How To Photograph Your Newborn At Home {Newborn Photography Puyallup, Tacoma, Seattle}

Having just strolled down memory lane remembering my first attempts at newborn photography, the excitement of that experience is still fresh in my mind.  Making the decision to invest in professional portraits and hiring a newborn photographer will pay for itself over and over again as you treasure up those images all your life.  However, I still advocate parents taking pictures of their newborn at home.  I have albums and albums of photographs of the first few months of each of my children’s little lives and we a;; treasure them.  So in an effort to help you get the best images you can at home (without all the fancy gear, lighting, editing software  and props) I have put together a post of tips.  Please enjoy your photographic quest!

A Baker’s Dozen of Tips for do it yourself  Newborn Photography

1. TURN UP THE HEAT…

It was so hot in the room that baby's mom had to wipe the sweat off of dad's brow.

Babies are used to a balmy 98 degrees in the womb.  They are more comfortable warm.  When I have a baby coming to my studio I turn up the heat to 75-80 degrees.  If I am too hot then the baby is comfortable.  So put on a tank top, tie up your hair, isolate a room in your home and make it toasty.  I promise you your infant will be happier and sleepier for his pictures!

2. SOFT AND BEAUTIFUL LIGHT…

Notice the highlight and shadow in this picture defining the baby. Baby is one foot away from the window.

Harsh light is ugly.  It will only make highlights super bright and shadows super dark making your baby look like he has had a really rough day.  Walk around your home and look for a window that has beautiful light streaming through!  The lower the window to the floor (or wherever baby will be) the better.  You want the light to spill over directly onto your subject.  Get close to the window.  If it us super sunny outside, wait for an overcast day with softer light or tape up some translucent white fabric over the window to diffuse the light.  Pay attention to changes in light too.  In the studio I shoot with strobes which allow me to control the amount of light illuminating my newborn clients.  I also usually have the soft box right to the side so that the light spills over the baby beautifully, instead of having the light directly in front of the baby which will give you a very flatly lit photograph (no shadows and highlights to define your newborn’s face).

3. TURN OFF YOUR FLASH…

Uncontrolled on camera flash would have turned this baby's soft creamy skin into a bright mess with no definition.

Do not use your flash!  Window light shows off your baby’s soft velvety skin.  Flash which can’t be controlled and dialed down, will destroy your photograph.

4. SIMPLIFY…

Notice how your eye is drawn to her face and not her accessories.

Remember your newborn is the star of the show.  Not the fancy headband with a flower the size of her head.  Think carefully about what you are putting on your newborn.  Does it distract?  Save the big over the top things for his / her everyday life.  But when you are trying to document your little one’s first days and preserve their tiny features keep it simple.  Check to see what is in the background of your photo.  Heaven forbid you ruin a perfect smile with a bunch of dirty dishes in the background.  Look through your view finder and make sure nothing looks like it is awkwardly protruding from your baby’s head.  Wear plain simple clothes without logos and patterns if you will be photography yourself with your baby.

5. SHOW SOME SKIN…

Mom's bare shoulder sets a mood for this photography.

Consider photographing your baby in her birthday suit.  Sensitive areas of baby’s body can usually be kept hidden with folded legs, blankets or camera angels.  You will be grateful I assure you that you have pictures of your naked little angel.  Photograph the rolls in his skin, the fur on his shoulder.  Another thing to consider are some skin on skin shots.  Keep it tasteful so the images can be enjoyed by everyone.  A mother’s shoulders or fathers chest are perfect backdrops for tiny baby and will evoke a deep emotion in years to come.  I still remember being in the hospital and having that very first skin to skin moment.

6. SHOW YOUR BABY”S SCALE…

Three fingers to the top 2/3 of mom's finger shows just how tiny baby's hand is!

If you want to remember how tiny her little hands were then you need to have something to compare them to.  Photographer her hand in yours.  If you want to remember how tiny she was, then photograph her in Dad’s arms.

7. INCLUDE YOURSELF IN YOUR SHOTS…

Capture those beautiful moments between you and your new baby.

Taking pictures of your newborn is all good, but what you will really treasure are the photos that show the connection between him and his father.  Capture the proud feeling that Dad has right now by including him in the shots.  If you want to remember how overwhelmed you were at the feeling of accomplishment and wonder that you are experiencing at this moment hand Dad the camera and let yourself be in the picture.  Sit straight, think giraffe and keep your neck long, put your weight on one hip, boost your chin a little bit (don’t stick it out think lifting your jaw) and ask the photographer to stand on a stool.  Having your picture taking even just a few feet above you will take off several pounds.  You won’t regret it.

8. GET CLOSE…

Close ups show off all of baby's features...every wrinkle!

Try some close ups of baby’s tiny parts.  Nose, eyes, curly ears, tiny toes will all be growing bigger soon.  If you want to remember it photograph it.

9. SLEEPY TIME…

Waiting until baby is fast asleep is well worth the wait.

The benefit of being at home and taking pictures is that you don’t have a schedule.  You can wait until baby is snoozing away.  Sleeping babies are perfect models.  You can curl them up and move them around.  Take advantage of a baby’s full tummy and sleepy status.  THIS IS THE RIGHT TIME TO START YOUR PHOTO TAKING!

10. PATIENCE…

Be patient, don't push. If baby awakens take advantage of it and get picture of you interacting together.

Good things come to those who wait.  There is no rush, you are savoring every moment right?  Let things happen naturally.  If baby is fighting a gassy tummy, or hasn’t had a bowl movement in a few days and is fussy…wait.  Hold him in the pose you have planned until he falls asleep.  Newborn photography is hard messy work so relax and take your time.

11. TRY BLACK AND WHITE…

Often times I love the black and white versions so much more.

It always surprises me that some parents are reluctant to try black and white photographs.  They will amaze you.  They are classic and clean and highlight the subject.  If you have a photograph you love of baby, just give it a try, convert it to black and white.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

12. PLAY…

I was posing baby on my scale when I noticed the lovely curve in his body showing off all his rolls. I typically don't shoot from above with this pose but was happy I did this time.

Playing isn’t just for kids!  Let photographing your newborn be fun.  Try different angles.  See how close you can focus on his face before your focus gets blurry.  Make Dad take off his shirt.  Try swaddling her in a blanket from Grandma.

13.PLAN AHEAD / MAKE A CHECKLIST…

I spend an hour before every session preparing my studio for a newborn session.  I have a checklist that I go through.  Are the blankets clean and warm? Is my space clean and cozy?  Do I have snacks ready for Mom and Dad?  Are my props prepared?  Do I have a mental list of poses planned?  Are my wipes stocked and burp clothes at hand to clean messes?  These are the same things you should be thinking.  Here is a start:

-charged battery

-empty memory card

-hats and bows

-baby wipes and burp clothes to clean messes

-check to make sure your lens is clean

-have older siblings go visit a friend perhaps

Remember photos taken at home are not a substitute for professional images.  Come see me first for those beautiful portraits and then try some lifestyle photography on your own at home.  Be safe, keep it simple and don’t try the pro stuff at home.  Happy snapping!

Your Newborn Photographer!

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Taylor - December 27, 2012 - 11:16 pm

Thank you so much for the tips!

Jennifer Wilcox - September 13, 2011 - 4:36 pm

Thanks ladies. Just trying to help other moms learn to LOVE their at home snap shots;-) You can’t afford a proffesional for every special moment!

Hilary Hendsbee - September 13, 2011 - 11:44 am

Very helpful article. I really wish more people knew how to shut their flash off! It certainly ruins a great photo in most to all situations. Very good work!

Sara Wilhelm - August 21, 2011 - 5:25 am

What a great article Jen! It reminded me of doing newborn photography and all the things you really do have to think about. But when you do then it all comes together and the result can be absolutely amazing. Keep up all your awesome work! You amaze me!

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