Tip 1: Plan ahead and take your time
Preparation is key! A few extra steps will help you make the most of your shoot. Involve your partner and plan together. Choose outfits for everyone. Have a basic prop on hand, like a soft blanket in a flattering color. Most important, decide on a location, preferably as close to a window as possible.
Choose a moment when all your baby's needs have been met. Samantha Lemmon, a family photographer, recommends feeding the baby 30 to 45 minutes before you're planning to shoot to keep your baby calm and sleepy. She also recommends playing white noise (such as a recording of ocean waves on a beach) in the background to help soothe your baby.
Tip 2: Keep it simple
The secret to capturing quality photos is "less is more." The simpler your shoot is, the more timeless it will be. Stick with neutral colors for your outfits and consider having your baby's clothes match yours. Patterns are great, but keep them at a minimum. Pick neutrals or pale pastel swaddles and blankets. This brightens up your picture and does wonders for your skin tone. Toning down your surroundings and your outfits brings the focus to the moment.
Tip 3: Use natural lighting
If you are shooting inside, plan on doing it during the brightest time of the day. Pick a window that offers the most direct lighting in the hospital or your house. Turn off all the artificial lights inside – they tend to cast a weird tone to your and your baby's skin. Avoid using a flash – it makes skin tones look garish and harsh. You're trying to capture the softness and tenderness of your first days with your baby, and bright, natural light will help you translate this mood into your photos. For best results, don't shoot directly into the light. Keep the light source at your back instead.
Katie Rain, a San Francisco newborn and family photographer, suggests laying the baby on a soft blanket on the floor, parallel to a window. Turn the baby's head toward the window light for soft and even lighting, and take the photo from above.
Tip 4: Don't worry about posing
Go for a more candid shoot. Natural poses will be easier for everyone, especially your baby. Leave the customized poses to the professional photographers who have access to a lot of photoshopping. Moving and bending your newborn into such poses might be risky and unsafe. Instead, go for classic, authentic shots of just your swaddled baby napping in the crib, or mom holding the baby while sitting on a rocker, or dad kissing the baby's forehead.
Tip 5: Capture the details!
There are a lot of details that parents – even photographers – often overlook. These are the little details that you will feel nostalgic about when your baby grows up, like her tiny feet, itty-bitty fingers that wrap around your one finger, wisps of hair on top of her head, umbilical stump, and adorable toothless mouth – especially when she yawns. Make sure to include these things in your shoot!
Tip 6: Be in the photo
Your baby may be the star of this shoot – but don't forget about mom. Involve your partner and ask him or her to take pictures. Also take pictures of your partner holding the baby. If you're in the hospital, your nurse might be more than happy to snap some shots of your new family together. Don't be shy about asking for help.
Tip 7: Keep safety in mind
Last and most important of all: Do everything with safety as your priority. Always keep an eye on your baby while taking pictures to make sure that she is secure and not at risk of falling. When taking pictures from above, make sure you have solid footing and have a good grasp of your camera or phone. (If your camera has a strap, wear it!)
Smartphone technical tips
If you're shooting with your phone, make sure to utilize all your phone camera's secret features. Here are some of them:
- Locking in the focus: You can tap the screen to indicate where you want to focus. You can also tap and hold on your focal point until you see a yellow box pop up with the letters "AE/AF." This will stop your phone from trying to focus on other prominent things in your shot. Tap the shutter button when you're ready to take the picture. Remember, take your time.
- Adjusting exposure: Tap on your subject and hold. You will then see a sun icon pop up. Slide your finger up and down to adjust the brightness of your shot. Tap the shutter button when you're ready to take your picture.
- Portrait mode: This mode (available on more recent smartphone models) replicates what professional cameras do – dramatic blurring of the background. You'd be amazed!
- Volume button shutter: You can try using the volume buttons of your phone to take a picture. You'll be able to hold your phone like how you would a camera, therefore giving you more stability in snapping your picture.
- Third-party apps: Play with photo-editing apps like VSCO, Afterlight, or even Instagram. Use the filters, adjust the brightness and colors, and even crop your images, giving your photos that extra oomph.
Camera with manual mode technical tips
If you're shooting with a camera and are able to manually adjust the settings, keep your aperture within f1.8 to f2.2. Shooting with a shallow depth of field makes the background blurry and softer, giving all the focus to your baby and you.
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Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.