How to DIY your newborn photos during the COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus has made it even more difficult for birth photographers and newborn photographers to do their jobs. I know that freezing those moments mean so much, and memories that you will have to look back on for lifetimes to come. A birth story & newborn session is a celebration of life and can serve as a gift that you can give loved ones. most hospitals and even birth centers are only allowing one support person in the birth room. I am going to give you some tips that you can use to capture those precious first moments and even the golden hours after the birth of your new little bundle of joy!
Brand new babes and Newborns change so fast and you want to make sure to capture those first 48 hours perfectly, believe me I know. I was that mom with a camera phone trying to capture my babies’ first 48 hours and had no clue where to start. If you are at home or in a hospital here are some great tips for you to get those photos that you want for the time being until we get back to a little more normalcy in our lives.
Here we go….
Be simplistic. There is no need for fancy props for these sessions. I photograph moms in VERY active labor and there are no props that are going to work at that time. For the Fresh sessions I love using the hospital bassinet and maybe adding a little Etsy wooden sign or gender announcement to place next to the baby. I also found this adorable sign that I think is great for babies born during this time!
Lighting. I can’t tell you how IMPORTANT this one is. Those overhead lights are NASTY. They cause an ugly, orange/yellow hue and are so unflattering on babies’ skin. Use the natural light that comes through your hospital window. The early morning or early afternoon is the best time, and it’s because the sun is going to be coming by your window and giving you the best, natural lighting scenario. If you are comfortable with using off-camera flash then go for it and that will add a little more umpth to these images. You can also ask the nurse if they have a room they use for pictures already that has great lighting and could you walk your baby down there. **The lighting is going to be different depending on your location in the hospital.**
Adjust in frame before moving baby. We all know the famous saying “don’t fix what isn’t broke” well, this goes for newborns as you photograph them and want that time to capture images with a soundly sleeping baby! You can even grab an image from above baby. If you have a simple kimono onesie, put it on baby and capture away. Remember SIMPLE is better than too busy!! Phone cameras have come sooo far now and you can really capture images that you will be proud to show off to friends and family! I know that you will want to edit these images as well. I am going to give you some tips on editing too. When you are editing newborns you really want to keep it simple and don’t over-edit!! Please for the love of all things holy DO NOT OVER EDIT!!! A little editing goes a long way! When editing newborn photos, keep it simple. Avoid blurring any skin on an app as it may make it look too fake. Many photo editing apps offer color tools to reduce redness, brightening a photo, or adjusting the exposure, highlights, and shadows.
Here are a few editing apps for both apple and android that I recommend.
Details. I can not stress enough how the little details are super important and something that you will look back on and think “man, your fingers were so tiny once”. Grab images of the hospital bracelet, their toes, ears, eyelashes, fingers wrapped around daddy….any little details you can get will be great! No detail is too meaningless.
Angles. Make sure that you move around. If you place baby in the bassinette and position yourself with the light behind you (backlighting) you can capture such a stunning, naturally lit image. You can also get on the bed and position yourself slightly at an angle with the light coming on to your body. This is another beautifully lit image when the sun is out and coming into your room. Get creative and don’t be afraid to try something out.
Grab help. If you have a nurse that you can ask to help you with a few quick pictures I am sure they will be obliged to help. This is a great time to grab a shower, put on some mascara, maybe a little concealer for those sleepy eyes and you are set for your debut as a new family! Just make sure to position yourself by a window so there is optimal natural light. Tell the nurse to capture the image from right below the bra line up. As a new mom I know how important angles are to you and showing the full-body image may not be your ideal shot just yet……looking out for you momma.
What to wear. If you are anything like me comfort as a new mom was EVERYTHING. Go online to Amazon or Target and look for a cute robe or nightgown and have them ship it to you. Solid colors are great but a little flora or pattern is ok, just don’t get anything too busy! Here, here, and here are some great amazon finds!
For in-home DIY sessions:
Find a window. Light is light. Find the largest window or sliding door you can and pick a time of day when the light is shining through the window. However, make sure to avoid HARSH light (think the streaks of sunlight that shine in and cast shapes on the floor (your fur baby will love laying in these) if you can order some sheer curtains on Amazon to diffuse that light, this will be your best bet. Avoid going out to the stores to buy anything right now. Having things shipped is FREE for the most part right now and it allows you to get everything ready for baby, and you can practice if you order these ahead of time.
Simple. on the props, grab textures you have around the house. A rule of thumb is if your forearm can fit inside the prop, you can fit a baby in it. If you have any neutral textured rugs, wooden bowls, crates, greenery, pieces of fabric, etc- use those! In my opinion, the more layers/textures, the better. They add more dimension to the image. Also, make sure to use SOLID colors. No busy patterns, they will not photograph well at all!
Don’t try to be an expert. This isn’t the time to attempt things like froggy pose or anything where you have limbs or fingers curled perfectly into place, as these types of poses should only be taught by trained professionals and need to be done safely to ensure a newborn’s breathing isn’t impeded. Keep it simple with baby swaddled up, laying on their backs or sides, maybe hold a hand up by their cheek. Just don’t overthink it, I promise it’s just as amazing having that little one laying on his/her side with his/her hands by his/her face and you capturing that sweet sleeping new bundle of joy!
Swaddling. I wish I could give you the key to achieving expert swaddling on your first try, but the reality is it takes many many tries to nail it just right. However, keep in mind when finding a swaddle wrap that fabrics like jersey knit work best. You can order these on amazon as well if you don’t have any jersey knit fabric lying around. Keep the wrap nice and tight, but not so tight that you hear baby grunting when they breath.
Get your partner involved. If your partner is quarantined with you, ask them to grab the camera (or phone) and stand perpendicular to the window- don’t stand with the window behind you, or too far away from the window. You want the window light to be coming from a 90 degree angle across the side of your body- this will be the most flattering lighting. As far as posing angles go, make sure your partner is shooting DOWN on you, not directly in front or from below. The angle from slightly higher up will be the most flattering. Wear neutral colors like black, white or beige. Avoid patterns like plaid or floral. A pretty lace kimono over a simple white cami is one of my favorite looks for parent poses! You never know they may just surprise you with their skills!
Details are important. Get close-ups of baby’s toes, peach fuzz on their back, their fingers, their dimples, any birthmarks, eyelashes, etc. These details will change SO quickly and you don’t want to forget them! In the first few days of life baby changes so much that you want to make sure and remember these moments for a lifetime!
Editing. most people probably don’t have or are proficient in Photoshop or Lightroom, however, there is a free Lightroom app you can download to load your images into. You don’t want to go crazy on presets or anything, all you need to know for now are a few basics. If your images are too bright, lower the exposure slider until they look appropriate. If the whites in your image are way too bright (also called blown out) lower the highlights slider. Add a bump of the contrast slider for some depth to the colors in your image. Just be SIMPLE. you don’t need to overthink these things. Remember this is a crazy time in our lives and we are doing the best we can until we can get a truly professional photographer to capture your family!
Well, there you have it. These are a few of my tips for you to capture your new bundle of joy the best you can. You can use these tips for your newborn images or even use them to take better images in everyday life!
I send all my love to the mommas that are having little ones during this crazy time in our lives. Stay healthy and safe and I can’t wait to see you all again once this is behind us!
I’m a birth, newborn, and maternity lifestyle photographer serving Washington DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Reston, Leesburg, Manassas, Gainesville, Haymarket, Stafford County, Prince William County, and Fredericksburg. I am located in Stafford, Virginia and I’m available for travel in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC areas.