DIY Newborn Photography: Tips for photographing your baby during the Covid 19 pandemic
DIY Newborn Photography:
Tips for photographing your baby during the Covid 19 pandemic.
My original blog post from earlier last year - republished by popular demand!
Did you miss out on your Newborn Photography Session due to the Coronavirus lockdown?
Lockdown is a miserable but necessary situation, as we all do what we must to keep our families safe. If you have missed your planned newborn photography session recently or will be missing one soon, I hope you find this blog useful.
The Covid 19 nightmare has rampaged over our world leaving so much destruction in its wake. In addition to the terrible loss of life, it has taken a huge swipe at our normal way of living. The magical celebrations we should have had this year such as weddings, special birthday parties and being able to properly introduce our new babies to the family, have all fallen in its wake.
As a newborn photographer, I am of course well aware that many new parents have missed out on their plans to have professional photographs taken of their new arrival. My clients are wonderful, they understand why I am closed, but naturally many of them are bitterly disappointed. In many cases they are/were expecting their first baby, had booked me many months in advance and were excited for their session. Then all of a sudden, everything had to stop.
I have spent my career reminding parents of the importance of photography in making wonderful memories of their baby's first days of life. To be in a position where I just can't give them the photographs they want is very upsetting and also, the reason why I have written this blog.
So - let’s be a little more positive, shall we?
It is still possible for you to capture some wonderful images of your new baby. A huge advantage of living in the age we do is that modern technology has made it possible to take great quality photos using just the camera on your phone.
Of course you will be taking many photos of your newborn during the early days and of course, they will be beautiful. What I'm doing here is sharing a few tips that I use in my sessions, which you may find of use. By the way - please excuse the appearance of my 'newborn' here - she's actually rather old and has seen better days!
Your baby's safety is of course your highest concern. Please always remember that professional newborn photographers have been trained to safely pose babies and use Photoshop ‘magic’ where necessary to create some images. Please do not try and copy the more complicated photographs you may have seen online. You will notice also that I am not giving advice on using props here. Again, newborn photographers are trained in the safe use of props. Instead, I'm talking about how to get natural, un-fussy images which focus purely on your beautiful baby.
WHEN TO TAKE PHOTOS
My immediate answer to this is - all the time of course! However, for the purpose of this blog, newborn babies are much more sleepy and curly before the age of about two weeks. To capture that brand new baby appearance, you'll need to take your photographs early - but not too early. In my experience, babies before the age of about 5 days are still finding their way in the world and may be a little fussy. As brand new parents, you are also most likely still adjusting to your new way of life, so aim to take these photos between about 6 and 10 days.
To help ensure baby is content while you take your photos, make sure he or she is fed, winded and has a clean nappy.
The most important element of photography is of course, light.
Use natural light rather than a direct camera flash. A nice big window or patio door is an ideal light source. However, bear in mind that you don’t want direct hard sunlight which will give dark harsh shadows on baby’s face.
There are a few ways to help soften the light.
Newborn babies need to be supported and won't settle easily on a hard surface, so make sure you have something nice and comfy for them to lie on. Whatever you choose should be comfortable, but for safety reasons not so soft that baby sinks into it.
A well-stuffed beanbag or one of the firm seat cushions from your sofa could work. Whatever you use, make sure nothing can obstruct baby’s breathing and that it isn’t too high off the ground, just in case baby manages to roll. If you can, have another person near to baby while you take your photos to make sure this cannot happen.
Find a nice blanket in a neutral colour to cover your surface. Whites, creams, beiges, greys and gentle pastels all work well. Stronger, brighter colours and bold patterns will stand out too much and draw attention away from baby.
I use a professional newborn beanbag in my studio, but here I have used one of the seat cushions from our sofa.
If you are photographing baby from the side, use a couple of chairs and peg your blanket up at the back to form a backdrop.
BABY'S POSITION IN RELATION TO THE LIGHT
You can see that I've positioned baby with her head pointing at a roughly 45-degree angle to the light. You want the light falling downwards over baby’s face, not the other way around (i.e. not going upwards).
Tip – look for shadows, if you have soft shadows under baby’s chin and nose, you’re on the right track.
Keep it simple and organic. At this young age they may do it naturally, but try gently positioning baby's hands close to their face, or perhaps with one hand cupping their cheek. Never force a pose, you will know if your baby is resisting in which case, just let them find their own way.
You may want to use something soft under your blanket to gently raise baby’s shoulders and head. Consider folded up face flannels or even a couple of nappies under the blanket to give a little bit of lift. Again, make sure you use wide enough padding to safely and gently lift baby just a little, don’t raise baby too high.
I've just used a couple of disposable nappies here to gently lift baby's shoulders and head. Notice how the support extends down to baby's shoulders so no strain is put on the neck.
Tip - If you can see the outline of whatever you've used to support baby's head (as you can a little here) just layer another similar coloured blanket under your top blanket.
I love photographing baby from above, but please (and I am stating the obvious, I know!) ensure you are securely holding on to your phone. If you’re using a camera that has a strap, even better.
Try different angles when taking your photographs, and remember to get in close and capture those details we all love - tiny fingers and toes for example.
BABY WON'T SETTLE?
As a mum, I know that photographing your own newborn isn't always the easiest thing to do. They seem to know that mum or dad is on hand for a quick feed and cuddle whenever they want it.
I've no doubt that you will have discovered these naturally yourself but remember the four S's!
A newborn baby will suck to find comfort. If you use a dummy, keep it on hand if baby needs a bit of reassurance.
Try wrapping. Babies love feeling secure, it reminds them of when they were safe in the womb.
Babies prefer a bit of noise over a quiet room. Try saying "shuuuuuuush!" over and over, drawing the word out or, if you haven't already got one, download a white noise app and use that. (Remember to activate flight mode on your phone or tablet to avoid getting sudden calls or notifications while baby is relaxing).
Baby was constantly being gently moved around whilst in the womb. Again, sometimes all that is needed to settle a little one is a lovely rock whilst cradled securely in mum or dad's arms.
On a final note - while you may have missed out on professional photographs of your newborn, I am sure that, as soon as they are able, whichever photographer you have booked will be itching to photograph your family. Your little one may be a bit older, but each stage of childhood is magical and you will love your professional photographs, no matter how long you have to wait.
I'll be writing a blog on the magic of older baby photographs soon - please watch this space!
Many thanks for reading.
Stay safe everyone,
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