I personally don’t care for the odd chin in hand pose or the hanging babies from a limb….They are obviously novelty poses but are they necessary? You are working with a brand spanking new human…what could be more magical or beautiful? It’s almost like saying yeah the baby is great but I can improve this marvelous creation in front of me a little more…really? Sometimes more is just that….more. I love the shots that show them sleeping so perfect and new. I can’t believe anyone would jeopardize a baby or think they could improve upon perfection…Shame.

  • justin

    I do not consider myself a new born photographer mostly because small kids maake me nervous so I stick with older kids or adults however recently a friend wanted me to do pictures of her two week old baby and I aggreed. I got several great shots doing just basic shots of the baby sleeping in a basket or on a blanket or being held and the family loved the pics. They asked me about the face in hands picture because at myrtle beach that pose is diuspolayed in every studio and I told them I didn’t feel comfortable attempting that pose because I had never done it, don’t know how to do it, and feel me attempting it would be dangerous and just not smart. Clasic poses are still great poses and I don’t care if everyone has done the poses a baby isn’t someone to try new things on. Of course adults are always fun trying something different on, but they aren’t in danger like a baby would be

  • Leah lutz

    Thank you for this post. As a new newborn photographer, I thought this post was was motivating and inspirational. The urge is there to get those hard shots but safety is always first when I’m behind the camera! I’m taking a pledge to nail the basics first! Hopefully others do the same. It’ll help mold us as photographers and additionally help you find your style along the way.

  • Samantha Kjell

    I love this. I am a beginner photographer, going to attempt my first newborn shoot this coming week. I am so excited! This post is comforting to say the least. I WANT families and friends to know i can not and will not attempt unsafe crazy newborn photos that are overly photoshopped. The natural close ups and little things that newborns do are what make a photo…not the blanket or crazy pose. I am so happy that you posted this. I dont feel rushed to create these and I feel giving myself credit for trying the best i can with what i have to work with is great. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jennifer

    Agree! Agree! Agree! I’ve been doing photography for the past 4 years, been focusing on newborns for a year. And I’m still doing easier poses ;) I had starting venting and typing a long winded comment – when I realized – its Saturday morning – I really don’t want to start my day complaining about things that annoy me ;) Sun is shining, its beautiful out – coffee in hand and the kids are all still sleeping! Ah Bliss!

    Rachel – you are an inspiration to a lot of people around the world and do it in such a modest way. Congrats on your success! xo

  • Joanne

    amen Amen sister!! I am 150% with ya!
    I was asked recently if I could achieve the head in hands pose for her newborn. I answered that I had never tried it, that I was more of the natural style posing and lifestyle photo’s kind of newborn photographer. She never answered me back. She wanted THAT POSE. Ugh. I don’t even like it =)

  • Patsy Lander

    Rachel…I love you! I love how you state things, how you place the safety of these precious babies far above “the shot.” I am a hobbiest photographer for the most part. I love taking pictures and I love babies. My family is so huge that I really am never at a loss as to having a baby to photograph and trust me everything I photograph is shot smooth out of LOVE! Not only for the photography part of it, but for my family. To leave memories for those that come after us. I am the grandmother of a 17 year old amazing boy, who I am raising and a 18 month grandson, who can mess with my heart in an instant! I want them to have memories of our family and of our life.

    Having said all that, I don’t attempt poses, mainly because I haven’t been taught by a professional and being a disabled grandmother, it would not be fair of me to ask my husband to pay for a class, just for me to enhance my hobby. Even though he is amazing about providing me with great props and a wonderful cameras. He totally supports my habit and that makes it even more exciting for me.

    To me, there is not one thing more beautiful than a close up of a sweet little face…I don’t need to twist them and pull on them to get a picture that mommy and daddy will love. they always love the precious little face. And what a wonderful memory that will be for them in years to come.

    I love that you are such an advocate for these little ones…it makes me so proud to follow your blog and your posts!

    Patsy Lander

  • Carrir Carpunky

    Oh Rachel!! You have no idea how badly I needed this post!! I am fairly new in this business. Have my certification in photography, as no colleges near me offer degrees in this field, and have seen my work grow. However, I have not had the opportunity to photograph a newborn. Well, my first newborn is due Strike 28 and I am scared to death!! LOL!! I have no intention of attempting the head in the hands pose because I don’t have experience with it, but I also don’t want mom to feel like I am less of a photog because I don’t do that pose. This post has given me the courage to just flat out tell her, I will not do it, your babies safety is more important, so let’s start with these and if you want that pose, I will help you find a photographer that can do it! Thank you Rachel!! Your images are breath taking! It was amazing to see the progression of your work.

  • Emily H

    amen, thank you rachel!!!

    ps, i love your use of color, absolutely beautiful work!!!

  • crystal miel

    as someone who IS just starting out in newborn (maternity/birth/newborn) photography….i applaud your article. i am starting out slow (even when part of me does want to move faster!)….i am reading everything i can online, talking with friends who are willing to teach me what they know, talking to a lawyer about legal responsibilites of being ‘open for business’. there’s so much more to it than people think! but i want to do it RIGHT and i know i will have to work for it. and practice. and be aware!!! it’s blog posts like this that are truly helping me on my way. thank you!! (by the way, your work is amazing!)

  • Rachel Gard

    Thanks Jennifer…. I saw this blog on your FB comment! Rachel, I am really impressed with your work. I’m an “aspiring” photographer in Albq., NM. I’ve always been an artist, but recently I’m using photography as my creative outlet. I completely agree that it should be an art, which is definitely not something that should be rushed into. It is something learned, something practiced, something earned. I love newborns too, although that probably won’t be my main focus. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. I’d like to follow your blog too if that’s ok :)

  • jackie cruickshanks

    The hard shots scare me! I won’t attempt them, I’ve had parents ask. These are the same parents that end up falling in love with the “simple” shots of how their children look everyday!

  • Kelsey S.

    Such a good post! I hate seeing so many people rush into that shot! I personally do not like it- it doesnt seem comfy or natural to me. I hope more people who want to become photographers really take their time and LEARN before they leap. I have a few “friends” as well who have taken the leap and they produce over processed and badly composed pictures. I don’t understand how they can charge for pictures with just a dSLR and without more of a background. Ugh. But anyway- thanks for posting this… It is definitely a must read

  • C.D.

    One of my biggest problems is the “photogs” that are let into maternity wards. These people just had babies. Whether they’re shuffling around after a c section, or waddling from a natural. They do NOT want some person knocking on their door until they can get a shoot with your precious, brand new little bundle of joy.
    From my experience with these people, not only are they hazardous but they’re disrespectful and unprofessional. They don’t inquire about any possible health problems of the newborn (automatically assuming they’re fine if they’re not in the nursery), they throw themselves on you and they can pitch a sale better than take a picture. Their sales pitches aren’t very good either.
    If someone wanted pictures of their newborn, the probably already have a photographer lined up. Please don’t walk door-to-door in the maternity ward with your company cart. It’s off-putting.

  • Hillary P'Dell

    Thank you for this post. I started my business almost a year ago and, to be honest, I’m nit a huge fan of the hard shots. I love the simple shots where baby is the star. You are a true inspiration Rachel. <3

  • Jean Loper

    Thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing this. I don’t even shoot newborns on a regular basis, but I see constantly the things that you describe on Facebook. I personally don’t even care very much for the composite shots, but my main thing is that people try this stuff in an unsafe way. Some people actually think that babies can be posed that way without assistance.

  • Mandy

    Thank you for saying everything I think :)

  • Delfina

    BRAVO, I couldnt of said it better.

  • Rachel Vanoven

    @ C.D. the nurses in the maternity ward were smart enough to tell the photographers to not bother with me. I’m sad that they don’t do the oldschool, white onesie, baby simply laying on back from the chest up pictures anymore.

    I don’t get “posed” pictures in the hospital right after births since baby still has on the wristband and mom is swollen and all that. I agree with you, I wanted my privacy :)

  • Amy Vassar

    Beautifully put! I took my first photography class when I was 15, using a film SLR. Nearly 16 years (and two cameras) later, it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to have a business that takes off really fast, especially when I follow so many great photographers who only started in the last couple years. While I have no interest in newborn photography, I appreciate the good dose of reality in this article and the reminder to get back to the basics. Thanks for your candor!

  • Kara Shelton

    I am so thankful that you got this off your chest, because I really needed to hear a seasoned professional say it’s okay to go slow. I am about as brand new to this business as your subjects are to the world, and it’s hard being patient, but I am really taking my steps cautiously. I had my second newborn last week, and her momma asked how people get the head in hands pose. I told her it was a composite, but I wasn’t comfortable even thinking of trying it, so I hoped she wasn’t too disappointed. She is a friend, so she understood (and of course, knew if I wasn’t comfortable trying it, it shouldn’t be done!). Thank you for your honesty, and encouragement to keep going, but to do so one step at a time.

  • Dee Akright

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’ve been a professional photographer for 32 years and I’m appalled at the state of photography right now.

    The head propped UP on hands pose and the hanging pose have never been something I’m interested in doing. Recently however one of my wedding clients asked me about photographing her newborn and if I would do certain poses. I told her I didn’t feel comfortable doing those two poses because it could put her baby at risk for injury.

    On the day of the shoot she insisted on trying the head propped on hands shot at the very end. I had done intensive research into all the trendy new poses and knew it was a composite shot. As we were starting the shot where someone holds the baby’s head, dad starting tilting the baby’s head way back. It totally freaked me out and I put an end to the pose. I told the mom, she’s just not flexible enough to do that pose and I really don’t want her to be hurt, or worse paralyzed.

    The whole thing still gives me the willies when I think about what could’ve possibly happened.

  • Lindsay


    I have never attempted newborn photography, basically, because I am terrified of hurting the little ones. This just reassures me that newborn photography is not my forte. Thank you.

    I appreciate this post and can only hope that those so-called photographers who want to attempt to photograph the more advanced shots, take is slow. Not only for their career, but for the lives of others.

    It seems to me they are just money hungry and feel that photography is a great way to get rent in their pocket.

    Thanks for posting.

  • Wendy Ruhland

    I’ve had a Florist for the past 25 years and from the beginning I learned everything myself.. I can Honestly say i did jump into the hard stuff right away and after 25 years was doing 5 Funeral homes all there flowers….I surly can understand tho if you don’t try and keep trying you won’t get know where..I’m a person who will try and try till I get it but also know its alot different then flowers..I truly understand where your coming from and I have seen (doing photography for the past 3 years) that people think that its all about art, weird colors, and funky looking pics and people actually like it.. Blows my mind..I bought your e-workshop and have been studying it everyday and even the newborn nest and getting all the things required to not only having the right things but learning and starting with the basic’s first……You have to be educated first before you can take the test!! Love your stuff Rachel!!!

  • Rachel Bowman

    Great article, Rachel! I am learning all that I can so I will NOT be one of those photographers who rush into starting a business without knowing their stuff. I’ve been learning since November 2010 and although I wish I was ready to open up shop now, I know I still have a ways to go before I feel confident enough to take that leap and have others trust me with capturing their memories. Your post was reassuring to me that it will/should take time before hanging up that open sign.

    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it!

  • Annette

    I agree I have worked with and trained under one of the best photographers in my old area in Australia I then moved and started my own business I hate that pose with the head on hands and won’t do it at all I think it makes bub look unnatural.
    I love them on there bellies with there cute little rolls and heads down low sleeping like they are supposed to.
    your work is stunning and I love seeing the things that you do its what life is all about in my eyes.
    I still study and take work shops all the time so that my skills are always fresh and up to date I feel you can never no too much. I just hate that pose lol

  • Kimberly

    Thank you Rachel for posting this! My only hope is that as I continue to be the best newborn photographer that I am capable of being, that I never loose site of how difficult of a journey it is building a successful buisness with the proper training! So blessed to have the opportunity to learn from you and the other “rock stars” in this industry!

  • Ashley Hughes-Hailstone

    I am not a photographer, but became obsessed with Photography after my son was born! I know a lot, and I mean a lot, of local photographers (know or know of) and I was very lucky to find a good one! One, who is safe, doesn’t try poses until she has been to a workshop and is 100% confident etc. I have watched her skills grow over the last year, and am so happy to have her as my photographer.
    PHOTOGRAPHY IS AN ART, NOT AN EASY WAY TO MAKE A FEW BUCKS! All these facebook pages drive me nuts, especially when the pictures are so terrible!

  • Kassy

    I dont think this is a matter of “new photographers” and how much you dont like their page because the pictures are overprocessed or you think they are terrible. its an issue of safety. i have been asked a few times to do newborns and i let the person know immediately that i have never done a newborn session and if i were to it would be a lifestyle session where i would come to their house and photograph them just being them with the baby. i often then get an email back with pictures they have found on the internet with babies propped up asking if i can do that instead. i will firmly say NO to every single one. i am not experienced nor confident enough yet to just wing that. and i would never start with those poses. ever. no matter if your a beginner or not…..everyone starts somewhere and if you ask some of the most wonderful photogs today to show you their first couple sessions….probably not amazing. so the issue is safety here. not beginners overprocessing.

  • Lindy

    Thank you so much Rachel for posting this. It is what a lot of people are thinking and don’t say for one reason or another. It seems these days anyone with a DSLR thinks they are a professional or slaps “photography” behind their name. People don’t realize how hard truly professionals photographers work and it is not just taking photos! Photographers have a true passion for it and it become an intimate part of their life capturing memories for people! It is truly an art! Your work is incredible and hope people see the truth in this which is hard for a lot of people to swallow! Thanks again for the post!

  • Melinda B

    You hit the nail on the head as usual Rachel. Great post!

  • Becky

    Rachel, this did the exact opposite of ruffling my feathers!!! This encouraged me. At first I wasn’t sure what I was going to read. I am a beginner and have had a whole 2 newborn shoots the first was not great and the second made me fall in love with newborn photography, but I still have a long way to go. Anyhoo, I said all that to say that I did not try anything but simple poses because of my inexperience. I didn’t really think about the fact that I shouldn’t and reading this really made me feel better about my decision. Anyhoo, I love ur photography and thx for sharing ur frustration!!! Ps… I wasn’t even brave enough to take the diaper off!! :)

  • Chelsea Ahlgrim

    Rachel, you just said exactly what I’ve been thinking for a while now- except I’m on the other end of my photography journey. I’m not a newborn photographer, nor do I ever plan on shooting newborn. I just really love photography and got lucky that I’ve picked it up fairly quickly. I’m trying so hard- amidst the ever-increasing tension between new & seasoned photogs- to not be THAT girl. I am trying to learn as much as I possibly can and “pay mydues” and earn the right to have paying clients. Because more than high sales or “likes” on facebook, what I really want is the respect of my clients and my peers-.people like you and my sister, Sarah.

  • Chelsea Ahlgrim

    P.s. I’m a little over a year into this journey and don’t plan to stop any time soon. I still have SO much to learn! I’m thankful for the photogs in my life who are patient and generous and encouraging to a newbie like me!

  • Sophie

    Such a wonderful post, and so refreshing to see the timeline of your work. Any art takes time, patience, and LOTS of practice to perfect, and you’ve definitely gotten to this point through hard work and dedication. Hopefully this post will inspire others to do the same. :)

  • Trae

    I love your honesty and putting it plainly. Also, seeing where you came from and knowing how much time and effort you put into your business is an amazing testimony of the kind of person you are! (This is why you are one of my favorite photogs to watch/read!)

  • Emmy-Lou

    Thank you so much for such a great post. So interesting to see your timeline and how much your work has improved. The photos you are producing now are stunning. When i see your improvement it gives me great inspiration and motivation that i will get to the standard i want to be. I couldn’t agree more about the posing, i’ve had my business several years and have never attempted poses like that. Want to feel super confident with what i am doing before trying such a thing on a tiny little person.
    Thank you x

  • Ange S

    What an awesome blog post, thankyou so much for sharing this! This speaks to me so much as a hobbyist still trying to master the BASIC poses and getting frustrated with myself! It’s so great to see the path that you took and to see that it doesn’t just happen overnight(as I have led myself to believe)I can see definite improvement but it’s happening slowly, but now I know that’s ok. It will happen…. I recently purchased your newborn posing guide and found it so informative, and I will definitely be referring to it when I next have a newborn to practise with.

  • Angel Canary

    This is a wonderful post. This makes me feel “normal” as I have always felt scared to pose babies like that and can appreciate and admire the skills you have in your field. ;)

  • Kelly Gridley

    Thank you for this post… thank you very much.

  • Ginny

    This is fantastic and well said. I’m a photographer, and I started out doing contract photography for a publishing firm. This lead me to start a portrait business, doing families, children, couples, seniors, etc. I’ve had more and more requests to do newborn photography, and I offer those sessions at a reduced cost because it allows me practice and experience. I don’t do anything I’m not comfortable with. I use your first guide for inspiration, but I tell my parents straight off that I’ll only do basic positions for the sake of safety until I am more comfortable with more complicated positions. And I remind myself, as you said, over time, I will get better and be more experienced—I won’t be something I’m not… yet. This blog post is great and a very real reminder that photography is ART, not a competition. Thank you for the reminder.

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  • Kristen

    Hummm…. being in this business for 8 years you see alot of crazy stuff happening along the way… thanks for your post and making people aware ;)

  • Stephanie Byersmith

    I love this whole post, Ive seen so many “photogs” that seems to absolutly lack the passion to create a phenominal image. Your my hero rachel!!!!

  • Kaila

    I just saw this post and thank you so much for it! You are a photographer that many look up to so sharing things like this is huge! And although it has been over a year since I took your workshop I still do not do the head in hands pose; I just don’t feel confident in it and it’s not worth the risk to me

  • Whitney Mara

    Thanks so much Robyn – I am a new photographer myself and I DON’T want to go for the hard shots just yet, to me I felt the easy shots so long as well taken with beautiful lighting and a cute hat or two would do just fine. But I always worry that I won’t get the clients because I just can’t do the hard shots yet. Reading your post here has really helped to reinforce me that I’m doing the RIGHT thing by mastering the easy ones before ever attempting the difficult! Your work is just STUNNING, and hopefully in a few years time I will aspire to that! :)

  • Linsey Hannum

    Thank you for this post. The way things are around me, I feel like I have to be amazing before I can call myself a photographer because so many people bought a new camera and decided that’s what they were going to do without trying to learn it! Learning it is what is fun!!! Seeing the improvement in the photos and knowing you are gaining skill and perfecting who you are as a photographer is gratifying to me!! Thank you for posting the timeline of photos as well, it helps to see where someone started and where they are now and know if I keep working, in my own time, I will attain what I want to with this!!!!! You are awesome Rachel Vanoven! Thanks for speaking your mind!!!!!

  • Penn

    THANK YOU for this post! I have requests for newborn sessions quite often and some of the parents (or parents of) ask me to do poses like this… I’ve been doing photography full-time since 2009 and I haven’t had ENOUGH practice with newborns… When I tell a parent I haven’t mastered those poses as of yet and don’t want to experiment on their little one, I get the most quizzical look as if saying “but it’s so easy!” and they proceed to try to get those little heads & arms in place… I stand very quietly holding my breath… then they let me do what i do… (and i’m sure baby thanks me silently)…

    THANK YOU AGAIN for posting this… really <3 <3 THANK YOU :) xo

  • Sarah Heinle

    Thank you for this post. I just came across your site. I loved your work and I hope to be where you are someday. I am two years into this and I am still good at being my worst critique. I totally agree that the baby’s safety should always be first. I appreciate your honesty and I liked seeing your progression over the years. Beautiful!!


    Thank you for sharing this. I have been doing photography for 2 years but just made it an official business this year. I would love to make it a full-time job, but still have a long way to go! I will admit I feel into the “craze” of wanting to earn a lot of “likes” so I could grow my clientele base. I do from time to time obsess about what other photographers are accomplishing and it makes me feel as if my work isn’t very good quality. I have to tell myself every day that I’m still learning and not to worry about what others are accomplishing, because everyone started from the ground up! I absolutely love your work and admire your wanting to help other photographers – THANK YOU! :)

  • Vicky

    Thanks so much for this wonderful post! I am a starting newborn photographer myself, and it is reassuring to know that I do not have to start attempting the really hard poses yet…. At the moment, I am still happy with the basic ones and find they still challenge me. Thanks also for your timeline pictures!

  • Lisa J

    Rachel, thank you SO much for this post, which I am coming to late. I am actually so thrilled to know that you don’t advocate your workshop attendees posting “posed by others” images on their website. And yeah, I am sure they would get no shortage of requests for “the shot”, because I get requests (and have lost business here and there because I won’t do it) WITHOUT the image in my portfolio. I have a long way to go (and thank you for posting your timeline; it gives me hope!) but I refuse to post anything that isn’t 100% my work. I think your integrity really shines through in this post; you are one of the good guys!

  • Kzphotos

    totally agree!

  • Kelsie Rae

    Let’s face it, the basics are so much cuter anyways :) Thanks for all your insights on newborn photography! It’s so true that you have to start from the bottom :)

  • Jill Daugherty

    Thank you so much for this!! I was beating myself up over only taking the ‘simple’ poses. I have practiced the head in hands shot but only with my niece and son. I have been shooting newborns for 1 year, plus I am the mother of 4 and an at home daycare provider. Needless to say, I have lots of experience handling babies.

    There are a few other photographers who have popped up since I started shooting that have been doing the celebrity Facebook thing, and I am so frustrated by it. I have blocked these photographers from my Facebook feed and just keep focusing on the job I am doing. Seeing a timeline of your work gives me faith that I am doing a good job and just need to keep working at it. (I never take the time to comment on blogs, that is how much this post means to me) Thank you again!!

  • Jodie

    i 100% agree what you said rachel. photographers should be aware of posing newborns when there just starting out in simple poses cuz there cute as well. im just starting out trying to get into photography and i think everyone can learn a thing or two from reading this post. i agree that photographers need to start off with the simple basics then when tere comforable doin those then try the harder poses. better safe then sorry. thank you for posting this :)

  • Rach H

    Gosh, I LOVE this!! Soooo many new photographers rush right into these poses & not only do they look bad…it’s DANGEROUS!! (All about newborn safety) I’m pretty new in the business & have been studying Newborn posing hard, i have tried the simpler shots & i’m almost nailing them, I will not be even attempting the more advanced shots untill i am 101% confident, however much i get asked to do them :) You are such an inspiration Rachel & i love following your work…Amazing xx

  • Marci

    Great post! I agree, there is so much self-imposed competition with photographers..always trying to one up each other and mud sling. I follow a lot of Photographers on Facebook and I end up unfollowing them when things start to get nasty. I admire photographers who are able to do the posed newborn shots..but it’s not for everyone! While I do love those shots, I’m not even going to attempt them because it’s just not my style and I was anxious enough around my OWN newborn so I’m certainly not going to try to manipulate someone else’s newborn! People just need to know their limits and style and realize that it’s OKAY to not do what everyone else is doing! Anyway, I found this post because one of my friends liked it on facebook..and now I am going to follow you because you do lovely work!

  • Karissa

    Thank you Rachel for sharing this! Its great for me to see just how far you have come and where you started. I am too scared to even do that shot and I have already told a mom ‘No’. I just apologized that I had never done that shot and unless I attend a workshop from you or another photographer, I will NOT be doing that pose. We all have to start somewhere. Thank you Rachel, sometimes I get on myself for not being able to master things. But I have alot of practice to do and I want to someday be a unique photographer, not what everyone else is!

  • Adriana Janky

    I just want to say how much I truly admire you (in a not so stalkerish way). Photography has become about racing to have the most fans and people forget about the art. I love newborn photography, but you know, people are going crazy over having the best props and items that it just takes the focus away from the baby and it becomes all about the props.
    Not going to lie I have done some newborn shots but I never once attempted doing something that I was not comfortable with. I only do the simple poses because that is what I like. I rarely ever use any props besides headbands, wraps and hats because I don’t trust using buckets or boxes at the moment.
    I also want to say I truly admire your timeline of work. You are focused and dedicated and you show that you don’t need to bling out the baby to take amazing shots :D

  • Heather

    Thanks for this post! I have been doing photography on and off for 8 years. This is great information :)

  • Michelle

    What a great post! Thanks!

  • Sherelle

    Well out Rachel! Newborn photography is my passion, and I have been following you for quite some time now. I only hope that one day I will be half as great as you are!! You truly are incredible. I have never tried any type of pose that I don’t feel comfortable doing. Especially this pose. And I will not try it until I am able to attend a workshop and learn exactly how it is done. I even tell parents I won’t do it. A fellow photographer in my town just started newborn photography and was asking me if I knew how to do the hand in heads pose. And I told her no! She told me she would youtube it!! Now that’s an extremely scary thought…. I won’t even youtube it and I have been working with newborns for around 4 years!!

    You are amazing, I love reading everything you write and your photos are inspirational


  • Kate Flannery

    Love this blog for so many reasons!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Samantha

    Fabulously put Mrs V.

  • Stacy Hart

    Great post! I am still trying to nail all the great, simple, but incredibly adorbs “basic” poses you showed. I will say that I have been in the newborn industry for over a year and a half now though and had my itty bitty boy four months ago so my husband and I did the composite shot with him. It turned out great and we were uber careful (made sure all was safe and read safety tips and tutorials). I haven’t done it since for the reasons you listed above; I want to perfect the simple poses. Speaking of which, when do you open your 2014 workshop dates? My friend and I are in desperate need of a road trip and we were thinking your workshop might be the motivation. Love your stuff Rachel!

  • Megan

    I personally don’t even like those unnatural shots. Not that I think they look bad, but if I was going to hire someone to take pictures of my newborn, I would probably go out of my way to ask that we not do a shot like that. It just looks so unnatural for a newborn to be in that position – why would I want a picture of something that is completely unrealistic. I am a much bigger fan of the naturally posed shots.

  • Magdalena

    Great post! Really!
    I deall with a photography for few years, but started in newborn few month ago, when my daughter arrived (I guess it’s typicall start for most of newborn photographers).
    Newborn photography is soooo hard work. After every photo session I am tired like after night shift in a coalmine.

    I want to say, that I would never go for a baby photography if not my daugther, because earlier I was simply afraid of touching the baby :) and now, I know how to lift baby, hold im in hands etc… I can not imagine how someone who doesn’t have experience as a parent, can deal with newborn photography.

    But, to the end…
    What is good about this post, is that you show, that you have been beginner too :) and that all takes time.
    I think now, when man can see great newborn photographers and their work from all over the world, he/she may want to do the same straight away. And it is not so easy and not so safe for baby.

    All takes time.
    And that’s why I believe there is a hope for me :) still got few years to reach at least half of your level :)

    Very good work! congratulations!

  • Sue Immel

    YAY! Thank you for posting this article. I have been a studio photographer for 17 years. I recently sold my studio and have decided to pursue newborn photography in the family’s homes. Boy – is this different than studio shots! In the studio I knew just exactly how to set up my lights, meter, etc. I had had all my props at arms reach. In the client’s home, using window light – the learning begins again. Newborn photography (2 weeks and under) is so different than photographing the one month old. Seems like people around here are reluctant to bring their newborns out to a studio.(I actually would be also) I usually got them in when they were 1 or 2 months old. then they are too old to curl up in a ball, blah blah blah. I do go on sometimes. Enough said – Thanks for posting!

  • Angela

    Those photos are beautiful and I love how you shared how far along you came. That is wonderful. Thank you for posting these. Angela Butler – Clarksville, Tennessee Photographer

  • Amanda Davis

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years, have a BFA from a prominent art school and have been mostly specializing in landscape and architectural photography for all this time. I have only this year begun to branch out into portraiture and even after doing this for 20+ years, I AM STILL LEARNING! I, personally, think many of the newborn poses are very odd and unnatural looking and often wonder why on earth anyone would want a photo of their child looking so strange. I’m pregnant with my first child right now (I know, a bit late to the parenting game, lol) and although I am very excited to have my new little “model” to try out some new photography (not to mention just to have him here to love and hold and help grow!), I want to capture the moments of his life, his REAL life!!! It also amazes me the amount of photographers who have cropped up in the past few years, some are doing some nice work with little to no training & I have to say it does bother me a bit sometimes, since I am still paying off the student loans I took out in the 90s to get my BFA!! I am so glad you made the point that we should never compare ourselves to what others are doing or try to “keep up” – even after all these years, that is something I still have to remind myself of constantly. True art comes from the heart & soul, never from imitation, equipment, manipulation or misrepresentation. There are probably some photographers out there who would find my portraiture work to be “amateurish” but if my clients enjoy their photos, that’s all I need! Blessings to you, I plan on looking into your workshops as this blog post is the first I have seen of your site.

  • Meghan

    I am a Labor and Delivery nurse who is starting out in photography….I know that the newborn can take alot..a ton…the pulling, tugging, ect ect ..I can fling a newborn around just like RN’s do and I I WOULD NOT TRY THAT EITHER FOR A VERY VERY LONG TIME! Not because I think it could hurt the baby..well..unless it seriously took a big fall, but because it would scare the CRAP out of parents! Sometimes we nurses pick up the babies like we do (because we know what parts of their bodies support what ) and the parents still flip….YOU COULD TOTALLY LOSE YOUR CREDIBILITY, and customer base. With the way the internet is, one bad move and your whole business could be over..I hope it doesnt sound like Im taking safety lightly because I am not…I just understand the body mechanics of a newborn, but the average person does not….and should not try that either!

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  • Shavahn

    This is a great read, even if it is over a year old!

    You should re-post it as a reminder. I really enjoyed seeing your progression, and showing that you didn’t start with the trickier poses until you were comfortable with what you were doing.

    I really admire you, and it’s excellent to see where you started and how far you’ve come.


  • Rebecca

    Great article. I loved seeing the progression of work.

  • April

    I really enjoyed this article. I have only done one newborn shoot before, and there really wasn’t even any posing, just baby sleeping in her belly. I am due to have my baby in a few days and I am excited to take some photos of her. I will take your advice and keep it simple. Being that newborn photography is something I am unfamiliar with(but am increasingly interested in) I would not have known that some of these poses are not to be attempted by newbies. Thanks for the advice!

  • Savanna

    I loved this article. Seriously. Im just starting out with photography (newborn included) and there is no way I would ever try doing the hard poses. It makes me nervous just doing the normal shots lol. I would feel terrible if I was responsible for anything happening to a sweet precious baby. I’m surprise there are beginners attempting those difficult shots. :/ Laying down shots are precious anyways!! :)
    Thanks for being honest. I hope it helps those who want to do the hard shots realize that isn’t considerate of the baby.
    Thank you!!

  • carmen

    Well said Rachel!!! I have been a newborn photographer for over 2 years now. Certainly a very short period of time, in my opinion. I haven’t attempted the froggy pose yet and I dont think I ever will. Its not my style so I am happy to leave that up to other newborn photographers out there. Your work is beautiful and it demonstrates to me that you have a real passion for what you do. Its important to be authentic and true to yourself. And I absolutely agree with the whole weirdness of new photographers who offer workshops too – its so strange and it just baffles me.

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  • Jennifer Fillinger

    I love the “head in hands” post as much as the next mom and all of your photography work is AHHHHMAZING! But, of everything you posted, that photo of the baby in cream with the big, open eyes, is TO.DIE.FOR.!!!! And that’s a simple, yet beautiful pose. THAT’S the photo photogs should strive for! It’s stunning! Great, great post!!

  • Heather Hazie

    Loved this post! I started my photography journey in 2011, so I am just under 3 years in, and while I have done the chin in hands pose, I’ve only done it a handful of times, and only after about 2 years in. The main reason I don’t do it very regularly is because if I attempt it one time, and baby squirms or resists the pose I stop. I just tell parents that some babies just aren’t comfortable going into that pose and I will never force it. And, I must be a weirdo too because I never have done a hanging baby, and to be honest I really do not have any desire to! :P This whole post really spoke what is on my mind as well. I am not fb famous, and I am in no rush to get there. Sure someday I would love to rank up there along side some of my favs, but I will get there in my own time as I continue perfecting my craft. I only recently started following you on fb, so I look forward to seeing your work in my newsfeed! :)

  • Shelley

    I’m a little behind the times but just came across this blog post. Love it so much. Thank you :)

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