Baby wrapped in blanket

The world has changed significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s at least one thing that hasn’t changed: people are still having babies!

There’s nothing more precious than newborn baby photos, but with social distancing and the extra precautions we’re all taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it may not make sense to invite someone into your home to take photos, or to visit a photography studio, with your newborn at this time.

But that doesn’t mean you should just forget about taking baby photos. In fact, it’s more important than ever to take those photos, so that all of your loved ones who are also social distancing can see as much of the little one as possible.

And while you may not be a professional baby photographer, with a few tips, some fun props and the right gear, you can take your own top-notch newborn photos and create lasting memories to share with your family and friends.

Choose the Right Time (and Make Lots of it!)

It’s recommended that newborn photos be shot when the baby is between five and 12 days old. This is the period when the baby sleeps the most and will be the least disturbed by you moving them about and posing them!

In terms of times of day, that will depend on your home and whether you’re shooting indoors and outdoors. If you have a yard and want outdoor photos, avoid midday — it’s obviously not good for baby’s skin, and the direct light will be too harsh for your photos. Early morning and late afternoon are best.

Indoors, if you have a lot of natural light in your home, the same applies. If you have a smaller home or a condo/apartment with fewer windows, shooting at midday makes more sense, as long as you don’t put your subject directly in front of a window with sunlight streaming in. In any event, an indoors shoot will likely benefit from lights and reflectors, which we’ll get into later.

Pro tip: Remember that you’ll ultimately be on baby’s schedule! You’ll want to carve out a large chunk of time, or smaller chunks across a couple of days, to take all the photos you want. Newborns are unpredictable, and you’ll need to be prepared for them to be unhappy or fussy. Patience is key!

Add Life to Your Shots with Props

Baby yawning

We’ve all seen them – the shots with the baby curled up in a fruit bowl, or stretched out on a miniature armchair, or peeking out of a weathered crate. While those photos look stylish, glamorized and professional, you can do the same types of set-ups at home, with items you already have, or by wisely budgeting a few dollars for inexpensive props from Amazon, Walmart, or even the local dollar store. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Soft stuff: Make sure you have plenty of soft, small blankets, throws, pillows or towels. You can pose your baby in or on lots of things, but a) you want the child to be secure, comfortable and warm, and b) the softness of the items will add to the soft, natural look of the photos.

  • Props to put the baby in or on: Bowls and buckets, boxes and crates, suitcases, flower pots, and of course, baskets —there are plenty of items around the house that you can put your baby in, and prop them up on, to create memorable poses.

  • Personal props: Baskets and boxes might be cozy, but they can also be a bit generic. What can you use that shows off who you are, as a family? Do you love to travel? Suitcases or flags are ideal. Are you a sports fans? Your baby could be resting on a pair of hockey gloves, or wearing a cap with favourite baseball team’s logo. Were your favourite kids books Winnie the Pooh, or maybe Harry Potter? You can create a Hogwarts robe and a wand easily enough!

  • Signs and indicators: Whether you use baby blocks to spell out your child’s name, a newspaper to show the date, or handmade signs with cute phrases like “ready for my close-up!”, you can use these items to add some visual interest or humour to your shots.

  • Clothes (or no clothes!): Your child might not be wearing much beyond a onesie yet, but you can dress the little one up (or down) to match the props and backgrounds you’re using. Unless you’re highlighting a specific outfit, aim for soft, neutral colours that don’t clash with the background or the baby’s soft, pink skin. Or, go au naturel; just be on the lookout for accidents!

  • Backgrounds: If you have photography backdrops, great, but you don’t need to break the bank on one. A white or neutral coloured wall can be an effective enough backdrop! If you do have a few dollars to spend, peel and stick wallpaper is an affordable and creative alternative to creating some fun, alternative backdrops.

Pro tip: Invest in a green screen. If you’re handy with editing photos and want to add some custom backgrounds, like, say, a night sky, or a baseball diamond, or even a scene from your favourite movie, then why not take some shots in front of a green screen? You can edit it out and replace it with whatever background you want in your favourite photo editing program.

Set Up Your Shots the Right Way, with the Right Gear

Baby sleeping

Ultimately, with the right lighting and a few fun props, any camera you have handy will help you create fun, memorable baby photos. We’ll add a few recommendations for new great below, but here are a few shooting tips to keep in mind regardless of what kind of camera you have:

  • Find the right light: We mentioned light earlier, but it’s worth repeating as it makes all the difference. Keep your floor and desk lamps handy during the shoot, and remember to avoid shining too much light directly on the child. You can always use white sheets or even tin foil to bounce light off to distribute it more evenly. And avoid using your flash, as it can harm the baby’s eyes.

  • Get close: Babies are small, which makes close-ups your friend. Don’t be afraid to let your child fill the frame, or most of it. True, you’ve invested plenty of time getting all those props in just the right position, but don’t lose sight of the star of the show: Your baby. Make sure the little one is front and centre!

  • Use flattering angles: Babies are cute from just about any angle, but still, you don’t want to be looking up its nose! Angle your shots slightly from above the child to avoid anything too unflattering.

  • Try portrait mode: If you’re using a point and shoot or even a DSLR with a kit lens, test out a few shots with your camera’s “portrait mode” setting. It can help soften edges and blur out backgrounds in your photos.

If you are interested in new gear, here are a couple of things to look for:

  • Lightweight and comfortable: A baby shoot can be a long day. Make sure your camera is one that won’t wear you out!

  • Large sensor: For capturing all of the detail, like those little crinkles in your baby’s fingers.

  • Silent shutter option: You’ll want to keep the noise level to a minimum to make baby comfortable.

  • Image stabilization: When the day gets long and your arms do get tired, this will help keep your shots steady, and produce clearer pictures in low light.

  • Tilting LCD screen: This will help make sure you can see what you’re shooting, even as you try out multiple angles.

Our Recommendations:

  • Canon 5D Mark IV: Full-frame yet compact, with a silent shutter, and a 3.2-inch, 30MP sensor.

  • Nikon Z6: A full-frame mirrorless, the Z6 has a 24.5 MP sensor and built in image stabilization.

  • Fujifilm X-T30: Small and lightweight, with a tilting LCD screen and a 26MP APS-C sensor.

When it comes to lenses, you’ll want something that lets you get in close. A prime lens will help you really focus on the subject, with a shallow depth of field. A 50mm prime lens, such as Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.2 USM lens, is your best bet here; it’s large aperture gives you a narrow depth of field and soft background, but you don’t need to get so close that you need to worry about disturbing your sleeping child.

If you’re shooting in a larger space, an 85mm lens will let you get a little further away from the subject. And if you’re using an APS-C (crop sensor) camera, a 35mm lens might be more suitable.

If you’re more comfortable with a zoom lens, a medium telephoto is a good choice. It will allow you flexibility to move around and zoom in, while keeping your backgrounds soft and out of focus. The Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR fits the bill here.

Finally, to really zoom in and capture those details, consider grabbing some shots with a macro lens, such as Fuji’s XF 60MM F2.4R Macro lens, which delivers shots at 0.5x magnification.

Make Your Newborn Shots Uniquely Yours

Baby wrapped in blanket

All of the advice above provides a great starting point, but remember: Your child, your family and your lives are unique. Make sure that your photos reflect the style and personality of who you are as a family, in order to produce baby shots that will truly capture your memories of this precious time in your child’s life.

What’s Next:

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