You don’t need an expensive photographer or elaborate props and backdrop to take beautiful, personal and memorable photos of you with your newborn before you leave the hospital. Just a little bit of time, some natural light and some creativity!
Let me qualify that statement a bit further. My mom is not a trained photographer. Or even a good photographer. (Sorry Mom. I love you!) BUT she took these amazing pictures of our family in the hospital room the morning after I’d given birth to our second son, Porter.
Here are some tips:
1. Find the natural light. Light is the number one most important thing when it comes to getting a good picture. If the light is good, you can have a pretty crappy camera and take pretty amazing photos. If you can, keep the lights off in the room. Find a window. And leave your flash off too. (My camera has an “auto” function that leaves the flash off. I tend to use that a lot.) In this case, my mom is behind the camera, and behind her is a window with sun shining in the room, and right on our faces.
2. Showcase the details. Your baby’s wrinkly hands and feet, those unique ears, the perfectly-tiny fingernails, the still-attached umbilical cord stump… Strip your newborn down, and capture the little details that will soon be gone forever. Take the opportunity in the stillness of the hospital room to photograph them now! I had good intentions to print a group of these shots and frame them together. Even though I haven’t displayed them yet, they are captured forever.
3. Clear the crowd. When you’re taking pictures of a newborn (and especially a toddler with a newborn, in our case), try to clear out the room. Your baby (or toddler) doesn’t need four people shouting their name from behind the camera. Just a quiet, calm environment where you can all be yourselves. That’s when things like this happen. NO ONE told our 2-year-old son to do this. He just did.
4. Don’t look at the camera. The most authentic pictures are the ones that are real moments, not everyone looking at the camera and grinning. Let your children touch the baby, and the pictures will tell the story. My absolute favorite pictures are the ones where none of us are looking at the camera. This one says: “I’m curious… how far can I go?”
5. Take your time. Plan on 15 to 20 minutes for the photo shoot. Newborns are newborns. It goes without saying that you will probably need to stop to feed or change them. If you don’t get all the shots you want, take a break and try again later. Don’t expect to get the shoot done in five minutes, but don’t drag it on for an hour either.
6. Give Dad the baby. Alright, I’m gonna own it. Unless you’re Gisele, you’re bloated and not looking your best. You just gave birth to a baby, for crying out loud. Take the opportunity to let Dad have the spotlight with the baby. Besides the obvious awesomeness of capturing the Daddy-baby bonding moments, you can totally indulge your I-am-so-happy-but-not-loving-how-I-look insecurities. In other words, you can hide behind your husband and toddler and not look so fat. I totally pulled that trick in this picture:
7. Wear color. Speaking of how you look, don’t underestimate the importance of color. In the first few shots, I was just wearing my gray nursing tank and the lighting wasn’t right. My skin looked tired and my eyes looked dead (ummm, because I was exhausted, duh).
This is NOT what you want:
My mom was brilliant and said, “Hey, why don’t you wear my turquoise cardigan in a few shots?” Bingo! It didn’t really fit right, but you can’t tell at all. All you can see is the bright color, which adds a layer of interest to the shot. And makes me look much better than I did before!
8. Take tons of shots. Just snap away. And keep snapping. Do not stop. Don’t wait for everyone to have the perfect look on their face. Don’t wait for the baby to look at the lens. Just take the pictures, and keep snapping. You can pick your favorites later and then clear your memory card. Of the 150 shots my mom took during this session, I loved about seven of them.
9. Capture what you’ll forget. What the recovery room looks like, the IVs in your arm, your bedside table. I would have never remembered that I had my favorite gum, Smith’s Rosebud Salve and a flower (which our toddler picked for me and brought to the room) on my bedside table as I recovered from labor. But now I have this picture forever!