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Photographing a Newborn at Home

Posted on 22 Mar, 2020 by Sarah Hart

Top tips for photographing your newborn baby during the pandemic

Sadly, I can’t photograph your newborns at the moment.

In light of the current COVID-19 situation, I like many other businesses, have had to cancel all photoshoots for the foreseeable future. Of course most family photoshoots are not time sensitive…I can postpone your outdoor shoot or your 6 month old baby’s milestone session and hopefully photograph you in the summer. BUT sadly, I can’t recreate the newborn sessions for those clients who have had babies at the end of this month. Nor those who are expecting babies over the next few months. I don’t want to dwell on this. It is sad, but we are in unusual times and we’re all missing out on things/making sacrifices and changes to our lives. So we can only focus on what we CAN achieve and do at the moment.

But you can….

Here’s the good news: you DO all have cameras on your phones and therefore you CAN photograph your own babies to document these first few weeks of their life whilst they are tiny. The “newborn” baby stage is so fleeting! If you’ve already had a child, you will fully appreciate that that teeny-tiny newborn baby is only so small for just a few precious weeks. So I’ve put together a short blog to help you in photographing a newborn & create some special first images for you all.

Photographing a newborn

Choose the correct lighting. Any photographer will tell you, lighting is everything. A common mistake from amateur photographers is to photograph a baby with the light source pointing up the baby’s face. An “up-lit” baby looks unnatural (if you think of a horror film, faces are typically light from under the chin!). The most natural light source we have is the sun, and the sun is always lighting us from above…..adopt the same principle and make sure that you baby’s face has light coming down her nose so you can avoid lighting up her nostrils!

Place your baby near a window (not in direct sun as the shadows and highlights will be too harsh – choose a cloudy day, or pick a window that is north facing) and angle your baby so that the light falls from the top of her head down her body at a 45 degree angle. Of course you can experiment with different angles. Try lighting from the side for example. But whatever you do avoid an “up-lit” baby!

Black and white image of newborn wide awake, photographing your own newborn

Capture their small size. Use soft toys or hands to show the tiny size of your newborn. In the future, this little girl will always be able to see how small she was against her cuddly bunny. And this little boy will be able to see that he fitted in to his dad’s hands!

Newborn with her soft toy for size comparison, newborn photographer Sarah Hart Photography
newborn baby in his dad's hands, tkent baby photographer

Capture all the little details. If you own a DSLR and a macro lens, now is the time to practise with your macro lens. If you don’t own one, get your phone /point and shoot camera as close as you can without it going out of focus and keep your hands steady! Don’t forget to capture all the little baby features that are so unique to a newborn – noses, eyelashes, ears, lips, fingers, toes, belly buttons, hair, fuzzy shoulders.

If you do own a macro lens and would like to get a little more technical here, try opening up your lens anything from f2-f5.6 (as low as your lens will allow) which will give a beautiful shallow depth of field. And if you are struggling with the focus (as shooting at this aperture with even the slightest mm of movement will send the bit you are photographing, out of focus), then try using your manual focus ring.

capture the details, newborn macro detail shot, kent newborn photographer

If you want to be a little adventurous, try a back-lit shot of your baby’s feet – have a parent hold their feet near a window, to create more a silhouette of their feet!

backlit detail shot of baby feet, photographing your own baby

Choose colours carefully! Just as we look better in certain colour clothes, your baby will suit certain colours too. If you’re not certain of which colours to use, you can’t go wrong with choosing more neutral blankets and throws to photograph your newborn on. It makes no sense to start photographing your newborn on the bright red blanket because that’s the closest thing to you, but actually you’re not that keen on it and it makes your baby’s skin look super red. Stick with whites, creams, soft greys, beige and browns.

Another tip is to avoid heavily patterned blankets or throws. These detract from the portrait of your baby. Keep your blankets plain and simple – so the photo is all about your baby! When photographing your baby in someone’s arms, it’s also wise to make sure the person holding your baby has plain and non-patterned clothing too. That way, the focus of the image is always on your baby’s face.

Include siblings. It’s something I always offer in my newborn sessions – the opportunity to try and get an older sibling with his/her baby brother or sister. I would recommend swaddling your baby for a shot with his/her older siblings. If the siblings are old enough to hold them in their arms you can get them to hold their baby brother or sister in front of them and get them to rub noses with them! If the siblings are younger, an easier shot is to try and get them lying next to one another. You can use a blanket on a bed, the carpet, or blanket near a window.

photographing your own newborn with their sibling, newborn photography kent

Get in the pictures with your baby. I know you may not feel you look your best in these early days. But really and truly, you belong in some of these images with your newborn. Make sure you pass your camera to you husband, partner or midwife/health visitor & ask them to take some images of you holding your newborn. I’ve blogged about this before (A Portrait With Mum #existinphotos), but trust me, your children will want to see photos of you when they were younger. They’ll want to see you holding them as infants.

Get printing! Don’t leave your images stuck on your phone or your PC. Get them printed! Choose your favourite image of your newborn and order a canvas! Or make a photo album of your baby’s first 6 months……’s wonderful to document the changes in your baby.  When they are older, they will really enjoy flicking through images of themselves when they were so tiny.

General tips

Take your time! Don’t stress if your baby is grumpy at the time you’ve decided to try and get some shots of him. Try the next day. Pace yourself because you can take a few photographs each day over a period of a couple of weeks whilst he is tiny.

Take safety seriously! Honestly, leave the more tricky posed images you see on my website. I’ve had training in how to safely pose a newborn to ensure their safety.  Keep to more natural poses when photographing a newborn at home. Try to copy images like the ones below by laying a your baby on a bed in a bright room. Make a “well” by rolling up a large towel and placing under a furry rug or blanket to place your little in, on her back. She will likely curl her legs up and feel all cocooned, so you can capture her looking all snug and super cute. You will then be able to capture them from different angles. This little boy, below, is in the same pose, I moved around him to capture the different angles.

newborn photographer kent, taking a photo of a newborn lying their back
using different angles to take photos of your newborn

Keep your baby content and sleepy. So one of the main focuses in my newborn sessions, is to keep your newborn happy. It’s a very baby-led couple of hours. If baby is hungry, we stop for him to feed. I keep the room warm, so that your newborn won’t be cold and will hopefully, remain sleepy. You can apply the same tips. Make sure your baby has got a nice full tummy and has brought up any wind to help settle them. And keep the room toasty warm to help encourage your baby to drift off to sleep.

And if you are really struggling to get him to sleep, you could try using a little white noise – e.g a vacuum cleaner or try one of the free “White Noise” apps available on your phone such as Baby Sleep. Pop your phone under or near the blanket your baby is laying on. Photographing a newborn that is content and sleepy is A LOT easier than photographing a hungry awake baby!

Choose the best time of the day. Only you will know when this is as you get to know your own baby. But typically, in the first few weeks babies are most settled and co-operative in the morning. There’s a reason 5pm is nicknamed the “Witching Hour”! When photographing your newborn, make sure you have an hour or two when you know there will be no interruptions from the Health Visitor or Midwife popping by too!

And finally, enjoy! We live in an age where technology is AMAZING. Your cameras are so much better than your own parents would have had to photograph you as a baby. Photographing a newborn at home can be a fun experience for the whole family. Take as many images as you can. And I would love to see some of them!

P.S – Look out for an exciting competition that I’ll be running for all parents of newborns over the coming few months – CREATE “A NEWBORN PORTRAIT AT HOME” COMPETITION

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Sarah Hart Newborn Photography