So, as you would have seen, each week I am trying to post some blogs that I feel might be useful during lockdown. One of the big topics I had listed to write about was this one, "how to photograph your newborn during lockdown". I was then approached by several clients asking if I could produce some tips too, so I definitely knew it would be welcomed.
It breaks my heart that I can't do this for you at the moment. So for any of my booked clients, here is a little something until I can welcome you back and capture those lovely professional shots. For any one else who was due to have some professional photographs with another photographer, or had yet to book, I hope this helps you too. Please share this as much as possible as I would love nothing more than to help as many people as I can during this difficult time.
The first thing I wish to talk about though, is safety. Please, please DO NOT attempt to even try to replicate any of the poses that you see on my page. These poses take training and years of practise to master and doing them without could cause a harm to your baby. Many of the images are carried out via composites, where hands are placed on baby and removed during editing. And those that aren't, are done, paying care and attention to airways and limb placement. Make sure you do not walk off and leave your baby at any time, place them on any dangerous surfaces, place them in props that could topple over or dangle them from any self made hammocks or such like.
When is the best age to take my photos
The beauty you have as parents, is that you have time on your side. I recommend capturing those first few moments, the really sleepy shots within the first two weeks and I will schedule my shoots within a 3-4 hour period. You are with your baby every day so take your time. I usually wait for baby's to be at least 5 days before I start to photograph them. This gives a little time for any swelling on baby's head or face to reduce and for some of the redness or jaundice to soften. It also allows a little time for Mum and baby to establish feeding and therefore Mummy and Baby are a little more settled. Plus Mums deserves a little rest after all of her hard work during the birth.
Preparing your baby to have some photos and the best time of the day
When you photograph your baby can make a huge difference. Generally most babies are sleepiest and most content in the morning. They have likely been up during the night (still on nocturnal time) and will therefore be tired in the morning. By the afternoon most babies will become fussier and more feeding starts to take place. Mid morning would make an ideal time.
Preparation is key to taking some nice shots too. You don't want to have an unhappy baby who is due to be fed or who has a dirty nappy, so there are a few things you can do to ensure everything is as calm as possible. Firstly, from the moment you wake up, give your baby some awake time and allow them to kick about on a change mat and perhaps give them a bath and a wash to help. This will help to make them tired. Then ensure your baby has a clean nappy and feed them. The idea is to make them sleepy and give them a full belly. That said, do not stress or worry if you baby refuses to sleep - it can happen. As long as they are settled you can get some awake shots and try for sleepy ones the next day.
Also, make sure the room you are going to use is warm. During my newborn shoots, I have a fan heater and I make sure that the room replicates that of the womb (it's very tropical in there)! This is particularly important if baby is naked or partially naked when you take your images. So around 23-24 degrees is ideal. If you are planing to just keep them in their clothes, then a lower temp of 18-20 will be fine.
Also, find some white noise and have this on as loud as you can. White noise is my best friend and it is used in every shoot of mine. You will find lots of FREE apps that you can add to your phone. The hairdryer is my particular favourite. This will help to keep baby nice and settled and sleepy too.
Think ahead and plan where to photograph your precious new bundle. Lighting is key and whilst studio lighting has it's place in professional photography, when you have no natural light source, you can easily find somewhere in your house that will do the job perfectly.
Find a room in your house that has the biggest window. This could be a standard room window, or even better a large patio window. To achieve nice soft lighting, especially on a really bright sunny day, you will need to 'diffuse' the light. A sheer curtain/voile or very thin piece of white material will do this too.
When photographing your baby, position them so that the light is coming in and down the baby's head. So for example, if your window is to the left of you, place baby so that there head is to the left also or visa versa. The light ideally should be coming down your baby's head/face at 45 degree angle. Make sure you turn off any ceiling or lamp lights too.
What to place baby on
As I mentioned at the start, do not attempt to 'pose' your baby. Stick to placing them on their back, or side at the most. You can take lots of different images with your baby on their back so there is no need to try and do anything that may put your baby at risk.
Lay them on something soft but firm ideally. The mattress of their cot could be a great option or a change mat layered with blankets to add a little extra cushioning, or a large sofa cushion (the bit you sit on that forms the sofa). Be sure to have it at a height that is safe, or if it needs to be placed a little higher, like on a bed for example to catch the light, have it away from the edge and have someone else with you to help ensure baby is safe whilst you take the images. You may wish to cover it in something to create a backdrop like a blanket or coloured sheet. It's amazing what materials you will find around your house if you look hard enough. Whatever you use, try and pull it tightly over the cushioning so you don't have any creases at all and you have a nice flat surface. Creases will detract your eyes when you look at the images later. So pull it nice and tight.
How to place baby
Angles are everything when photographing newborn babies. Lay them down on their back but you may want to pop a little rolled up muslin cloth under the head, under the blanket to prop the head to a nice angle. The biggest rule.....DO NOT SHOOT UP THE BABY's NOSE. The reason why I have put this in bold is because I just remember my trainer telling me this in a very clear, firm way and doing so helped me to always remember this rule. When I teach my students, I say it in this way too and it really does stick. So make sure you cannot see your baby's nostrils when you go to take a shot. If you can move yourself a little higher/above them so you can take the photo down their head, this way you will avoid it. Seeing baby nostrils in a photo is very unflattering. Always try to position yourself over baby so you can angle your phone or your camera down their head/face. Position your eyes level with their eyes and this will help too. So from this position with baby on their back, have a play with angles. Angles are everything! Take shots from above them, come round to the side but remembering these key rules at all times. If you can see nostrils, move a little higher or to the side, position your camera down when you take the shot. Focus on their chest up and capture the face, then take some of fingers, toes, close up shots of their nose, eyes, ears. All the little details are so important and the tiny fingers and toes will never be that tiny again. If you want different looks, you can use different coloured sheets, change their clothes, add a muslin wrap to place over the top of them.
Wrapping is a very special technique and again one that requires practice and skill to ensure it is safe. In essence it is a swaddle. You can achieve a similar look however if you wanted to contain your little one's arms to keep them out of the way when capturing their face. Using a long muslin square or thin piece of fabric/blanket, place baby in the centre. Keep their arms by their sides and fold one side over the body and tuck in under their back, then fold over the other side, with a good amount of tension and tuck in behind their back. Make sure you have folded this clear of their neck and airways and tight enough to stay in place and to feel nice and secure for your baby but not so tight it would be dangerous. If you wish to use any hats, bonnets or hair ties, please ensure you do so with safety in mind first. Use them for the image and then take them off immediately after. Also bear in mind what they look like too. You don't want to overcrowd the image and detract from your baby, especially with something that is too big.
Taking a shot of your baby full length from the side can be lovely too but when it is taken from the right angle. So when your baby is flat and you are looking at them straight on, stand near to the end of your baby's head. So if their head is on the right , you should be further to the right too. Also place their legs and feet slightly further back than the head, so that the legs are trailing off into the background. Avoid those nostrils and shoot down.
Keep this really simple. Again safety is key, so the best position for your older child and your baby is laying down. This way your older child doesn't have any responsibility of holding them which can also look awkward and often you cannot see your baby's face. So have them both laying down. Either placing them on the soft bed you have created above, or lay them on a nice soft rug if you have one. Rugs are great and look really cozy. Ensure you apply the same lighting rule with the light as above too. Place your baby in the crook of your eldest childs arm and have them place the other arm on top for extra security. If your child is really small then have another adult nearby incase they decide to up and leave. You want someone to keep baby safe. When everyone is in position, come above them, your eye level to their eye level, avoiding the nostrils and snap away.
Now getting a photograph of parents and baby may be tricky during lockdown when you are isolating from others. If you have an older child that is capable of pressing the button on a camera or phone then try the same pose as above. Place baby in the middle of you both and have your little one take a pic from above you. You could take individual shots of each other too. Focus on the chest up rather than full length as this enables you to capture faces clearly and capture the 'close' moments. Capture those details too of Dad or Mummy holding baby's hands or stroking their head. These close ups are magic.
The most important thing, is whilst they may not be the professional images you wish for, the clearest of shots, the most styled of shots, they are still precious moments of a precious time that you will not get back. There will still be plenty of time for those professional shots to take place as there are so many glorious stages of your baby's first year. Use the time you have, if you don't feel you got it right the first day, try again the next. Have fun and just remember that any image you take is a memory. A memory of a yawn, a cry, a sleepy face or even a poo face ( they all have them). And it's all about freezing the moments in time in the best way you possibly can.
I would love nothing more than to see your images, so please feel free to email me or message me with your snaps! Happy photographing. Remember, this won't last forever, so if you want to get in touch about any future sessions, please do not hesitate to do so by emailing me at - [email protected]