Once you have a baby suddenly your phone fills up with nothing but newborn photos of your little sweetie. In this day and age of digital photography it’s easy to have a lot of photos but no really nice ones. Intentionally holding a newborn photo shoot is a great way to ensure the memories of how tiny your bub was stays fresh in your mind forever.
If hiring a professional photographer isn’t in the budget, you just weren’t organised enough to book one in time or you like the personal touch of doing it yourself than taking your own newborn photos might be just the thing for you. If that’s the case you have most definitely come to the right place as I have all the best tips and tricks I learnt from taking my own newborn photos.
Planning your photo shoot ahead of time is really going to make a huge difference to the quality of shots you get. On the actual day you decide to do the photo shoot you will have enough trouble keeping baby happy without having to worry about trying to figure out which outfit to put her in. Taking photos may seem simple enough but I have a list of things below to think about while you are still in the planning phase.
Having a theme is not necessarily essential but it can be fun. If your baby is born near Christmas have a festive shoot, maybe they came in October and a Halloween theme would be fun. Valentine’s Day would make a super cute theme all with pinks and reds or maybe you could dress them up as cupid. Are you obsessed with Harry Potter? That could be the theme for you.
Think about your favourite things and see if you can incorporate them. The sky’s the limit. Your theme doesn’t have to be super complicated though. Even something simple like a floral theme can turn out really beautifully.
– Backdrops and Props
Once you have your theme, start planning your backdrops and props to match. If you did decide on a Christmas theme then perhaps you would like your tree in the background or some pretty fairy lights. Or you could go more simple with the backdrop, keep it plain white and have the outfit and the props communicate the theme. Pinterest is of course a great source for planning your backdrop. Just make sure you have everything you need on hand ready to go before the day of the shoot.
The most simple route to take is to just grab a few different coloured and textured blankets. Cable knit blankets and faux fur rugs are particular favourites of mine. Sheets of marble or wooden vinyl adhesive from Kmart are great as a fake floor as well. Along with blankets you might want to think about pillows for propping baby up into the right poses and pegs are handy to have on hand to keep your backdrops in place. Baskets and boxes can be cute to place baby inside of too. Shallow boxes and baskets work best but you can just fill deeper ones with random blankets if need be.
The below picture was one of the setups for my photo shoot. I also placed my baby in the crib for a few photos that played with foreground and background focus. All the Christmas shots I took a month later once I had all our decorations out. You can see she is a lot more awake for all of these photos. Taking photos of your baby with a favourite toy is a great way to keep track of how tiny they were. You can then do this every month to see how much they are growing.
Once you’ve decided on your theme the outfits should come fairly easily. If you decided to forgo a theme than just pick out some of your favourites from baby’s wardrobe. A lot of newborn photo shoots are completed with baby totally nude, just in a nappy or wrapped in a muslin cloth. All really simple but effective options for photos. I’m particularly fond of the really simple black or white onesie with a beautiful statement headband. You might recognise the headbands in my newborn photos as the ones we made at my floral baby shower.
Lighting is one of those things that is often forgotten by amateur photographers but it can really make or break a shot. You don’t need to have fancy lights, just be mindful about where you setup your backdrop and what time of day you are completing the photo shoot. Next to a big window that lets in lots of natural light is the best spot but you don’t want the light to be too harsh.
The best times are in the morning or afternoon depending on which direction your window is facing. You might want to have a large piece of white cardboard on hand to bounce some of the light too.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the most flattering light for your baby is at a 45° angle. Aim to position their head towards the window so that you get a soft shadow underneath baby’s nose. The light should flow from the top of baby’s head down their body. Feel free to experiment though for some more dramatic shots.
Even if your planned poses go out the window, it’s a good idea to have something to aim towards. Save photos of the poses you like and think are achievable on your phone. This makes it much easier to refer back to in the midst of the shoot. Having them handy to reference is essential because you might think it looks easy but your baby might have other ideas.
You might think you can do it alone but it’s so much easier if you have someone to help you. They can setup the next back drop while you quickly give baby a feed. That way the majority of your photos aren’t crying baby shots.
They can hold your baby’s head in just the right position until you’ve found the perfect angle. Helpers are good for spotting baby too for those more difficult positions because baby’s safety should be your number one priority. Remember that most of the more complex poses are actually achieved through splicing together composite images, not from a single shot.
And if that wasn’t enough reasons to have a helper on the day, they can also take some nice photos of you with baby because as a mum you are always the one taking the photos and very rarely get to be in them as well. Seriously… helpers are a must!
On the day of the photo shoot have everything you are planning to use close by. Setup your first shot, change your baby into their first outfit then give them a feed. After a feed, babies are more likely to nap. At the very least, if they are still awake, they won’t mind being posed as much. If your baby is prone to spit up or vomiting, keep a burp cloth or bib between them and their outfit.
The best time of day to hold your photo shoot is between breakfast and lunch. Most babies are much better behaved in the mornings as opposed to the afternoons when they start getting grisly and wanting feeds almost constantly. A hungry baby does not mesh well with a successful photo shoot. A full baby makes a happy baby. And you most definitely want a happy baby. Once they start crying their face goes all red and blotchy and you have to wait a good while after they stop crying for it to go back to normal again. As you can see below, Naomi’s face is still quite red even though she’s settled down.
Another way to ensure your baby remains happy is to make sure the place you are taking photos in is warm. Warm babies are much more likely to stay asleep without squirming around. Start warming up the room 20 minutes before you intend to start taking photos with a portable heater. If it’s summertime you might have the opposite problem and need a fan or two to stop your baby from sweating. Playing white noise is also a great trick to keeping babies asleep.
Take lots of photos! The more you take, the more likely you’ll get one that’s actually good. If your camera has a multi-photo setting, I highly recommend using that. By the time you hit the snapshot button, your baby can change expressions or shift in their pose. Experiment with different angles and perspectives and play with depth of field. Get down on your hands and knees. Don’t forget the small details like hands, feet, eyelashes, lips and noses.
Be prepared to take all day long to get those few perfect shots. Keep in mind though, that sometimes the shots that aren’t perfect turn out to be the ones that hold the best memories and become your favourites. Just like the one below for me.
If you are taking some nappy free shots have towels and wet wipes ready. I guarantee you will get poop, pee, vomit or any combination of the three on something. If one setup really isn’t working for your bub be prepared to cut your losses and move on. The advantage to doing your own photo shoot is that if it all goes to hell, you can try again another day.
Editing your photos can really be what takes them from amateur to professional. My recommended programs are Lightroom and Photoshop but whatever you can get your hands on is better than nothing. Start by rotating and cropping all your photos to get the best composition. Remember the rule of thirds! Having your subject slightly off center can be more interesting than your standard middle of the shot framing.
White balance is the next important thing to fix. Does your photo look slightly blue or orange? Lightroom makes it easy to fix with the auto eyedropper tool. All you need to do is click on something white in the photo and it will automatically correct it for you. You can also use the slider tools to finesse the white balance. If you are correcting white balance within Photoshop the levels and colour balance tools will be helpful for you. While you are colour correcting you might want to up the contrast or saturation as well.
Finally the step that really separates the amateurs from the pros. Clone out any imperfections like baby acne, background dirt or shedding baby skin in my case. Fix up any areas where your backdrop isn’t showing. You might want to add in some background blur to fake depth of field, if you couldn’t do that in camera. Some special effects like making everything black and white except one colour can be attractive too.
What to Do with The Newborn Photos You Take
Don’t just leave all those beautiful photos you’ve just gone to the effort of taking on your computer hard-drive. Print those babies out for the love God! It doesn’t matter what you do with them but anything is better than just sitting on a computer where you can’t enjoy them. Here are a few ideas for you.
– Organise them
Even if you don’t do anything else make sure to store and organise all your photos on your computer. It will make it so much easier to find them. Start now so that you don’t have a massive job a few years down the line. If you do it now you won’t forget when you took them.
Create a folder within your photos called the name of your child. Within that, create folders for each month for the first year then perhaps yearly after that. In each monthly folder create folders for any big events or milestones like First Christmas or Dedication. Having good folder organisation just makes everything so much easier.
– Display Them
Frame them, print them on canvas or even transfer them to a big piece of wood or a ceramic tile. You can even buy a digital photo frame, put all the best photos on a USB and display them that way. What better way to decorate your house than with the gorgeous photos of your little sweetie that you worked so hard to capture!
– Record Them
Create a photo book or a scrapbook. Write journal entries or captions beside each photo about what your baby was like, what made her smile or cry and any memories you want to keep forever. You are way more likely to look at your photos if you have them in a book on the coffee table, than if you just keep them on the computer.
– Gift Them
Make a calendar for all your relatives with 12 of your favourite photos. Create Christmas tree ornaments to hang on the tree forevermore. You can have them printed on porcelain, buy ornament frames and place them inside or even try out the Christmas Snow Globe idea from Pinterest. There are a ton of ways to turn photos into gifts; mugs, place mats, t-shirts, key chains, stubby holders, clocks and throw pillows or blankets. Make it a tradition and give photo gifts of your little one to family members ever year.
There you have it… everything you ever needed to know about taking your own newborn photos at home. Let me know how you go taking your photos in the comments below. Do you have any tips or tricks that I missed?