NZ Photographer shares her tips on capturing your newborn
There's nothing like those first weeks at home with a new baby. While we may not be able to make time stand still, we can capture some of the magic. Alice Veysey from Paper & Pearl Photography shows us how.
Newborn photography can take on many forms. While you won’t find me warming a giant pumpkin for eight hours to get one perfect image of your flower fairy infant nestled inside, I do love photographing some of the ‘truer’ aspects of newborn life.
All babies are born into families – whether they are your firstborn or they are joining a clan of siblings. Welcoming this new member into your family is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. There is a beauty and a simplicity to your life in that snuggly newborn phase, but it can sometimes feel overwhelming. As a new mother, you can experience every hour of each 24 in an endless rotation of feeding, burping, changing and settling… And once you emerge from those early weeks, it can feel like a total blur of hormones and sleep deprivation looking back. This is why I think there is so much value in having photographs with your newborn. Take time to capture some fleeting moments of pure joy, amidst the often chaotic reality of day-to-day life.
For me, photographing people is all about capturing human connection. I aim to highlight the relationship between family members and include some of the subtleties of how people relate within the spaces they inhabit.
You don’t need a perfectly tidy home or painted grins to capture lasting images with your newborn. Some of the best images emerge while you’re enjoying a simple interaction or unrushed moment together on your bed or in a cosy corner somewhere.
When and how?
Any parent who has gone before you will tell you how quickly babies grow and change. It’s that paradox of long days but short years. The best time to capture your newborn is as soon as is practical once you bring them home. Ideally within their first two weeks. They are still mostly sleepy and snuggly this young, and any issues with windiness/unsettledness or hormone spots generally start to kick in from two weeks onwards (if at all).
I often have mums contact me while they are pregnant. This is a great time to make first contact with a photographer if you’re considering booking a newborn session. While we can’t lock in an exact date until bebe actually arrives, I’d put your due date into my calendar as a placeholder and we would firm up the shoot date as soon as you contact me with your glorious news.
Whether you book in a professional for a newborn photography session, or you set aside some time as a family to do this yourself, having photos taken in your own home is ideal. Home is comfortable; you have everything you need there and it allows those natural moments to happen in an unforced way. For a DIY shoot, get both parents involved. Take turns capturing each other with baby, and for full family shots, prop up your phone or camera on a table (or tripod if you have one) and use the self timer function. Choose the 10-second option to give yourself enough time to pop yourself into the frame.
Mid morning is a great time to start a photoshoot while everyone is still pretty fresh. A brighter day is better than a dull or rainy day when you’re relying on ambient light inside your home. I don’t use studio lighting or flashes when I shoot indoors. I love the natural look you get from window light and it allows for more unobtrusive and fluid capturing.
When I shoot a newborn lifestyle session, I allow a good couple of hours (sometimes more) aiming to make the experience a relaxed one for everyone. We follow the needs/cycle of the newborn and I tailor the session around where the baby’s at. For example, if baby is soundly sleeping in a bassinet when I arrive, I’ll capture that first. Or if there’s an excited older sibling who is keen to be centre stage, I’ll often snap some pics with them playing in their room early on so they know they are an important part of this experience too.
During the session I aim to capture baby with each parent separately and with any siblings they may have. I’ll capture the whole family together, some portraits of baby by themselves and interactions between family members as you go about your normal routine. Little details are also lovely to capture, like close-ups of tiny toes, soft skin or fluffy heads.
What to wear
Natural and muted colours photograph well, as do textures of knit and flowy fabrics. But basically you should wear what you feel great in. As for baby – the same applies with colours (just try not to match exactly) and avoid clothing with large pictures or text as these detract from faces.
If you plan to take your own photos (by phone or camera) I recommend you capture at the highest resolution possible. The image files take up more space on your computer but you will thank yourself if you get prints made as the pixels handle being enlarged.
I use Adobe Lightroom for my post processing of photos. If you decide to invest in this or other editing software, I recommend you spend some time learning about the various functions in the develop panel. Have a play with the control sliders to see how you can alter the look of your photos. You can undo edits to get back to your original image while you’re experimenting to find a look that you like.
DIY newborn portraits
Here are a couple of achievable plans to capture some portraits of your newborn at home. Choose a room that gets good ambient light with a large bed, usually the master bedroom. A plain duvet cover works best for photographing baby on (a plain sheet will do if you don’t have a suitable duvet or bedspread).
Shot 1 – top shot/flat lay
This shot works if baby is awake or asleep. Try having baby either in clothing or in a nappy and wrapped in a muslin or soft blanket. Lay them on their back with their head towards the window light. Stand on the bed and lean over baby to capture them from above. This shot works best when they are facing towards you but if they are awake and moving their head around or changing expressions, it’s an opportunity to capture a bit of a series to show a few different looks. This shot works as a horizontal half body shot or a vertical, full body shot.
Shot 2 – Side horizontal portrait
Once baby is sleeping soundly, lay them down on their tummy with their face towards the window light. As newborns, babies naturally still curl up on their tummies, so let their legs tuck up underneath them (like a crawling position). Tuck their hands under their chin so their face doesn’t sink too far into the bed. Get down to the same level as baby to capture a horizontal shaped portrait. For a continuous backdrop, have someone hold up the edges of the duvet cover they’re on behind baby. This gives the appearance of a curved fabric wall in the background.
Remember there is no right or wrong way to capture your own family memories – these ideas I’ve shared are just to help you get started. Have fun, be patient, and mamas – make sure you get in front of the lens too.
Alice Veysey is a photographer who lives in Mt Maunganui with her husband and two kids. To find out more about newborn or family lifestyle photography sessions with her, visit her website paperandpearl.co.nz or insta @paperandpearl.photography
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 54 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW