Starting your journey
The birth of a baby is often the catalyst for many people to start their journey into photography. I have started some blogging on the topic of photographing your own family. With the addition of a new family member and an acute awareness of time passing we want to grab onto each and every moment. Every day brings new wonders and every change is the most amazing thing you have ever experienced.
Photographing your newborn
As you progressed through your pregnancy and maybe even for months or years before your pregnancy, you probably enjoyed looking at photos of tiny newborns. You may have pinterest boards full of newborn photos and special items picked out. You may have a list of photographers you were planning to contact or you may have already booked your session but if you are like many you didn’t plan on photographing your newborn yourself. I know this is a strange and uncertain time and rules and regulations change minute by minute. For the time being it may not be possible, or safe, to have a professional photograph your new baby. Although you may not have planned this I want to help you photograph your own newborn at your fresh 48 and when you are home.
Safety- some poses are unsafe without training
Safety first is always the way to approach handling tiny new babies. There are some poses that you may have seen when looking at newborn photography that are simply not safe to attempt without prior experience and training. Some poses to avoid are any where the baby is balanced on top of a prop, posed in any upright position in a prop, appears to be holding their own head, placed in an object that could hurt them. These shots are done with experience, training and with the use of photoshop.
Safety – stick to safe poses
Safety during your session is your first priority. There are many images you can capture that are safe and appropriate to try without training or experience. Stick to poses where your baby is on their back or their side. Do not place your baby up high, the ideal place is down low on the floor, in their crib / bassinet or on your bed. Stack towels or use a crib mattress on the floor to create a padded surface.
Safety- Camera straps
Never lean over your baby with your camera without putting the strap around your neck. Also never climb up high and lean over top of your baby in a way that might result in you falling.
When you swaddle your baby or pose them look closely and frequently at their fingers and toes for signs that circulation is being restricted. If a hand or foot turns red, purple or blue tinted blood is not flowing freely. Gently roll your baby onto their back and using soft strokes massage their little legs and arms to encourage blood flow. You can swaddle them but be sure not to make your swaddle too tight.
Newborn babies don’t regulate their temperature and you probably know they need 1 extra layer of clothing than you would wear. If you plan to photograph them naked or in a sleeveless onesie you will need to pre warm your room. Turn up the heat to where you would like to be in shorts and a bathing suit top. If you will be warming the room be sure to avoid covering your baby in blankets, heavy layers and thick clothes. Check for signs your baby is cold. If your baby is too cold you will likely see goose bumps, mottled skin and they will feel cool if you place the back of your hand to their skin. If they are too hot they will look red and they will feel clammy and sweaty. Remember, it’s important to keep your baby warm and cozy but be careful they don’t get hot.
If you have a dSLR that’s great! If you have a point and shoot camera or even a phone, you can still take beautiful photos. You can use any camera you can get a hold of and need very little equipment to capture your baby’s first days.
Keep it simple
Keep your photography sessions simple and stick to soft and neutral colours. I say this not because I don’t like dark and bold colours but because it’s actually easier to photograph lighter colours. There is generally less contrast with your baby’s skin and the resulting images are more likely to turn out how you want them. Gather up any soft greys, cream, browns and white fabrics around your home. Utilize scarves, sweaters, throws and blankets. You likely have enough in your own home to get a wide variety of images. If you want proof of this please visit the work of Danielle Hobbs, she shoots almost exclusively with one white wrap and one white blanket. You will see the huge amount of variety she creates with only 2 items.
Find the light
The most important part of getting great photos is finding and using light. This is your first consideration before you start shooting. Find a room where you can warm it up nice and toasty and where there is a window or glass door that lets in plenty of light. Tip- If the light is strong and casts a shape on the floor, move to just beyond the rays of light so that you are not in the direct glare of the sun but are as bright as you can get. Shoot during the brightest time of the day depending on which direction your window faces this may be in the morning or afternoon. If you need more light use something white to create a natural reflector which will bounce light around the room and brighten your area. You can use white poster board, white styrofoam packaging, white bed sheets or shower curtains and you can wear a white t-shirt. A golden rule that most newborn photographers live by it to let the light shine or fall down the face. That is you place the your baby so their head is close to the window and their feet are farther away. This causes a shadow to fall below the nose and under the chin. It is said this lighting is more natural and therefore more pleasing.
Clean and Full
Before you shoot change your baby’s diaper and then feed them. I say diaper first because changing a diaper can wake a baby but feeding makes them sleepy so change and then feed until they are full and sleepy. Don’t worry if they wake up as you will want both awake and sleepy images. Full babies are happy babies, hungry babies are cranky babies.
I suggest you start with the back pose because it is a natural position for your baby to sleep in, it’s simple, it’s safe and you can see your baby’s full body and sweet face. You can roll up a towel into an oval shape and place a piece of fabric over the top to help your baby curl up and fold their legs and arms in. You can also leave the surface flat and let your baby’s arms rest to their sides and above their head. You can photograph your baby naked or in a simple outfit laying on their back and you can gently swaddle them up into a blanket, scarf or piece of fabric with their legs in or feet poking out. Next I will give you ideas for shots you can capture from this pose.
Take images of your baby that show their whole body. Shoot from above, stand on the side of their head, shoot from their feet. Experiment with angles, shoot a lot, move in close and back away.
Photograph your baby from the chest or waist up including their arms and their belly. Again move around and try out different angles. You are fortunate to be in a digital world so take tons of photos.
Photograph your baby’s face from above and from their head looking down their face. Get close and back up, photograph them asleep and awake. Capture all their adorable expressions.
Fingers and toes
Photograph their little hands, their little feet poking out. Take pictures of the top of their heads and all the little unique details.
Get in the photo
During your first few weeks be sure to get some photos of you and your baby. Have a partner take them for you if you can or take a selfie. Whatever the method be sure you take some photos of yourself. I wrote a blog of the importance of being in photos here. Try a simple pose of you cradling your clothed or swaddled baby and stand near a large window for lots of light.
I’d like to help!
If you would like some help or guidance please reach out. I would also love to edit a few of your images for you as a show of support. Contact me here or via email firstname.lastname@example.org