My Rotating Table and Paloma Schell
What is Beanbag Posing?
I am a Studio Newborn Photographer and I do both prop shots and Beanbag shots. Prop shots are photos of newborns inside cute props such as bowls. Beanbag poses are the curled up poses of baby lying on smooth fabric. These poses are traditionally done by posing a baby on a beanbag cushion or beanbag chair. Some photographers use a mat on the floor, an ottoman or even a bed. More and more newborn photographers are switching to dog beds and tables for beanbag poses. When I started newborn photography I made a big beanbag and used a PVC pipe stand to clip my fabrics to. The purpose of the stand is to pull the fabrics tight and avoid wrinkles. The beanbag provides a soft place to pose the baby.
Newborn Posing progression
Progressing through newborn posing I, like many other newborn photographers, wanted a firmer surface to pose on. Soft beanbags are so frustrating when your posing pillows just sink in. I tried filling my beanbag with as much fill as possible to help with firmness. Using duct tape I tried to cinch the beanbag tighter. I was able to get the photos I wanted with my beanbag but I was always fighting it. Other newborn photographers started talking about table posing and I had to give it a try. After a model call to test out my table I was hooked and never looked back.
Five reasons to use a table
It doesn’t matter if you use a beanbag or a table or a dog bed. A skilled newborn photographer can get good results on a variety of surfaces so you have to find the one that works best for you. I’ve tried a mattress, a couch, the floor… The table is my preferred newborn posing surface for a few reasons.
- No sagging or loss of firmness
- Takes up less space
- Storage space underneath
- Less wrinkles in your blankets
- Strong and stable surface
Posing frame types
Some of the best newborn photographers in the industry don’t use a frame for posing fabric. You can get great images using a backdrop stand or assistant to hold your fabrics up for you. Also a PVC stand can also easily and inexpensively be made to clip your fabric to. Here’s a link for how to make your own. I tried these different strategies but chose the metal Paloma Schell to clip my fabrics to. I found I needed a stand and the PVC stand wasn’t firm enough to hold the fabric. The PVC pipes would flex and move which was very frustrating. Paloma Schell stands are solid and can hold tightly stretched fabrics. Also the stands clip together for easy assembly and storage and are a professional looking piece of equipment.
Custom Size Table
I looked for a table that would fit inside my Paloma Schell but couldn’t find one that was perfect so my husband kindly made me one for Christmas. He cut a circular piece of plywood that fits perfectly inside the Paloma stand. It’s just below the height of the edge so there isn’t a dip in the fabric when I’m posing.
The table top is 21.5 inches from the floor and the diameter of the round table top is 40 inches.
Lazy Susan Top
The table top is built onto a turntable bearing and onto a frame allowing it to spin. The turntable bearing can hold up to 1000 pounds so it is plenty strong enough for a baby or a toddler to pose on. I use my posing table for my Dream Sessions where I pose older children. My custom newborn posing table is the perfect firmness for older children who would naturally cause a lot more sagging in the beanbag. Therefore, you will have less stretching of the beanbag fabrics, less struggling with pillows and less wrinkles to edit later.
I love my rotating table! If I need to switch from Tummy time pose over to forward facing pose I can just rotate the table without having to adjust baby. Rotating the table instead of the baby makes it SO much easier to get a variety of poses with as little disturbance as possible.
Why a spinning top and not just wheels?
I’ve had a couple questions about why have the table top spin and not just put wheels underneath the stand & Table together. My table has felt pads underneath the legs so I can easily slide and rotate the entire thing when I need to make minor adjustments with the lighting and angles. Why did I want the table top to spin? One day it occurred to me that Taco to tummy time to forward facing are almost the exact same “bean” set-up and almost exact same baby pose. In particular, I’ll compare tummy time and forward facing.
Tummy time or tushy up pose
Tummy time pose has baby on their stomach with both arms to the side and bent at the elbow. The hips are splayed open and the legs are bent at the knee. The back foot is tucked over inside the front knee and the front hand is flat under the cheek.
Forward facing or chin on wrists pose
Forward facing pose has baby in the exact same body position as tummy time but with minor adjustments. The back foot is usually not hooked over the front knee and the hands are usually overlapping. The head is usually turned slightly more forward so you can better see the face and that’s it.
Tummy transitioned to forward
If you wanted to transition from tummy to forward facing you would need to lift baby up and take them almost completely out of their pose. Then you would need to rotate the baby 45 degrees so instead of being across the table they are straight on. Then you would adjust them until they are back to the tummy time pose. Spinning the table means you have to un clip your fabric, spin the table 45 degrees and re clip. Yes there is more work with the fabric but you have the benefit of not having to move the baby again which means there will be less disruption and baby will hopefully sleep longer allowing you more poses.
There is no one right way to do beanbag or table posing. You probably have a system that works great in which case there’s no need to change it. Also the more experience you have the less it matters what system you use BUT I love my spinning table!
Do you use a beanbag? A table? A dog bed? Comment below with the type of surface you use.