During this weird time in our lives with the ongoing Stay-In-Home policy from Governor Inslee, newborn photography sessions are not considered an essential business. This is due to many reasons, as you could guess, including the safety of your new baby and yourselves. So if you can’t hire a professional photographer but you want to capture that amazing newborn phase of your new baby, what can you do?
Below I’ve outlined a few tips that can help you create beautiful, Instagram-worthy and announcement-worthy images of your newborn.
Whether you are a first-time mama or not, you’ll learn fast that your newborn lives in this short 3-hour window of feeding, diaper changes, and sleeping. They typically are more sleepy the first two weeks of life and are more content in the mornings. Time your mini-shoot for when your baby is content and happy or sleepy.
Lighting is one of the most important ways to enhance the look of your smartphone photos. Photography literally means painting with light, so use it to your advantage! My favorite light inside is right next to a north-facing window. It is typically soft and bright, not harsh. Look around your home for the best light and try to take a couple photos there. Once you find the best light, you can have the light falling directly on your baby (front light) – which has minimal shadows on his/her face, or you can turn your baby slightly away from the window, so the light is more sideways (side light). This adds nice shadows and a bit more dimension to baby’s face. Smartphones work best with “front” light or “side” light.
*Practical tip: Have Dad hold baby, or find a “model” (like an older child), place them next to the window, and have them slowly rotate towards and away from the window and see what the light and shadows do. Pick your favorite and take a photo!
3. Portrait Mode, please!
If your phone has Portrait Mode capabilites, use it! Portrait mode works by using the two cameras on your phone to create Depth of Field (DOF). DOF allows you to blur the background in your image, separating your subject from the background. When you separate your newborn baby from the background, it draws attention to their sweet little face (like that wouldn’t happen anyway)!
*Practical Tip: Portait Mode only works when you are a certain distance away from your subjects’ face, so pay attention to the directions your smartphone is giving you.
4. Simplify your Background
The easiest way to create a drool-worthy image of your new little one is to get rid of the clutter. What do I mean by that? Hold your phone up to take the shot, and look at your entire screen – every corner. Are there little unrelated objects, toys, details showing up on the screen that are distracting? Then zoom in, change your angle, change baby’s angle, or move the distraction.
*Practical Tip: A favorite way I do this is laying your swaddled newborn on your bed when they are soundly sleeping, standing on the bed and photographing him or her from above. A second way is to find a blank wall to photograph against. With these settings you can zoom in and get her sweet sleeping mug, or zoom out to get baby with an older sibling in a safe way. Try different angles too!
5. Safety First, always.
Please don’t try to recreate posed photos you’ve seen from professional photographers, where baby looks like they are hanging from a branch, or sleeping soundly on your bed with their head propped up on their elbows (frog pose), or all swaddled up “standing upright”. All of these professional photos are composites – two photos stitched together. Feel free to look up newborn photography safety and see all the blog posts and examples of composites.
*Practical Tip: When I photograph and newborn shoot, I always have Mom or Dad close by if an older toddler is holding baby, if a fur-baby is near, or if baby is on the floor.
Don’t forget to take smartphone shots of baby’s little hands and toes, their big yawn, and even their sweet head of hair with the little cowlick if they have it. They’re only this tiny once, and smartphones do a pretty good job of getting in close.
7. Include older children
This goes without saying! I mentioned above about safe ways to do this with younger brothers and sisters, but if they are older, have them hold baby and cuddle. If you have a few older siblings, have the oldest hold baby and the younger one cuddled up right next to baby. You can do this sitting or standing depending on your comfort level. You can also have them all laying down on the bed and shoot top down if baby is fully asleep.
*Practical Tip: You may want to try and get this shot first, but if it doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it. You’re all at home and when all kids are in good moods and ready to try again, try again! Forcing kids who are not ready typically doesn’t give you the best photos.
8. Get in the photos too!
Make sure you get in there, even if you’re not feeling it. Documenting you and your sweet baby is something you’ll look back on and love, and will also be something your young one will cherish when they get older. Hold him or her the way you normally would, give kisses, and look at the camera in some.
*Practical Tip: Have your partner or an older child take some photos of you and baby, then you, baby and your partner. If you have a GorillaPod or something to prop the phone on, set up the whole family, set the photo timer, and take a series of photos, both serious and fun!
Remember, you have all the time in the world so don’t stress yourself out if it’s not happening. Set your smartphone down, and slowly check the photos you’d like off the list.
If you’d like to get a shot list and of photos I like to take for newborn sessions, send me an email! I’d love to help.
I hope this was helpful to you and good luck!