As a professional photographer and a mother, I highly recommend hiring a professional newborn photographer for many reasons. I never hired a newborn photographer when my kids were born 8 and 10 years ago, and here I am with no newborn photos of my kids. Well I have the snapshots but nothing professional or beautiful. I was planning to do it all myself but then the reality of "you just had a baby" showed its face. You would think I would have learned with baby number two. Nope.
Now while I recommend hiring a newborn photographer, that isn't always an option. Currently, we are in the middle of a global pandemic and my home state is under a stay-at-home order. Legally, I can not operate my business which means that you can not hire a newborn photographer right now. So what are you to do in this situation? Well, you make the most of what you have!
Capturing those cute, sweet little poses is hard and takes lots of practice. However, if you can set realistic expectations of what to expect, you can still capture beautiful photos of your newborn. Here I have put together some practical tips that will help!
Put Safety First
As much as you would love to have a photo of your baby in the perfect pose, please keep in mind that many poses that you see take professionals years to master and often are compilations of several photos merged together into one. For an at home, DIY photo session avoid any complicated poses, avoid placing baby in an unsupported position, and never leave baby unattended (I know this is obvious). Also, always keep the camera on a strap around your neck to avoid accidents. Really aim for more natural positions of baby. One great idea is to place baby on their side. They love to position on their side and it is a cute pose that can be easily switched up.
Take Newborn Photos Within the First Two Weeks
While I usually aim to do newborn photos within the first 4-10 days, sometimes that just isn't possible. I mean you just had a baby and that is quite a life change to be going through, not to mention hormones and lack of sleep. The sooner that you are able to do these photos, the easier it will be to keep baby asleep, which in turn makes it easier to do your photoshoot. Plus babies change so quickly! You need to do these photos when works for you though. If you are feeling good when you are still in the hospital, you can try to capture some fresh 48 photos. If not, that is okay too. After two weeks, babies become more alert and potentially fussy. But if you want more awake photos, then this would be the time to capture those shots.
Time Your Photoshoot Carefully
The most important factor, other than your baby of course, is the light that you are shooting in. Before your baby is even born, you can observe what the light in your house is like. What time of the day is the light the best in your house? This might be at different times of the day in different rooms and that is okay because you are the photographer and can spread this out how you would like. I usually schedule newborn sessions around mid-morning. You will want to avoid really direct sunlight streaming in which can cause harsh shadows. Usually a north or south facing window will work the best as a source of light. A well lit room with even light is what you are looking for. You will want to avoid doing this in the evening and avoid any artificial light if possible.
Have a Sleepy Baby and a Calm Environment
The best time to start a photo session with your newborn is right after they have eaten and have fallen back to sleep. Aim for that "milk drunk" stage. ;) Make sure they are in a clean diaper and a quiet and calm environment. If you have a big brother or sister that you are wanting to do photos with, do those first. Have a partner there to help in this case so that after they are done with photos they can entertain your older children elsewhere. I also always use a white noise app on my phone turned up pretty loud. Usually I use ocean waves and it works like a charm. You can also use a white noise machine.
Keep Baby Warm
Another essential element is making sure that baby stays warm. I almost always use a space heater near baby but please be careful that it isn't too close. Babies sleep so good when they are warm and snug. You can also make trips back and forth to the dryer to heat blankets but a space heater is easiest. I have even been known to use these in air-conditioned houses in the summer. Often times baby will be swaddled and this helps too.
Your baby should be the star of the show but sometimes it is sweet to incorporate some family heirlooms or little things that are special to you. For a DIY photo shoot, I would really try to keep this simple. I would gather together items with interesting textures such as baskets, blankets, fur, scarves, swaddles, hair ribbons/bows, etc. Make sure to not use anything sharp or scratchy near baby. If you do choose to use a basket, make sure to have plenty of cushioning to make baby comfortable and remember safety first! A Boppy pillow can be very helpful to use. Simply cover with a blanket to avoid the bright patterns.
Swaddles are your Friend
Newborn babies almost always LOVE to be swaddled and wrapped up tight! Don't be afraid to wrap baby tightly. There are lots of possible ways to wrap baby but start simple. If your baby is sleeping well, you can experiment with loosening the wrap and start having babies hands and feet popping out from the swaddle. Try to use simple muslin, cheesecloth, or a stretchy cotton blend fabric for swaddles. Try to keep these colors soft and subtle with no mismatched patterns.
Don't forget the Details
Get in close and capture those little hands and feet and all the things that make your baby special. Use a macro lens (or camera setting) if possible. Just experiment with what your camera can do.
There is nothing sweeter than incorporating babies siblings but this can take patience. No one knows your child better than you though so you know what you can do to help get them to cooperate. Maybe these photos are very candid and taken of them naturally interacting. If your older child is still quite young, you could try having them lay next to baby on the flood or bed. If they are a little older perhaps your newborn could lay in their lap. Have them interact with the baby. Prompts are always a good idea. "What does your baby brother smell like?" "Can you give your baby sister a kiss?" And of course if all else fails, then bring out the bribes. The best thing you can do is to keep this time short and sweet, stay calm, and make it fun. Also, don't forget to have someone else there that can entertain your older child when they are all done with pictures.
Get in Some Photos Yourself
Probably the hardest challenge with going the DIY route is getting in some of the photos yourself. There are a few options of how to address this. The easiest option would be to ask another family member or friend to shoot these for you. It doesn't have to be long but just a few photos. You could also set up a camera on a tripod and use a self-timer or a remote shutter release or even prop up your phone with a self timer. Make sure that you set everything up before your invite the rest of the family to join you so that they don't get restless. These photos will probably work best if you are looking at baby rather than smiling for the camera, especially with young ones involved.
Do these Photos in Stages
Don't try to do this all in one afternoon. When I come into a home for a newborn session, I am usually there for three hours and all the photos are done in one block of time. But if you are mom and the photographer, you are going to need breaks. It will probably work best to do these over a couple of days.
Other Things to Consider
Make sure your camera lens is clean even if you are just using your iPhone.
Take lots and lots of photos. You never know which ones will be your favorite later.
Don't expect perfection. Just do the best that you can and remember that these will always be special to you because they are of your baby and they are only little for such a short time.
Keep calm because babies definitely pick up on momma's stress.
Polish your photos with a little editing. This might be new to you but save your originals and then give it a try. Don't go crazy with weird filters. Keep it natural.
I really hope that this helps you capture some beautiful photos of your precious newborn. Whether you are unable to hire a professional to take them for you or if you simply want to take as many photos of your baby as possible, I hope there are some useful tips in here for you.
Congratulations on your new bundle of joy!