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Tips for Photographing Newborns: Do It Yourself

The arrival of a newborn into a family is an amazing and exciting (albeit sleep deprived) time. You can find yourself in this blissful bubble of just you and your little family as you adapt to life as parents. Most parents will attest to how precious yet fleeting these days are and its why so many choose to capture them through a photo shoot.

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While you choose to hire a professional photographer for your newborn photo shoot, opting to do it yourself can be a more fun and memorable way to go.

Choosing to photograph your newborn child yourself can be a liberating feeling. From having the freedom to choose when and where you take the photos, not being restricted to just a few short hours in a studio as well as the sense of achievement when your family and friends compliment you on such amazing photos, a DIY newborn shoot can be as memorable as the images themselves.

You don’t even have to own a fancy dSLR camera or any of the fancy professional photographer kit. You can literally just use your phone and things around your home to capture your newborn in all their glory.

I get it. You’re nervous, you’re tired and you’re not sure if you have the genius hidden inside you to capture your baby in a beautiful photo like the ones you’ve seen all over the internet. Here’s the thing to do – you just need a little help. That’s why I wrote up my top tips for a DIY newborn photoshoot.

How Long Is the Newborn Stage?

Babies are generally considered newborns up until they are about 2 months old. However, most photographers recommend that the best time to take newborn photos is within the first two weeks after birth.

This is because during this time babies are generally less active when they sleep meaning you won’t have to do as much rearranging of the shot. Although, if you are keen to capture photos of baby with their eyes open you are probably going to have an easier time waiting a little longer.

Are Newborn Photos Safe?

Making sure that baby is safe as you take those amazing photos is obviously going to be at the top of your priority list and while taking these photos is generally safe, here a few things to consider.

  • Keep poses as natural and organic as possible. If baby keeps moving out of position, then it’s probably because they don’t like it. Go with what they are comfortable with.
  • Ask for help! Don’t think you can do it all on your own. If you think you’re going to need an extra hand, ask for it. If nothing else, you’ll feel safer and more relaxed.
  • Remember to wear the neck/wrist strap of your camera when shooting from above. The last thing you want to do is drop it on baby’s head.
  • Taking newborn photos with your pets can be great fun but make sure to keep baby out of the way of any excitable paws!
  • Remember to transfer baby into a safe sleeping position once the photoshoot is over and away from any potential hazards.

What to Expect

Having a realistic idea of what to expect when taking your own newborn photos is an important early step in the planning process so that you don’t get overwhelmed, frustrated, or disappointed with your photos. The whole experience should be a fun and creative way to make and savor these moments for years to come.

Unless you are a photographer yourself, your photos may not be exactly like the polished and perfectly posed newborn photos that you have seen on the internet and in magazines but that doesn’t make them any less special. After all, your baby is unique and by creating your own images you are able to capture that and show it off to the world.

Sure, you may have had a particular pose in mind but remember it takes professional photographers  years to perfect the poses that they use, and besides do you really want the exact same image everyone else has, just with your baby in it?

Tips for Parents When Photographing Newborns

I get it, you’ve either got or about to have a new baby in your lives and so you have 101 things that you need to do and get sorted. So, here’s my quick rundown of things to remember during your photoshoot.

Preparation is Key for Newborn Pictures

Most people at least have an idea that they want to take photos of their newborn child before they are born. As the first few weeks following birth can be a bit of a blur, having some kind of plan will help enormously.

Researching what kinds of poses you want to do, identifying  backgrounds and putting away any props such as hair bands, swaddling or cuddly toys will help immensely. You could even practice some of your ideas using a doll of toy to help give you an idea of what you want to do.

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Other things to consider include which rooms in your home have the best natural lighting, whether or not you want to include yourselves and any older siblings and making sure you know how your camera works.

Pace Yourself

The great thing about deciding to do your newborn photoshoot yourself is that you aren’t restricted to a few hours in a studio. Yes, you might want to take photos in a number of different poses, outfits, and places but you don’t need to do it all in one go. You can do a few on one day and then a few more on another, meaning that you’re not going to feel exhausted.

Keep Baby Happy

It’s going to be so much easier to snap those perfect photos if you have a happy and content baby that’s not crying or wriggling around. Newborns tend to be more active in the afternoons and evenings so taking your photos in the morning is probably going to be the easiest.

You’re also going to have an easier time photographing if baby has a full belly and is toasty warm. So, scheduling your shoot for after a feed is perfect! As for the warmth, while it might not be necessary during the summer months, cranking up the thermostat or using a portable heater will help keep baby cozy and warm – especially if you are going for the popular nude shots.

Talking of nude shots, it’s probably a good idea if you don’t keep baby’s diaper off for too long as things could (and have been known to) get messy very quickly!

Turn on The White Noise

Another well used trick is to use white noise to help keep baby calm and asleep. It can be as simple as playing it on your phone which you tuck under a blanket where baby is lying. Incorporating this could help prolong the length you have for the photo shoot which can be a godsend if you are short on time anyway.

What should you wear for newborn pictures?

The biggest consideration when choosing what to wear for newborn photos is whether or not you are bothered about them getting a bit of wee or sick etc on them. Yes, you want to wear clothes that look great but if you’re constantly worried about getting them dirty because washing them is going to be a complete nightmare then perhaps pick something else.

In general, baby is most likely to be mainly just wrapped up in a variety of different blankets, swaddles or even going full blown nude. However, you can accessorize up with a hair band or hat and if you do go for a few clothed shots it is recommended you go for light-colored plain clothes.

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If you decide to take photos with mom, dad, siblings etc then the same general rules apply. Choose clothes free of logos or characters, that are minimal in patterns and distract the eyes (you can find more in-depth advice here). For example, letting one of your older children dress in a frilly dress, or a spiderman outfit while showing off their personalities will distract from the real subject of the image, baby. Instead choose complimentary tones and colors that help keep the focus on faces and emotion.

For moms that may feel anxious about how they look so soon after giving birth I would recommend choosing an outfit that is comfortable and not restrictive. Besides, you are most likely going to be holding baby which will help hide your post-birth bump if that’s something that worries you. You could even have excess blanket that baby is wrapped in hanging down to cover your front if you wanted!

In Home Newborn Photography

While newborn photography can be done in a studio or even outside, by far the most common (especially for those doing themselves) is an at home shoot. Not only does it cut costs down but you’re in an environment that you are comfortable with. Plus, if baby is sick, needs feeding or changing you know exactly where everything is and you don’t need to worry that you’ve forgotten to pack anything.

There are several ways you can bring your home into your newborn photoshoot. From serving as the backdrop to a provider of props, an in-home photoshoot allows you to express your personality more within the images and infuse them with emotion.

Newborn Photos in The Hospital

Wanting to capture your newborn as fresh as they can possibly be right there in the hospital just after birth? While for some this may seem like the last thing they want to be doing after a long hard labor, for others it’s the ultimate way to remember that incredibly special time.

If this is something that you are keen to, it is important to remember that planning is key. Make sure you have everything you need for those in hospital photos packed and ready to go along with your hospital bag.

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Common things to take with you include a robe for mom to wear and maybe even some make up to help her feel a little more put together and a swaddle blanket with matching bow or hat for baby. Letterboard signs are also a favorite and don’t forget your phone charger! Yes, it might be nice to use your fancy camera, but honestly do you think you’ll have the energy?

Newborn Photography Setup

First off, if you don’t have a fancy DSLR camera with a flash, reflector, and remote shutter it doesn’t mean that you can’t take amazing photos. There are plenty of ways to improvise some of the professional kit and for the rest there usually workarounds.

Whether you plan to use a DSLR or just your phone, being familiar with your camera and how it works is the most important thing. After that, there’s a few key things to take into account and the rest you’ll figure out by playing around.

Lighting Setup

As photography is in essence recording light, making sure you have enough of the right kind of light is important. Now I’m not saying that you need to go buy some fancy photography flashes or even that you need to gather up every single lamp you own and put it in the room you are shooting in. What I would suggest, however, is picking the rooms in the house to shoot in that have the best light.

Everything looks better in natural light and so choosing to take your photos in a room that is full of it will make the whole process so much easier and enjoyable. Just to note that rooms that get direct sunlight may appear bright, but they also bring with them harsh shadows that can make the image you want more difficult to capture. Choosing an overcast day or an area that doesn’t get direct sunlight may be more favorable.

Getting Creative

One of the best things about a do-it-yourself newborn photoshoot is that it really brings out your creative side. Whether it is hanging up a bedsheet to create a clean backdrop for an image or emptying out your fruit bowl for somewhere for baby to lay. Your home is full of things that you can use to produce amazing and unique images.

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You can also be creative with your angles. Just because you set the shot up to be taken from one angle doesn’t mean that it won’t work from another. Rather than moving baby into a different position every few minutes, take a moment instead to move where you are taking the photo from. You never know, you might surprise yourself!

Positioning Baby

Patience is key when moving your newborn from position to position. You may find that you need to do it in stages. For example, first get baby to lie on their front before carefully moving their legs and then arms into whichever pose you are going for.

Blankets, cushions, and pillows are also a huge help. Not only are they snuggly and comfy for baby to lie on but they help keep baby safely in position. The last thing you want is them toppling over and hurting themselves.

Here’s some more tips form The School of Photography

Types of Newborn Photography

Like with any kind of photography there are lots of different styles that you can use, and the key is finding the ones that suit you the best. While I’m sure you’ve seen the classic posed newborn photos don’t be afraid to mix things up and shoot in a way that best reflects your own unique style. To help here are some of the most common types of newborn photography.

Classic Posed Newborn Photography

This style of newborn photography produces those typical photos of newborns carefully posed on a cushion or basket etc. There is often little else in the image but clean crisp lines so that the sole focus is baby.

While these shots are more typical of studio shoots it’s still reasonably easy to recreate them at home. Use a bedsheet as a makeshift backdrop and cushions, blankets and even a basket to create the look you are after.

Lifestyle Newborn Photography

This style of photography is perfect if you are shooting in your home as it takes in the baby’s home as a backdrop. From the nursery, the parent’s bedroom and even the kitchen incorporating baby’s new environment helps give your photos a more personalized touch.

It can often include other people and these images tend to be more candid. They are about introducing baby to your life and everything in it. You can also choose to show the realities of newborn life for baby and family with images such as breastfeeding, bath time or even the extra laundry!

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This can make the lighting situation a little bit trickier but personally I think it’s worth it for an image with much more emotion in it than the classic posed style. You can also be a lot more candid with this style of photography and its great if you are capturing photos of your newborn while awake.

People and Props

While this style of photography would most likely fall under lifestyle there a few key things worth considering. The main consideration is do you want them to be more candid or posed? You may simply want a family portrait type photo or perhaps you want to capture your older children interacting with their new sibling?

When it comes to props, figuring out what props you want to use is key. Common choices include blankets, wraps, bowls, cushions, and chairs. You can even choose to use you or your partner as a prop too! In this scenario, it is baby that is the focus. You are there just as an aid to the overall image.

Outdoor Newborn Photography

While most commonly newborn photos are taken indoors depending on the season and weather, a great alternative could be to take your photoshoot outdoors! This style of photography is most suited to spring and summer where you can easily lay baby on the luscious green grass or nestle them in a picnic basket.

Obviously if you’re going to be going outdoors you need to be extra vigilant about safety and make sure that baby is the last piece of the puzzle that is added to the shot.

Newborn Photography Ideas

Coming up with ideas of what kind of images  you want to take can be hard. Especially when you dip your toe into some internet research and realize that there’s literally millions of images and articles to get inspiration from. And exactly who has that amount of spare time to sift through for the best ideas? That’s why I’ve included my top newborn photography ideas for you below to help ease the overwhelm and make life a little bit easier for you right now.

Swaddled up

A very traditional newborn photo but still extremely popular. The key to getting this shot right is 2 swaddling blankets. Wrap baby up nice and tight in the first one (don’t worry, newborns apparently love being swaddled as it reminds them of being back in the womb). Then use the second one to make it look all fancy and tidy.

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The Frog Pose

Another popular and classic pose. The main thing to remember in this pose is to keep baby safe and comfortable. You may need to pose baby in stages for this but in general it involves baby lying on their front with their legs by their side and chin on hands.

In a Basket

I don’t know what it is but there is just something adorable about seeing a baby asleep in a basket or box or other similar setting where you wouldn’t normally see them. Whether it’s a shoebox, your laundry basket, or a drawer in your chest you can really get creative with this one. Just remember to make sure baby is safely propped up and won’t topple over.

It’s All in The Details

Your newborn is going to grow and change so quickly. Capturing their tiny, unique details will give you a way to remember those things that you cherish so much now. Whether it’s their tiny feet, rosy lips, or twinkling eyes, don’t be afraid to get up close.

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The Yawn

This is personally one of my favorite newborn shots as its where your start to get a sense of their personality. As cute as all newborns look when they are sleepy and posed, capturing their innate personalities is truly magical.

It’s also a shot that you may not be able to plan too much for as unfortunately there isn’t really a way to get newborns to yawn on demand. However, having an idea that you want this shot will help you stay more aware of baby’s movements and have a greater chance of capturing it.

Baby with Mom or Dad

These images are usually quite special as they just ooze love and affection. There are several different options with these kinds of photos. There’s the classic mom or dad (or both) standing or sitting holding baby. You can also get as creative as you want. An interesting take on this kind of photo is to take it from behind, almost over the shoulder with mom or dad topless and baby being snuggled over the shoulder. This is a great option if you want to be in the photo but aren’t feeling your best.

Include Siblings

If you have older children don’t forget to include them in the fun too! There are generally two favored styles of images when it comes to these kinds of shots. The first is a photo where the older sibling is sitting holding your newborn. The other is a photo that is taken from above with baby and their sibling(s) laid on a rug or the bed.

This shot is particularly great if you want a more interactive photo but don’t want to worry about baby being dropped. Using prompts like “what does baby’s hair smell like” and “give baby a kiss” can really help you capture some magical and more candid images.

Use a Theme!

Was your baby born during a particular time of year or perhaps you are a big fan of a certain sports team or activity? Create some really unique and memorable images by using a theme. From wearing a tiny sports jersey and posing with the accompanying sports kit (I’m thinking football, baseball or even running shoes) these images could be a tribute to the family and things that you hold dear.

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It doesn’t have to be sports though. You could go all pumpkin for thanksgiving, elf-like for Christmas and even go for a floral scene for spring! I’ve even heard of families re-enacting scenes from their favorite films and TV series too! The key is to keep it fun!

Accessorize!

OK, so this doesn’t mean you need to head out on a shopping spree to find a bunch of accessories you can use. However, a few key accessories can add that extra sparkle to an image. It can be as simple as a hair band, hat, or cuddly toy or as out there as you want to help you create an entire scene. It’s totally up to you!

Print Them Out

One thing that I know that I’m guilty of is taking a bunch of amazing photos and then just leaving them on my computer. Photos are meant to be seen and enjoyed. So, whether you choose to frame them and hang them in your home or create a photo album to keep them in, either way get them printed.

After all the hard work and effort that you’ve taken to capture the images you should be proud of yourself. And of course, your family and friends will want to see them all. If nothing else, it’s an easy excuse to invite them around to visit!

Want to up your game? Learn how to photograph your baby with a gift of toy by clicking here

Nicholas Mitchell

Nicholas is a staff writer at Photodoto. His interests include photography, collecting cameras old and new, video editing, and all things 3d. If a new gadget comes out on the market, he's sure to be the first to try it. He enjoys experimenting with low light photography, very long exposures and high speed filming.
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