Tips For Parents:
Photographing Newborns
Great photographs are the seeds of life’s memories.

Everyone loves great photographs and few subjects are more enjoyable than capturing and sharing images of a newborn’s arrival.  Although not everyone is a born photographer, newer digital cameras and photography software help considerably to bring out the best photographer in each of us.  Perhaps the most useful aspect of digital cameras is the ability to take unlimited photographs while only saving or printing the very best of these pictures, reducing the cost compared to older film-based photography. 


Types of cameras.

Since few events are more important to capture than the birth and early development of your child, if you have not purchased a newer digital camera, now may be a good time to consider doing so before the arrival of your baby. There are several different types of digital cameras on the market.  Let’s take a few moments to explain two of the most popular camera types.

Point-and-shoot cameras.  Point-and-shoot cameras represent small, compact cameras that generally range from $100 to $350 in price. These cameras often have preconfigured exposure settings to help make taking pictures simple while enabling those new to photography to capture excellent photographs. These cameras represent the most popular camera purchase due to their affordable cost. 

DSLRs.  DSLR or digital single lens reflex cameras have interchangeable lenses and are generally larger cameras than point-and-shoot models.  DSLRs give the photographer greater control over the exposure of the photos taken and have more advanced features than simple point-and-shoot cameras.  The digital image sensors in DSLRs are larger than those found in point-and-shoot cameras . This translates into much better image quality and better color reproduction.  Along with these enhanced features comes greater camera weight and higher costs, with DSLR prices ranging from $500 to $2000 or more.

Four-Thirds Cameras. Four-thirds camera bodies, although initially popular a few decades ago, are making a comeback since they represent a camera with better image quality than point-and-shoot cameras, but are lighter and less expensive than many DSLR cameras. Although these cameras have interchangeable lenses, they are limited to those lenses designed for use with four-thirds camera bodies. The cost of a four-thirds camera generally lies in between the point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras.
Regardless of the camera purchase you decide upon, the most important tool in helping you become a better photographer is the camera’s manual.  Read the manual and learn how to use your camera’s different features to take full advantage of its abilities.  While most manuals cover the basics of the camera’s operation, more in depth books for many camera models are often available through online bookstores that explain the camera’s functions in greater detail.


Common camera settings for newborn photography.

Digital processors in today’s newer digital cameras provide sharper, higher resolution photographs, with less digital noise than similar digital cameras of only a few years ago. However, to get the best images from your camera, it is important to become familiar with the different camera settings that enhance the phototgrapher’s creative and technical abilities.  Try to get away from leaving your camera in full auto mode and learn the different preset modes of your camera and when they are useful.  Newborn and toddler photography frequently involve either macro or portrait photography.

Macro mode.  The macro mode on your camera  involves the capture of extreme close-ups of subjects.  This involves more difficulty in focusing the subject of the photo because of the close-up nature of the shot.  Try to keep the plane of the camera’s lens and the subject in parallel orientation to ensure the photos are reliably in focus.  For more serious amateur photographers, a camera tripod can frequently help to get good macro shots since it holds the camera steady.

Portrait mode.  Since many newborn photos are of the face and body, the camera’s portrait setting will help to optimize your results.  The portrait setting chooses a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) which narrows the depth of field of the image and draws attention to the baby by blurring the background.  Many cameras will also change the color settings of the camera in portrait mode to preferentially warm and enhance skin tones.


Easy suggestions for improving your newborn photographs.

Feed and clean the baby.  Since hungry babies are often fussy babies, be sure to feed your newborn before starting any photography shoot.  A well-fed baby makes a great subject since they are most often ready for a nap after eating and will frequently sleep the whole time you are taking photographs.  Make sure that your baby’s face and nose are clean after feeding before taking any pictures and either brush or comb the baby’s hair.

The “Golden Mean”: The rule of thirds.  Try to avoid always centering the subject in the middle of the photograph. The best photographs often follow the golden mean rule of composition which states that the subject should be composed either in two-thirds or one-third of the photograph.  This can apply to photos that are vertical and/or horizontal in composition. This often will help to give the image more balance and interest.

Cropping in closer.  When composing the photo of your newborn try filling the frame with your subject.  Get in close to capture the amazing details of your new baby.  These close-up photos are best for documenting the fragile yet beautiful features of your newborn that we all love to gush over and are best captured with the camera set on macro.

Landscape versus portrait orientation.  Remember when composing the photograph to try different orientations to frame the same subject.  Landscape is best for long or wide compositions while portrait orientations are best for vertical arrangements.  Try different orientations of the same subject to give you options when choosing your favorite shots later. Keep in mind that your digital photographs can later be edited in popular photography software programs that can allow you to change the orientation of your photos through the use of cropping tools.

Those cute little baby parts.  Take the time to explore the miracle of all those little baby parts.  Making fingers, faces, toes, feet and baby profiles the subjects of your photos are popular ways to capture the “cuteness” of your newborn.  Remember to fill the frame with the body parts you are photographing.  Consider including an adult body part, such as hands, as a reference to bring scale to the image you are making and reinforce how tiny your little one really is.  This is another example where the macro settings of your camera are helpful.

Lighting.  If you have a DSLR with a separate swivel head flash, try bouncing the flash off a wall or ceiling to avoid the harsh lighting from a directly lit subject.  If you use a camera with a built-in flash, make sure the red eye reduction is active or see if there is a diffuser you can purchase for your camera that can help soften the light, making shadows less extreme. Avoid back lit photographs where the light is shining behind the subject since this will wash out colors and darken the picture.  If you are photographing your baby outside, the best time for photography is during the “golden hour.”   This occurs either early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is low in the sky, bringing warmer hues to colors and softening shadows.

Choosing colorful props.  Consider using brightly colored toys, blankets or clothes to bring “pop” to your photo.  Use primary colors and make sure that the props are appropriately sized and do not overshadow the baby as the subject of the photograph.

Special effects.  To bring an artistic feel to your photographs, many software programs and even some newer cameras allow you to add creative hues to your photos.  Sepia, antique photo, monochromatic, selective color desaturation, and black and white settings are just a few of the special effects that can be applied to digital pictures to obtain different creative looks.  

Include siblings.  Capture the early interaction between your newborn and the baby’s siblings. Obviously if they are young, this will need to be done with careful supervision.  Not only do sibling-newborn interactions make great photos, but this can be helpful in aiding a toddler in feeling included and not shunned with the arrival of a new baby.

Favorite toys or stuffed animals.  Documenting favorite toys and stuffed animals that your baby loves will provide photos that you will enjoy long after the stuffed animal or toy is gone. Documenting your little one’s interactions with their favorite toy over the course of months to years as your baby grows into a toddler can provide many fun photo opportunities as you watch both your baby and the toy age.

Photographing the delivery.  Try to take photos of the actual delivery from the head of the bed since this angle will be less revealing for the mother, but will still allow for great pictures of the newborn as it is delivered.  During this first hour of life there are several fun pictures to capture: mom’s first touch, the first bath, being weighed on the hospital scale and dad’s or the Grandparents’ first chance to hold the baby.

Don’t forget the pregnancy.  Every album of a newborn should include some fun pictures of the expectant mom.  Tasteful second and third trimester profiles or belly shots are always fun and help show the sense of anticipation that parents’ had before the baby arrived.  If there are brothers or sisters, try to involve them in some of these pregnancy shots as well.


Organize and share your newborn photos.

After taking all those cute photos of your baby, the next step is to find ways to store and share them for others to enjoy.

Family website.  Creating a family website and posting pictures of your delivery experience and your newborn can be a way to quickly and affordably share your photographs and news with many people.

Photo books.  Online digital publishers can help create high quality photo books of your collections of delivery and newborn photographs on archival quality acid-free paper that will last for decades.  These photo books enable parents to creatively organize their photos through the use of online photography software that can result in books of different sizes, shapes and binding materials, perfect to share as coffee table books, gifts for grandparents or saved for later as a gift to your baby when they grow up and have their first child.

Photo albums.  The old classic photo album.  Although it limits flexibility and creativity in organizing your newborn photos, it can be a very affordable way to organize and share your photos with others.  

Birth Announcements.  Consider sending out birth announcements of your favorite photos to help announce the arrival of your family’s newest addition.


Conclusion.

Learning the art of photography and its ability to capture and share life’s experiences can take a lifetime.  Although this brief description of newborn photography tips will not create the next Ansel Adams nor Annie Leibovitz, we do hope it can provide ideas on how parents can improve their photography skills and successfully document the arrival and development of their baby, helping to capture and cherish these memories for a lifetime.