It’s taken me a little while to compile this list! I hope it’s helpful to you, I really do. When I had Lilly (almost 8 years ago!) we weren’t in the position to get photos taken. I don’t have any “professional” photos of her until after she was six months old! When I had Gracie I was determined to learn to take my own newborn photos of her and then take affordable newborn photos for other Mamas in my area. From there, my photography has just grown! While I love that part of my work- my heart is still in teaching hence this blog and lots of photo related stuff I’ve published here. This tips, tricks and ideas list is geared mostly toward those of you who want to DIY your newborn photos and get better at taking baby photos in general. There isn’t an order to this list just lots of things that have come to mind over the past couple of months! If you need to skim- the bolded text is the most important part of each point. My sincere hope is that you fall in love with photographing your children as much as I have loved learning to photograph my girls. As always let me know if you have questions and I’ll answer them ASAP! (Sometimes I respond quicker on instagram @sweetersidemom).
For your own convenience I’ve affiliate linked a few of the things I use for photographing newborns in this post. I’ve also linked sources for newborn props and such from small businesses and Etsy shops.
1. Heating pads are your friend. One like this that has a washable cover is my favorite.
2. Portable space heaters are your friend. It’s helpful if it rotates like These but not essential.
3. White noise machines are your friend. If you don’t have This yet you might want it. Not just for the white noise- it’s one of my favorite ever baby products!
4. The “right” swaddles can make your pictures pop! These and these are what the pros love (though they can be super long and tricky to get the hang of at first!)
5. Muslin swaddles work really well.
6. Stretchy cotton swaddles work really well.
7. WHITE is always a good idea and helps you to be able to color balance your photos later on. The PomPom blanket in some of these newborn photos of Olive is my favorite from Little Ewe and Me. And they’ve offered up an awesome code for you guys good through February! Use code SWEETERSIDE for 20% off!
8. Puppy pads are a great “hack” if you are attempting any naked-baby poses (not my thing but some people love it!). Layer them between blankets to catch any messes- that way you only have to wash one blanket and not the whole stack!
9. Layer your background blankets so you can switch the settup easily. When you get baby happy and comfy, all you need to do is slip out a blanket for a new look right underneath.
10. Use funky textures for some great depth – chunky yarn, cool bath mats, yards of interesting faux fur. I love to shop the clearance isles at places like Homegoods, Joann Fabrics and Ross for blankets and textiles.
11. Arrange to take the photos in the MORNING. This is without fail the best time for babies (in my 4 years of newborn photography experience!). I always shoot for 10am ish after a very big feed.
12. Take the photos BEFORE baby is 12 days old but after baby is 5 days old. An often “magical day” is the 6th day of life – Mom’s milk should be in if she’s nursing and baby is getting the first glimpse of FULL bellied contentment.
13. Be very very very very very patient. Sometimes I sit crouched over a baby for 10-15-20-EVEN 30 MINUTES before I feel them completely settle into the position I want enough for me to let go.
14. Apply even, firm but gentle pressure to baby’s hands, hips and side of face when you are posing. This makes them feel secure and safe enough to settle.
15. Stroke the baby’s face from forehead to tip of nose over and over and their blink reflex will help them want to close their eyes. Parents are always amazed by this- its a super easy way to get a newborn to go to sleep!
16. When you get a good sleep pose, take full advantage! Stand up and walk around the settup. Get as many shots as you can from different angles and perspectives.
17. Don’t forget the detail shots! Tiny ears, eyelashes, pealing skin, hairs, nosies, tosies, fingers, belly buttons – all of those are precious and worth capturing.
18. If you are shooting siblings, get the big kids in and out first thing, and quickly! Be fully prepared for the shot because it’s usually one that only lasts a split second. I’m not above lollipop bribes, gummy bears or little surprises (matchbox cars, shopkins). NEVER offer M&M’s or any other highly dyed candy- it’s too much of a mess in the mouths for photos!
19. Use towels underneath your settups to support baby. Roll them up for easy “posing pillows” that cost zero dollars.
20. Use a boppy underneath all the layers if babe needs more support.
21. Use a $12 crate from Joann’s as a good prop. It’s a great size for newborns.
22. Settup for your photos near the best light – big open windows, sliding glass doors, storm doors, picture windows. It doesn’t matter the room so much as the light. Find it and use it!
23. Use white foam core board to bounce light. Put the board wherever the darkest shadows are and they will become less severe.
24. 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”.
25. If your photos aren’t going well and you are getting frustrated, pick that sweet baby up and walk away – try again another day! (Obviously that only works if it’s your own newborn).
26. White outfits work really well in photos – plain white onesies, white sleepers, white thermals. I love these.
27. App: VSCO (great for moody filters)
28. App: Snapseed (great for spot correcting all different things)
29. App: ColorStory (another great one for filters- tons of options and can save your editing steps easily which I love)
30. App: ReTouchup (another great one for spot correcting, healing tiny blemishes etc)
31. App: Afterlight (this is my favorite app for brightening)
32. App: Lightroom (awesome for specific color control)
33. Computer program: Lightroom – you can get a subscription for photo programs from adobe for $10.99/month I think? Totally worth it because you’ll be taking photos of your babe forever! Not just when they’re newly born.
34. Headbands and hats – head to etsy for those or instagram shops. The dainty nylon ones are my favorite for girls while the thin and simple hats are my favorite for boys. Search Etsy for “newborn photo props”.
35. If you’re into different floors and not bothered to invest some $$, these backdrops are really fun to play with!
36. Include items you treasure to make the photos that much more special and unique – handmade blankets or quilts, clothing, keepsakes, a collection you hope to pass on to your babe. Possibilities are endless and often make for adorable photos to recreate each year!
37. Try some lifestyle images!
38. Capture baby on Mom and Dad’s bed. Lay a white comforter or white sheets on top of any busy bedding.
39. Have Mom and/or Dad hold baby. Close ups of baby in someone’s arms are sometimes my favorite.
40. Use backlight bet taking pictures of baby in front of a window.
41. Use harsh light and turn the photos into dramatic black and whites (VSCO app works well here)
42. Photograph baby in a natural environment like on Dad’s shoulder while he drinks his coffee and reads the paper, or snuggle up with Mom nursing in bed.
43. Try a 24mm lens if you are using a crop sensor camera and finding yourself short on space.
44. Try a nifty 50 lens like this one or this one.
45. Upgrade your camera! (Not essential but if you love photography this is a great canon to try)
46. Try a wide angle lens like this 10-18mm for capturing things like baby’s nursery or a whole hospital room. But be careful- this lens likes a lot of light, if you don’t have it sometimes it’s tricky to use.
47.Use plastic clamps to hold up foam core or pull background blankets taught. I use these.
48. Capture the hospital room! Photograph the little basinet, family holding the baby, the footprints, wristbands, whiteboard etc.
49. Have someone capture you! Settup however you want then pass that camera off to someone else. You put in some seriously hard work to get this baby- Get in these photos!
50. Have FUN. If you’re mad at life and things aren’t going well, it will show in the photos. Spoil yourself with some pinterest browsing, hot drink of choice and a reset mentality and try again. You can do this!
51. Learn some more! A few of my favorite resources are THIS pinterest board, clickinmoms.com (you can pay for a membership but there are tons of free resources too), _____, and _____.
52. Follow other newborn and family photographers that INSPIRE you. (If they make you feel sad or inadequate though- hard pass. Don’t follow them.)
53. If you don’t want to spend money on props, try using scarves, kimonos, sweaters– anything you have lying around the house can become a prop. I don’t know why this popped into my head but even a banana next to a baby- how cute would those weekly or yearly photos be?!
54. Get help! A friend or family member hanging out to assist is always a good idea. Being stuck crouched with baby in the PERFECT pose and needing something else from across the room is the worst ever.
55. That being said, keep all your “stuff” close. Camera equipment if you have it, blankets and towels, props.
56. Some general edits I usually always do to newborn photos – brighten but don’t push it too far!, desaturate the oranges esp. if baby is jaundice, desaturate the yellows (personal preference, I hate yellow photos- if you follow me on IG you know this already ha!), crop photo so any straight lines are actually straight and level, heal blemishes, sharpen and denoise a tiny bit.
57. If you get baby comfy, try switching up the pose in MINOR ways– roll baby onto their side, tuck an arm up by the chin, snuggle baby in on their tummy. This will get you more variety in your images causing the LEAST amount of disruption. But even with these tweaks be prepared to apply that gentle pressure I mentioned above until baby settles in. Pressure is such a comfort to newborns!
58. If baby won’t settle, use that pacifier! Some babies won’t take it (and some Mama’s don’t want to use them- totally respect that) but if you can- get that paci in, wait for a release in active sucking, and slip that sucker out. Better yet have your assistant do this and be ready to snap a pic!
59. More is not always better. Check your images often especially if you are using a dslr. You could be snapping away 100 photos or a perfectly sleepy posed baby – then glance at your screen and realize your images are blurry, too bright, or just not perfect in any other way. That’s not going to help you at all!
60. Use priority modes on your camera if you are struggling. Don’t think of it as cheating or failing. This is your NEWBORN (or someone’s newborn anyway) and the moments are fleeting. Getting photos you love is the goal even if you aren’t quite there yet with your photography skills!
61. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I love answering photography questions. I’m no prodigy photographer but it is my passion helping other Mom’s get newborn photos of their babes (either from my own photography that I do on the side or helping them learn how to take their own photos!). I wasn’t able to afford a newborn photographer with my first daughter and no idea what I was doing with a camera. I don’t want that for any other mamas! In my experience, photographers (especially the ones that are Mama’s too) are willing to help you learn and share as long as you are being polite! And if they don’t answer or aren’t willing to respond, try your questions elsewhere. Community over competition here.
Good luck-photographing newborns is the best. Le Sigh.