April 27, 2020

Guide to Photographing Your Own Baby During the Pandemic

2020 has not been what anyone expected so far, as COVID-19 forces us all to close up our businesses and stay in our homes. This is a hard time for many. I am really feeling for all the families having babies right now, who don’t have the support system they normally would and who can’t share their precious new baby with their loved ones like they planned. 

There is a growing number of babies being born that I was supposed to photograph, and that’s now on hold. Babies don’t keep, as they say, so hopefully I’ll be able to get them into the studio sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, I thought I’d put together a little DIY newborn photography guide for those of you with newborns (or who will soon have newborns) to get some great photos on your own while you’re stuck at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The pictures in this post were taken with my Canon 5d Mark iii camera, but you can do some great DIY newborn photography with whatever camera you have. Even if it’s just your iPhone!

*Fellow newborn photographers, please do not copy, but feel free to share the link to this post with your clients as well.*

At the Hospital

Thanks to Coronavirus, it isn’t safe for visitors (including photographers) to come see you at the hospital when your baby is first born. Hospital sessions are one type of session that obviously cannot be postponed until later on, so I’ll start with some tips for capturing your baby’s first couple days.

diy coronavirus fresh 48 photos

First of all, take it slow.

You just gave birth, mama! Most hospitals still let your spouse or partner be with you, so pass the camera off to them if you’re having a tough recovery. While you’re at it, tell them to scoop up all the clutter and stash it in a corner of the room, so it’s not in your photos as a distraction (aka cell phones, snacks, chargers, bags, etc). I’d also recommend warming up your room a bit if you have control of the heat. That way you can get some photos without baby swaddled.

The best time for capturing these photos is during the day, when there is plenty of natural light.

Turn off any artificial lights in your room, as these can cause unpleasant shadows and color casts. Turn off the flash on your camera (or phone) too. Using window light is quite simple when you get your angle right, and the light is much more flattering. Try to remember to keep the light to the side (rather than behind the subject or directly behind the person taking the photos). See in the image below how nice the light and shadows look with the window to the side?

diy coronavirus fresh 48 photographer massachusetts

The bassinet is the perfect place to capture photos of your baby alone.

Here’s a little doodle of how I like to have the bassinet set up for ideal lighting. If the sun is coming in harshly through your window (really distinct highlighted areas in the room) just avoid those hot spots, or wait until a bit later when the sun is higher than your window and the light is softer/ more even in your room.

diy coronavirus fresh 48 photography

If you’re using a DSLR camera and feel comfortable shooting in manual or aperture-priority mode, try to aim for a wider open aperture (the smallest number f-stop). This will give your photos a nice shallow depth of field with the background falling out of focus. If this sounds like gibberish to you, move on and don’t worry about it at all.

Get lots of photos of your baby in the bassinet– swaddled, with the hospital hat both on and off, and unswaddled if baby lets you! I take these photos mostly from directly above, standing on a chair to get high enough up (so maybe best to have your partner take these). Be on the opposite side of the bassinet from the window so you aren’t blocking the light. You can also grab some shots from the side.

diy coronavirus fresh 48 photography
diy coronavirus fresh 48 photography
diy coronavirus fresh 48 photography

Your angle matters!

An important tip for photos like the ones above is to shoot at or above eye level, rather than “up the nose”. Staying straight on to the face makes for a more flattering portrait.

Make sure to also capture lots of detail shots of your tiny babe!

Hands, feet, profile. This is a great opportunity to incorporate parent’s hands into the photos to really show some scale. Babies look extra tiny when there’s an adult sized hand cradling their teeny head.

diy coronavirus fresh 48 photography

Important to remember!

Please let yourself be in some photos, you will be glad later even if you don’t feel beautiful right now. Get photos of your partner with your baby too– these show the most feeling and the most scale.

diy coronavirus fresh 48 photography

I hope these tips will help guide you to getting some wonderful shots of your new baby before you head home from the hospital. Remember, any pictures you take will be wonderful memories, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

At Home

The first couple of weeks home with baby are such a blur. They grow so fast and suddenly you can barely remember how small they once were. This is why newborn photo sessions are so popular. But even if you can’t make it to my studio right away when your baby is born, you can still capture some great images with your camera or phone at home in the meantime until we get you in here!

diy newborn photography coronavirus

Start by picking a room that gets great indirect natural window light.

You’re going to want to set up right next to the window or a sliding glass door. If the light has harsh hot spots and shadows, use white curtains to soften the light, or wait until later in the day when the sun isn’t directly outside the window anymore. If possible, select a room that has neutral or light toned walls, so there won’t be any color casts on the baby (i.e. blue walls will give your baby a blue tint in photos). Turn off any artificial lights like ceiling lights or lamps, and turn off the flash on your camera. Natural light only for these!

Heat up that room!

Baby just spent nine months in nearly 100° heat, so he is going to feel most sleepy and relaxed if you jack up your heat to 80° or so for a short while.

Grab baby’s crib mattress.

This will be an easy surface to pose baby on. If you happen to have chosen a bedroom to do the photos in, even easier– you can use the bed as your posing surface. For backdrops, stick to neutral color blankets etc. You can get creative with the term blanket– in addition to blankets in my studio I use plain stretchy fabric, scarves, even some cut up old knit sweaters. You’ll also want to collect a bunch of burp clothes– use these to stuff underneath your posing blanket to keep baby in place.

Please enjoy my excellent drawing skills in the doodle below, which hopefully gives a helpful visual of the easiest setup for best light. Basically you want the light to be coming from the side the whole time. If baby’s face looks too shadowy, spin the mattress or shift the baby so more light falls on the face.

DIY Newborn photography coronavirus

Remember, safety is the most important thing here.

Newborns are delicate and no photo is worth putting them at any sort of risk to get hurt. Pinterest ideas are NOT your friend here. Many poses by professional newborn photographers require training, years of practice, and sometimes photoshop magic to create. Instead, keep it simple and be inspired by your own baby.

Here are some simple pose ideas to start off with.

Give your baby a nice full feeding before you get started, so they are happy and sleepy. Keep them in just a diaper while you are feeding so you don’t have to disturb them by taking clothes off after they’ve fallen asleep. If your baby is still awake and a little fussy after eating, start with a swaddle. Neutral colors without patterns work best.

Something to remember for capturing flattering images is to keep baby’s head elevated (use your burp cloths to create a cushion underneath the baby’s head). Keeping the baby’s face closest to the camera makes it easier for the viewer to focus on it, as well as making the baby look nice and tiny. In the photos below, the babies were probably at about a 45° angle.

Take your photos from the baby’s eye level, not below. “Up the nose” shots can distort baby’s features and just generally aren’t the most flattering angle.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

Now gently take baby’s arms out of the swaddle, take a photo before moving on, and grab another blanket to put over the swaddled part of the baby. Tuck it under the sides of your crib mattress to keep it snug.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

Slowly unwrap the swaddle from baby and set it aside. Use your top blanket to cover baby’s diaper area and grab another shot. In the image below, I’m actually using a stretchy scarf that is underneath the baby, and just folded over to cover him a bit.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

Take off the top blanket so you’re showing baby’s whole body. Curl them up a bit and stuff your burp cloths underneath to keep them in place.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

I made this little video on doing some simple baby shots using an iPhone. Check it out below and please forgive me because my husband and I are not professional videographers, nor did we have mics so you can totally hear the camera’s autofocus the whole time.

Below, you can see the resulting iPhone images I took. I’ve shown before (left side) and afters (right side), since I did some basic edits using an app called Snapseed on my phone. Lightroom Mobile is another app you can download (for free!) that makes it easy to make any adjustments you might need to make. You can also purchase presets if you want. I don’t have any, but have heard good things about Honeywild Presets.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

Make sure to incorporate lots of close-ups and detail shots as you go.

Hands, feet, lips, hair. I also LOVE shots with parent’s hands in them because it really shows the scale of how small your little newborn is. Rather than trying to accomplish a long list of poses, keep it simple and just get lots of different angles and details of each thing you do.

diy newborn photography coronavirus
diy newborn photography coronavirus

You can get some really timeless shots with just a white onesie on a white blanket.

Like with the poses above, you can get many different angles and crops of the same pose, so get inspired by all the perfect little parts of your baby.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

Please please please make sure to get yourself into some photos!

The best way to remember how truly tiny and perfect your baby was is to see them snuggled into you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got hair & makeup done, or if you haven’t showered in a week– it’s just important to be in that photo with your little one. Get some of your partner too! Stand near the window for these and remember to keep the light mainly from the side, or at a 45° angle.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

If you want to try for a really unique image, do a pose of baby in your partner’s hands on a black blanket.

Black fleece works best, but any super dark blanket/ fabric will do. Have your partner sit, tuck it over his shoulders and drape it over his lap. Have just his arms out with baby’s head in his hands. No long sleeved shirts for this one. This picture requires some photoshop to get the background truly black all around, but feel free to reach out to me for help.

diy newborn photography coronavirus

It’s also wonderful to get some environmental shots as well.

Just remember to pay attention to having your nice window light, and to the angles you’re shooting at to make sure you’re getting flattering pro-looking photos. I love crib photos because baby looks SO darn small and precious.

diy newborn photography coronavirus
diy newborn photography coronavirus

If you’ve made it through this whole thing, I applaud you!

I really hope these tips can help you get the best photos you can during a time where you don’t have access to a professional newborn photographer. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions! Good luck and please know, I MISS YOU ALL. I cannot wait to get back to photographing babies and families again.