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Do-It-Yourself, Photography

DIY Newborn Photos: What to Prepare Before Baby is Born

There’s a few things I’ve learned about newborn photography that I’ve been feeling compelled to share as more and more of my friends (and their friends) are expecting.  I’ve heard many express deep sighs after finding out how much newborn photographers cost.  I have to state this first – for the most part, the pricetag is for good reason.

When you see these beautiful and dreamy newborn photos, you’re not just seeing someone point their camera and click to capture that photo.  Most newborn sessions that produce these practically perfect photos take 3-4 hours at minimum with a lot of focus from the photographer to catch the right moments, and who knows how much time the photographer invests in the post-processing (yes, digital gets post-processed too to perfect the vision the photographer has for the image).  That is A LOT of time and patience put into one session.  You should get what you pay for.  [Note: I say “should” because I have bumped into people charging similar rates and are just beginners.  If you decide to go the professional route, please make sure you browse around for a while before you settle on a photographer and make sure you look over their portfolios. Don’t wait until the last minute!]

Anyhow, I digress.  I can understand why I’m seeing more and more families deciding to take newborn photos on their own.  Yes, 1) they don’t have room in their budget for a pro photographer and 2) they can’t afford to miss out on these precious moments.  The other alternatives would be to find a friend who’s genuinely learning photography (ie someone like me 🙂 to take the photos or to take the photos yourself.

I have some advice if you’re a month or more before your due date as well as tips for your session the day of.  This is all through personal experience, so if you have some additional advice, please do share!  This post will focus just on what you can do as a beginner before your baby is born to make the session successful (aka some things I did and wish I did).  In a few days, I will share tips for the actual session.

Here we go!

THE CAMERA
DSLR/Mirrorless: These types are definitely ideal to get your high-quality digital photos, but if you don’t currently own one, there are a few things you should consider.  One, they require patience and desire to learn.  To get the photos that make the purchase worthwhile, you will need to do more than click the button.  Two, they don’t come cheap, so you really should try it out before you commit.  If you are able to learn from a friend and/or borrow one from a friend, I would highly encourage it.  It’s worth learning it, but I also know it’s not for everyone.

I know a lot of people actually have a DSLR just collecting dust. There has been a lot of pressure to own one to take “better photos,” but not everyone has the patience to learn how to use it.  These guys are not cheap!  If you are one of these people, take that baby out and try it out.  Set your goal to go for 30 days in manual mode like I did.  Trust me, you will realize whether or not you love it or hate it. If it turns out that you hate it, you can sell it. Use that money elsewhere… like on the photographer you’ve been wishing for.

Point-and-Shoot: If it turns out that DSLRs or mirrorless cameras aren’t your thing, invest in a point-and-shoot. Most do offer a manual mode so that you can take more sophisticated photos, but if that’s not an option, they will do the job at a much more budget-friendly pricetag. I know there are point-and-shoot cameras now with more powerful lenses on them so that you can still get that high-quality portrait look.

Phone Cameras:  Some people may argue with me, but I really encourage people not to go the phone route.  I know some people swear by it (and it really does produce some really beautiful photos), but the only reason I wouldn’t want you to use your phone is in case you decide to blow up any of these photos or create a big baby book.  The quality will just not be enough.  Also, if you decide to edit the photo, it’ll only compress it even more, reducing the quality.  I just don’t want you to regret it because you can’t get this time back.

HOW TO PRACTICE
The key is to take it out now and practice. Take photos of your partner and bring it on outings. Practice, practice, practice. Try to understand lighting since you won’t be working in a studio where lighting will be set up perfectly at every angle.

If you’re using a DSLR, I had my DSLR for 10 years and didn’t force myself to keep it in manual mode until Dominic was born. I wish I had started sooner so that Dominic’s newborn photos were better. I was too busy keeping it on aperture priority mode because it was easier, and I let myself simply be satisfied with the blurry background. These cameras can do so much more.

If you’re going to take the photos in your home (highly encouraged since you can control the temperature and everyone is comfortable), my biggest tip while you practice is to grab a teddy bear or some of baby’s shoes — anything that may be sweet to have your baby lie next to once they’re born.  Go into different rooms in the house and take photos of of these objects at different angles.  Focus on rooms with natural light pouring in from the windows.  Ideally, don’t use the camera flash or any artificial light.

Once you get a better idea of what places look best, take pictures of your partner, friends, or even yourself (to practice with the timer and/or remote) to see which places are your absolute favorite.  As you get closer to your due date, take note of the times of the day that work best.  My ideal time for indoor photography is around 10am, but it will typically be when the sun is shining the brightest.

WHAT ELSE?
I love the idea of props, but they’re definitely not necessary.  Some people may find them cheesy, but for the pictures you’ll take of your baby solo, props will help create the tone for the images and can add a little more sentimental value to them.  They can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like, but try not to get too carried away as your little one will tire from being picked up and moved around so often.  Need some ideas?

  • Visit a craft/hobby store and see what inspires you.
  • Go on Pinterest and see what other people are doing.
  • Use items that you already plan to incorporate into the nursery.
  • Enlist a creative family member to design or create something special.
  • Use sentimental items from family members or an heirloom of your own.
  • Think of things that are important to you and your partner, and you can incorporate it

I personally love very simple photos.  When done right, they can be incredibly beautiful and powerful.  It also helps to focus all of the attention on your sweet baby.  That said, have a white sheet available and a white swaddle.  White also reflects light best for your photos.

I love the idea of using the nursery for photos since it will capture this space that has been set up specifically for this new time in your life. If you have time, get everything cleaned and prepared here too.  If the lighting isn’t ideal for portraits with your baby in it, at least take photos of it to remember it.

Lastly, have 1-2 favorite outfits, a hat, and a few cute diaper covers if you don’t want their diaper showing.  I personally prefer not to take photos with the diaper off out of fear of accidents (ha), so cute diaper covers or even cloth diapers are good to invest in for the photos (unless you’re daring enough to get those baby bum shots).

That’s pretty much it for the prep-work that I can think of from my experiences. I hope you found some of this helpful.  If you’ve done your own sessions before, let me know what other pre-work might be helpful!

Stay tuned for tips for the day of!

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