Newborn Photography Settings: Get Better Baby Picture Results

Last Updated on March 21, 2021

Infant and newborn photography allows you to capture those fleeting and precious moments.

And because those newborn moments will pass so quickly it’s particularly important to get your settings correct so you can capture those moments without fail.

baby in red and white hat

What Settings Should I Use For Newborn Photography

By getting your camera’s settings right you can be sure to capture high quality of your baby.

Some of the best portraits will have your baby in focus with the background blurred. This is called the bokeh effect.

This makes your baby really shine by blurring out all the background distractions from your images. This is a great thing for capturing those early months of your baby’s life.

baby in santa hat

What Are the Basic Baby Photography Camera Settings?

When we discuss the exposure of your images, there are three basic camera settings we will be looking at.

Baby Photography Settings Deep Dive

When capturing great images of infants and babies you must consider your settings for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and white balance.

Setting Up Your Infant Photography Settings

When setting your camera up the most important factor to consider is how much light is available in the scene you are capturing.

Because lighting is so important, you should take your newborn images in the light of a large window.

You should position your baby in a way that allows the light to fall on your baby’s face. And their face should be the closest to the light than any other body part, meaning their feet will be facing away from the window.

If you are shooting images in a place where there is no natural lighting, such as a hospital room, then turn on the lights in the room all the way up. This should also be done if you have small windows or if taking images at night.

Having as much light as possible will allow you more flexibility in getting your camera settings correct.

smiling baby sitting on bed

Once your baby and the room are all set for your shoot you will want to adjust your camera settings that will not change during your photo session.

First you need to decide whether you will be using JPEG or RAW files. Use RAW if you plan to do photo editing later but use JPEG if you will not be editing your images.

JPEG files are ready to print or share directly from your camera, but RAW image files must be edited before sharing.

Next you will set your white balance as it will not need to be changed unless your lighting changes during the shoot. If you are shooting outside for a longer session your white balance will need to be adjusted to accommodate the changing light.

If you are a beginner then you can absolutely use the auto white balance setting. It will handle most infant photography environments.

I have found that photographs can turn out a with a bit of blue or orange with auto white balance so if you notice this you can adjust the setting.

White balance settings are labeled to match the lighting conditions you are shooting in. Most cameras will have settings for cloudy or even fluorescent lighting.

You will then want to set your autofocus settings. This camera function determines which part of a scene will remain in focus. You will want to set this to single point autofocus mode as this will allow you to custom set your focal point.

When it’s time to take your pictures, you will generally set the focal point to focus on your baby’s eyes. If you are taking pictures of your infant’s toes or hair, you will put the focal point on those places instead.

Some cameras will have an autofocus eye function which when set automatically focuses on the eyes.

You will then want to set the autofocus to AF-S or One Shot, depending on which setting your camera has.

When you are shooting older babies who are mobile you will want to put this setting at AF-C or Al-Servo, depending on which setting your camera offers. This will allow your camera to remain in focus when your baby is crawling around.

For a moving baby, you will also want to set your camera to burst mode. This setting will let you capture images in quick succession when you hold the shutter button down.

close up of newborn baby's feet

What Is the Best Exposure Settings for Newborn Photography?

Unlike the previous settings, exposure settings may need to be adjusted multiple times during an infant or baby photography session.

When shooting baby pictures you will want to use aperture priority mode or manual mode. Manual mode will let you adjust the three exposure settings while aperture priority mode is the best option for beginner newborn photographers as they are easier to get right.

Manual does offer you more control over your settings but until you are comfortable with adjusting them it is best to use aperture priority mode.

The shutter speed setting is what dictates how much motion you can freeze in your images. This is not usually an issue with infants as they do not move much. In this case, the only movement to be cautious of is hand shake while shooting.

You will want to set your shutter speed to at least as fast as the length of your lens is. For example, if you are photographing your baby with a 100mm lens you will set your shutter speed to at least 1/100.

But when shooting mobile babies, you will need a faster shutter speed. With a more active baby you will want to set your shutter speed to at least 1/160.

If your baby is actually crawling you will need a faster shutter speed yet. In this case you will want to set it for at least 1/250. If your environment is very well lit you will be able to increase your shutter speed even more without losing image quality.

Your aperture setting on your lens will dictate how much background blur your get while maintaining your baby in focus. To achieve a blurred, or bokeh, effect you will want a wide open aperture which is a low f number. A setting of f/2.8 is a good starting place.

brother and baby together

Keep in mind that the wider your aperture is set the more difficult it will be to keep your baby in focus. Also, if you are capturing an image with your baby and another person an aperture of f/2.8 or wider will make it difficult to keep both your subjects in focus.

Another issue with wide open apertures is that if your baby is not directly facing the camera one of their eyes may not stay in focus.

You also need to pay attention to how close you are to your newborn when shooting as the closer you get the smaller your aperture will need to be to keep them in focus. So if you are shooting close-ups you will want to have a more narrow aperture setting.

Here are some basic aperture settings to use when setting your camera lens for newborn photography

  • f/8 is a good setting for shots that include your baby and another subject
  • f/4 will create a beautiful soft background while still being easy to keep your baby in focus
  • f/2.8 provides a lovely bokeh background. Be sure your baby’s eyes are the same distance from the lens to ensure they both stay in focus

Shutter speed and aperture settings will also effect the lightness or darkness of the image. By keeping a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture you can capture darker images while a wide open aperture and slow shutter speed creates a lighter image.

Your ISO setting is important for exposure as well. A well set ISO will help you capture well exposed photographs. A low ISO setting makes your camera’s sensitivity to light less and results in a darker photo. When you set your ISO higher it does the opposite, captures a lighter photo.

It is important to know that image quality goes down as ISO goes up. This is because a higher ISO introduces more grain and noise into your images.

Keep in mind that how your camera reacts to these settings will depend on the model and specs of your particular camera and lens. Higher end cameras will be able to handle higher ISO’s than most beginner cameras. You will need to adjust these settings according to the specific capabilities of your equipment.

But the general rule is to use the lowest ISO setting you can. This will help you ensure you maintain high image quality.

If you are shooting in full manual mode, you will have control over all three exposure settings. When using manual mode you will need to follow the exposure meter to make sure you are getting optimal settings.

Most cameras will have the exposure meter located at the bottom of the viewfinder.

You can also inspect your images as you take them and make adjustments as needed.

For aperture priority you will find adjustment dials usually labeled either A or Av. This setting should be used by less experienced photographers.

Also locate your auto ISO and set it to the shutter speed appropriate for how active your baby is, as discussed above.

With these settings in place, you will be free to focus on only one setting, the aperture. This will make it much easier to maintain great image quality even when shooting in manual mode.

When you are shooting with aperture priority mode turned on, you can brighten dark images by using the exposure compensation. Setting this to a positive setting brightens the photo. If you need to darken the image then set to a negative setting.

baby at beach


And there you have it, you now know the best settings for newborn photography and are well on your way to capturing those precious moments.

By following these guidelines you can make sure you don’t miss the chance to capture those fleeting moments before your baby grows up. But don’t be afraid to adjust your settings as you go if you are not fully satisfied with the results.

For more newborn photography tips and guides read these articles