I have been anticipating the attempt to do the famous “newborn hanging in a hammock” shot because it’s a very serious experience. Many people might think it looks easy or is easy but it really is not. There is much care, patience, and knowledge that comes with doing shots like these. In the end, it must always come down to, “is the baby safe?”. I never put the baby in a predicament that might possibly harm him/her and I always think of the baby rather then “the shot”. So, with that said I will go on to explain the setup, lighting, and overall execution of this shot.
First thing is first, you need to find an adequate branch. The branch you choose should be rather thick, highly unlikely to snap if you personally hung on it, and make sure it’s long enough so you can extend it into the frame and hang baby without getting hands in on the shot.
My wonderful husband attempting to cut the branch down to a desired size with the worst hand saw ever!
This is the lovely borrowed hand saw my hubby used to cut the branch. I highly recommend saving yourself a half hour by buying a new saw that will cut right through a thick branch lol.
My kids. This was just too cute of a photo to NOT include! My son, Ben is “helping” by holding the very other end of the branch and my daughter, Zoey peeking in on the job with her ice cream in hand.
I personally had someone I fully trusted to hold the branch for me; my husband. We thought about screwing it onto a wood cement frame to hold it but would rather have the baby in our own grip. So choose someone to hold the branch while you shoot. I highly discourage mounting it to anything or trying to “rig” it.
Time to make the hammock. The choice is yours really when it comes to the hammock. Many people on Etsy.com make crocheted hammocks for this particular shot and my newborn’s mommy actually made her one, but I felt more comfortable and original using my own fabric which was a tightly woven lace. I used probably about two yards at most.
Once you have the fabric and the branch it’s time to tie the fabric/hammock to the branch. To get my lace fabric to look like a hammock i did no-sewing what-so-ever…I never sew SO what I did was fold the lace fabric in half and made a cradle like hoop or hammock like cradle at the bottom and left over at the top was a bunch of extra fabric. I took the extra fabric (branch in front of you and you standing directly in front of it) and through it over the top of the branch about in the middle where I wanted baby to hang. I did a pretty basic knot. I’m no girl scout so I have no idea what it’s called but I will try to explain. I took the extra fabric that was hanging over the back and brought it back under the bottom of the branch and around the front and to the right of the fabric that was already there. Once you take the extra fabric under and over the front fabric, take it back under the branch, then up, and the tuck it into the loop you know have made. I believe it’s a slip knot that is tied. So what you should have is a knot that tightens when weight is placed in the hammock part below where you’ll put the baby. Sounds tough I know but it’s pretty simple. Trick is, just play with it before you get baby in there so that you are absolutely sure it isn’t going to budge. Make sure you put some of your weight on it and tug a little to be sure.
Once you have the branch and hammock ready to go it’s time to decide on a background, again, completely up to you and your desired style. I used a plan white seamless paper backdrop.
Next, it’s time to set up lighting. Be sure that you have ALL of this done prior to even preparing baby to be put into the hammock. You do not want to stress baby with the “testing” period. Get everything ready prior her/his arrival to the location/room you are in. For lighting I did a basic set up which is perfect for newborns. There is absolutely no need to get fancy or dramatic with lighting on a newborn. You just need to light them so that they skin looks clean and fresh of dark shadows and harsh lights. I put two lights up for this shot, one on each side shooting at baby diagonally. Power was set to about f1/16. It’s a good idea to have a stand in for your testing. I use a play baby doll sometimes, if not my assistant’s hand to make sure that the skin color is lite properly.
Once you have all of these major things set and ready to go, it’s time to prepare baby. Make sure baby is fully asleep or is preparing to sleep. Make sure baby has been fed, and has a clean diaper. Speaking from experience when I did this shot, all of that can be blown out of the water! Baby was sleepy for me but was very curious, she was fed but wanted more, and she was clean until she let loose in her diaper lol. I placed baby in the hammock once I thought everything was ready, but she still wanted to eat and be curious so what I did at this point, while baby was still in the hammock, was picked her up in my arms and rocked her to sleep. This is when she got super comfy, pooped her diaper and passed out for good while we were able to gently lay her down and hang in the hammock.Be absolutely sure you are constantly supporting baby’s head with either your hand or the hammock. Always have something right underneath baby just in case baby falls out for what ever reason. Hands can always be edited out in photoshop so always keep a hand on baby if not very close by baby at all times for utmost safety.
Here is the final shot of my little newborn.
Always think of the safety of the little ones and always be calm, careful and patient. It’s definitely not an easy shot, but it’s well worth the half hour it takes!