During this COVID19 pandemic, we've had to adjust a lot of our daily lives. As a photographer, I've had to rethink what I offer and by far one of the saddest parts of social distancing in regards to photography is missing out on sessions with families and their new babies.
While I can't be there at this time to document the newborn stage, I have a number of tips I can share from my experience of photographing in-home newborn sessions for seven years. They will help you make some of your own beautiful newborn photographs with a documentary spin. The best part of documentary newborn photography is that you don't need to pose your baby into weird positions that isn't already natural to them (plus you really shouldn't anyway without proper training). So here goes:
Things to consider before starting
Take the pressure off yourself and don’t strive for perfection, because real life is better anyways!
Documentary photography is about embracing real life and making photographs that bring you right back to a moment in time. Don’t worry about the empty milk bottles on the side table, the nipple cream hanging out on the bed, the baby crying. This is all part of life that can and should be included with your newborn photos. Once you take the pressure off yourself to make everything perfect, your true selves will shine through and there’s nothing better or authentic than that.
‘Day in the Life’ documentary photography doesn’t happen in a one hour time slot because precious LIFE happens between ALL hours of the day.
This is the main reason my 'Day in the Life' sessions are either a half day or full day. I’d recommend going into one day where making photos of your baby is top of mind throughout the day as you’re going through your regular routine (aside from everything else you’re doing right?!) I don’t mean prioritize taking photos over taking care of yourself and your baby, but pick one day where you choose to have a heightened awareness of the little things in your day. The way she grabs your hair as you nurse her, the way your husband meticulously measures out the formula, their favourite soother. Making photos of these treasured objects and moments often turn into hazy memories, particularly of the newborn stage. So soak it all in while you can and document them with your camera. You can plan a dedicated baby only mini-session on this same day or pick a different day, whichever floats your boat and fits your day best, but the point is do not forget to take pictures of the little moments too!
This is not the time to blow the dust off your DSLR and finally learn how to adjust the settings. If you’re already familiar with your DSLR, perfect! Go for it! But if you’re not, using your phone is more than enough with the right light. And to be honest, a lot of our phones are even better now than some older basic model cameras. Stick to what you’re comfortable with because you’ll want to be focusing on what’s in front of your camera and not the settings behind your camera.
Take note of spots around your home you’re typically with baby. The chair you sit in while you feed them, their change table, their crib, all these spots make for a great photos that provide context to your images.
Scope out the areas of your home with the best natural light. Turn off all indoor lights and use the natural light only. If it’s a super bright sunny day with sunlight streaming in, pull your sheers across if you have them to diffuse the light. My favourite place to shoot newborns is in their nursery or in a bedroom with a big bed. Both usually tend to have a window with enough light to work with. Avoid spots with direct sunlight as this lighting tends to be a little too harsh and can create weird shadows.
Working with low light? That’s ok, get yourself right beside a window and have a moment with baby. Hold and caress them, take in their little features and breath in their newborn smell.
Simple and Natural Poses
Lay baby on their back on a bed and photograph them from different angles. From above, from the side, up close and from afar to show how tiny they are in your bed. Wrap them in a swaddle with a diaper only or have them wearing a simple onesie.
While sitting down, hold baby with their head in your hands and their feet to your tummy. Rest their body on your legs. Get a shot from above, a shot of their head in you or your partner's hands. Kiss and tickle their toes.
Hold your new baby while sitting in a chair and take images from different angles, close up, far away, and from above. Get in close but leave Mom or Dad in the frame so you can see them in the foreground looking down at their new baby. This provides context and layers in the frame.
Hold baby with their head resting on your shoulder and stand next to a window so light is landing softly on their face. Have fun and enjoy this quiet moment with your new baby.
POSING WITH SIBLINGS
If you have other children, especially younger ones, I find giving them a task makes for great moment-driven images. Ask them to tickle baby’s tummy, kiss their forehead, tell baby a secret, count their toes. You can have sibling lying on their tummy behind baby who is lying on their back. If they’re old enough to hold them in their lap, prop up their backs with pillows so they’re sitting up straight. Pillows under their elbows help to prop up their arms. I typically find the best spot for sibling photos is on a big bed so there’s plenty of room for moving around.
DON’T FORGET THE DETAILS
Make sure you take photos of their tiny fingers, the size of their feet in your hands, their hospital bracelet sitting on the side table, the gifts the siblings received like the picture below. These sisters received new bracelets from their new baby brother when he arrived. All these little details will mean a lot when you look back at them 5, 10, 20 years from now.
DOCUMENT THE MOMENTS
Photographs of moments are just as important as posed ones. I LOOOVE baby bath times, diaper changes and feedings. I also love a shot of baby crying (does this make me weird?!) Any moment that will soon become a memory are super important to remember these days.
It’s my hope these tips will help families who were planning on hiring a newborn photographer but because of social distancing restrictions due to COVID19 cannot have them professionally done. These simple DIY tips you can do yourself at home and will help you make a beautiful set of your own images that you can enjoy many years from now. If you are a client of mine, please reach out as I’d be happy to edit your images for you.