Hints & Tips for photographing your baby in hospital.

In the moments and hours after giving birth, most of us remember to take a few snaps of baby. Baby and mum, baby and dad. Great, done! And that’s brilliant, it’s those pictures that we’ll pore over and stare at for hours and hours in the future… the future where our kids are much bigger, when the baby smell has long gone from their giant heads and the teenage sock-smell is ever present in their bedrooms! The baby days, where did they go? At the time they can feel like they’ll last FOR-EVER! Endless days and nights melding into one long blurry fog of night feeds, sweet baby snuggles, milk vom, korma sauce poos, and so many firsts! First smile, first roll, first word, first steps… every baby taking their milestones in their own time, in their own order. But one thing remains true, that when we’re all a little older, the memories aren’t so easy to recall. 

In this world where everyone has a camera in their pocket, there’s no reason to be stuck with one or two generic shots after birth. OK, you’re right, there’s a VERY good reason, and that’s called exhaustion. So give this article to your partner, your husband, your wife, your birth partner… because this can then be their job. But it’s an important one because this is the moment you’ll want to remember forever. 

As a documentary photographer I am a big believer in visual storytelling, starting where possible in the first few hours after birth. I’ve compiled a list to help you capture your own Fresh 48 Newborn photoshoot in the most visually appealing and authentic way.

1. Lighting

The toughest aspect of hospital photography is lighting. The lighting in hospitals is very low, often resulting in blurry,or dark and grainy shots on both camera phones and Digital SLRs. To bring out the best in your newborn, you need to get in as much natural light as possible. Open the curtains, lift the blinds, but leave a sheer blind down if the sun is shining straight into the room as this will be too bright for baby and will result in harsh shadows and squinting from everyone in the shot! 

2. Composition

You’re going to want to get lots of different shots of baby, but for the main baby composition, you might want to include most of their body, or just head and shoulders. For this try and shoot from above (*pic A) so their whole body looks in proportion. Shooting from an extreme angle is also great to get that artistic look (*pic B).

3. Timing

One of the main reasons that I hear for not capturing those newborn baby moments is timing. Baby was always feeding / sleeping / had its eyes closed / needed a nappy change / doctor visit… etc. To me these are the absolute best moments to be capturing. There’s no way you’re going to get baby with open eyes, staring lovingly down a camera lens every time, so go with the points of difference, embrace every moment, and snap, snap, snap. And those crying photos? They’re absolutely adorable in black and white, remember, you can’t hear the heart-string tugging cries in a photograph!! (*pic C).

4. Capture all the details

So you’ve got your shots of baby swaddled and asleep (gorgeous!) now move on to all of the other things you’ll want to remember. If it’s warm enough, unwrap baby and get a few shots of baby in their nappy, then go in for the close-ups, ears, fingers, feet etc. (*pic D) When I’m doing my close-ups of baby’s details, I like to blur out the rest of the image by using a low f stop (1.6-2.2) which really makes the viewer focus on the details at hand. You can use portrait mode on the newer iPhones to get this effect.

5. Moments with family members

These are just gorgeous to capture. Mum sniffing baby’s head, dad staring with adoration, snuggles with Nana Sue. Don’t forget to focus on the look in Nana’s eye as she gets her first hold of her long-awaited grandchild!

If your new baby has an older sibling, the moment that they meet can be absolutely priceless! (*pic E) It can be wonderfully heartwarming, but equally it can also be unceremoniously ordinary! You never know what to expect!! This is a huge day for the big brother / sister and can sometimes be daunting or confusing, but no matter whether big sibling is ‘into’ the moment or not, this can be a truly gorgeous time to capture. 

6. Camera settings

Flash OFF! Let in as much natural light as possible. If you’ve got a DSLR I recommend setting it to Aperture Priority mode – AF (Canon) or A (Nikon). This allows you to set your f-stop as low, letting in as much light as possible. Remember, if your f-stop is very low, your point of focus will be more precise, so make sure you get your point of focus (often set to centre spot by default) on the spot on your subject that you want to stand out, especially in close ups.  

7. Editing

I recommend downloading your photos to your laptop and giving some basic editing a go! Most free photo editing software has enough versatility to allow you to bring a little more atmosphere into your images. Give black and white a go, try upping the contrast and see the effects change the mood of the image.  Don’t go overboard though, you don’t want your images to end up looking like Warhol’s Campbell Soup posters!

8. Practice!

So you’re 4 weeks away from baby’s due date, the nursery’s ready and full of teddies. Pick a teddy, and practice! Angles, low lighting, composition, points of focus, practice your camera settings. You could even print and frame a few for the nursery wall!

9. Shot list

Here’s a shot list that can help you remember on the day:

Full body, naked/nappy, toes, fingers, ear, lips, wispy hair, feeding, family and hospital room.

Utilising photography to capture actual moments in time, not only brings back memories of your perfect newborn, but also evokes memories of the moments and love you shared bonding in that hospital room. 

By Bella Jordan, Bella Jordan Photography