DIY Newborn Photography: How to Avoid Taking Bad Pictures

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Photography is one of the things I’d love to be good at. Newborn photography is so precious and such a big thing right now. I love looking up “newborn photo props” on Etsy and seeing all the things people come up with. For some reason, my husband and I went the DIY route with newborn pictures. With two babies, it was definitely an adventure! Here are my tips — take it from someone who tried it herself with less than stellar results and learn something useful!

Baby’s age

They say it’s best when newborns are between five days and two weeks old. This is true. The reasons for this are that the babies tend to be very sleepy still, which works well, and they are also very ‘pliable.’ They will sleep right through your manipulations and not fight you on it. Our babies were a little over two weeks and there was always one awake. They also liked to fight us and each other.

Keep it simple

Focus on a few key poses and keep your expectations low! Many adorable newborn poses are actually Photoshopped — for example, the head in hands pose and some of the shots where babies hang from trees. Keep your baby safe and stick to what you can do yourself. Neutral backgrounds and minimal props will make things easiest (also during the editing phase). One “prop” I would recommend are the cheesecloth-type wraps used for swaddling, available in many different colors. We just used plain white Aden+Anais swaddle cloths, but it would’ve been nice to have some color in there.

Avoid naked shots

Unless you’re really proficient with photo editing software, you may want to avoid naked shots. Diapers leave wrinkly impressions on the skin, and leaving your baby (or in my case, babies!) naked can result in messes. It’s hard being mom, photographer and clean up crew all in one. I’d suggest leaving the diapers on and covering with some artful swathes of fabric.

Don’t go with the flow!

Plan out the poses you want to use, with some alternatives if your model is less than cooperative. Know exactly where you’d like to take the pictures, and even take some test shots beforehand, so you know what to expect. The area of the house I’d chosen had really poor light and cast a bunch of shadows. I wasted a lot of time by thinking I could wing it.

Keep the outtakes

With my twins we have so many outtakes, and it’s funny to look at them in sequence because they tell a story of my baby girl getting fed up and finally baby boy joining in the fuss. You’ll laugh at these later, so don’t worry about the photos that don’t turn out as you hoped.  That said, you’ll usually wind up with several shots that will work as mementos, even if you might not consider them canvas-worthy.

Did you take newborn photos? What advice do you have for other parents?