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Professional Tips for Taking Pictures of Your Newborn

I am a firm believer that there is simply no such thing as “too many pictures” when it comes to babies. This is especially true for newborn babies, because as all mothers know, they just don’t stay that little nearly long enough.

But the newborn pictures… oh, those sweet sweet newborn pictures. Those are the pictures that I just can’t get enough of. I have pictures from the first moment my babies came into the world and changed our lives forever. I have snapshots of them as we prepare to bring them home from the hospital. 

There are countless images of their first days home, so tiny and red, curled up in little balls as they sleep- blissfully unaware of the camera in their faces. Those days just don’t last long enough. And their looks change so quickly, those photos instantly become something to cherish as they are the only proof of just how tiny and innocent our babies once were.

I only had newborn photos taken by a professional once, for my last baby. But I attempted to set up my own newborn photo shoots countless times. I took a LOT of pictures and it’s safe to say that only a handful of them are anything that would even come close to somewhat professional looking- and that was just luck. 

More often than not, my photo shoots ended in both mommy and baby in tears. Usually there was poop on a tutu, and there was always puke. Not to mention the terrible lighting and angles because- well, I didn’t know what I was doing. If only I had heard these professional tips for taking newborn photos sooner…

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7  First, Get Your Lighting Right

Having the wrong lighting is the easiest way to ruin a perfectly good photo. Believe it or not, you don’t need the fancy lights and equipment that professional photographers often use to get the best shot. You also don’t need a fancy camera (they only help if you know how to use them, trust me) or even a flash. 

Turns out, we all have access to the best lighting possible for capturing great pictures of our newborns- the sun!

Think about the sun, and where it is- it’s above us. Therefore the sun and light should always be above or behind baby says Arizona photographer Lisa Holloway. Holloway says the best way to ruin a photo or even make baby look scary is to light from below. This isn’t natural.

The best way to take advantage of natural light when indoors is to find a window that allows plenty of sunlight inside. This can even be a small square of light on your living room floor, as long as it’s big enough for your newborn. Place baby so that the light hits the top of his head and shines down. Holloway says if there is a slight shadow beneath the baby’s nose- your lighting is right.

6  Remember to Relax

Remember, this is your baby and you have access to him 24/7. You aren’t paying yourself to get the perfect picture in a one hour photo shoot. There’s no pressure.

If you get baby all dressed up, set your scene, get your fancy props ready, and wait for the perfect lighting in your living room only for baby to scream bloody murder or poop up his back the second you lay him down- it’s really no big deal. Don’t force it. Snap a couple shots anyway to test your lighting and see how everything looks and call it a trial run. Scoop that baby up and give him what he wants. You can try again tomorrow.

Of course, you don’t want to wait too long because newborns looks change way too fast, and it’s sadly only in those first few weeks that they seem to sleep through anything and everything. But being the parent does give you the advantage here. You know baby’s schedule (if he has one) and you can pretty much set up an impromptu photo shoot anytime.

And remember, you don’t have to get tons of perfect pictures. As a mom of three kids, I’m quickly running out of wall space. You don’t need 85 perfect images of your newborn. Professionals often do give you lots of images, but that’s what you’re paying them for. You’ll probably only frame one or two so that’s all you really need. 

5  Keep it Simple

My favorite picture that I have of my babies was taken on my living room floor on a plain white sheet. They were wearing nothing but diapers and I hadn’t even brushed their hair. It was the epitome of an impromptu photo shoot and it’s the only picture I’ve ever taken that looks somewhat professional. I’m sure a pro would find plenty of things wrong with it, but it looks good enough to me so I’m happy with it.

I confess, I love the professionally staged newborn shots as much as the next person. I mean, the little babies with their chins propped up on their hands and surrounded by props that make them look like a little old college professor? Come on! How cute is that? But leave it to the professionals. I’ve read that many of those photos are often retouched to make them look that way. Personally, I would probably end up setting my baby up to fall on his face if I tried poses like that.

Instead, keeping it simple is a much better route for the amateur photographer. Less props means less things that can look or go wrong. This goes for the baby’s clothes as well. Naked babies are all the rage. A big frilly dress or a fancy suit is a great thought, but they usually just end up riding up and covering the baby’s precious face. A diaper or just a cute onesie makes a simple and sweet picture. If it’s a girl, you can add a headband or something to give her a little pizzazz.

Remember, the point is to capture your sweet baby, not cover them in props and decorations that mean nothing to you. Less is more, mommas!

4  Timing is Everything

You know your baby best, so you know if he or she is going to be in the mood to lie still and cooperate for a picture. My favorite newborn pictures are of the babies sleeping which is easy because newborn babies sleep, a lot.

But they also poop and eat, so the best time to attempt a photo shoot is right after your newborn has done both. A sleepy baby with a full belly is a happy baby, so they should be willing to cooperate while you snap a few pictures… or they’ll snooze right through it, either way.

Don’t set yourself up for disaster. Don’t attempt to take pictures during the time your baby is typically fussy or clingy. Don’t hold out on feeding because you just need few more tries to get the perfect shot. Remember, you can always try again later, but you’re on baby’s schedule now and don’t you forget it!

3  Get Siblings in the Picture

If you have older kids, you will forever cherish the images of them with their new baby brother or sister. Chances are, they will never get along this well again, so take advantage of it while you can! But, as anyone knows, toddlers are a whole new ballgame when it comes to getting them to cooperate for pictures. 

Everyone knows toddlers are pretty much incapable of holding still for any length of time. But you gotta love ‘em!

So, your best bet is to make the ordeal as quick and painless as possible for older siblings. Chrystal Cienfuegos, a professional photographer in California, suggests making sibling shots your first priority. Get a few shots of the older siblings holding or kissing baby and then set them free to play. If you decide you need them to come back later, bribery goes a long way, but moms already know that! 

2  Don’t Forget the Tiny Details

I remember years ago, before I had kids, seeing newborn images of baby feet and thinking “umm ok, why?”

Now I get it. Oh, do I ever get it. Now seeing close ups of tiny baby toes is enough to make my heart thump and my eyes leak, they don’t even have to be my own tiny kid’s feet, it still takes me back.

Like I’ve said a couple times already, your baby will never be this little again. His tiny perfect ears, his beautiful red lips, his tiny soft hands and itty bitty fingernails… they are going to be bigger tomorrow. So get that camera right in there for a close up of all those gorgeous details.

It may seem silly now, but I promise you there will be a day (maybe four months from now) that you will look back on those pictures in disbelief that your baby was ever that small. It will probably make you cry but isn’t that what kids are for? 

1  The Sooner the Better

I know that having a baby is tough, I’ve done it three times. And depending how delivery goes, getting around afterwards can be quite painful for a few days, perhaps even a couple weeks. So for many of us, the last thing we want to be doing is bending and squatting in an effort to get the best angle of our precious babies.

But as I’ve already said, they change their looks so fast. It’s really quite heartbreaking the way my now 4 month old looks absolutely nothing like that baby I brought home from the hospital. In fact, I think he only looked like that for about 10 minutes.

So if you want true newborn pictures, you need to act fast. Not only do their looks change quickly, but they’re also easier to work with the younger they are. Professional photographer Lynsey Mattingly recommends doing newborn photographs before baby hits two weeks. She says this age is ideal because these babies tend to be more “mold-able.” Mattingly also urges you to try in the morning when babies tend to be more willing to cooperate and to make sure baby is warm and comfortable. 

So if your baby is a couple weeks old and you haven’t taken a shot at newborn pictures yet, what are you waiting for? Unfortunately it’s true that “these days just fly by,” and “they grow up way too fast,” and “you’re going to miss this,” so take my advice and “don’t blink.” Are you crying too, or is it just me?

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