My top tips and tricks to photograph your newborn baby at home during Covid-19 isolation

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April 10, 2020

I am so sad and so sorry that there are a number of you in this situation without the help of a professional photographer at a time when your baby is due.

Photographing newborns is my passion, and to know that new mamas are unable to actualise their dreams of having their newborns photographed is heart breaking for me. I feel your frustrations, sadness and understand how this just doesn’t seem fair. I know this isn’t how you imagined bringing your new baby into the world.

The purpose of this newborn guide is to pass along some tips to help you create memories at home. I know this isnt a substitute for that experience but hopefully you can take some of these tips and capture your sweet little one in these hard times. We are all in this together.

Keep calm

Babies can sense when you are not calm, they can bounce off your own energy and if you are stressed they will cry or become unsettled. Take it one day at a time, dont stress yourself out trying to get all the photos and all the poses. Enjoy the newborn bubble of bliss and try and get some sleep mama. The beautiful thing in taking your own newborn photos is that baby is in your house to photograph anytime you’d like! So just take it one day at a time and soak it all in.

Camera

If you own a DSLR or professional camera that is great! If you don’t, no problem! If you have good lighting then you can make a great photo with even a phone. Phone cameras are pretty amazing these days and knowing a little bit about how to use the tools you already have will help you achieve better photos. I take photos with my phone all the time when I can’t be bothered taking the big camera out and it’s really all about how you use it and compose your shot. Portrait mode on newer phones is a good option too.

If you have an iPhone you can lock the exposure or increase the exposure (that means, add more light) by first tapping the screen on the darkest part of the image and holding down for a couple of seconds until the “AE/AF lock” screen is activated, once it is locked, tap the little sun icon and swipe up to add more light or down decrease exposure (to make it darker). This is a great tip especially if your lighting is a little too dark and you want to add extra light without having to turn harsh lights on.

Lighting

Lighting is everything. But don’t stress that you need a lot of light.

I have photographed in some of the darkest homes. When I first get to a client’s home I like to take a little wander through the house to find the best pockets of light. It could be in the main bedroom, the hallway or even the bathroom. Lighting is all about how you use and modify the natural light.

The easiest way for you to make use of natural light is to find a large window or sliding glass door in your home. Turn off overhead ceiling lights as this will just mess up the white balance in your photo and can ruin the overall look by making your baby’s skin too yellow or off toned. Also turn off your cameras flash-it will be too harsh and unflattering. Place baby’s bassinet or a doona on the ground next to the window ready for baby to be snuggled up into the center. You don’t need direct sunlight, in fact if it is too bright outside you can diffuse the light with a sheer curtain or move baby into the shaded area of the light source.

When you have found your best source of light, take note of how the light falls across your baby’s face. You don’t want the light to come from the bottom up-what I mean is you don’t want your bubbas toes facing the window and the light coming up from the chin to baby’s face (imagine holding a torch up to your chin whilst telling scary stories, you don’t want that look!). Side on lighting is best, or a slight angle from the top of your baby’s head. Face baby towards the light.

Props (Keep it simple)

Honestly you don’t need a lot of props. Just keep it simple. A nice fluffy doona or rug, a couple of scarves or baby blankets and you’re set. Don’t worry about cute little costumes and big bulky headbands and hats, you want to remember your baby as tiny, fresh and brand new without all the props overwhelming and distracting from the image. My simple go to is a big doona crumpled up, baby wrapped or swaddled and put in the middle. You can put a rolled up towel underneath the doona to cocoon baby in. Easy done.

You can get a variety of images this way too- full body shot, close up of face, closeup of fingers and toes, sibling laying next to baby etc. You probably have a bunch of baby wraps at home or even scarves. Kmart scarves are honestly such a versatile prop and one of my favourites. The summer range is usually soft delicate linens and loose cottons, the winter range is fluffy wools and faux mohair. Whatever you have in your baby’s nursery can be used as simple props too such as the tiny teddy bear you were gifted or his super soft baby blanket, the cot/bassinet or a loved nursing pillow.

You will likely have a some great spots in your home to photograph in such as the family bed, the lounge room, the baby nursery and so on. Wooden floorboards photograph beautifully and make a great backdrop for a simple prop shot or family photos. If you can push your sofa or bassinet up closer to a window you can also create some beautiful imagery. I am also a big fan of using indoor plants and greenery as a prop or backdrop for your in home newborn portraits.

Posing (keep it natural and safe)

Again keep it simple. Leave the complex posing to the experts. I have been a newborn photographer for 12 years and have trained with some of the best newborn photographers in the world. Your baby’s safety is my priority at all times so I don’t want to encourage anyone to try a pose they have seen online and not been taught how to do properly. Don’t try and force your baby into unnatural poses or try putting them in a basket. Never leave your baby unattended on/near the edge of a bed or couch. A lot of the newborn poses you’ll see online are composites for the safety of the baby and captured by a trained professional photographer. Also be aware of your baby’s breathing, don’t let her chin rest onto her chest where it can constrict airflow.

Baby undressed and then swaddled in a scarf, or baby just laying on the blanket with arms stretched up, baby on their tummy with legs tucked up or baby just simply held by parents/siblings are simple and classic poses. A basic baby swaddle is perfect to keep baby feeling safe and secure and allows you to get in nice and close to capture those tiny details in baby’s face. Capture his tiny eyelashes and the little milk spots on her nose. To get some cute photos of baby wide awake, the best window is right after a feed before baby falls asleep. Generally baby will be calm and make eye contact before drifting off.

Get baby sleepy

The sweetest photos can be captured when baby is sleeping. Ensure that the room you’re shooting in is nice and warm as baby will be undressed. Babies drift off to white noise, I use an app but you can also use Spotify for white noise sounds. Strip baby down to only a nappy and wrap loosely in a baby blanket. Feed baby until baby is full and happy. You want your baby to be “milk drunk”.

The best way to get bub super sleepy is to keep baby awake for 1-2 hours before you plan to do the photos. Some tummy time, naked time kicking their legs around or a bath will keep bub awake and alert. Then feed baby an extra big feed to get him nice and milk drunk and ready for the photos. If keeping baby awake is not an option thats ok, just do some photos here and there as you can whilst bub is napping. A dummy/pacifier also works great to keep baby sleepy and can be popped out quickly for the photo then popped back in to eep bub happy and sleepy throughout the photos.

Angles

Angles can make or break an image. When photographing baby’s face, shoot ‘down the nose” that means shoot slightly from above baby’s head looking down the nose rather than up the nostrils. This results in a more flattering angle and shows off all the right details.

Generally you want your baby’s face to be the main focus of the image, to do this the camera needs to be right above baby’s face to get the right angle. If you have the camera above baby’s belly or legs this part of the image can appear larger or closer to the lens and distorts the image. The same thing happens if you have the camera too high above baby’s head, the forehead appears larger and too close to the camera and so the image is distorted and is a bad angle overall for the desired composition. Move around and try different angles until you find the one that looks best.

As a photographer I love to try all the angles and set the scene and composition. If you are taking photos from above, try some from the side, try some from far away eg from the doorway and some closer up. Different angles can bring in more or less light, draw attention to different things and overall add a new perspective to an image you might not have considered to do beforehand.

Siblings

Sibling photos are my favourite! You can bundle baby up in a tight swaddle, lay baby on the bed or a doona on the ground and get sibling to snuggle in close. Older siblings can sit and hold their baby sibling and you can capture some sweet moments. Younger siblings can lay next to their baby sibling and kiss and cuddle them. Another great shot is to have baby in their bassinet and have the sibling standing next to the cot/bassinet looking down at baby. Get photos of baby’s hands around their siblings finger.

To get your child to interact with baby, give them prompts, like “can you touch baby’s nose?” or “what does baby’s hair smell like?”. A little trick I have used with cheeky toddlers is to place a small treat like a skittle or smartie right next to baby’s head and ask the toddler if they can see the treat. I have baby swaddled and laying down on the bed, place toddler behind the baby. Put the treat behind baby’s head or just under the front of the swaddle. It always works and the toddler will be kissing and hugging and looking at their baby sibling in no time. Focus on connections and closeness.

Family Photo

You can’t forget the family photo! This one might be tricky but most cameras and phones do have a self timer option. Get everyone onto the family bed, set up your phone camera on a makeshift tripod and click away. Dont worry too much about posing or looking at the camera, focus all your love onto baby and each other and you’ll be surprised at what photos you can get.

You can also take some time to get some photos of baby and mum or baby and dad near a window. Hold baby with their head in your hands and their body leaning against your arms and chest. Snuggle in and capture photos where you are nose to nose, kissing, doting on and smelling baby.

Editing

There are so many apps out there for your phone and computer to edit photos. I highly recommend using lightroom. There are a million presets you can download to try on your photos but honestly try to keep it as natural as you can by adjusting the exposure and contrast sliders, and if using a preset adjust the opacity focusing most on what compliments skin tones most.

If you’re struggling with editing I can help you with editing your photographs too!

Professional editing of 5 digital images for only $40.
I will professionally edit your 5 best photos with correct exposure, contrast and removal of distracting elements such as blemishes.

Professional Composite edit of 1 digital image for only $30.
I will professionally edit one of your photos with correct exposure, contrast and removal of distracting elements such as blemishes and composite your image into a digital prop or background as seen below:

Outside

You can get some great photos outdoors too. Even though we are stuck in isolation it doesn’t mean we cant wander into the backyard or go for a little walk down the street. Aim for sunset for the best nicest lighting or if that isn’t possible aim for early morning or get in some shade. You can layer a few thick blankets on the ground or on a flat basket and then place swaddled baby on the blankets. In the shade, the lighting will be even and bright so watch your exposure on the camera or phone. Some weeds or overgrown grass in your backyard makes a great little “backdrop” for your outside newborn photographs. When outdoors please keep in mind for ants/insects and anything else that can be a danger to your baby.

Printing

And my very last tip is PRINT YOUR PHOTOS. Please do it. After having my harddrives stolen in 2018 and losing TEN YEARS of my own childrens baby photos, milestones and more just gone in the blink of an eye, I can say this with deep conviction please please please print your photos. Make online backups, store harddrives safely but most importantly print them. What better time than now to print and decorate your walls and photos albums whilst stuck at home in isolation

If you have missed your Newborn session due to the current restrictions, or are due during the next couple of months, I am more than happy to photograph your baby when health restrictions lift, whenever this may be! Please get in touch with me to pencil in a newborn/baby or family session.

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