Tips for Photographing your Newborn at home
If you are due to give birth during the COVID-19 pandemic- this guide was written with you in mind! I know this is a anxious and uncertain time for you and along with everything else, due to social distancing, you cannot visit your Newborn photographer to get the newborn images you’ve been looking forward to for months. I really, really feel for you. I want to help you to find a way to preserve these memories- despite everything that is going on!
I have put together this simple guide to capturing some photographs of your baby at home. Whilst these images are never going to replace the ones you would get with a professional photographer- you will look at these images in years to come and love seeing how small they were just the same- you will be so glad you captured them!
Depending on how soon you are due your baby, it is worth bearing in mind that babies even up to 6 weeks can “pose” very much like newborns and 12 week sessions have been some of my favourites in the past- they can smile and have such character! Do not rule out a professional photo session- even if it is a few weeks later than you had originally had in mind
Sitter sessions when baby is sitting unaided are another wonderful milestone session. I absolutely adore sitter sessions- they are my favourite along with Newborn session. This is such a lovely age to photograph!
This is a guide to create a set of images- with one, simple “pose” and it doesn’t matter if baby is awake or asleep! You could even try the series of images with baby both awake and asleep- why not!
I am using my stand-in-baby little Rosie to show you how to create these images. I am using my bean bag that I use in all my sessions and I purchased this from dunelm mill. You might have a bean bag, or a foot stall, your bed, a sleepy head pod, even one of your sofa seat cushions on the floor- the surface area needs to be quite large to get enough of the “back drop” behind the baby” and so that the baby can safely be laid down without the worry of them rolling anywhere- you’d be surprised at how strong and wriggly they can be!
Items you'll need to gather before your at home session
- a surface to use- bean bag, foot stool, sofa seat cushion
- some thick throws/non textured blankets/material
- A hand towel
- A blanket to wrap around baby
- A teddy
- Any little accessories if you are using them such as headbands or hats
How you have baby dressed for this is really up to you- a plain white vest would be my suggestion as it still shows a lot of their skin, the nappy is on so you do not need to worry about accidents and it makes a nice timeless image- babies- in white- there is nothing better!
(If would like to read more about why I do not use colour in my session you can read more about that here)
Bean bag placement and set up
The placement of your bean bag ( I am just going to call it a bean bag for the sake of the blog post!) is very important. It needs to be near a window as show in the photo above. I am using my patio doors- in the next few days take a note of where the sun comes into your home and which windows are the brightest. The light does not need to be directional (by that I mean, the sun doesn’t need to be shining directly through the window) the window just needs to be bright and your "bean bag" quite close
You will need to use a few thick throws/fleecy blankets over the surface you are using- in my case my bean bag. This made a nice smooth “back drop”. If you throws are big enough, fold them so you have a double layer from one throw
You will then need a rolled up hand towel under the layers of throws/blankets as a little cushion for babies head- to raise the head up ensuring it is the main focus of the image
-Ensuring that baby has a full tummy and is nice and warm is going to give you the best chance of capturing these images successfully
-You will want to gently lay baby down on their back on your make shift bean bag making sure their head is resting on that pillow we just made!
-At this point it doesn’t matter if baby is awake or asleep but we will assume they are asleep (I will talk about what to do if they are awake further down).
The first shot
the first image to get is of baby laying just as you’ve placed them- their hands might naturally rest on their chest or tummy, they might naturally pull their hands to their face, they might draw their legs up, or relax them out- however they naturally pose themselves when you lay them down- capture that shot. Start by standing on the left side of the bean bag with the window on right and take a full body shot from this angle
Next move in and get a close up of just baby's face. This is a particularly lovely image that I love to get in all my newborn sessions. I love how the light comes in and highlights their side profile detailing all their little facial features
At this point, depending on how their hands naturally fell, you could try and gently reposition their hands. Babies will naturally want to clench their fists but if they are relaxed enough they will open up their fists and lay their hands flat- try stroking the back of their hand- when their fist uncurled lay their hands flat on their chest- gently hold your hands or fingers over theirs for a few moments whilst they adjust to the new position. If they move their hands- do not stress about it- it isn’t what is important and you can always try again at a later stage (or another day) if you really wanted to!
With their hands newly positioned (or not), whilst still standing to the left side, come further above baby and capture this angle
Plus a full length shot from above
Whilst their hands are laid on their chest this is a great time to grab a close up of their hand
And feet of course! Who doesn’t love baby feet and toes!
At this point you could add a teddy- something that has been given as a present or that you have brought baby. You could use this teddy to do a month photo and see how baby grows next to this teddy over their first year!
Gently open out their arm and place the teddy in close to them. If baby has a little squirm just gently hold them in place and give them a little shush
A head shot and a full length shot in this angle would be lovely
So there is a basic set of 9 beautiful keepsake images that capture your baby as a newborn- simple, stress-free and timeless!
Do not forget to add your little accessories if you wish to- head bands or a little hat for example and capture different angles if you want to get creative! Close ups of the swirl on the back of their head, their fingers curled around your finger and their fuzzy ears could be extras you might like to include
If baby is still asleep and you wanted to try a different look you could do the next steps with baby sleeping too
If baby is awake (or you want to try a different look)
If baby is awake, or you want to get the set with baby asleep and awake- it might be best to use a little basic swaddle. This isn’t my full swaddle that all the parents are amazed by in the studio. This is just a basic one to keep those arms from flying around! Babies have no control over their arms or legs as newborns so by giving them some security from a swaddle helps to keep them settled and ensures you can get some lovely images of their face without the windmill arms! However, if you wanted to add some of baby having a stretch and waving their arms about you should defiantly do that!
-So you will need a long (ish) piece of material, or a blanket (something you’ve brought or made for them would be a nice sentimental touch), even a scarf would be suitable.
-Lay the material/blanket/scarf out on your bean bag, place baby in the middle with their arms by their sides, and then simply criss cross the material over baby and tuck it under them to hold it in place. Do not worry about their legs- just concentrate on containing the arms!
-Take a full length and close up of their face, the side profile we captured in the first set
-Then wrap the material round the babies feet and grab some close ups of their feet- from above so you can see all their toes and from below so you can see their soles would both make great images
Place their little teddy next to them and take the images with the teddy
*Always ensure safety of the baby when asking siblings join their baby brother/sister. Make sure you have someone to “spot/watch ” the baby ensuring they can’t make their way off the bean bag whilst your helping their older sibling into position*
My Olivia came and helped me for the next few images!
If you have siblings then leave baby in the position on their back and ask the sibling to come and kiss baby on the forehead. It will make a lovely “silleuette” type shot against the bright window.
You can see the back ground here- and that is not important- do not worry about that. The main focus of this image are the children (or stand in baby in this case!)
You could also try aying the older sibling on your bean bag- ensuring you raise their head as we did with baby at the beginning. A rolled up hand towel or something similar will be ideal. Lay their arm out and place baby in their arm.
You could ask the sibling to give their baby brother/sister a kiss on the head but for the most part, I would not try and push for a lot more, unless the sibling is being really co operative! A nice one of them sitting on the sofa holding their brother or sister might be a easier image to get and will serve your memory just as well in the future!
I personally wouldn't worry about editing. For these images I have made no edits- I didn't think it would be fair to show you editing DIY newborn session images! These are all straight from the camera.
If you are using your phone then I would advise just using your cameras "Editing" functions to play around with the brightness and perhaps crop the edges if you need to- like I need to in some of these.
If you are using a DSLR or a compact camera then I am sure there are some free editing programs out there (but cannot recommend any because i haven't used any) but cameras usually come with a editing program. I would not try and adjust the photos any further than just playing with exposure, white balance if you need to and cropping. The more natural the better!
I really hope that this little guide was useful to you and gives you some inspiration and confidence to capture these Newborn images. If you did find this useful it would be amazing if you could leave me a comment and share this with anyone else you think might be interested in reading! It would mean a lot to me!
If you have any questions let me know in the comments, email or DM me and I will be happy to help
Also, feel free to share your images with me afterwards too! I would love to see them!
[ Specialist Newborn photographer based Peterborough UK ]