When you first have a baby it is only natural that you’ll initially just want to take them home so you can hold them, nuzzle their little soft heads, smell them, gaze at them for hours while they sleep (hopefully!), generally admiring in every beautiful little detail. All of this is very, very important and necessary in what can be a rather overwhelming time in your life, and so do take your time and enjoy every moment. There will come a time however, and you don’t want to leave it too late, when you will want to share your perfect creation with the world! And with the help of a few simple tips you can create beautiful, natural images of your little one, photographs that you will be proud of and want the world to see.
I believe the golden rule when photographing a baby is to ‘keep things simple’. By this I mean keeping things as natural as possible and not trying to put your baby in to any sort of contrived situation. Ideally use a simple setting where your baby will be comfortable and relaxed, I find photographing them on soft plain bed linen works well or on a cosy baby blanket, somewhere they will feel cosseted, somewhere warm and safe. Dress your little one in simple plain clothing, sometimes just a white button under vest is the best option. To start with lay them on the bed in a way they are comfortable, this maybe on their back, side, tummy or if they like to be swaddled then go with that, just make sure you keep it simple and put yourself and your baby at ease, neither you or your baby want any stress out of this.
For a newborn timing is very important. After a feed when your baby is full up and sleepy is the best time as it makes them easier to gently move around. Thinking ahead is also key here for a newborn, get your baby changed in to a clean nappy and put them in to the outfit that you want them to be photographed in just before their feed, then you will be all set for the photography session straight after and can keep them sleepy and content with no need to change them.
Try to only use natural light and identify the best location in advance. Do place your baby near a window but avoid exposing them to any harsh direct sunlight, look for some gentle soft light. You may need to move a chair near the window and cover it in a blanket or a sheet to create an area to photograph your baby in. Do not be afraid move furniture around to suit the light in the room and ensure the comfort of your little one.
Babies like to be warm, so shut the windows and put on the heating. If you are wanting to photograph a very young baby(especially if you want to photograph them naked) it can be a good idea to use a hot water bottle to warm up the part of bed/blanket you are wanting to photograph them on, then remove the hot water bottle and lay them on the warmed bedding/blanket.
Once you have your baby in position, make sure you move around them photographing them from different angles. Lay beside your baby and photograph from the side, photograph them from above, capture their profile.... as a baby can’t move (or not very much anyway depending on their age) you will have to physically move around them to get nice variations in your photographs.
Remember to take time to capture all the details, their tiny hand, the way their hair swirls at the back of their head, sweet pouty lips, little creased feet, curled toes... tiny details that make your baby special and that can all too quickly change as they grow.
As a baby’s delicate skin can come times be a little blotchy or even slightly jaundice, converting your images to black & white is a simple way of disguising this, you could even add a very small amount of grain (most editing packages have this option). Make sure you get get some close up images showing your baby’s skin early on as after a few weeks it very common for babies to become a little spotty.
Try and show the smallness of your precious newborn. Photograph your little one next to a soft toy or include a parents hand or sibling in the shot to give a sense of scale. A fun project can be to photograph your baby with a soft toy as a comparison, then you could photograph them with the same soft toy every week or month for the first year. You can create a collage of all these images and see how your baby has grown and developed in that time.
Remember to keeping photographing your little one. babies change every day, especially in the first months, and its wonderful to create a record of this precious time.
I hope these tips are useful, grab your camera and let us know how you get on in the comments below!
Emily Walker is a natural light photographer based in Surrey but who works throughout the UK. Emily became obsessed with photography as a child when she would pour endlessly over family photo albums and smile at the memories captured. She would also love watching her dad use his Canon ae-1 as he patiently composed the shot and then waited for the perfect moment to capture it. These days, mum-of-three Emily can be found behind the camera herself, describing her style as natural, simple and fun.