My thoughts are with the pregnant families right now. It is such and special time, and I am sure a stressful time. Since photographers are unable to take newborn photos, I thought I would give some tips that I learned from my years taking photos and pass them on to you.
Your photos may not look the same as professional photos and that's ok. When I took photos of my youngest, they were not professional quality, but they are priceless to me. Babies are energy-based and will pick up on your anxiety and frustration, so just relax and go with the flow. Keep the room warm, the baby fed, and the baby burped, and use the 5 S's if needed: swaddle, side or stomach position, shush (check out the Baby Shusher), swing or jiggle, and suck. This comes from the Happiest Baby of the Block book and DVD/StreamingVideo. It is easier and less messy to keep the diaper on. You can put baby in a onesie or swaddle to cover diaper. If you have other children, have a book or quiet activity to do with baby and treats for after the photos. And come with a sense of humor and lots of patience and an attitude that this will be a chance to connect as a family.
Don't worry if you don't have a fancy camera - try to put your phone on portrait mode if you have it to get some blur and make sure your lens is clean. Keep it simple and safe, so you do not need any props.
What to Wear
Have the family wear comfortable, simple, neutral-cored clothing. Stay away from logos, words, and characters on shirts, and neon colors. For inspiration go to www.pinterest.com/amymengphoto/what-to-wear-for-photos/ Again newborns are best in a simple white stretchy swaddle or a white onesie with or without sleeves, sized premie or newborn. The less outfit changes you make with baby the happier they will be, so planning to put them in several outfits will not make for a happy photo shoot. Also remember you want your clothing to add to you, not distract from the family or baby. Again swaddling baby is magic because it helps keep baby bundled and their arms from moving in the photos.
This is the most important thing in photography. Try to take your photos in the rooms that get the best gentle window light. (not direct sunlight). North or south facing windows are great! If there is enough window light, turn off your overhead lights. When positioning baby close to the window, make sure the light is coming from the side or towards the top of the baby's head. Do not take a photo up the baby's nose.
Always have another adult present to be close to baby while taking photos with siblings. Be ready and keep it short. Have them be on the ground in case they get up in a hurry. Start with low expectations - they may not cooperate and that's ok. If they lose patience, rather try those photos another time. One of the best ways to get a sibling photo is to have them do an activity. Ask them does the baby smell like ice cream? Or you can have mom read a book holding baby and reading to the other sibling and keep shooting, you might get some real moments.
The safety and comfort of your baby is more important than any photo. Please do not attempt any poses that you see newborn photographers do - they are trained in newborn safety and posing. Pets and siblings should never be photographed with a newborn without another adult right there to keep an eye (and hand!) on baby. When you are taking photos above baby, always wear the camera strap around your neck. Listen for baby's cues. Your little one may start to tell you they have had enough. And pace yourself - you just had a baby and will need rest! If you need to break it up over a few days, you can do just one photo a week. It is whatever bring you joy and feels right for you and your body.
The great thing about digital is that you can take lots of images when you are learning so you can choose the best of the best. On your phone, VSCO is a great app for editing your newborn images.
In the Crib
Lay baby down in crib, head towards the window (move the crib close to the window if needed, and practical) Take photos from various angles, such as looking straight down, through crib slats, with parent leaning over crib, or hand on baby.
Let sibling sit down with window light coming from the side, with legs straight out or criss-crossed to create a little pocket.
Safest places are right on the floor, or propped up against pillows on a bed. An adult should be an arm's length away at all times. Place baby onto sibling's lap, so baby's weight is supported by sibling's legs. Have them wrap their arms gently around baby. Top of baby's head should be angled towards the window. Take photos from side, from behind looking down, straight on, etc.
Safest option for young or rambunctious siblings is not to have them hold baby. Another adult should be right there with baby all the time. Place baby on bed with top of their head towards the window.
Ask sibling(s) to lie on their tummies behind baby. Encourage calm interaction - look at baby, smell baby, touch toes, etc.
Spread comfy blanket or rug close to a window. Tuck some rolled up receiving blankets underneath to create a place for sibling to rest head. Have sibling lie down with top of their head angled towards window. Place wrapped baby right up close to sibling, with baby's head supported by sibling's arm. Ask sibling to place other arm on baby's tummy or somehow connect. Take photo standing over them, looking straight down, Use you camera strap!
In Daddy's Hands
Have dad sit down near a window, so light comes from the side. Dad should hold baby out in front of him, resting on his legs, and baby's head cupped in his hands. Take photos focusing on dad's big hands holding small baby. Switch it up for photos of baby feet and hands in dad's hands, and dad's hands on baby's body. Also capture Dad's expression as he looks down at his baby.
Parent and Baby
Place parent sitting or standing so window light comes from the side. Try to always angle top of baby's head towards window. Hold baby in different ways: lying in arms, held face to face, up on shoulder, facing out, etc. For each position, take photos from different angles - straight on, from side, from behind over parent's shoulder, etc. Unique composition, architecture, or meaningful places in your house are good to think through when photographing in your house. Often interesting shapes and the juxtaposition of small and large are fun to look for in your house.
Position your family members with window light coming from the side - on a couch, or even on the floor of the nursery. Let them leave a spot for you to sit or stand. Use a tripod if you have one, or simply set up your camera/phone against something sturdy, getting the whole family in the frame. Activate the timer (10 seconds), and run to get into your assigned position with your family. Smile!
Lie baby down on a simple white or neutral coloured blanket or sheet, close to a window. Focus on just one body part at time, and make the whole photo just about that body part. Take photos of your baby's hands and fingers, feet and toes, nose, lips, belly button, and wisps of hair. Don't forget the little rolls and flaky skin!
And remember it is not about perfection. It is about capturing memories of this special time in your life. If it's a rough day, capture the mess and look for beautiful light in the mess. One of my favorite things to photograph is beautiful ugly...meaning photographing something that someone would think would be ugly and making it beautiful. Of course babies are beautiful, but parenthood can be ugly at times, so use your creativity to help you enjoy your time with little one. I hope this was helpful. Wishing you all the best!
For more newborn photography inspiration, go to www.pinterest.com/camillecdphotog/newborn-photography-inspiration/
Midday Rest - This is another beautiful ugly project. I always admire the way the sun hits our kitchen towel in the afternoon when the cooking is done, as if it is giving it a nice break, the way my cat likes to take a nap in the sunny window. I showed my husband this photo and he said, oh we should have cleaned that oven. I said no, this texture shows that she is used and it's just a break until she gets used again. The gray/blue towel was chosen to complement the orange wood. Shadows and contrast are important in setting the mood as restful in a sun pocket.
This is a great project for your mind when you are stuck in your house all day, or if you are needing a mind shift. Look for an object or place or portrait that is ordinary, ugly, not typically photographed, overlooked, ignored, discarded, not considered valuable...Then tell its story and highlight it, give it value, show its beauty and worth. Look for the authentic story, scars and all, and find a way to show its beauty.
With a rare genetic disease, I can feel ignored, maybe it is just me but I would guess we all feel this way at times. I suffer with pain and neurological flare ups and cannot do the things I want to do. This practice reminds me that there is beauty and worth even if the world does not see it.
Look for light, how does it hit objects in your house at different times of day, what lines or colors does it create, how can it make something ordinary that you might think is ugly look beautiful and tell a story? This is a great project for kids too. It doesn't have to be fancy, and it teaches empathy. I'd love to see your creation.
Beautiful Ugly - this is one of my favorite projects as a photographer. Pick a subject that is considered ugly and find a way to photograph it where it looks beautiful. I find when I do this in my photography it helps me in my life as well. Is there a problem in my life, do I need to look at it in a new way, create a boundary, maybe there is too much light, maybe I need to work on my own past with dandelions and look at the situation with new eyes. I find creating Art, Mental Health, and Spirituality to be very connected, one with the other. Each allows us to see, explore, and express our voice, which can be very healing.
In times of uncertainty, I have found creativity to be my savior.
Going through a deployment, then dealing with a rare disease that had no cure, left me in despair, so I turned to photography and it saved me. I have been thinking about the story Little Women and what wisdom the mother Marmee had, to bring creativity and art into her girl's lives during a time of war and disease. When we are stripped down to the basics of what we need, we realize the truth and how important the arts can be in times of suffering. I hope I am like Marmee to my boys encouraging creativity, so that no matter what is going on around them, they can find their voice and find joy in their creation.
Last week, our city decided to close the pools for the summer. Little did I know this would be the last picture I would take of the pool for a long time. This has been our happy place since moving to Manhattan in 2004. Our son was just one and loved the water. It was our afternoon reward. Everyone came home tired and happy, just what a boy mom wants. All our boys learned to swim here, and last year seemed like a full circle moment when I watched our oldest teach our youngest how to swim. I spent a full day mopping around sad with the news that the pool was closing. I am sad our son lost his summer lifeguard job and our boys lost pool afternoons. / I have heard several people discount their feelings as these are just first world problems, and as I agree it is good to have perspective, we still need to feel our feelings. The way I see it, we can’t play into comparative suffering. We need to feel what we are feeling and allow our kids to feel their feelings. There will be grief and we all have our own timelines and ways of dealing with it. As parents or friends, we can say I’m sorry this is happening, how can I help you, and listen and nurture with empathy.
"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly."
After several years of trying we finally were able to grow a milkweed in our yard last summer and I was so excited when I found a monarch caterpillar eating its leaves. Each year, we do little acts that try to help heal our beautiful Earth. From recycling to composting… Just being conscious of how there is an effect to our actions. Yesterday, the boys and I watched a video of a large jellyfish swimming in the Venice canal, if anything this pandemic is giving our Earth a nice break to heal. Let us celebrate her today and everyday for all she gives to us!