Updated: Apr 3
With the Covid pandemic shutting down so many services, parents are finding it difficult to get the adorable baby and toddler photos they cherish. Luckily, although this type of photography is not as easy as picking up a camera, there are some steps you can take at home to be able to document these crucial stages in your child’s life. This article is designed to give you a few pointers and starter ideas for you to take some sweet photos of your young baby for looking on in years to come. Visit our other blog for top tips for photographing your toddler.
New-born photography is important. Photographs are a way to document life, and this is where their life starts. So, if you don’t have, or can’t afford, professional services, how can you document those first tiny and sweet stages? Well, you don’t have to abandon the idea as you do have a few options. Many blogs suggest a proper DSLR or Mirrorless camera system, but unless you particularly want the tools to shoot in RAW files and to be able edit on software appropriate to the files, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, or GIMP and Luminar, there isn’t necessarily a need for that. Most smart-phone cameras are up to the job nowadays, and provide photos of a high enough resolution for printing at a minimum of A4, if that is your wish. So, don’t fret if you don’t have an expensive camera; the main thing to know for shooting is how to achieve the look.
The first way is to shoot manually - you can ditch the basic camera setting and make use of the other capabilities the camera has. You will want to use a low ISO. The higher your ISO is the grainier your photos will appear, which is not what you want when printing photographs out later. If you want a nice blurry background for those dreamy bokeh (background blurred shapes) you will also want a wide aperture. Confusingly aperture settings appear backwards, so this means using the lowest numbered aperture you can manage. These two settings will affect your shutter speed. Most inexperienced photographers struggle to shoot lower than 1/60 - 1/80th of a second, I can go down to 1/40 or 1/30 these days depending on my camera grip, but even then, it doesn’t take much to wobble the camera and ruin your photo by blurring it, so I don’t often bother. It’s worth using a tripod or setting your camera/phone on a flat surface; you can buy a cheap tripod for your phone for between ten and twenty pounds on Amazon, or probably even less somewhere like eBay or Wish. Have your phone at the highest resolution it will allow, which will help when printing later. If you find all these numbers and figures confusing then don’t use manual; most cameras, or phone cameras, have a portrait option. You just need to find either the word portrait/aperture, or a small image of a lady with a hat on.
To make things a bit easier, you can purchase bluetooth wireless remote shutters that connect to your phone. This can help when taking photos as you just need to click a button to take the photo, reducing the chances of knocking your phone and your photos coming out blurry. A lot of phone holders come with these controllers included. This also helps if you need to hold something in place to get the right setup.
Timing it right
The ideal time to photograph your baby is when they are the most content. Keeping them warm is a major consideration, so if you are planning to take any of them unclothed you need to turn the heating up. If you want them very new-born, and still with that adorable curled-up quality they initially have (or froggy as I referred to it), aim for 5 to 12 days old as after 2 weeks they begin to uncurl a little. You will want to make sure they are fed, changed, and rested; this could mean looking at their happiest times of day and how many different photos you want. There is often a very short window to take the photos, before they become cranky and overstimulated, so if you have more than a couple of photos planned it is probably worth doing it over a couple of sessions
At all times, if you want the best shots you need to make sure the lighting is right. Have the light facing them, so for your new-borns face their feet towards the light source. You want to make sure their face is well-lit and focus on their eyes for the best effect. You can use your auto focus to achieve this.
Staging Photography- Props
With props, sometimes simpler is better. You can’t recreate a studio such as a professional photographer would use, but there are some simple options you can use to still get effective and sweet shots of your new ones. Below is a list of the photos you could take, with remarkably simple/minimal props or without disturbing your baby too much.
- Use a blanket or soft throw. A blanket is the simplest and most accessible, as most parents have bought or been gifted them.· Wrap your baby up softly in a blanket and atop a comfortable throw. You can lie them on the throw on a nest of some soft cushions to provide a nice background that will support the baby. Just have somebody on hand to supervise, to prevent your little one managing to squirm or roll off the cushions. As an alternative to pillows, you could have who-ever is supervising put their arms under the throw to hold the baby.
- Alphabet blocks. You can use them to spell your little one’s name. They will be useful for later shoots, when they are old enough to play with them or stack them, and be a nice way to provide some continuity through your photos.
- Add some small props in like a bowtie, headband, fairy wings and/or a tutu, or stuffed toy.
- You can also provide some seasonal props. Flowers, either fresh or artificial – these look lovely arranged like a wreath around baby, or you could use a beach towel, autumn leaves or Christmas decorations. Your dressing props here could be a small straw hat or Santa hat.
- Some simple shots with your hands around your baby’s feet work. If someone else can take the photo and you have a partner you can both put your hands around them with their hands wrapped around yours.
You can document all those lovely milestones using the Baby's First Year Milestone Card packs and store these photos in a keepsake journal using the baby-to-five book, or childhood journal, available from Little Pickle Memories. Most of all, don’t hold back because you aren’t a ‘photographer’. Even if you aren’t doing these posed type shots just take photos every-day, or as often as you can. Suddenly you will blink and have a teenager who needs reminding to wear deodorant and speaks mostly in grunts. And make sure you appear in the pictures often. It’s so easy to focus on just having pictures of them, but you need to be in there too because one day they will want them to look back at too and see you there. Happy snapping!
Also remember not to worry or get upset too much if these photos don't go to plan. Studio photos are lovely but you may end up barely registering them in the photo book of your life. My favourite photo of me with my kids was taken at Mother care. My favourite photos of my daughters are taken at the park, watching TV in a nappy and wellies, and my oldest running round my lounge with a Spongebob bin on her head. The photo I have taken that my mum has framed on her mantle is her oldest grandkids, sat under a table at a wedding and playing hide and seek from the grown ups. These are only ideas for a single photo session. If you take photos of even mundane moments you will probably end up cherishing these even more.
If you want to check out some of my blogs on the basics of photography, as well as other writing on the subjects of family and life, which you can subscribe to for regular updates, or if you want to see some of my photography, you can visit me at www.thebeaniebard.com, or use my social media on instagram or facebook
About the Author
Hi I'm Annalisa aka The Beanie Bard, I’m 36 and 61 months old (ahem). My main job is dragging up the two small humans I created and attempting to keep them, a large hairy man child, and some pets alive. So far I have a fairly high success rate but I wouldn’t advise asking me to water your plants. I used to be an A and E nurse but am now trying to make a living running my own writing and photography business. In the odd few seconds I get for spare time I am an author with one published children's book and more in the pipeline, I also enjoy photography, I perform spoken word poetry and am a massive geek.. You can find my first book 'The Sky Painter' on Amazon. It's a book that helps small people understand some big feelings and my future books will be very much based on helping the small humans tackle big concepts.