DIY (Do it yourself) Newborn photo tips from A professional newborn photographer

If you're reading this - you're either about to have a baby, or you've just welcomed your little one earth side, so firstly, CONGRATULATIONS!

This time in your life is so incredibly precious, unfortunately however, it is also incredibly fleeting.

As a mother to three beautiful children of my own, I can't stress enough just how quickly this time in your life will become a faded memory.

I understand newborn photography isn't in everyone's budget, but that doesn't mean you can't have some beautiful photographs to remember this time.

So have read through some tips I have below and make sure to reach out if you found this helpful!

Tip 1 - Timing

We want to take photos when baby is either asleep or calm and content. So the best time to photograph them is when they have a full tummy, right after a big feed and burp. Babies are also usually easier to photograph in their first 2 weeks earth side as they (usually) like to spend most of this time asleep. After those first few weeks, your baby will be more aware of the world around them and naturally want to spend more time awake. They'll also be more prone to hormonal rashes (Causing red skin/pimples) and gassy/intestinal discomforts.

If you miss the "2 week window" don't think you you've missed the boat though! I've captured some beautiful sessions with lots of older babies too.

TIP 2 - Preparation

Once you have an idea of when you're going to photograph your little one, now it's time to prepare.

Change your baby into the outfit you want them in before you feed them, this way when they fall asleep after/during their feed, you don't need to change or disturb them. (Just make sure to use a burp cloth when burping). If you wanted to undress baby at one point to get more skin showing in photos, avoid putting on extra unnecessary layers (singlets etc) so you can take the outfit off easily while keeping baby asleep. If you do this though, just make sure to keep the room temperature really warm and use blankets for extra layers where needed.

If you're using a phone, make sure to clean/wipe your lens. If you plan on using your bed and bedroom, put down a plain coloured duvet and remove some of the clutter off your bedside tables. Removing the clutter and having a plain duvet helps remove distractions and keep the focus on your baby.

If you have toddlers and want to get a family shot, I also recommend planning to have someone you trust to help you.

Dad burping son during in home newborn session with Hamilton Newborn Photographer Catherine Smith Photography

TIP 3 - light

Lighting is KEY to beautiful photographs and you'll find the easiest light to photograph in is soft light. Notice when the sun comes out there's always a sharp line between the shadow area and the light area? This contrast is what we call harsh light. The shadow area will also be very dark and the light area will be very light. On a cloudy day however, there's no longer sharp lines, instead there's just a soft fade between the dark and light areas. This is soft light. Photographing in this light will avoid dark lines on your faces and capture more even skin tones.

To find soft light, look for a space with a large window where the sun ISN'T coming through. You can also use sheer curtains to diffuse light and make it softer. The bigger the window the better as your light will also be harsh if your light source is small.

Mum and Dad holding newborn son in their dining room during in home newborn session with Hamilton newborn photographer
Baby lying on bed during in home newborn session by Hamilton Newborn Photographer Catherine Smith Photography

An example of harsh light. Taken on a clear morning on parents bed next to sliding glass door in their room. To soften this light I could have put some sheer curtains on the window. (There were none on). I have faced him towards the light to make this image more flattering for his face.

Baby wrapped in white blanket during in home newborn session in Waikato New Zealand

An example of soft light. Here I have used a sheer curtain to help soften some of the light coming through the window.

Additional to soft light, you also want to pay attention to the direction of light. One direction of light, so one window, will always be easiest to work with. If you have more than window in the room you're using you may find that the light is coming from multiple directions which can create odd looking shadows.

I always aim to have the light coming down at about a 45 degree angle to baby's face. (Definitely don't want the light going up baby's nose!). Look for a little bit of light on the other side of baby's cheek - if you don't have this little patch of light on the cheek, your light may be too harsh or you just need to turn babies head a little more to face the light.

A good way to tell which direction the light is facing is to look for shadows. Here you can see the shadows underneath baby's chin on the opposite side to where the light is coming in.

lighting examples and tips for newborn photography by Hamilton Newborn Photographer Catherine Smith Photography

Tip 4 - Start with siblings

It's no secret that toddlers have short attention spans. So if you have older siblings you would like to get photos of with your baby, start with them.

Get the space set up and ready to go. Some cushions are good to have on hand here, so that you can prop them under toddlers elbows to keep baby propped up and safe.

Toddlers will not last long if we're expecting them to sit still and say cheese for minutes on end. So instead create some conversation and curiosity. Ask them if they can see baby's ears and nose and if they look like theirs. Ask them if they know baby's name. You should find them naturally interacting and still looking up at you occasionally for a cute "looking at the camera" shot.

Just always make sure to have another adult close by to step in quickly if your older child gets a bit too rough or negligent haha.

Sister holding her newborn brother during in home newborn session by Hamilton Newborn Photographer

Tip 5 - SAFETY

It's important to make sure that you never hold your baby in a way that feels unsafe just for a photo. Some babies can also have strong reflexes which is important to keep in mind. For example, a photo I'll often get is of a parent holding baby facing out front. I instruct clients here to hold baby firmly across the chest and under their bum, holding the feet in. If baby is fast asleep here we can sometimes have baby fully supported by their parents hands in this position. However If baby is awake and more likely to move and startle, we keep baby close to mum and dad's chest for extra support and security.

It is especially important to be careful holding any camera's and phones overtop of your baby too. ALWAYS wear your neck strap when using your camera.

Dad holding baby during in home newborn session by Hamilton Newborn Photographer Catherine Smith Photography

Tip 6 - Settling a "should be asleep" baby

If baby is fully fed, burped and changed and yet still unsettled, keep them tightly swaddled and upright on mum or dad. Your baby has just spent their entire existence having your uterus holding their arms and legs in tight, the warmth of your body keeping them warm and the movement of your body gently rocking them away to sleep. So it's only natural for most babies to feel unsettled in those first few weeks with their arms and legs able to move so freely around. Once baby is in a nice deep sleep (won't react to a kiss on the forehead), their startle reflex won't be as strong so that's the best moment to place baby down for some photos and you can slowly start unwrapping their blanket/swaddle to get their arms out and show some skin if this is what you wanted.

Newborn boy in crib during in home newborn session by Hamilton Newborn Photographer Catherine Smith Photography

TIP 7 - Be kind to yourself & don't forget the details

Make sure to to be kind to yourself. If you have your partner or a friend take a few photos for you with baby, don't compare these to the images you've seen online from a professional photographer who knows how to guide you into more flattering lighting and angles.

Remember why you're taking these pictures and understand your body will be different and that's okay. These images are one day going to be your little time machine to take you back to this precious time. When the days are long behind you, all the in between moments, like diaper changes, burping, knee wrinkles, feeding challenges and yes even, the new body, will one day be such precious memories to look back on.

So don't forget to capture it all.

Newborn boy on changing table during newborn session by Hamilton newborn Photographer
Mum breast feeding her newborn son during in home newborn session by Catherine Smith Photography
knee wrinkles of newborn baby by Hamilton Newborn Photographer Catherine Smith Photography
Baby spewed on himself during in home newborn session

Found this helpful?

I'd love to see what you've managed to create! Feel free to message me or tag me on Instagram!

If you're interested in finding out more about my newborn sessions you can find that information here.