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A Beginner's Guide to Newborn Composite Photos | Backdrop Express

A Beginner’s Guide to Newborn Composite Photos

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Baby & Child Photography, Photography Tips

Guide to Newborn Composite Photos Have you ever seen a photo of a slumbering infant hanging precariously from a drape or hammock that was “impossibly” high up in a thin tree branch? How about a newborn somehow holding their own head in their hands among adorable props in a posed photo? Then you’ve likely just witnessed the magic of newborn photography compositing. Compositing makes the “impossible” possible. (If it wasn’t compositing, then the parent and photographer were being needlessly reckless in their posing choices.)

There are genres of photography that not only benefit from the use of photo editing software; they often require it. Ultra-creative newborn photography that makes use of software allows for image ideas and compositions that would otherwise be unrealistic — or downright unsafe.

Photo editing software has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for infant photographers, with programs like Photoshop are paving the way for greater realms of creativity. While some self-proclaimed “purists” may look down their noses at the use of photo editing software for more than just cropping and a filter or two, many see photo editing as an artful way to take newborn photos to the next level.

The Essence of Compositing

A composite photo is created from two or more images overlaid and blended together for a highly creative final result. In this way, photo editing software allows for virtually unlimited creative possibilities. Photo images can be expertly blended to create just about any scenario. Many infant and newborn photography studios have a policy that any photography idea that can be accomplished with a composite is done this way; doing so minimizes risk to the infant while maximizing creative possibilities.

Having your young subjects supported in a hands-on way is key to infant safety and creating whatever illusion you wish to accomplish. Having the parents strategically support the infant and hold their head or neck secure in each shot assures safety and leaves the door open to editing out Mom or Dad’s hands so that the illusion can be conveyed.

Tips for Newborn Composite Photos | Backdrop Express
Photo Credit: Inspired Photography / Kala Bernier via Flickr

Creating a Photo Composite using Photoshop

Now that you know what a composite is, here are some tips for how to create one yourself. Although there are a variety of different photo editing tools you can use to create a composite, if you’re a Photoshop user, here are some basic steps to get you started. Consider doing several practice composites to help you get a feel for the process.
  1. Start by selecting the two images that you would like to composite together. Open both images in Photoshop, placing your main image (typically the image that you prefer the face in) as the background layer, with your secondary image as your top layer.
  2. Leaving your background image as is, resize your top image so that the baby’s features (head, ears, eyes, etc.) are aligned with your background image as best as possible. Adjust the opacity of the top layer so you can see both images at once while you are resizing. Remember, you may need to rotate your top image or distort the aspect ratio just slightly to achieve alignment.
  3. Once your images are aligned, reset opacity back to 100% and add a white layer mask to your top image. Using your brush tool, paint over the face and other areas of the top image that you would like to hide. Make sure your brush opacity is at 100% to start out & since your layer mask is white, make sure you have black set as your foreground color so you are using a black brush. You should start to see your new image come together!
  4. Once you’ve gone over the main areas of the top image with your brush tool, you’ll likely have to do some clean up work. Zoom in on your image and clean up where needed; you may need to change your brush size, opacity and/or switch between a white and black brush in order to clean up these smaller areas.
  5. When your image is ready, flatten your two layers together. After you’ve flattened your image, go through the image closely to clean up any other areas that may need to be edited. You may need to crop your image, or use the clone tool during this stage
If you’re new to photoshop or just need some more advice, there are dozens of video tutorials online that can help. You may also consider purchasing a Photoshop action to speed the process up.

Tips for Newborn Composite Photos | Backdrop Express

Intrigued About Compositing? Here are Some Posing Ideas to Get You Started:

1. Precious Fruit

Create the illusion that your subject is hanging from a cocoon in a tree; blend a photo of the sleeping infant wrapped in fabric held from above and supported from below by a parent; blend this image with an ornate tree branch after editing out any trace of the parent’s hand or arms.

2. Sitting Upright

Pose the infant with head in one hand or both, looking “bored,” or sitting upright wearing an adorable hat or outfit or leaning on a prop. Of course, the parent will be providing all the necessary support for the infant to be in these poses, but you can edit them out later.

newborn hats for portrait photographyPhoto By: Picture Perfect NY, Featuring: Puffy Poms Crochet Newborn Hat

3. Otherworldly Settings

There are no limits to the kinds of environments you can create using photo compositing. Making an infant look like a fairy, a butterfly or a ladybug can be easy to do if you blend an artful backdrop or some creative props with a costumed infant photo.

4. Artful Juxtapositioning

Create the illusion of your tiny subjects laying on Mom or Dad’s favorite musical instrument, a prized car or a motorcycle. The parent will be holding the child in place, but you can edit out all traces of them later.

newborn composite photos Photo By: Jamie Boeckmann Photography, Featuring: Bone Seamless Paper

5. Experiment with a Unique Backdrop

Photography backdrops can open the door to unlimited settings, scenarios and atmospheres. Consider using a uniquely textured rose fabric backdrop or a newborn themed printed backdrops, such as our Hanging Stars Printed Backdrop, Foot Prints Printed Backdrop or Bedtime Stories Printed Backdrop.

Rosette Fabric Backdrops for Newborn PhotographyPhoto By: Amy Raney Photography, Featuring: Cream Rose Fabric Backdrop


One final note: knowing that you’re going to be compositing your photos later isn’t an automatic free pass to skimp on other studio safety considerations. Other newborn photography safety steps should include:
  • Purchase liability insurance for your studio and photography business.
  • Never leave an infant unattended in your studio even for a moment.
  • Always use a strap with your camera (unless it’s on a tripod).
  • Double and triple-check your studio for infant safety hazards.
  • Secure and balance all photography equipment and props.
With newborn photography compositing, there are no limits to the types of photos you’ll be able to create for your clients and for your portfolio. Artistic ackdrops, fantastical settings, creative props and digital images can all contribute to the magic. Make safety a priority in your studio, and use digital compositing to help your creativity flow.

What creative poses or props have you used for newborn photography that required compositing?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about newborn photography? Check out 7 Essential Newborn Photography Props!

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