Chances are, you’re already lining up an expert to take some professional portraits of your baby when he arrives on the scene (and you can find some terrific Boston-area ones in this roundup from our recent Drool Baby Expo). But those are only a few of the precious moments that will absolutely need capturing in the years ahead: that sweet baby face is going to maintain its irresistible appeal for at least four more years, and there are many amazing milestones to capture. And, you want to share the joy of those beautiful chubby cheeks with the world, right? So it’s time to learn some of the basics of baby photography.
The tips I gathered below should help you create some great images to show off. These are just a few rules of thumb, though: follow the links if you want to get in-depth! I found the “How To Take Newborn Photos” series at It’s Always Autumn to be incredibly useful, and it’s also loaded with VERY cute pictures.
Take advantage of natural light.
Indoors or out, everyone looks better in the sunshine than they do under harsh direct lighting. Renowned baby photographer Anne Geddes recommends early morning or late afternoon light: it’ll be bright enough to illuminate all of the details fully, but the too-direct midday sun can be excessive. Light coming through a window will look better than a flash.
Keep the background simple.
Baby is the star of the show, so let her shine! Lay her down on a blanket and take some pics from above.
Teeny feet? YES. Little hands, grasping your finger? DEFINITELY. Got a macro lens? Get in there and zoom in on that beautiful little face, her bellybutton, her teeny ears. You’ll love looking at these pictures later on!
Consider the newborn-ness of your model.
As It’s Always Autumn points out, babies grow and change at light speed, so make sure you document those first ten days! Plus, newborns look better when they’re sleeping, and they sleep A LOT. Take advantage and capture that cuteness!
Another thing to consider is that newborn skin is prone to all manner of discoloration and blotchiness: photos in which baby skin looks perfect are often very, very airbrushed. Darren Rowse of Digital Photography School suggests getting to know your retouching tools if you’re going to give pictures as gifts. Another sneaky trick to make babies look pristine (and to give the picture a classic, archival look) is to convert pictures to black and white – it works!
Finally: I agree with Autumn that newborns look best naked. It’s super duper cute! Just make sure you’re shooting in a warm room, since babies get cold easily and… make sure all fabrics with any proximity to your baby are machine-washable. (Babies are messy, and while the results are funny, dry-cleaning bills may not be.)
Rowse took a picture of his newborn son with every visitor that came by, since the pictures will make great gifts. They’ll also make amazing memories, which kids will find fascinating when they’re older!
It’s Always Autumn has a great roundup of tips for how to pose everyone in the family with their newly-minted loved one, and it’s amazing how much of a difference a few of these tweaks can make – for instance, you get vastly better pictures if Mom or Grandma holds the baby up close to her face, so you get a sense of connection in the pic.
Get the essential shots.
Mike Spohr lists a lot of the moments and milestones you’ll definitely want to capture here: leaving the hospital, itty-bitty feet, wacky hair, early smiles, chubby rolls, and more! And, MAKE SURE that there are plenty of sweet pics with both parents. Moms, if you’re feeling like you’re not looking your best (although we assure you that you look lovely), you may feel that black-and-white is kinder to you as well.
Also: the “perspective shot” of your baby every month is a genius idea – it’s so cool to document how fast they grow! Set her up with a plush pal on the same day each month, and then look back and then and marvel at the miracle that milk hath wrought.
Save and organize everything, and make sure you back it up!
Finally: Geddes recommends downloading your pictures regularly, and organizing them month by month. Don’t wait – those early months zoom by fast, and sleep deprivation does weird things to your memory. Our Head Buyer, Jill, recommends using late-night nursing sessions with a restless baby as a time to sync your iPhone and upload your pictures and videos – it’s not a task that will take a ton of attention, and you’ll be so glad you did it when you want to revisit these memories later on!