Congratulations! You’re adding a new tiny human to your family! I capture all types of milestones in my line of work, but this is by far my favorite. That fresh baby smell, the squeaks, cries, wrinkles, and tiny features are irreplaceable memories for parents.
This is a trying time for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. In my situation, while I can reschedule a lot of my clients, hospital and newborn sessions are unfortunately amongst those that are too time sensitive in almost every case. My heart goes out to every parent who is unable to have these moments captured professionally. Cancelling these appointments has truly been one of the most difficult things in my photography career, because I know how special and fleeting these moments are.
Since we aren’t able to work together during this time, I wanted to give new parents a guide to making the best of this situation by providing a few basic guidelines, tips, and tricks to help preserve these precious memories. I remain very hopeful that I’ll be able to schedule posed newborn sessions for everyone within the first 8 weeks of baby’s life. If not, I’ll be writing more on in-home DIY sessions and additional content in the next few days will be helpful for that, as well.
If you are one of my clients or are looking to schedule a posed newborn session when we’re able to see each other, I’m be happy to give you more in-depth tips or a video chat walkthrough with your setup and equipment. Then, when it’s safe, we will schedule a session together and make some magic happen!
(And if you’re not already a client, but you’re looking for a child & family photographer in the greater-Charlotte area, please feel free to reach out!)
Please also note: this is not a guide for professional photographers. What I’ve written below is tailored to a parent’s abilities and what I believe will help capture the best images with the equipment they have available. Some of these tips are things I do actually use in practice, but there is a lot that I do that is left out or altered in my professional setting.
Getting Started – General tips for taking photos of your new baby
What you need: DSLR Camera (or your phone, if you don’t have access to a camera) Simple, neutral or soft-colored swaddles and clothing for parents Hospital bassinet, along with the footprints and name/data card they give you (hospital session specific) Your fresh babe You!
You’ve learned a lot of the following in your pre-natal classes if you’re a first-time parent, or through previous experience with your older children, but I do want to provide a few safety precautions before I get into my tips and tricks. These are things I keep in mind when I’m photographing your newborn, but this is by no means a comprehensive list:
- Poses with moms are done only if mom is comfortable in that position. Moms go through a LOT bringing those babies into this world, so we work to find something that’s comfortable for them and take it nice and slow. Standing, sitting a certain way, or any number of other things can (rarely, but still sometimes!) make mom uncomfortable or weak. Please try to make sure there’s another set of eyes and hands in the room, just in case.
- If you’re using a DSLR or any other type of camera, make sure you have your camera safely secured with a neck or wrist strap. If you’re taking a photo over the top of your baby, you definitely don’t want any preventable incidents happening.
Ideally, you’ll have a DSLR camera (meaning you can use interchangeable lenses) and a prime lens that allows you to use an aperture of 2.8 or less. But the below will also apply to a non-professional digital camera and lens as well, with some tweaks.
Manual mode will always be best, but it can be difficult for anyone who doesn’t do this professionally. It’s okay if you want to skip down to a different mode! But if you’d like to try manual, the best suggestions I have are as follows.
- ISO setting at 800 or below; 400 or below for a non-professional DSLR. The higher the ISO used on non-professional equipment, the more grain or “fuzz” you’ll get in your image.
- Try to keep shutter speed above 125. The higher shutter speeds make sure your subjects are sharp and any movements don’t blur the image.
- For your aperture (the F number), you want to go as low as your lens will let you, or at about f 2.8 if there’s one subject. This will make your image a little more creamy, but also brighter. If there’s more than one person in the frame, you may want to bump that up to 3.2-4.0.
If you cannot nail the manual settings, don’t fear. My next best option is to switch to shutter priority, or TV mode. This will only allow you to change the shutter speed, and it will automatically switch everything else to create the best image. Try to keep that shutter speed around 200 if at all possible, or higher if you have a bright room and can do so.
Newer iPhones (and possibly Androids, too), have a pretty good portrait mode feature. I say great because it CAN create great images if used properly. If not, photos can come off looking out of focus or lower quality. By the way – portrait mode isn’t required to take a quality image. It all depends on the comfort level of the person behind the lens.
For portrait mode, I’ve found the aperture is best set at about 3.2-3.5. The biggest thing to remember with aperture (or the F-stop number) is that the higher the number, the more is in focus. The blurred background effect is beautiful, but again can be hard to nail if you’re not well-versed in it.
The biggest thing to remember in all of this is to try, try again! If you were going to be sending me these images to edit, I’d prefer them to be a little darker as opposed to too bright when you’re setting up and determining how to shoot them. If you’re keeping them as is, then whatever your preference is would be how you want them to look in the back of your camera!
The biggest challenge I face with these sessions myself is the lack of consistency with lighting. Hospital rooms vary so greatly from one to the next; even within the same hospital itself. Big, open rooms with giant windows are the best-case scenario, but sometimes we’re not all that lucky. Hopefully you’ll luck out and get some good midday sun in your room, even if it’s through a small window.
All of these lighting tips will help you take the best photos you can with the natural light you have. As I mentioned before, open spaces with big windows are ideal. For most of you the quick tips will be great guidance, but the images below will show you the most.
Some key tips to remember:
- Turn off any overhead lights or lamps. Artificial light can throw off the color balance of the image and honestly, it doesn’t usually help that much in the long run. Best to stick with the natural stuff.
- Direction of the light. There are a lot of factors in making sure your angle provides the most flattering light, but for the most part, you want the light to always be coming from the top of the baby’s head. The biggest thing to remember is to make sure the light is not coming from below the subject.
Compare the two images below: the first, I have the top/side of her head closest to the window. The second image has the light coming from below her face, which is definitely what we do not want. Most photographers call this “ghoul lighting”. Looking at the image, you can see why! She looks a little scary, right?
- Indirect and filtered light. This is what creates the soft images, instead of having bright spots or super dark shadows. The proximity to the light plays a part in this if you can’t have a sheer curtain over the window or something similar. If it’s an uncovered window, pull away from it a bit until you see what you think looks best. If it’s covered with a light or sheer curtain or covering, you can get a little closer. You want the subject to be lit as much as possible without harsh bright or dark spots. Take a few test shots and compare as you move them around to see what I mean.
Below, again, the same settings on my camera, taken seconds apart. The only difference is the proximity to the light. Neither of these images are edited, so they wouldn't be a final product, but you can see the difference in the light. The first is farther away from the light source than the second.
This is something that as a professional photographer, I’m constantly learning more and more of each day. In short, there isn’t an easy “one angle fits all” option. But for the most part, the most flattering photo taken of any person is from a higher angle. The angle will help put the right features in focus and keep any undesired backgrounds out of the picture, but also create a slimmer, more flattering profile for any person. The best way to explain is through the photos below.
In this first image, the focus is on the cute baby’s face. There’s no clutter or distraction in the background.
The second image is taken of the same baby, sitting in the same spot, with the same camera settings. The only difference is the angle. Does she seem to be the main focus? How about that background chaos?
Essentially, there will be a lot of trial and error. Move your body and your camera around and take a bunch of different images. We can sort out what looks best later, but it’s always better to have more than not enough!
If you’re able, it’s not a bad idea to spend some time practicing the techniques I’ve outlined above. Some experience will make the big day a little easier on everyone involved! I’ll also share my thoughts on taking these precious photos in the hospital once your bundle of joy has arrived, but in the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or need a little extra help.
Xoxo - Kirby