Tips for Taking Newborn Photos At Home
We recently published an article on what it’s like to be pregnant during the Covid 19 outbreak. When that was published on March 20th, I had no idea that a month later we’d still be under stay-at-home orders here in Massachusetts. I was sure I’d already be back in the studio by now, capturing tiny little babies in their newborn state for their families to cherish forever.
My heart breaks to think of all of the things pregnant and new mamas are facing during this pandemic. Missing baby showers (tips on how to have a virtual baby shower here!), going to OB appointments alone, wearing a mask, worrying about what you may have touched while there. Of course this is all for the greater good and I applaud these brave mamas. But it’s OK to also admit that it’s a little bit terrifying and a little bit sad to be missing out on some of the things you’d normally be doing.
A particularly difficult thing to be dealing with is keeping your distance from your family. I’m sure Grandparents all across the globe are chomping at the bit to hug tight their new grand baby. I’ve seen some really creative solutions including this meeting where baby Jack’s grandparents were outside his window, 10 stories below, welcoming him into the world (I dare you not to tear up just a lil bit!).
My Offer To You
Photos of your newborn are important keepsakes. But for families abroad, getting photos of their new baby to their family is usually a priority. Now, even for families that live right down the street from each other, photos are more important than ever! Which is why I am so pained to not be able to capture those for you.
So I’m going to offer the next best thing. I will edit the newborn photos you’ve taken at home or in the hospital for you. With the help of The Milky Way photographer’s resource, I’ve put together a few tips you can use for taking your newborn photos at home.
For a very easy to read set of poses with visuals, click here and download an extremely helpful PDF (modified from The Milky Way).
Before you Start: Things to keep in Mind
What matters here is that you’re capturing precious, fleeting moments of your baby as a newborn. Please don’t worry that your photos aren’t professional enough. They will not be the same as if taken by a professional (although if you want to video conference for a composite portrait I create for you, I can help you find the best light and give direction, virtually!).
Don’t worry about your photo equipment either. Use what you’ve got and just make sure you wipe off the lens!
The safety of your baby is the number one priority. Please do not attempt to create any specific poses you see professional photographers doing. I have over eleven years of experience as well as an experienced assistant with me and all the tools at my disposal. If you’re photographing over your baby with a heavy camera, please wear the camera strap.
Lastly, if all of this is confusing or if it feels overwhelming: fear not. Take the photo anyway and send it to me. You’ll be happy to have it!
Tip #1: Prepping for a happy baby
- Make sure it’s warm in the room you’re photographing your baby in.
- Make sure they have just been fed and burped.
- Stay calm. Babies really do look to you to know what their stress level should be.
Tip #2: It’s all about the light
Find a place in your home or place you’re staying with lots of natural light, but not direct sun-filled light. These windows are north and / or south facing. Our goal is for soft, flattering light. Position any subject to the side of the window, or in front of and facing the window for nice light. Back-lit, or completely in front of the window, can be nice too, but sometimes very tricky to do well.
Tip #3: Positioning for the best light
This is a big one. Make sure the light is hitting the top of your subjects head. We want the light to fall down the face of the baby, not up (think: scary story time around the camp fire!). If your baby is on a bed, for example. Position their bodies to be receiving the window light at the top, or side of their head/face.
Tip #4: Get in the Photo
I hope you’re considering getting in the photos yourself. Your baby will thank you profusely when they are an adult themselves! Trade off with your partner to capture photos of each of you with the baby. For family portraits, use the self timer on your camera or phone. Use a tripod, or place your phone on something (a table, bureau, etc) that is level with you (so we’re not looking up your nose in the photo!). If you haven’t left the hospital yet when you’re reading this, hand the nurse your phone and ask them to take your family portrait.
For what to wear, choose comfortable, simple and neutral color outfits. This will feature your baby and look most natural. Avoid logos and bright neon colors if possible.
Tip #5: Ditch the Clothing, Wrap your Baby
Sometimes the clothing itself overtakes the baby in more ways than one. It may be distracting and newborns tend to swim in “real” clothing. Nearly everyone has a swaddle or receiving blanket of some kind. If you happen to have a neutral color, soft texture one around: score! If your baby is fussy and awake (possibly just wait until they are not, this is a luxury I don’t have!), swaddling them will calm them down. Check out this tutorial below from Stand In Baby for steps on how to get a good wrap. Or, go with your gut and wrap the blanket around the baby, it will be great!
Tip #6: Siblings
First things first, keep your expectations on the low side (aka take a deep breath!) and know that everything is going to be OK. Remember when I said little ones feel our anxiety? If your “older” child (sometimes age 1 or 2!) is not sitting still, do not fret. Keep taking photos and capture their interaction. Keep in mind that younger siblings will have a short attention span. You truly cannot expect them to wait around, perfectly posed for 30 minutes. Think more like: 5 minutes! Get your solo photos done first so you can get some practice with the best lighting, etc. and then bring in the siblings for their epic photo debut.
For location of photos with siblings on the young side (toddlers), consider safety first. Set them up on a bed or couch or on the floor. They should not actually hold the baby. The newborn can be placed, swaddled, in front of the siblings (on their bellies) and you can chat with your toddler asking them to look at their new baby, ask what does the baby smell like? Where are the baby’s ears? Make sure another adult is near by at all times to scoop up the newborn if necessary.
Older siblings are usually, but not always, a little bit less tricky. Again though, do not expect them to want to sit and wait patiently for you. Remain calm and go with the flow. My personal favorite sibling photo is lying down, with you taking the photo overhead. Swaddle the newborn, find a nice neutral, comfy blanket or fur to put under them. Put a pillow or blankets under the sibling’s head to raise it up. Place the swaddled baby next to your older child(ren) and have them hold on to the baby. Again, another adult should be near by just in case.
With older siblings, they can more likely actually hold the baby. Make sure you do this on the bed or on the floor and use pillows if necessary to help with the weight of the baby.
Click here to download an extremely helpful PDF (modified from The Milky Way) with very specific tips for the entire photo session you try, but specifically for pictures with siblings.
Poses to Try For
The Milky Way (A photographer’s resource) has put together an uber helpful PDF that I’ve modified slightly. There are very specific instructions and tips on how to pose your newborn baby for photos at home. Click here to download the PDF. Poses and ideas include:
- Natural Overhead Images
- On the Bed
- In the Crib
- Older Children Sibling Images
- Younger Children Sibling Images
- Sibling Images (Lying Down)
- In Daddy’s (or Mommy’s!) Hands
- Parent and Baby
- Whole Family
If you would like even more tutorials, try this one from The School of Photography YouTube channel.
Best of luck with your newborn photos at home, I hope this post helped you! When you’re ready, please click here to submit your photos for me to edit, completely free.
Kate McKenna is a newborn, maternity and family photographer based in Andover, MA just north of Boston, MA. She has been a portrait photographer since 2009. Contact Kate for more information or with any questions.