Even when the world is not turned upside down with a pandemic, learning how to take beautiful baby photos at home is something many parents want to do – especially those that are also interested in photography!
So if you have a new bundle of joy in your household, here are some tips to help you out creating some amazing photos and memories.
If you’ve had a baby recently, it may not even be an option to hire a newborn photographer right now. So it’s even more important to know how to create photos that will always bring back the sweetness of this phase of your baby’s life.
As a newborn photographer, who specializes in natural, lifestyle photography for both families and babies, I have 8 tips to help you take beautiful photos of your baby in your own home, with no posing or special props needed.
#1 – Prepare
Select the best time of day
When photographing your baby, you need to plan ahead and choose a time of day that works best with your baby’s routine.
For newborns, this is usually when the baby is sleeping or just after feeding, when they’re really relaxed. Often newborn babies are still getting used to focusing their eyes, so it can be much more difficult to get great photos when they are more alert.
For older babies, sleeping photos are still incredibly sweet.
But you may want to choose a time of day when the baby is typically content and happy. You know your baby best. So you’ll be able to decide when is likely to be a good time for your at-home photo session within the baby’s regular routine.
Prepare your home
Once you have an idea as to the best time for your photo shoot, next you’ll need to prepare your home a tiny bit in advance of the session.
For newborn babies, I always recommend turning the heat up a few degrees higher than normal an hour or two before you plan to start photographing. This will keep your baby comfortable and relaxed so you can get some close-up photos of their hands and feet and it will also help them stay calm if you plan to change wraps or clothing during the shoot.
A white noise machine is especially helpful to have during the photo shoot. There are also free white noise apps available if you don’t own a machine (I like the Sound Sleeper app.)
Not only does the white noise help ease your baby to sleep, but it also helps to disguise or hide the sound of your camera’s shutter. Your baby is less likely to startle or wake up in the middle of your shoot.
NOTE: If you use a mirrorless camera you can set the shutter to silent mode as well.
Even though you’ll want these photos to reflect what your baby and your life was like in this moment, you still want to spend a little time clearing clutter in the room you plan to use for the photography.
I also recommend hiding any cords that may show in your photos and moving or removing any distracting background items in advance of your shoot. You want the focus to be on your beautiful baby.
Think – CLEAN AND SIMPLE!
Gather your supplies
Choose all props and other items you’d potentially like to use in your photos well in advance. Make sure they are all washed, and get out any wrapping blankets, crib sheets, clothing for your baby, etc. Have everything you need in one place and ready to go when you get started.
For safety, you’ll also want to make sure your camera strap is attached well and that you use it around your neck the entire time you’re photographing your baby.
#2 – Use natural light
Soft, natural light is perfect for photographing newborns. Even with one window in the room, there are so many options for using natural light in creative and beautiful ways. You can try front light, side light, or backlight.
Turn off all artificial lighting (lamps, overhead lights, and any hallway lighting that can seep into the room) and open all the blinds and curtains in the room to give yourself as much natural light as possible.
Depending on how much natural light fills the room, you may want to consider moving closer to a window for more light if it’s too dim.
#3 – Camera settings baby photos
I recommend using a wide aperture for newborn and baby photography – typically in the f/2-f/2.5 range. This will keep your focal point nice and sharp while allowing the rest of the image to blur beautifully.
For detail-photos of your baby’s feet or hands, you may want to narrow your aperture to f/4 to retain a slightly deeper field of focus in your image.
NOTE: If your zoom lenses don’t have large apertures like those, try a prime lens like the nifty fifty f/1.8. If you don’t have one, just get as close as you can to these settings with the lenses you do have.
Because you’ll be hand holding your camera, I recommend a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th of a second. This is to make sure you don’t get any camera shake in your images when photographing a sleeping baby.
If your baby is awake, you may want to increase your shutter speed to 1/250th or even 1/500th to freeze the motion of an active baby. You will be surprised at how quickly they can kick their feet!
ISO is the last of the camera settings I choose during a shoot. As you know, the ISO needed is dependent on the amount of available light in relation to the aperture and shutter speed you’ve already chosen.
For the best results for your baby photos, you want to adjust your ISO for the light – not just in the room – but on the light actually falling on the baby. For this, I recommend using spot metering.
Spot metering tells your camera to meter exposure for one small spot within the viewfinder. This may mean that you have blown out or clipped highlights in any windows in the frame (areas with no detail as seen in the image below), but that’s okay.
The most important part of your photo is your baby, and that is where you want proper exposure.
NOTE from Darlene: For beginners, I recommend using Average, Matrix or Evaluative Metering Mode unless you feel really comfortable with the exposure triangle, reading the histogram, and adjusting the exposure to compensate for a light or dark subject.
If you are not an expert with exposure, do NOT use spot metering. Take one test shot for each setup you are doing and review the histogram to make sure you have a good exposure on the baby. Let the background fall where it may.
But also remember, the closer you are to the proper exposure in camera, the less grain your photos will have, even at a higher ISO.
#4 – Positioning your baby
Some of the best spots for photographing your baby are the bed in your master bedroom along with the crib, bassinet, or changing table in your nursery.
It’s important to note that you should never leave your baby alone on a changing table or bed. You should always be close enough to stop your baby from rolling. So if you’re operating the camera, enlist someone else (your partner) to stay close to the baby to help you with safety while you’re photographing.
Whether in the master bedroom or the nursery, I recommend laying your baby down so that the main window is either at the top of their head or at their side. This will give you beautiful, flattering light that goes down and across your baby’s face, without unattractive shadows.
You also want to shoot down your baby’s face – not up her nose. I recommend adjusting your position slightly with each shot you take, moving your camera angle as you do. You will be able to see for yourself which camera angles are most attractive.
As with other types of portraiture, you want to focus on the eye closest to the camera if the baby’s head is turned to one side. If both eyes are the same distance from your lens, choose the eye that is higher.
#5 – Take lots and lots of photos
It can take many, many shutter clicks before you capture the best photos of your baby, the ones you love. Even more so if he is awake.
Although older babies will look at you when you talk to them (making it much easier to photograph while they’re awake), alert newborns often look all over the room. If your heart is set on a photo of your newborn awake and looking at the camera, it is possible.
Keep in mind babies are drawn to contrast, especially in black and white. When I’m photographing a newborn, I almost always wear a white shirt, which contrasts with my camera.
Between the contrasting black and white tones and the sound of the shutter button, the baby will often try to focus and look straight into the lens.
Keep clicking the shutter button. If you take enough shots, at least one will have your baby looking directly at the camera with both eyes working together.
#6 – Varying composition and perspective
It’s also fun to switch up your composition and perspective while taking photos of your baby at home.
With your baby in the crib, you can grab a small step ladder and shoot a bird’s eye view of your little one. You can also shoot through the bars of the crib, the doorway, or even use other objects for layering within the image to add an element of storytelling to your photos.
You’ll also want to make sure to include details, too. Those little hands, feet, and even lips and eyelashes can make such wonderful close-up photos.
For older babies who are sitting up, you will want to get down to their level. Whether that means sitting on the floor or lying on your elbows, having your camera at their eye level will make a huge difference in your photos, and you’ll love it.
#7 – Include some self-portraits of you with your baby
Don’t forget to include some self-portraits of you and your baby together. Even if you don’t feel you look your best currently, there will come a time that you’ll want to have photos of the two of you together during this special period.
What’s more, your baby will grow up and absolutely treasure the photos that include you.
Whether you set up a tripod, rest your camera on a dresser, or direct someone else, one of the best lifestyle self-portraits to make time for is a wider shot of you holding and caring for your baby.
You can also include your entire family in the self-portrait.
#8 – Be patient and flexible
Babies tend to have their own agenda, and that’s totally fine. If, after all of your preparation, your baby is not in the mood for a photo session, take a break. Another opportunity will come up for you to do baby photography – perhaps later the same day or the next.
If your baby just wants to be held, consider asking someone to hold and soothe your baby for some of the shots. Seeing how they fit in your spouse’s or partner’s arms will remind you how tiny they are and may end up being some of your favorite photos.
Bonus tip #9 – Remember to print your photos!
After you take photos of your baby, remember to print your images. Whether you put them in an album or in frames, you will never regret having printed photos of this time.
Taking beautiful, meaningful baby photos at home is something you’ll always be glad you did. I hope these tips inspire you to capture this stage of your baby’s life.