Let me preface with I am not a photographer. I am a momtographer who is dangerous with some cool editing tools. I have little business writing a blog about DIY newborn hospital photos other than (1) I am a mom who failed to capture many sweet moments from my kids’ first days and now regret so many missed little memories, (2) I am blessed to know some truly amazing photographers who shoot clean out of the camera and picked up some of their tried and true habits, and (3) my best friend of 25 years is expecting her first baby during the COVID-19 era and has anxiety about capturing their own photos of their new squish.
Hand to the sky, I swear that newborn photos are an investment you will not regret. It is amazing to look back and those little babies that disappear right before your eyes. (It is also nice to have when they push you to the brink but you remember they were once more sweet than sassy.) Don’t scrimp on the photos! But many, if not all, hospitals are currently not allowing photographers to come in so you are on your own to capture those first glimpses of your bundle(s) on your own.
Your foray into child photography can be as simple or detailed as you wish for it to be. A lot will depend on your personality (where are my other overpacker, anxiety-ridden moms at?) as well as your delivery and recovery. Personally, I love the basic hospital blanket photos and clean white backgrounds since they are a classic staple so do not skip those. The main thing is healthy mom and healthy baby(-ies) so just take a deep breath if everything isn’t absolutely perfect… it is a good lesson for what is yet to come. But, if you want to toss a few things into your hospital bag that may be useful, I have a few basic recommendations.
Pack for the Occasion
- Going Home outfit (or two). Our situation was very unique (that’s a YouTube series in it’s own right) but I was so thankful to have two going home outfits that fit differently since they were much tinier than I even thought.
- A swaddle blanket and hat or headband.
- Robe for mom. A fresh shower, messy bun, and tossing a robe on even over your posh hospital gown can look good. You may also opt for a small bit of makeup if that’s your thing.
- Phone charging cable since your Smartphone will probably be your equipment. Honestly, my photos from my iPhone 11 ProMax are often on-par with my Canon M50.
- A letterboard (so on trend) or any special prop that you feel inclined to include.
Setting the Stage
Clear the clutter! While hospital rooms are made to be utilitarian and space is generally cramped, you want to clear as many distractions from the background as possible. The focus is definitely on the new baby not items in a chair, cups, or unnecessary cords. Editing can help but it is much easier and crisper to keep as much extra stuff out of the frame as possible.
The golden rule of capturing great photos is lighting. Any photographer will tell you that natural lighting will always work to your favor and gives the cleanest images. Unless it is absolutely necessary, keep the overhead lights off and opt for indirect lighting. But the ideal scenario is opening up the blinds to let as much natural light in as possible. The time of day also plays a key factor on your images. Unless you have obstructed views such as buildings or other structures blocking harsh light, bright afternoon sun isn’t ideal. The soft, indirect glow of morning sun or early evening is best.
If you do have harsh backlighting, you can use it to your advantage at times with the right types of shots to get that high contrast look. Just keep your subject closer to you and with as much distance as possible between them and the light source.
Move towards the light. Pending conditions, you may need to be closer to the window or just without anything casting shadows but follow the light. You do not want to squint but be able to have the sun on your face and the bassinet. Shadows… beware, they are every amateur’s nemesis. I have been there and had many photos ruined by an odd line casting down someone’s face. Just take a moment to think of how it will look through the camera. Shadows on faces are never flattering, especially of those of us who have a few more trips around the sun. But babies look so cherubic with bathed in warm sunlight.
Take a few minutes before the big day to practice with your camera or cell phone to learn the features. YouTube is a great resource for videos and tutorials since most cell phones have advanced features that can really enhance the quality of your photos. Know how to turn the flash off since these moments are like a going to a production – no flash photography! Most smartphones also have a focus feature that allows you to spot focus your image by simply tapping on it. That is great to emphasize your subjects or highlights. You may also have a portrait mode that is amazing for adding desired bokeh blur to the background or focus of tiny hands and toes. Practice makes awesome so just a few minutes now can make a world of difference with treasured memories.
Amid the exhaustion and excitement, I feel for parents now having to capture moments on their own. If you have a moment, think of some memories or photos that you really wish to capture. If delivery and you only have one support person, it may be difficult but make sure you convey that in advance or possibly recruit an aide or doula to help. The same is true with the parent(s) and baby as most nurses or staff will oblige. And do not forget them! I wish I had a photo of our wonderful nurse Ysela giving my babies their first bath.
Some popular must-have shots include:
- Delivery, weighing, swaddling, or the nurse presenting the baby(-ies)
- Photos of mom, partner, or family with the newborn(s)
- Looking directly down on bassinette and several different angled shots. It is amazing how a slight angle up or to the side can make a world of difference. Also try different amounts of zoom as well.
- Photos with props or name in bassinette
- Closeup of hands, face, toes, bracelet, etc.
- Swaddled and unswaddled photos
- Hospital blanket and a special outfit or swaddle
- First bath and image if a special staff member
- Going home
- Snap liberally and delete later!
No matter what, you will capture amazing memories but here are some resources that I highly recommend to get the most from your images.
- Adobe Lightroom App – this would be my #1 pick if anything and be sure to watch or read some basic tutorials
- Lightroom Presets – you can by editing presets to quickly get the most from your photos. There are several but I love The Luxe Lens ones including their Light & Airy collections. #gamechanger
- ProCam App – it is like your standard phone camera application but with some additional features
Savor the moment. Even if you get one photo, it will be treasured. Our early morning deliveries in the OR after 24+ sleepless hours and a whole hubbub of crazy plus being alone with 2 newborns for much of the time means we did the minimum. But thankfully a white background and good sunlight preparing to go home means I have one of my favorite all-time photos.