One of the heartbreaking side effects of this Coronavirus/Covid-19 season of isolation and social distancing is the lost opportunity for milestones shared with friends and family. We’ve all been touched by some form of grief and missed celebrations, I am sure: graduations, holidays, travel plans, wedding celebrations, birthday parties. The list goes on. But I am particularly and keenly and personally aware of how devastating this is for new moms and their precious babies. Not just in not being able to watch friends snuggle the new baby, but to not have easy access to help in those early days and – unfortunately – the loss of professional newborn photo shoots. So how about DIY newborn photos? Is it possible? Yes.
Even if you aren’t able to have a newborn photo shoot (or if you’re at the hospital and want to take fantastic DIY baby announcement photos), I’m here to help you know how to do it and how to enjoy fantastic photos.
1. Turn off the lights when taking DIY newborn photos
Seriously, don’t question me: just do it. Overhead lights are swell for living, but create unattractive shadows and less than ideal color balance.
Pro tip: photographing with window light means, well, photographing during the day. Obvious, eh?
(If you want EVEN MORE HELP learning how to take excellent photos with your phone, I have an online course that will teach you how to be smarter than your cell phone!)
2. Photograph your newborn near a window.
Your light source needs to be soft, one-directional, and all one color. What better way to ensure fantastically flattering light than the giant softbox that is your window.
Pro tip: Your baby has likely been looking one direction for the past few months and that’s the direction his head will naturally turn. Positioning him to face the window will achieve the softest, most flattering light. Same for you: minimize dark circles by facing the soft window light.
3. Lay a blanket down (or several, for extra padding!) to create a gentle backdrop for your newborn photos
While I prefer a solid color or a subtle pattern, maybe you want a more dramatic look. Either way, having an intentional background allows you to then style the outfit to compliment the look.
4. Decide how you want to style your baby.
Maybe you want a swaddle, or maybe you want to show off a certain outfit. Maybe you want to see all the baby skin or maybe you want to wrap her in a heirloom blanket. Remember, though: the star here is your child. Add props or patterns if you want to but don’t feel obligated to add those layers to the photos.
5. Compose intentionally when taking your newborn family photos.
So you’re all facing a window and ready for your photo. Now what? First, look behind you. What’s in the background? Is it what you want in the background?
New “portrait mode” options can help eliminate clutter behind you (it’s a great shortcut!) but don’t underestimate a good intentional composition. Can you move a few inches to avoid seeing the trashcan? Move. If you shift position a tiny bit will you get your wedding picture romantically behind you? Move.
6. Pose mindfully for your DIY newborn family photos.
Think: what makes me feel most beautiful? Freshly postpartum you abuzz with excitement and empowerment with a healthy dose of exhaustion,, but it’s inevitably also an odd time with an ever-changing body and, of course, a rollercoaster body image to go along with the rollercoaster emotions. Maybe wedge yourself just a teeny bit behind your husband or hold the baby conveniently over your middle if you’re feeling insecure.
Closer is always better so snuggle in tight.
Inevitably, your faces (and your baby’s face!) will be the most important part of the photo so be sure the camera is positioned accordingly. Take a couple photos with the camera at eye level with yourself, and then maybe a few photos with the camera at baby’s eye level.
7. Have a tripod in your hospital bag.
Since you’re likely not going to have a third person in the room with you, a tripod will be your best friend. I bought a cell phone tripod with bluetooth remote before our trip to Spain last year and it was amazing. This is exactly what you’ll need to be in a photo with your newborn AND take the photo. Bonus, it’ll easily fit in your bag.
8. Wield camera settings to your advantage when taking your newborn photos.
While portrait mode is one way to hack the system (it’ll cover a multitude of challenges!), take time to know how to let in more light on your camera. Usually, it’s as simple as tapping on the camera app screen and scrolling up or down to increase or decrease the light. But having control over the amount of light could be the difference between a dimly lit memory and a stellar photo. You are smarter than your camera. =) (Remember: my course will help you!)
9. Use presets to edit your photos.
Keep it simple, keep it natural, keep it gentle; pick one preset in your app (or use an app like Lightroom Mobile or VSCO to have extra options!) to softly color correct and perfect your images.
Hospital DIY newborn photos shot list:
- Baby’s first family photo
- Baby’s first solo photo
- Mom and Baby
- Dad and Baby
Pro tip for that first family photo in the hospital bed: Turn off the lights, if possible, to still take advantage of window light. If there’s not enough light without the overhead lights, turn on the lights take the photo: embrace the memory.
At-Home DIY Newborn Photos Family Shot List:
- Family photo
- Baby with Mom and Dad (looking at camera, looking at each other, looking at baby)
- Baby with Mom (looking at camera and also looking at baby)
- Baby with Dad looking at camera and also looking at baby)
- Baby with siblings (have them lay together on the blanket, let big sister hold baby brother on the couch, encourage interaction by prompting the sibling to “point at baby’s nose” or “give baby a kiss on the forehead”)
- Baby alone