Newborn photos are not usually the first thing that comes to mind when you consider those first hours of a new baby’s life. When one moment, you are marveling at the miracle of the life that you’ve created, and in the next moment, you’re panicking about the weight of responsibility over something so precious! Ah … parenthood!
But take it from someone who has waded through the fog that is labour and delivery. You’re going to want those photos. Maybe not now, when you’re focused on latching and peri-bottles and recording BMs. But in 2 weeks, with your newborn snuggled close to your chest at a 3am feed, it will hit you. Those first hours were different. You have changed since then. Your baby has changed since then. The first 48 hours is a whole microcosm, both physically and emotionally, and it needs to be documented.
So please, bookmark this link on your phone as you pack your hospital bag. Take these newborn photos. They will be part of the story of your little one. And that matters.
Getting Ready for your Newborn Photos
- First off, know that your photos are not going to look the same as professional photos, and that’s ok! But you are capturing some precious memories, and that is all that matters. Babies are energy-based and will pick up on your anxiety and frustration, so just relax and go with the flow!
- Give your baby a good feed, and be sure to burp them, so they are happy and sleepy! But remember that awake baby images are beautiful too!
- A DSLR will almost always produce better photos than a phone, so bring it if you can. But the best camera is the one you have with you, so you can totally rock your phone pictures too! Try putting your phone on portrait mode if you have it to get some yummy background blur. And make sure your lens is clean!
- Hospital rooms are notoriously small and dark, with stark overhead lighting. It’s challenging even for pro photographers. So do what we do … turn off overhead lights, and take all your photos right next to the window in the room, however small that may be, and however you need to move around things in the room. One little pocket of natural window light is all you need.
- When you position people and baby close to the window, make sure the light from the window is coming from the side or towards the top of the baby’s head.
- Please remember, you’re not creating a Pinterest board, you’re documenting life as it is in these few hours. So it’s perfectly fine to be in your sweats, or your PJ’s, or whatever you’re comfortable in. A simple housecoat looks great and authentic. Brush your hair, throw some lipgloss on, and you’re good to go!
- Partners and siblings look good in simple, neutral clothing that won’t take the focus away from the baby. Stay away from neon colours, or shirts with characters or writing.
- The green hospital blanket is an iconic part of every baby born here in BC’s story! Use that in at least some of your photos, and then supplement with a special wrap if you’d like. The focus should be on the newness and raw beauty of your new baby, so nothing beats a simple white onesie to show off that baby skin and rolls. Leave the outfits for your newborn session later.
- The safety and comfort of your baby is more important than any photo. Please do not attempt any poses that you see newborn photographers do – they are trained in newborn safety and posing.
- Listen for baby’s cues. Your little one may start to tell you they have had enough. And pace yourself – you just had a baby and will need rest! If you need to break it up over a few hours, thats A-OK!
- Take loads of images so you can choose the best of the best. On your phone, VSCO is a great app for editing your newborn images.
Your Must-Have Shots
1. The Overhead Portrait
A straight-on, overhead photo of your new addition is probably going to make the birth announcement! It is a beautiful portrait of your new baby, and it doesn’t matter whether your baby is awake or asleep.
- Move the bassinet right next to the window for this shot, and stand on a stool to get a full-body overhead shot. Then come in closer for a headshot. Be sure to wear a neck strap for your camera when positioned over your baby.
- It is best if baby is either facing straight up, or facing the window.
2. The Bassinet
The bassinet is your newborn’s first bed, and helps tell the story of their first few hours on earth. Don’t worry if the bassinet isn’t super clear – it’s typical and you’ll chuckle over it eventually!
- Find a few different angles and show off your baby lying in their bassinet, all snuggled up. Be sure to catch the iconic shot in front of the window (the lighting will be super tricky for this shot – just do your best!)
3. The Name Card
You will probably keep the hospital issue ID card for the scrapbook, but taking these photos with baby in them is priceless.
- Focus on the name card – it is OK if the baby is out of focus for this photo.
- Feel free to get creative and add a letter board welcoming your newborn – it makes a great baby announcement!
4. All the Tiny Details
These are my favourite newborn photos to take in the hospital, because these are the things you will notice changing in a matter of days.
- Get in close! Focus on one body part, and fill the whole screen with these tiny features.
- Think “top to toe” … start by photographing baby’s wisps of hair, the eyelashes, the little nose pimples, the layer of fluff on shoulders, milk-chapped lips, wrinkly fingers, clamped belly button, loose skin or plump rolls, and my favourite … those teeny toes.
5. The New Family
Believe it or not, but the family photo is often forgotten – and it’s arguably the most important of all the newborn photos! Perhaps that is because it means asking a nurse or another family member to take the photo.
- On the bed is a natural place for the family to come together. Don’t hesitate to move the hospital bed closer to the window in the room to ensure the best light.
- Turn everyone’s bodies towards the window at about a 45-60 degree angle
- Snuggle in close, making sure everyone is touching someone – no dangling hands!
6. Mom and Newborn
I like to focus on the connection between mom and baby – ask your partner to do the same by not only taking the one “smiling at the camera” shot, but also to record the interaction between mom and hew new little one.
- Mom should be resting most of the time after birth – so right on the bed, slightly angled towards the window, is good enough to get a variety of shots. No need for mom to move – the photographer should be the one moving around!
- It is likely that mom’s tummy is still very swollen, so make sure to focus on shots from the chest up, or position baby or siblings in front of mom. We want you to focus on how gorgeous you are looking at your newborn, and not worry about a (perfectly natural) postpartum body!
7. Dad and Newborn
With Dads, it is always touching to focus on just how little that baby looks in his hands.
- Beyond the “smiling at the camera” photo, look for opportunities to showcase Dad’s size. Head in hands, and grasping a finger, are two classic shots.
- Encourage dad to show some vulnerability … closing his eyes, kissing his baby, chatting to his baby. Those are bound to become mom’s favourite shots.
How special is the day when your baby becomes a big brother or sister! Their reactions can range from joy, to curiosity, to apathy, and everything in between! Be ready for any reaction!
- Always have another adult present to be close to baby while taking photos with siblings. Start with low expectations – they may not cooperate and that’s ok. If they lose patience, rather try those photos another time.
- Having the sibling peek into the bassinet (while standing on a stool) is a classic shot, but don’t be afraid to also pick up baby and bring him/her down to the sibling’s level.
- Encourage interaction. If they are fascinated with the new baby, you could simply ask them to kiss baby, or stroke baby’s head. If they’re not liking the new addition (it happens!), asking them silly questions like “Does the baby smell like chocolate?”, or “I bet you can’t find baby’s fingers!” is enough to get them engaging.
Even if you think you don’t want feeding photos, take them anyway. Please. You will long for these moments one day.
- My favourite feeding position is taken from right over mom’s shoulder. It is the same perspective that mom sees (and the one you will miss!)
- Ask the person taking the photo to also take an overall shot of just you and your baby feeding.
10. The Hospital
Look, there’s nothing pretty about hospitals! But it’s an important detail in the story of the first 48 hours. There are four must-have shots:
- The outside of the hospital (it also helps you remember the weather on the day you baby was born)
- The maternity ward (make sure no staff are in these photos)
- Your room number (and/or somewhere it shows your name)
- The lovely chaos of your room – the coffee cups, slippers, flowers … whatever your reality looked like in those first hours.
There are few things more real, raw, and emotional than having a baby. But for most parents, those first few hours after delivery is simply a blur.
I realize that newborn photos may just feel like too much in this time.
If you feel that you want to take this time to fully live in the moment, without worrying about the added task of capturing these important newborn photos, please consider hiring me for a Fresh 48 session. In this 45-minute session, I will capture the type of photos I write about above, and so much more! Your only job will be to hold your little one, close your eyes while breathing in their newness, and let the wonderment of this blessing flow over you as you look into their eyes. I will do the rest.