Newborn Photography at Home during Covid-19. The How to.
Updated: Apr 30
There are so many babies that I was due to capture during the period of covid-19 I decided I wanted to help my clients in lockdown to photograph their new arrivals at home and not miss out on the precious, early days. These days pass in such a flash and the little one grows so much that it is really special to take pictures that record this unique time, if I can’t do that for you then I will help you to do it yourself.
I will attempt to guide you through a 'how to do it yourself', and once you have taken the images I will edit them and send them back to you! I also personally think that this is kind of cool, that these images will be taken by you, the babies parents and during the lockdown - what a story to tell the newborn one day?
Why lifestyle Photography?
Well at present you have no choice, we are all staying home so capturing your newborn in their home is the best we have, but from my point of view as my specialism, it is also the best most comfortable environment you can have for your baby photography, your home.
When your baby arrives into the world your family’s newborn bubble is precious. Leaving the house is often impossible in the early days nor do you really want to. Bonding and sleep are top on the list of your priorities. So rather than hauling out to a photo studio to get professional images taken, I come to you. (I do studio shoots also but my preference is natural, in the home newborn lifestyle photography).
So you still get photos when they are tiny and new without leaving home!
What better way to capture the baby in his or her very first home, meaning every backdrop and furniture piece will be meaningful in your photos. (Obviously at the moment I am directing you how to do this yourselves.)
Here's your tips
1.Do the session within the first 10 days
Babies are actually still “newborns” for the first 12 weeks after birth, crazy right? However in the first 10 days, babies sleep a lot in the day and they can usually handle a few noises, or movements around them. Though as mentioned, in Lifestyle Photography newborns do not need to sleep during the entirety of the session, things will run smoother if the baby is calm. They also have a better chance of still harbouring that fresh newborn skin, the crinkles and the blemishes that are just so important to capture for a trip back down memory lane when they are older.
Don’t worry too much if they do have baby spots or dry skin or a little jaundice these are all things we can fix in post edit or leave as they are for authenticity, (although do aim to have minimal nostril obstructions featuring if possible, as this can be tricky to retouch!)
2. How to Prepare for an At-Home Newborn Session
It can be helpful to tidy surfaces in the main room that you've chosen for you’re photoshoot.
It's always best to keep your home looking natural so just try to remove things like water bottles or random objects, i.e ’the newborn bedside clutter’. Since your likely to be taking pictures in your bedroom, bedside tables always look better clear of clutter.
If your photos are to be taken on your bed, a clean duvet cover, ideally in a plain colour is great (my preference would always be white). Running an iron over the sheets in advance is helpful, if you have time. If you’re not bothered by the odd wrinkle or three, then don’t worry. Again, small wrinkles can be removed in post edit.
You can choose to leave the pillows on the bed or take them off, if you leave them on make sure they are lined up and neatly positioned In the background. You can also use a pillow for a newborn positioner when you get to the shoot.
A few blankets or throws available to mix up the backgrounds that your newborn is lying on is perfect, dark and light backgrounds give pictures very different feels. Lovely fleecy or knitted blankets look beautiful and the bigger the better. Or thin cotton wraps for swaddling Poses.
Equally, if you have important heirlooms or blankets that have been knitted by nan, have these to hand.
If your baby gets cranky and won’t lay still or alone, you can try laying them in their sleeping pod on top of the bed with a blanket over them. This will help them to feel snug and relaxed. You can then use this set up, whilst their still to move around them and start snapping.
3.What to Wear for Your Photoshoot?
As you’ll be at home, you won’t need to pack lots of different outfits in advance. And when it comes to newborns, less is often more for photos.
A simple nappy cover can provide you with beautiful crisp and contemporary images and will help you to focus on the all the little details of your newborn rather than a busy outfit. We also want their fingers and toes exposed where possible.
A plain bodysuit or vest can also be really effective for pictures. Basics, whites and clean crisp cottons are my favourite.
As mentioned you want the focus to be on your baby rather than what their wearing but equally there are so many beautiful clothes for babies now that there is no harm in dressing little one in your favourite outfit for some of the shots.
For adults, simple plain colours work best, although do avoid having one of you dressed in black and one in white as that can cause contrast issues. Prints can also provide some welcome texture against the basic plain cottons of your babies bodysuit. Some families like to coordinate colour schemes. The most important thing is that you feel good in your pictures and feel like yourselves. Just be you.
Equally, one of the wonderful things about being at home is that you can easily change!
I take both images of sleeping babies and awake babies. It is usually the case that the pictures of newborns that are awake, wide eyed and interacting that are the ones that people often come back to in the future as their faves, even if the initial favourite is a sleepy one. Awake images share more of your babies personality. But with lifestyle photography you really are led by the baby anyway.
Everything depends upon whether the baby is relaxed when the shoot begins. Be flexible, be prepared to be pooped on, sicked on and slept on just when your about to take those final perfectly positioned shots, and cried on as you get into the swing of things and have to cut the shoot short. That’s the life of newborn photography!
5.How to prepare them?
If you decide you want sleepy shots make sure your ready to 'go go go' as soon as baby naps. Usually after a feed. Mornings are also usually best for newborn sleepy shoots. But this obviously depends on your babies routine.
If you want wide awake shots make sure to follow their usual daily cues, (if you know them yet) do they usually stay awake a while after a short feed? Will they pass out after a long one? When are they most active during a day? Try to plan the session around those times.
The bonus of at home photography is on the day that you wish to do the shoot, all you need to do is watch their cues and have the the camera ready for whenever their ready, main thing is the baby is happy and relaxed. In Lifestyle Photography, newborns do not need to sleep the entire time, but the session will run smoother if the baby is calm.
Newborn sessions in my studio are never done to a strict timetable as newborns are a law unto themselves, as they should be. So work entirely around your newborn, if it's one feed after another after another to settle them then thats what it takes, and I would encourage it.
Being in your own home though, means that the time pressure is off: you can break for lunch if things overrun and nobody is worrying about time pressures anyway.
Just remember that if your photos aren’t going well and you are getting frustrated, pick that gorgeous babe up and walk away – try again another day!
If you have siblings to get involved, it is also worth preparing them before the session that you will be calling them into the room for their photos too. At home photography is perfect for involving the whole family! Offering them a bribe or two to get in on the action doesn’t hurt either. I like to have a stash of ’choc choc’ or haribo in my studio for back up!
6.Choose your room
First choose your room - I usually find the bedroom is usually best for family plus baby shoot. The bed is comfy, the baby is usually already getting familiar with your room, as its likely where their moses basket resides. So familiar smells and comfort is important, as is warmth. Heating on, water bottle on the bed if the shoot is in winter. And bring up their sleepyhead or sleep pod for comfort.
Beds usually provide a natural backdrop, if you have a headboard - perfect, if not then that's fine too. The background can be blurred or retouched in post edit. It is worth being neat with the background though, as mentioned in the ‘ how to prepare section.’
But you’ll be taking a variation of shots, you should aim to be taking overhead shots and tight in crops too so you won’t always see the surrounding areas In too much detail.
Strip the bed and replace with basic plain sheets as detailed above, everyone has a white flat sheet right?
Position wise you can alternate between laying baby on their back, swaddle them, hold them, lay them on their favourite blanket or the blanket you’ve chosen, or as mentioned position them in their sleepy head if they need little comforting and want to feel snuggly.
*It is of course important to remember that the safety of your baby is paramount.
So don’t try anything tricky position wise!
If they are lay in their sleepy pod can use this to start moving round them and capturing them still from various angles - above, side and straight on. Try to capture all the tiny details of them. And BE FAST. Nothing lasts very long with newborns, speed is your friend.
Don‘t worry too much about the crop this can be done, by me in post edit. Just concentrate on getting them in the frame, and still, to avoid camera blur. Although funny faces, and yawny faces are also delightful too. The more natural the better!
You could also try to get dad to hold them up in the air, or on his chest, or place mums hands around their little toes to show scale.. If they get restless just drop them into mums arms, feed them, comfort them, and even take photos often with mum. The natural images are the best! If your in another room like the lounge, capture baby on Dad’s shoulder while he drinks his coffee and reads the paper, or is snuggled up with Mom nursing on the sofa.
FAMILY & SIBLINGS
Getting the family involved in a home shoot is all part of the fun. So be prepared to get siblings holding baby or all huddling on the bed for a group photo.
Taking your newborn photos in your home really also helps older siblings who might be feeling a little left out. The first few weeks can be really hard for them with a new brother or sister. A new person who is taking up a lot of their parents’ time and attention however excited they may seem to have them around, its a big change. So because of this photography is often a great tool to make them feel involved, important and included.
Your also in your home so it means the older children can feel secure in their own environment. They have the freedom to be in the room where the pictures are taking place but also have their own space if they want to head off to play with their toys, or video games!
7.Moses Basket or Cot Shot - Its always a good idea to have the moses basket in the room and if you are lucky enough have a pretty one, why not try an overhead shot of baby sleeping or smiling or chilling in their moses or their cot?
Try to place this as near to natural light as possible. Lay baby on their back or side try to get them central when inside the basket.
Here are some images I took on an iPhone. These are a little messy in composition but work anwyay.
8.Use natural light
Light is a huge factor in getting great shots, plain and simple. So get close to a window or glass door, but don’t place your little one in direct sunlight.
Flash can startle newborns. I still use flash if conditions require it but if in the home I will either use my portable lighting kit (which you won’t have) or I will look for the light, the natural light in a room and work around it. Seek out the light before you start. Also, when you are trying to capture natural and candid moments of families and new mums and babies you don’t want the flash taking away from that capture and startling everyone.
If you are using a dslr, underexpose a little bit. You can always brighten the photo later but it’s harder to fix areas that are too bright or “blown out”.
9. Clear the clutter
Simplicity is key. You really don’t want anything in the photo drawing your eye away from the main feature of your photograph. It's a fact that when you have a newborn, the house gets all kinds of messy. (Good job nobody is coming over to see it!)
But you’re adjusting to a new form of family life, so give yourself a break. Don’t clean the whole house, just focus on what you can see in the photographs and in which room you have chosen.
10.Capture all the details
Always, always capture the details, don’t forget to grab a close up shot of the little toes, or just the feet or their tiny little digits (fingers). Their lips and their button nose, zoom in on the face, crop the shot in camera by getting close up of their cute newborn rolls. They’re the things that will make you smile as you look back on the images.
The most important thing to remember is that these pictures are for your family. So relax a little. They’ll be full of memories you can share together as your child grows up. So just focus on the important things: you, your newborn, your family and the love you have for each other.
Be you. Enjoy it and capture the details that you love the most.
This simple approach of newborn photography at home and with me to edit them for you will result in beautiful pictures that you can all enjoy for many years to come.
I hope this helps you to create the best photos of your new beautiful babes and I can't wait to see them!
For further image and composition examples please see the Newborn and babies page on my website - www.lucyewarner.co.uk