In these strange times, I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can help with my unique skillset. I’ve been a professional newborn photographer in Calgary for almost 15 years, and I’ve done my own newborn photos for 3 of my 4 kids. (I’ve also hired photographers too, but I can’t resist taking some myself as well)
I wanted to write up a little guide for those parents who may be disappointed that they won’t be able to have professional photographs of their newborn babies right now. It might not be exactly the same, but I want to help you get the best photos possible!
Things you can use:
- plain blankets, swaddles, flat sheets or towels
- white or plain onesies
- beanbag, dog bed, couch cushion, floor
- white noise machine or app
- portable heater
First of all, I find some good window light. I schedule all my newborn sessions in the morning. The light is the best and baby is usually calmest. I also recommend bathing baby before the session, it can really tire them out. I turn up the heat or put a portable heater in the room (but not aimed directly at baby). I use a Dyson hot/cool that is really awesome but totally not necessary. I have baby in just a diaper, covered with a blanket. The bigger the window, the better. I put baby sideways next to the window, so if they turn their head they are looking out. I don’t put baby in direct sunlight, I will hang sheers or move baby into a shady part of the floor if I need to. I use something called a Baby Shusher but any white noise app or machine will work great, just playing fairly loudly and constantly throughout the session.
I use the simplest blankets, swaddles, towels I can find. I use mostly white and cream, but also use plain pink, blue and green. Light, pastel colours are great and don’t leave colour casts on the skin. Darker blankets will really suck the light from the photo, but can be great for making dramatic black and white images! Fleece blankets are great, also jersey knit cotton (like T-shirt sheets) and flannel.
I use a bean bag to place baby on, but I’ve also covered dog beds and couch cushions. Something firm and safe. The floor also works and is safest. I also discovered that my plain Endy mattress makes a great backdrop, and we have really good window light in our bedroom. Babies are small and you can do a session anywhere that is bright!
Then I make sure the blanket/sheet/towel/swaddle is smooth with no wrinkles. A smooth backdrop is the hallmark of a newborn photographer. Sometimes I use a textured blanket to remove this worry.
I swaddle baby tightly with just a diaper underneath. And I always use a very plain swaddle. If hands and feet are tucked inside the images will look more peaceful, and baby will be calmer, no flailing around. You can tuck any remaining blanket right under baby for a cleaner look.
I focus on baby’s face (usually the corner of the eye), shoot from above (safely with a strap or carefully with your phone). I’m not afraid to take photos of baby sneezing, crying or any other emotion, you’d be surprised at how cute these can be! Smiles usually come in twos or threes, if I miss one I just freeze and focus and see if baby will give another!
I also turn the baby so the top of their head is facing the window and slightly roll baby facing the camera, I put a small rolled up swaddle or washcloth behind to prop them up. This way I can back up and get full body images.
I take a lot of detail shots – fingernails, ears, tiny toes, eyelashes, etc.
Finally I end the session with mom and dad holding baby against a blank wall, again – simple clothing, baby swaddled. Dad holding baby face to face is always super cute. I position them so the window is to the side of them, and I get on a stool if I have to.
My advice to a mom doing her own session – have help if you can, and take breaks to feed the baby as much as possible. It keeps them happy and milk drunk. It’s also nice to have the help so you don’t have to be moving around a ton. I would also recommend not worrying at all about sibling photos. They are the most stressful part of my job, and the hardest to do. Give yourself a break and focus on your new baby!
If you want to take a look at my website, check out the newborn section for more inspiration. My style is super simple and doable at home. If you want to send me 5-10 of your best images I would be happy to edit them for you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Have fun and congrats on your new arrival!