As the world struggles with a pandemic, babies are still being born! Parents are desperately wanting to have their new baby photographed but due to isolation and social distancing rules, hiring a newborn photographer in Melbourne is not currently possible. It is illegal for clients to attend a studio at the moment, photography is not counted as one of the 4 reasons families are allowed to leave their house. And while I shoot in my clients homes it really is impossible to practice social distancing while photographing newborns. I hold, pose, handle, cuddle and get right up close to newborn babies. A baby’s immune system is not yet fully developed, I would hate to unknowingly infect a baby, and while the virus may not cause a severe disease in them, the baby could pass it to an at risk person like their grand parents.
This is why I have temporarily closed my business down. I urge all parents not to get professional newborn photos done during this time. The sooner we all stay home and respect the governments guidelines the sooner we can all get back to life as we know it!
BUT! Of course you want to document them! Your baby will only be this little for such a short period of time. You will also be so sleep deprived you will be reliant on photos to jog your memory of this period where they are all squishy! This is why I have created a blog post on how to DIY your own newborn photos during the pandemic lock down. All you need is a large window, 2 blankets, some form of wrap for the baby as well as a camera (even a phone will do!). All of the images in this blog have been taken with a mobile phone camera. And while I have used an iPhone 11pro, with these tips and some nice light you can take lovely photos with any type of mobile phone camera. In fact the only time my photography work has been exhibited (in the Sydney Museum, sorry I don’t get to brag about that very often!) was with a photo I took on my old cruddy iPhone 4 camera!
The first thing I will stress is that photography is supposed to be FUN! Have patience because you have time, there is no hurry, you have no where to be at the moment anyway! The minute it starts becoming stressful and not fun, STOP and try again on another day.
Pick a time of the day where baby and you are your happiest. I prefer to photograph babies at around 10-11am, for two reasons. Newborn babies are usually happiest at this time, especially sleepy if they have been up all night! Secondly not shooting at the crack of dawn gives parents some time to potentially sleep in after a big night awake with their baby or give them time to have a shower and get themselves together. If 10 am doesn’t work for you, do another time! You are in charge here!
There is a small amount of preparation for you to do. Pick a room that has a nice big window, often that is the master bedroom. This is my master bedroom and as you can see it has a nice big window with lots of gorgeous light! Light is the key, pick what ever room has the best light. This is the single most important thing, I can not stress this enough! Spend a few minutes ‘tidying’ and de-cluttering the room. The first photo is my room before ‘tidying’, the second is after ‘tidying’. HINT – I didn’t really tidy, I just picked up all the stuff on the floor and from my bed side tables and put it to the side out of sight! LOL! Move things like tissue boxes, glasses of water, breast pads, medicine ect. Keep flowers and picture frames, they look nice. If using a room with a bed or a cot put some nice neutral sheets on. If you can be bothered ironing your sheets it makes the photos look nicer, as you can tell on my images below the wrinkled sheets do stand out (now that I have pointed it out it may be all you can see!).
Remember how I said light was the most important thing? Turn off your over head lights, over head lights give off horrible light, yuck! Open your curtains and blind up, usual sun light is quite bright and harsh. You will want to diffuse the light to make it softer. You can use a sheer curtain, or a white sheet. I could not find my sheer curtain which I usually take to my sessions (because of course I couldn’t!) so I have used washing line pegs to hold up a white table cloth. You can see this in the above image. The actual day I shot these photos it was quite late in the afternoon and was over cast, there wasn’t enough light at all so I actually removed the table cloth which was diffusing the light and shot with out it. The clouds and time of the day was enough to soften the light for me.
For posed photos of baby, roll a blanket up and curl it into the shape of a circle/doughnut. The baby will lie in the middle of the doughnut, using it as a pillow and the sides to support holding the baby. You may need to alter the size of the doughnut depending on the size of your baby, if baby isn’t supported enough make it a bit smaller and if baby’s bum doesn’t seem to fit in the middle make it a bit bigger. Drape a nice soft throw blanket over the doughnut.
Get your camera ready. Make sure it is fully charged and that you have room to take new photos. If your phone camera has a clicking shutter sound function turn this sound off as it will startle and wake baby. You may like to download a free white noise app to run in the back ground, I use this one HERE. This is an apple one but I am sure there is something equivalent for android phones. Actual white noise is quite harsh, I prefer to use a mix of different noises and for them to be a bit deeper. I mix train tracks, people talking and brown noise, off the top of my head.
At this point turn your heaters on in your room, undress your baby down to their nappy and wrap them in a soft warm blanket. Babies usually wake up when they are undressed so offer baby a little top up feed if they look interested. Curl up on your bed, or get comfy on your favorite feeding chair. While you are feeding baby now is a great time to hand your camera over to your partner, get them to take some lovely photos of you feeding your baby, smile and look at your baby. Get your partner to experiment with angles, shooting above and down is quite flattering. Do not worry about how you look! You just had a baby and you do not have to share these photos with anyone, I promise though that you will look back on them with love.
After the feed is finished, hand baby over to your partner and ask them to burp baby, grab the camera and take some cute photos of your partner burping baby. I always try to capture the size of parents hands against how small baby is, it is a nice way of jogging your memory as to exactly how small baby was.
I highly recommend wrapping your baby up for the photos, at least initially. The wrap you use is not really important, I like to pick something with a nice texture and colour. This wrap I am using is a scarf that is currently available at Kmart for $7 and comes in a variety of different colours. How you wrap baby is also not important, this wrap had a nice fringed side which I wanted to display. I usually pin babies arms down and cross their legs as if they are doing a yoga pose, any left over material I just tuck underneath them. How ever you feel comfortable wrapping baby go with that!
Before you place baby down you will want them in a deep sleep. With baby wrapped pick baby up and cuddle them, rock them and pat them, maybe stroke their head. Do what ever you usually do to get your baby to sleep. Do not hurry this part, just sit back and relax and enjoy cuddles. There is no hurry, remember you have no where to be at the moment, if baby needs more sucking to settle then let them suck. Watch some netflix or browse insta, just take your time. When baby seems very relaxed and in a deep sleep it is time to place baby onto the blanket.
Do you remember that trope of kids sitting around a camp fire and people are telling scary stories? Usually the person telling the story holds the torch, and the torch is held pointed upwards to light their face from their chin, to nose to forehead. This is called up lighting or ghoul lighting. It is super unsettling as it is not how we normally see light falling on people, it gives a scary ghost like look. If you think of light as fluid, streaming in through the window, what ever is closet to the window is what will be lit first. You want the light to hit the top of the head before it hits babies feet, ideally you want the light to hit the top side of babies head and fall down across baby. In the photo below you can see where the window is, can you imagine the light coming in and hitting the top right side of babies head before its feet? Before you place baby down into the doughnut hole think about where you are going to put babies head and body in relation to the window. Once you know where you want to put baby, gently place baby down with the head resting like a pillow on the raised sides.
I can almost guarantee the minute you put baby down they will stir, this is ok, this happens to me all the time! Sometimes you just give them a little jiggle or pat and they will drift off again. Sometimes you have to pick them up and resettle. Do not let your baby get to start crying, pick them up and cuddle before they get to that point. Most of my clients comment that they didn’t realise how calm baby was going to be through the shoot, I never let baby get unsettled, they are always picked up and cuddled if they need it.
If baby has settled spend a minute or two checking the light is right and adjust the wrap so it looks pretty.
If you have ever taken a selfie before. you know that angles are super important. Just as we have flattering angles so to do babies. The basics are that you do not want to shoot up a baby’s nose, you want to shoot down their nose so you can not see straight up into their nostrils, I don’t know about you but baby boogers are not high on my memory lists…. You have time so spend some time experimenting with different angles and orientations. Make sure you take a variety of close ups and pull backs with the whole body in. Get both landscape and portrait orientation. Do not forget all the little details like lips, ears, hair, toes and hands. Bring in parents hands to hold baby’s feet or hands, you can even just rest a hand on baby so that you have something you can see the size baby was.
These wrapped images are the safe shots, they are the easiest ones to get and they are what I start almost all sessions with. You never know when a baby is going to wake and not want a bar of photos any more! If baby is still calm (and you are still calm) you can try unwrapping baby a little so you see some of their skin. Do this slowly, there is no hurry. Expose arms and legs but try to keep the nappy area covered as that never looks nice in photos. Take more photos, the same as above, different angles and different orientations. My ‘baby’ clearly would not sleep and had a weird white body so I didn’t unwrap, as you can see below I still managed to get some nice photos with my phone!
If baby is still happy (and you are still happy!) you can try some lifestyle photos. Either use the master bed or their cot. I decided to wrap my baby again in a different wrap (also a scarf I got from kmart years ago). Before you put baby down make sure you look to where the light is coming from, remember you want the light to hit the head before the toes. Snap away, again take lots of photos of different angles and orientations. You are allowed to experiment to see what you like. You do not have to do this in the same day as the posed photos, maybe spread it out over a few days?
Sibling photos are the hardest…. If you want to try them I just need to warn you how hard they are. Keep your expectations low, especially for young siblings. Bribe them with what ever you need to, keep cool, calm and collect and let the siblings think they are doing it on their own terms. The thing is that photographing your own children is much harder than photographing other peoples children. The following photos are of my own kids (8 and 10) with my ‘baby’, sure they look nice right? Well let me tell you these were almost impossible to get, seriously all they had to do was sit where I told them and hold the dang doll…… I photograph kids all the time, and I NEVER have a problem BUT photographing your own kids is a complete different story, throw into the mix a brand new baby and some jealousy issues and it makes for not a great experience. Don’t get upset, I know that particular photo is important to you but the stress is not worth it. If sibling photos don’t work out, when lock down is over think about hiring a professional. I hire a photographer every year to do my own family photos, paying someone else to deal with it is totally worth it! LOL
Now that you have taken the photos what next? First off I want you to delete any images that are not in focus or are blurry, you want your subject and their face to be in focus and if they aren’t they are better off deleted. Don’t worry you took lots of photos because some wouldn’t work! I find that phone photos are usually a little too dark and a little too cool. Depending on how they look you may want to brighten them a little by increasing the exposure as well as increasing or decreasing the temperature (warmth). With all the photos above all I have done is warm and brighten them a little. You can use a basic phone editing app like Light Room to edit your photos. I recommend not increasing the brightness or temperature too much as it will increase noise/grain into the photo. Make sure you keep a copy of the unedited photos. My personal opinion is that filters suck, If you do choose to use a filter please make sure you keep a copy of the photo that isn’t edited. Filter tastes change quickly and filters can quickly age a photo.
Does your baby have lots of acne? or a big scratch? If you contact me and email me the photo I will do a quick clean up of baby’s skin for you. FREE of charge 🙂
I have decided to make available my most popular birth announcement card for all you iso new mums. If you follow the steps above and send me three photos as well as your baby’s details I will send you through a customised birth announcement file completely FREE of charge just like the one below! Seriously, no strings attached, it’s FREE! This card is printable as a standard 4×6 photo and can be given to friends and family as a thank you card. The colouring of the name and the brush stroke is able to be altered and I will sample that from the colours in the photos you send. If you have taken your photos using my instructions I would absolutely love to share some on my facebook and Instagram page if you are comfortable.
Please remember that photography is supposed to be fun, if at any point it isn’t, have a break or try again on another day. It’s not like you have anywhere to be at the moment!
If you require ANY help with taking your own photos, Melbourne Newborn Photographer Sarah is here for you, I am contactable via messenger, email, phone, zoom, skype how ever you want to communicate. I am happy to walk you through it, guide you where the best light is in your house, keep you calm and help with the best angles. I want you to have these memories and will do everything in my power so that you get them!