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How to DIY Newborn Portraits During COVID-19
What the world needs now is a reason to celebrate, and a new baby is a great reason for that!
Due to the social distancing restrictions and health recommendations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am currently not able to shoot my tiniest clients. It is breaking my heart to tell my new mum’s that I cannot shoot their beautiful new babies at the moment, but keeping them safe, as wells my own family safe, at this time is my number one priority.
Newborn babies are so precious and perfect, and they change so quickly. I wanted to give my lovely clients some guidance though on capturing their own newborn portraits at home during this time. Even if it is only on their iPhone. So here are my tips taking your own newborn photos from home.
Best case scenario – you have a DSLR stashed away in the house and a beautiful lens., but even if all you have is an iPhone, the best camera is the one you have, don’t let the right or the wrong gear stop you from creating beautiful memories of this precious time.
It is the most important thing. Window light (or God light as I have heard another photographer call it) is all you need and it is all I use for all of my sessions. But I do not use direct sunlight, I use sheer curtains over my windows in my studio for all my sessions to filter the light, and make it nice and even and soft on the skin.
Now you may not have sheer curtains over your windows, but as long as you don’t have direct sunlight streaming through your window then you will be fine. You may need to shoot in the morning, or in the afternoon, depending on what the light is like in the room you are going to use. For my studio sessions I shoot on a north facing window, so I have to have sheer curtains to filter the direct sunlight which streams through all day as you can see in the photo above. But in my master bedroom, the window is south facing and has no direct light coming through at any time of the day, so I could shoot in front of that window all day with no problem from direct light as shown in the photo below.
- Location & Set Up
Location. Location. Location.
This is also really important. You don’t need a professional studio. In fact, when I first started my business I went to my client’s homes and set up my shoots in their bedrooms and lounge.
Regardless of what room I am shooting in, my preference is always for a clean neutral palette for the background, so white linen on the master bed makes for a perfect backdrop. Keep the background simple, clean, and fresh so that your baby will be the highlight. Position baby so that the light from the window is coming from above their head, rather than from below their chin (you don’t want to light up their nostrils).
I took this wide shot (below) on my iPhone to show you an example using my master bedroom for newborn portraits. I used my daughter’s baby doll, a simple white stretch wrap and a little bonnet. I positioned baby so that the window was above his head, with the light falling down his face.
Below you can see some examples of the a type of image I would usually take with a baby in this position. The first is on my iPhone (with the baby doll from the set up in the photo above), and edited using my Lightroom app on my iPhone. The following photos are examples of my client photos in this same pose. In this simple pose adding a parents hands, a sibling kissing babies head, or even letting those little toes or little fingers peek out, are all great variations of this pose without having to move baby much, if at all.
- Clothing and Wraps
Ditch the clothes, at this age they don’t fit. A nappy and a wrap is all you need to capture your tiny human. Make sure your room is nice and warm and either capture your little wrapped in a simple wrap, just in a nappy, or even naked.
The wraps I always use in my sessions have stretch to them, and are usually a jersey knit fabric. But you can use any wrap, or piece of material that you like. In fact, some of my favourite wraps which I use, are actually scarves. Keep your wrap simple, you don’t needs lots of patterns and pictures on it, you want your baby to be the focus.
Using a beautiful knitted blanket can also be both very special and beautiful. One of my favourite poses is to pose baby to look like they are tucked into bed with the blanket over them. I do this almost every session and is great if baby is already wrapped up, but works well to show those little fingers and hands as well if baby prefers to sleep unwrapped.
In this set up the blanket on top is just laid over the top of the already wrapped up baby whilst they are on the beanbag I use in my sessions – or the master bed as in the set up below using my iPhone. This style of shot could easily be replicated when baby is asleep in their bassinet or crib. And it is a wonderful pose for capturing lots of different facial expressions if baby is awake, or just waking up.
- Tips for big siblings photos
Getting a photo of your new baby and their big brother or sister is so special. Of course, toddlers who have just had a new baby arrive into their life sometimes are not as cooperative as we would hope. But a few tricks can get you photos you will love.
First, have baby wrapped up nice and snug and asleep before trying to get a sibling in the frame works is best. When you have baby ready, then invite your older child in for a photo. A simple, “Kiss baby on the head” with a parents guidance can get the perfect photo.
If siblings are feeling very enthusiastic about their new sibling, asking them to count babies toes can also be super sweet.
Older siblings might even love to cuddle baby (With very close supervision of course – you can’t see it from the photo below because of the wonder of Photoshop, but Dad was actually sitting right next to baby and big sister in the photo helping to support baby in big sisters arms). Having big sister or brother sitting on Dad’s lap for a cuddle with baby is another great way to get this shot.
For younger siblings lying next to baby either on the bed or on a soft rug on the floor for some gentle cuddles and maybe even a kiss is a great alternative.
Sibling photos can be hard to get. So if your older child doesn’t want to cooperate and you can’t get the photo you want, try again at another time. Sometimes I find an older sibling will wonder over to where we are shooting when I am doing photos of just baby alone and I can quickly ask them to give baby a kiss for me and I get the shot that I wasn’t able to get earlier.
Another set of hands is a must for sibling photos. Dads are great at flying a rambunctious toddler into the room for a quick kiss on babies head before zooming them back out again. Below you can see the behind the scenes shot and then the final shot I managed to capture of Reggie and his rambunctious big brother.
- Capture all the little facial expressions
A yawn, a smile, a stretch, a little sideways smirk. With newborns these different expressions are so fleeting but worth capturing. The most common times to get these little expressions is when baby is just falling asleep, or when they are about ready to wake up.
When baby has just had a feed, a burp and a clean nappy, but not yet asleep, is also another great time to get some movement and great facial expressions, not to mention big open eyes.
- Capture the details of your new baby
Tiny fingers and toes, all the little features of your new baby. Details are so important at this age, and so unique. Capture these. Fill your frame with these details by getting in close. Use a parents hands to show the scale of how tiny your babies fingers are.
- Get in the frame
This is my final tip for taking your own photos of your newborn baby. PLEASE get in the frame even when you are tired and feel yuck. Get dad in the frame with his big Dad hands, and ask him to take a photo of Mum with baby as well. My tip is to make sure the camera is shooting from higher than Mum, angling down towards her, and you don’t need a full body shot. Head and shoulders with baby close to mums face, is all you need.
Silhouettes are great for hiding how tired you both are feeling, but show just how tiny your new baby is. Position mum or dad with baby in front of the window and shoot directly towards to the light to get this silhouette effect. Use the self timer to get you both in the frame. It is how I get all of my own family portraits.
If you really don’t want to be in the frame, use your hands to show how tiny baby is
Finally, Congratulations. I hope that my tips for taking your own newborn photos was helpful. And when all this is over, I would LOVE to capture some beautiful family portraits for you. Every age is beautiful and so special to capture and I would love to create those family keepsakes for you to treasure.