The Newborn stage is so fleeting that if you blink you’ll miss it. Whilst a large number of people opt to book the services of a professional photographer, that’s not to say you can’t get some great images yourself. Even if you have booked a professional you might want to capture some of your own images too. Let’s face it you can never take too many photos. Whether you are using a phone or lucky enough to have a DSLR, it makes no difference just keep snapping away.
During shoots parents often ask me for tips on how to take their own images, so I thought I would put ‘pen to paper’ and write a blog.
Firstly you don’t have to achieve a full gallery in one day. Unlike a professional photographer you have more than a four hour window to work with. This means you can pace yourself. Try getting a couple of shots each day. You have a few weeks at your disposal. Contrary to what most photographers say I think you have a six-week window of opportunity. This is based on my own experience of the last 7 years of photographing Newborns. Don’t forget you’ve just had a baby so don’t over do it, aim to do one or two images each day at most. Also remember that all babies are different, and everyone has off days so don’t be disheartened of you don’t succeed the first time.
Before you start ensure your little one has a full tummy. Feed them until they are “milk drunk”. A warm room really helps them to feel sleepy so turn the heating up or put a fan heater in the room before and during the shoot. I find most baby’s don’t object to being naked if they are warm. White noise also helps. There are quite a few apps you can get for phones these days, I find them very effective.
Make sure your baby is safe, some of the poses that you see on photographers websites are actually two images that have been merged together, these are called ‘composite’ images, this is done so that the baby is supported at all times, those supporting hands are then edited out using software such as Photoshop. I would also recommend having someone to ‘spot’ for you. Meaning while you are concentrating on getting the images someone can watch your baby to make sure they are safe and comfortable.
Lighting is a crucial component to all photography. I understand that most new parents won’t have the luxury of a studio light and soft box. So use window light. But please note not all window light is the same, the best natural light sources are large windows on the north or south side of your home. As the height of the sun changes throughout the day, so will the light change. You may find what works for a morning shoot might not work for late afternoon. There are phone apps that will help you locate the angle of the sun, so these can help too. If you are finding the light is very strong, use a gauze fabric over the window, or I have heard of people using a cheap Ikea shower curtain, which did exactly the same thing. It can be temporarily taped to the window.
Soft lighting, with soft shadows can be flattering, but strong shadows can also add impact to an image. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
It helps if the room you shoot in is fairly neutral in colour too. Otherwise you can get a colour casts on your subject. I always wear white when I’m shooting, for this very reason.
Place your little one to a 45 degree angle to the light, you are looking for them to have a shadow underneath their nose. Try to always have the light coming across the top of their heads and down. Aim to avoid horror lighting, which would be the light going up their noses.
Don’t be afraid to try different angles and move around. This way you will maximize the shots that you can achieve without moving your baby. Make sure you capture all the details, fingers, toes, noses, sucking blister, tuft of hair, it’s the little details that you’ll forget about. If you are getting in close and are lucky enough to have a macro lens, you might also need to raise the ISO on your camera.
If you are not comfortable using manual mode on your camera, the best thing your can do is use a portrait mode, this way your camera will know that you are aiming for a shallow depth of field.
Try and include siblings, if they are old enough they may be able to help by holding their little brother or sister. Make sure you get someone that can take some photos of you with your baby too!
And last but not least. Print those images! I hear too many horror stories of digital images being lost. If you print them you won’t lose them. Good luck!