The photos that are taken of babies in their first few days will be treasured forever- especially when it gets harder to remember to how teeeeeeeny they were! The question is, should you have a professional photographer take those special photos, or take them yourself? For the price of a newborn session with most professionals, you could buy a pretty nice camera! And you could use that camera for way more than just your babe’s newbie pics. A good DSLR is a great family investment, especially if you’re willing to take the time to learn a few simple things about photography, Like these 5 tips:
1- Turn off the FLASH.
Flash can be useful in some cases, but you have to know what you’re doing. Direct, unfiltered flash makes your images flat. Instead, set up the area where you’ll be taking your photos next to a big window that lets in a lot of daylight. Take your photos during the day (cloudy days are the best!) The softer natural light will add more dimension to your subject. I get annoyed when “photographers” tell other photographers that they don’t have their flash turned on….Yeah. we know. And it’s perfectly fine!
2- Turn up the HEAT!
Newborn babies are notoriously floppy and pliable when they are asleep. The trouble is, the cutest newborn photos have baby in just a diaper or no diaper at all! They can get cold pretty quick, and they don’t sleep as well (or pose as well) when they are cold. The easiest way keep them warm is to use a hot pack under the blanket that they are being posed on. We have fabric bags filled with uncooked rice that we microwave for 1 minute, and they get nice and toasty; perfect to keep a cuddly baby warm while you pose them.
Keep in mind, even with the warm atmosphere, newborn baby sessions will take far longer to finish than you’d expect. Patience is required if you’re going to attempt DIY newborn photos. In between poses, baby might wake up, want to eat, or need to be comforted. Our newborn “session” was spread out over 2 days (granted, it was my FIRST time taking photos of a newborn baby!). In addition to the warmth that you add to the space, you might also want to turn on some white noise, or some Rockabye Baby!
3- Keep everything dry, and CUTE!
Taking photos with a baby wearing no diaper is risky business. One way to do it is to get a waterproof sheet to put underneath the blanket that baby will be laying on. But if you don’t want to take that risk, cover that diaper up! If you’re using cloth diapers, that’s easy. Just pick the cutest cover you have, like this buttons diapers cover. Or get crafty and make a cute cover like this one!
4- Invest in the right equipment.
Ok so you bought a good DSLR. Now if you really want to make your portraits pop, invest in either a 35mm or 50mm prime lens. I just recently added a 35mm prime to my lens stash after working with the kit lens for years, and now I know what I was missing out on and I’m wondering why I didn’t make the investment sooner! I bought the Yongnuo 35mm lens for my Canon Rebel. Ok so why did I choose the 35 mm when my kit lens can zoom to 35mm? Because I can shoot at a wider angle with the 35mm, the focal length is closest to the composition of the human eye, it can be used for almost any type of photography, and it shoots great in low light! The 35mm also pulls in more of the background, and I have Lightroom and Photoshop, so it’s easy for me to blur that background out if I need to add in some artificial “Bokeh.” But if you don’t have Photoshop, and you’re going to be using your lens primarily for portraits of your family, I’d say go for the 50mm! It’s less expensive and will give you that nice blurry background without the expensive software.
You also don’t need to spend a lot to create a really simple “studio” in your home, but you do need to be prepared for your session if you’re going to take your own photos. For my daughter’s newborn pics, we used a big reclining chair that we covered in an antique quilt that had been sitting in a closet. The chair was already positioned next to a window (zero furniture moving for this new mom!), and all the props- the headband, the swaddle, the hats, even the diaper were gifts she received at her baby shower(s). I spent $0 creating a really cute space to take photos of our little girl!
So there you have it. Hopefully these tips make the thought of trying a DIY newborn or family photo session a little less intimidating. If you’re a photographer, what tips would you add to this list?