In this difficult time of social distancing, sadly many new moms and dads here in Grand Cayman are missing out on their newborn shoots.
This is why I decided to put this quick and simple guide together to help you snap some of those precious newborn memories with your smartphone…
01 I Timing
Before we jump in, I should mention that the best time to take newborn photos is between 5 and 14 days old. This is when a newborn baby is most sleepy, flexible, and tolerant of being touched when sleeping.
With regards to the time of the day, luckily in the first 2 weeks newborn babies sleep most of the time, so you don’t have to take any nap schedules into consideration. However from experience babies are definitely more cooperative in the first half of the day and typically by 4pm they get cranky so I recommend avoiding the late afternoon or evening.
However, you want to make your final decision of your shoot timing dependant on the best availability of light in your home (see point 3).
02 I Environment
Newborns get cold easily. And since most new babies appear to be drowning in their clothes, newborn photography is often done with the baby undressed. If you planning to take your babies clothes off for the photos, turn up the thermostat or use a small space heater to keep your little one cozy. Aim to have the space heated to around 80 degrees, if the baby will be nude or lightly clothed.
Along with keeping the space warm, white noise also helps the baby fall and stay asleep for the shoot. Try using a white noise app, running a fan or space heater, or playing some soft music. (If the space is completely silent, the baby is more likely to wake up at sudden noises. If the space is already noisy, other noises are less likely to wake them.)
03 I Lighting
Great photos need great light. The good news is that for newborn photos all you need for great light is a large window or glass door during daylight hours.
Shooting in the middle of the day is often a good choice because the bright light outside means there’s also enough light inside. Take the time to look at the sunshine and plan accordingly. Is there a window that has amazing light in the afternoon? Then wait until after lunch to snap your photos.
When you have found your ideal spot and time of day, place your baby on a blanket on the floor, a bed, on an ottoman or a beanbag close to your window (Don’t place her in direct sunlight - if there’s a window-shaped spot of sunlight on the floor, then try a different window or a different time of the day.)
Position your baby so that the light falls in a natural position. The top of the baby’s head or the baby’s face should be towards the window (not the feet or its backside). Also make sure to turn off all other lights. Without boring you with details on colour theory, artificial light can make for some weird colour in your photos. So stick with natural sunlight and you’ll be good to go.
04 I Clear the Clutter
It’s a universal truth that when you have a newborn baby, the house gets messy! But you’re accommodating new life, so be kind to yourself. Don’t clean the whole house, just focus on what you can see in the photographs as we don’t want anything in the photo distracting from what’s important.
I suggest to lay down a simple blanket and get in close for your shot. This makes it easy to keep the shot simple and focus on what’s important. When you back up a little (e.g. when you’re taking a sibling shot on the couch) look at the background behind them and try to move the biggest messes and distractions out of the frame. If that is not possible, simply try to change your angle.
05 I Clothing
Clothes often look too big on newborns — not to mention they can hide those cute little fat rolls and other details. Instead of clothing, have your baby in a diaper or try swaddling your little one in a snug wrap, scarf or muslin cloth. Swaddling a newborn for photos is an art itself, but try doing a basic wrap like this one. Wraps can also help if the baby is having trouble settling down for the photos. A simple solid-coloured blanket or sheet can make a great background. You can tape the blanket to a wall so that the blanket serves as both a ‘floordrop’ and a backdrop.
06 I Composition
Keep it sweet and simple! Instead of trying to re-create those overly-posed newborn images you see on Pinterest, just look for genuine moments of connection between loved ones and the new baby. Try to capture all the sweet little things that are going to change so fast: their tiny lips, hands and feet (in comparison to dad’s hands for example) or how tiny they are next to their teddy bear or just lying in they crib.
To get the most variety, take photos from different angles and with different crops (before trying to move the baby - because getting a baby sleeping and nicely posed takes much more time than actually taking the photo itself). Try and angle straight on to the baby’s face. Then try shooting directly above the baby, or shooting from an angle slightly above its face. Take a photo that shows just the baby’s face, then one that shows the baby from waist up, then a full body shot.
07 I Get Close
Speaking of the tininess of a newborn, don't forget to capture those tiny details! The iPhone does a great job at macro (or close-up) photography, especially in Portrait Mode so don't be afraid to get up close and take images of little hands, feet, toes, ears, nose, and lips. (And don’t worry, if you get too close, your smartphone won’t focus properly, so if the image looks a little blurry, back a little farther away.)
When taking these close up photos, don't forget about what's happening in the background. If you're able to have other parts of the baby out of focus in a different area of the photograph, it gives more of an “wow” - factor to your image.
Speaking of focal points, on most smartphones, tapping the screen changes what the camera is focusing on. In most cases that means you should tap on the baby’s eyes (or eyelids, if they are sleeping) to keep the focus on their face. However it’s also fun to get creative with the focal point, especially when mixed with a creative composition. Try focusing on the baby’s toes, for example, the pouty lips, or that wisp of fine baby hair.
08 I Editing
A little bit of editing can go a long way into creating great newborn pictures. One of the biggest perks to smartphone photography is that the camera and the editing computer are one and the same unit. One of the apps I like for smartphone editing is Snapseed, which is easy to use and also free. When editing newborn photos, keep it simple! Don’t over edit your baby’s skin as it will just end up looking fake. Filters are also an easy and simple way to adjust newborn photos on a smartphone. If filters don’t give you the desired effect, try experimenting with adjusting the settings , e.g. increasing the exposure and shadows as well as decreasing the highlights and adjusting the “colour temperature” of the pictures (e.g. if the picture seems a little too blue or yellow) go a long way to improving your final image.
09 I Printing
Last but not least, please print your favourite images! Don’t just snap photos and leave them on your phone. Not only will they eventually get buried, but unless you’re being careful about backing them up they could get lost forever. So please just promise to get your favourites off your phone and into your hands. LINK TO WHY PRINT IMAGES.
10 I Looking for some more tips and inspiration?
Head over to this awesome blog post by The Sweet Side Of Mommyhood to get 61 additional tips on the topic and see some more pictures like the one below: