Photographing your own newborn can be challenging but also so very rewarding.
Being outside in nature opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and creative freedom that you may not have shooting indoors. Bring along some simple props to place baby in and have fun! I have found that many babies tend to sleep more easily outside on a warm day than they would indoors in a studio setting.
Some things to consider shooting with your macro lens: noses, lips, eyelashes, ears, toes, fingers, belly buttons, hair, and fuzzy shoulders. Those details will change so fast as your baby grows and this is a wonderful way to preserve those memories.
The pictures taken from your perspective, the mother who loves her baby like no other, are going to have a little something extra special about them. Just take it slow, and be sure to get a lot of rest. You just had a new baby. Enjoy your baby!
3. What If Babies Don’t Arrive On Their Due Dates? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Pictures on a computer screen are nice, but a huge 30×40 canvas hanging in the entryway of your home is even nicer. Trust me on this. 😉
Below are 12 questions and answers accompanied by Rebecca’s newborn portraits all taken in her NYC-based studio.
In addition to these three things, I have found that most babies (including my own) are much more cooperative and ‘lazy’ in the morning hours than in the afternoon and evening hours. Try to do your shooting between breakfast and lunch, and I think you will agree that this is the best time for most babies.
“There are a lot of photographers out there with different levels of experience and different styles so first I would see if you like the photographers style- their props, poses, lighting, positions, etc. Then I would make sure they have done a good number of newborn sessions. I have heard horror stories of inexperienced photographers or moms picking up a camera thinking it looks easy and then having a bucket tip over or a baby topple off a pillow. Always ask for a reference.”
I would love to share with you some tips and ideas to help you create beautiful images of your own baby and to make this experience an enjoyable and stress-free one for the both of you.
“One of the most important things is to make sure the room is very warm. I keep the heat turned way up and have a space heater next to the baby. I also will play white sound or soft music depending on what the baby responds to better. This keeps babies calm and asleep (sometimes parents too— I have had many a father fall asleep on my couch). I also never force a baby into a pose he or she is uncomfortable in and let the baby indicate to me which poses he or she is most happy curled up in.”
Bringing a new baby into your family is one of life’s most amazing and wonderful moments!
11. Which Poses Are Your Favorite? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Mastering Manual Photography starts 7/30 with Marissa Gifford
All photos were created by Rebecca Yale, who gave me permission to use them here.
I found the whole experience fascinating so I asked our photographer, the wonderfully talented Rebecca Yale, if she could answer some questions about how she works with new parents to get them the photos they will no doubt treasure forever.
“For studio photography the ideal age is between 5-12 days. When babies are that tiny they spend a lot of time sleeping and still curl up into very sweet poses similar to the positions they were in when they were in the womb. After two weeks babies go through a growth spurt and will start stretching their arms and legs and will not be as amenable to curling up for a picture or sleeping as soundly, which is needed for some of the poses and photographs in props like the buckets.”
Feel free to experiment – for more dramatic lighting and shadowing as in the photo of my husband’s hands holding Gabriel in the photo above, go for a more drastic angle. Have fun playing with different angles and perspectives, but do not, I repeat, do NOT up-light your baby!
Please, for the love of all that is newborn photography, do not leave all of your beautiful newborn photos sitting on your hard drive. Print those babies out!
4. How Long Does A Session Take? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
I am an on-location photographer and most of my work is done in the great outdoors. Who says you can’t take a new baby outside, too?
Experiment and have fun! When I was shooting Gabriel’s newborn photos, I kept my macro lens sitting on the table next to me so I could easily swap out lenses and snag some macro shots during each of our ‘mini shoots.’ I found this to be much easier than trying to get them all at once. If you have an extra camera body, you could leave your macro attached to it to easily grab those macro images as you go.
In addition to closing down, take that lens out of auto focus and try using manual focus. I had much better results with my macro using manual focus! Do not worry too much about your ISO. If you need to crank it up to avoid underexposing your images, do not be afraid of doing so.
“Studio sessions typically last 3-4 hours which includes portraits of the baby on his or her own and then with each parent and then the whole family together. That may seem like a long time, but usually about half of that time is spent feeding and comforting the baby to get him or her as sleepy and happy as possible for the portraits.”
Related: 6 ways to photograph a newborn after the first 10 days
Close down a bit – when you are working as close-up as you will need to be to do a macro shot, shooting wide open will give you a very small depth of field. Unless that is what you are going for, try closing down to f/5.6 or even further.
My newborn photography style is simple and organic with more natural posing, so this was not an issue for me. If you need help from someone, make sure that you ask for it. My husband has been an excellent spotter in the rare times that I’ve needed one. Remember that many of the more difficult looking poses and setups are actually composite images, and not created from a single image.
Related: Less is More: Mastering the Minimalist Style of Newborn Photography
What am I doing with all of Gabriel’s newborn images? I am making an epic baby album for him, of course. I cannot wait to order it and have it in my hands! There is NO substitute for the actual finished product for you and your family to enjoy.
“You should book your session as far out as possible, as early as your second trimester. I usually book sessions 3-4 months in advance and for busy photography seasons, it can even be 5-6 months out. I’ve received hundreds of phone calls from parents who have just given birth who want to book an appointment and I have no availability left. Then they get very sad because its such a short window of time to take those special portraits and they missed it.”
“Most studio newborn photography is done naked to capture the tininess of being a newborn so something that is easy to take on and off. If you’d rather have your baby clothed in the pictures something that fits them very well is important. Big clothes never look good on anyone in photos, but on babies it really looks terrible.”
1. What’s The Ideal Age For A Newborn Studio Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
8. How Should You Choose A Photographer? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
When I had Gabriel, I would shoot for a short period of time using just one or two setups every other day or so. Not only did this keep everything low stress, but it allowed me to capture the subtle changes as Gabriel changed over his first few weeks of life.
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Gabriel didn’t move an inch between these two shots, but look how different they are! The first was taken from the front as a nice close-up of his sweet little face and hands. In the second image, I walked around behind him, loved how the lighting looked, and took another picture from that angle. It ended up being one of my favorites!
9. What Are The Safety Precautions Used During A Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Weather permitting, take your baby out of the studio and into nature – you can get some amazingly beautiful and unique newborn photos this way. I get bored easily and was definitely over blankets and beanbags, so my husband and I took a little drive and did a few images of Gabriel outside. They are definitely some of my favorites!
It is in the sky above us. Therefore, seeing a person who is lit from below is very unnatural looking. It is so unnatural looking that it is often seen in horror movies or to depict something frightening. We definitely do not want our baby to look like they belong in a horror flick!
The newborn days are so precious, yet so fleeting. As photographers, we can appreciate how quickly these days go by and how important it is to capture all of the sweet details of our new babies, while they are still little.
I know firsthand how difficult it can be having photos taken of yourself, but please, hand your camera to someone else – your husband, an older child, or a friend – and get a few pictures of yourself with your new baby. No one cares that you still need to lose your pregnancy weight, or that you are tired, and don’t feel that you are looking your best – just do it.
If you have a macro lens, now would be the time to pull it out of your bag, dust it off, and put it to good use. If you are having trouble getting the images you want from your macro lens, here are a few tips.
With my second child, I booked a newborn session in the middle of my second trimester, I called the photographer right after Harlow was born along with my friends and family, and then had our photo session when my baby was just ten days old. (You can see my photos here.)
You do not need any fancy studio equipment to get this right. Almost all of the photos I took of Gabriel were done either in my garage or in front of one of my living room windows utilizing natural light.
2. How Far In Advance Should You Book Your Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“I always love the photos of a baby in a bucket sleeping soundly with her head resting on her hands, it’s very sweet and makes for a cute birth announcement shot. I also love a baby curled up on his belly with his hands tucked under the side of his head and feet tucked under his butt. Most babies love to be in that pose because it reminds them of the womb. My favorite though is a baby curled up in his parents’ arms with his head resting on one of his parents hands. There is something so wonderful about the scale of seeing a tiny newborn in a huge hand that just makes for a magical and very special image.”
These days go by so fast – before you know it, they’ll be heading off to school, learning to drive, getting married, and giving you grandbabies. I’m not even kidding! It seems like just yesterday I was bringing Clint home from the hospital, and now we are working on a driver’s license. It goes by in the blink of an eye!
“Weighting the buckets and props is a big one so a baby doesn’t tip over and get hurt. Another is the pose itself- newborn necks are very delicate so you want to be very careful with positioning. If the pose comes undone, you don’t want the baby to fall or hurt his neck. I use a very large beanbag that was designed specifically for newborn photography so if the baby does tip to one side they are very protected and are on a soft surface. Also, everything used from the blankets to the hair bows are all washed between every session to keep everything very clean and germ free.”
The third trick probably goes without saying but make sure baby has a nice, full belly and is not hungry during your shoot.
7. What Do You Do To Make Sure The Baby Is Comfortable? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Don’t forget to document all of those sweet little details that make your baby unique! That little upturned nose, her rosebud lips, his crinkly little chin, those tiny toes and fingers – these are all things that you will not want to forget as your baby grows.
Instead of rushing to change your setup or reposition your baby, try getting up and walking around your baby to see what unique angles you can photograph. Try walking behind your baby and shoot some pictures from the shadowed side – you may end up with an image that you love! Exhaust all of your different angles and perspectives before moving on to a new pose or setup. This is an easy way to get variety out of a single pose.
Remember that you just had a baby! You need to take time for yourself to rest and recover from the childbirth experience, so please do not rush and try to do everything in one day. I have learned the hard way that this will end in exhaustion and frustration.
“The worst thing a parent can do is be nervous. If your baby is crying, you have to trust the photographer to be able to comfort her. Continuously swooping in and handing the baby back and forth can make an infant even more distressed. My advice is to take a deep breath and relax. I know its easy to be nervous, especially when it’s your first, but the best thing a parent can do is sit back and take a couple hours to check their email, listen to music or just enjoy watching their newborn in all these adorable poses.”
12. What’s The Worst Thing A Parent Can Do During A Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“There’s no way to sugar coat this one- newborn photographers get peed and pooped on a lot. Blankets and props get peed on frequently. That’s why everything is 100% washable and it’s no big deal. You just keep going and throw it in the wash after the session is over. Parents need to be prepared as well. If you are going to be in the pictures, I don’t recommend wearing your favorite shirt or expensive clothing.”
“Some good things to bring are pacifiers, a change of clothes for yourself (if you’re going to be in the photos holding a naked baby you might get pooped on), some extra diapers and wipes, extra formula or bottles if you are not breastfeeding, and any special blankets or toys that you want included in the photos.”
In addition to having a warm shooting area, white noise does wonders for keeping baby asleep. I downloaded an app to my iPhone called ‘Sound Sleeper‘ which has a number of soothing sounds that you can play for baby while you are shooting. I would just tuck my phone underneath the blanket I was shooting on and it would keep Gabriel happy and snoozing!
As photographers, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are more comfortable being on the back side of the camera, but it is so important for our children that we get in front if it once in a while, too. 🙂 My 14-year-old daughter, Calista, took this image for me and I absolutely love it!
Trust me. This will be a priceless treasure for your new baby as he or she grows up.
Born as a safe place for Founder Kendra Okolita and a small group of friends to talk photography, Clickin Moms has blossomed into a community of over 16,000 professional photographers, aspiring professionals, and women who are simply passionate about capturing the lives of their children.
Contrary to what you may have heard about the first two weeks being the best time to photograph a newborn, it is very possible to photograph older babies in the ‘newborn style’ as well. I was still capturing Gabriel’s newborn photos when he was over a month old.
10. How Do You Handle Pee And Poop When You Take Off That Diaper? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
A good rule of thumb for nice soft shadows and highlights is to have your baby angled such that the light flows from the top of baby’s head on down their body at approximately a 45 degree angle. Look for a soft shadow underneath baby’s nose to verify that you have this right.
Newborn photography— those adorable photos of infants posed in baskets and buckets— was not on my radar when I was pregnant with my first child. And, I later found out, if you don’t book while you are pregnant, you are out of luck because the poses you see in those pictures can only happen within the first couple of weeks.
While some may opt to hire a professional to photograph their baby, some of us are excited at the prospect of capturing our baby’s first days ourselves. My 10th child, Gabriel, was born on June 24th of this year, and I was determined to get some amazing photos of him myself.
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5. What Should Your Baby Wear To A Newborn Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Some of the sweetest and most endearing photos you can take of your new baby will be the ones you get with his or her older siblings. I set out a task for myself to get an image of Gabriel with each of his nine older brothers and sisters. I still have two to go, but I am getting there!
“I hold time before and after so the parents are guaranteed a space no matter when their baby arrives.”
Whether you’re photographing for a client or for yourself, one of the things that can make or break a photo is your lighting. Think about the most natural source of lighting we have – the sun.
This goes without saying, but please make sure your baby’s safety is the number 1 priority while you are taking his or her photos. If you are trying a more difficult pose or working with props, have someone there to help you and to spot baby.
6. What Else Should You Bring? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Remember, time is on your side! Take it easy and don’t over-do it. If you pace yourself, you can capture an amazing variety of images of your sweet new baby.
Older children may be able to hold their new brother or sister, while simple laying down poses are perfect for younger children. This will make your older children feel special and involved as well, which is always a bonus when there is a new baby in the house getting a lot of attention!
There are a few simple things you can do that will ensure a happy baby and a productive photo session. The first is to keep your shooting area warm – really warm. I have successfully used my quartz infrared space heater that we use to heat our bedroom in the wintertime, but any small space heater will do.
I feel a bit hypocritical telling you this, as I myself have been absolutely horrible about printing my own images, but just do it. Do not wait to design the perfect wall display, or to choose the perfect picture. If you see a good canvas sale going on, just order something. You will love it – I promise!
One of the benefits of photographing your own newborn is that time is on your side. Unlike shooting a newborn session for a client and having a 3-4 hour window in which to work and create a varied gallery, you have days – weeks even – at your disposal.
Related: 11 pictures to take of your baby in the first month
One of the most common mistakes I see in newborn photography from pros and amateurs alike is improper lighting. If I had a dollar for every up-lit baby I saw floating around online, I’d be a very rich woman.
The alternative is to crank up the thermostat in your house while you are shooting. Luckily, Gabriel was born during the summer in Arizona, so I didn’t need to do anything other than head to my garage. It was like an oven!