One of the things I was sure about when I was pregnant is that I wanted to attempt to do DIY newborn photos. While I truly believe in hiring photographers to skilfully capture the important moments in your life, as a photographer I also struggle with the concept. It’s hard to relinquish control over your own idea of how an image will look. There are so many things I love about newborn photography from other photographers, but I wanted my photos to really showcase my own style and way of shooting.
I also recognise that not everyone has the budget to hire a newborn photographer, and with that in mind I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for taking on DIY newborn photos.
1. Style Your DIY Newborn Photos
Photographic style is something that is a little bit different for every photographer and every person. Most people don’t really know the kind of photos that really connect with them until they look at a variety of images, so before you actually get started with your DIY newborn photos, do some visual research into different styles. Remember, newborn photography is often studio photography in a highly controlled environment that is difficult to recreate at home, so my suggestion is to use Pinterest and similar boards to look at examples of ‘lifestyle newborn photos’ instead.
2. Collect Your Props
When it comes to babies, photographers just love a good prop. But remember, DIY newborn photos are not studio photos, and they shouldn’t pretend to be. There’s a magic about DIY newborn photos, and embracing that means keeping things simple. For your session, you probably won’t need that many props at all. My suggestion would be a few nice wraps, a hat or two and a good plain backdrop, like a large plain blanket or nice piece of fabric. You can experiment making it a ‘seamless’ background by having an assistant gently lift one side of the blanket above your camera’s line of sight while you’re shooting, mimicking the studio environment. If you don’t want to mimic the studio environment, and you definitely don’t have to, a bassinet also makes a great ‘base’ for your DIY newborn pictures.
Oscar’s bassinet was the main area we took his newborn photos in. I stuffed a pillow in the bottom and then laid a fake fur on the top to bring him to the top of the bassinet so he wasn’t in shadow. When I photographed him, my partner Dean was always within a hands reach of him, just in case. Having a spotter is an important safety aspect when it comes to DIY newborn photos.
3. Research Posing
This is probably one of the most important parts of taking great DIY newborn photos because most people aren’t aware that much of the popular newborn poses they see (i.e. froggy pose, hanging baskets etc) are actually composite images created in Photoshop. If you aren’t a Photoshop user, do not attempt these poses, because they aren’t safe to do with a baby, particularly a newborn. The best thing you can do is research what newborn poses you like that are safe to do, keeping an eye out for cheap posing tricks like using folded towels or wedges to help safely position your baby for your newborn photographs. This video is a great newborn posing guide, and even though it’s within a studio environment you could recreate some of these poses at home.
Just remember you don’t need too many different poses for your DIY newborn photos! A single pose can give you lots of different images if you embrace various angles of approach, focusing on the details as well as the big picture.
4. Use The Light You’ve Got
Studio photographers might have several specialised (and expensive) lighting options available to them. For your DIY newborn photos, you have one of the lights that photographers love the world over, which also happens to be free: the sun. Utilising light in your DIY newborn photos generally means looking around your home for the spot that gets the best light, and setting up your session right there. If the light is too harsh, you can diffuse it by hanging a white curtain or other white fabric over the window. Position the baby so the light falls across them, but not an an angle that the shadows are too pronounced on their face. You could also use white paper or board as a reflector on the other side of the baby to bounce some of that sunlight back onto them. Have a play around with different lights and positions with your DIY newborn photos (bonus if your baby is in a bassinet or similar and you can gently move them around to get the best light!).
I also used an armchair as a setting for my photographs. I had my partner move the chair (I couldn’t have done it!) so it was almost facing a corner window in our bedroom, then I stood slightly off to one side so I wouldn’t block the majority of the light that was coming in. You can get an idea of the slight angle from the light on my partner’s face.
5. Take Your Time
Unlike pictures taken by a photographer, your DIY newborn photos don’t need to be done in just one day. Embrace that and really take your time with the pictures, working around how you feel (you will have just had a baby after all!) and the mood your baby is in. While traditional newborn photography tends to embrace the first two weeks as the ‘ideal time’ for capturing your baby, many simple poses for your DIY newborn photos can be done as old as 3-4 weeks, so you definitely have a bit of time on your side.
Did you take on the challenge of DIY newborn photos? How did they turn out? And what would you do differently if you had the chance to do it again?