Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Newborn Photography at Home: A Guide

13Jul

Newborn Photography at Home: The When, Where and How.

When your baby arrives into the world, your family’s newborn cocoon is precious.

Leaving the house is likely to sound unappealing: visitors come to you, shopping is done online and delivered to your door, bonding and sleep are top of your priority list.

But what if you want professional photographs taken of your little one when they’re still so tiny and new?

Rather than making an expedition to a local studio, let the photographer come to you, have your newborn photography at home.

Here’s a helpful guide to how you can have those irreplaceable early days captured on camera by a specialist newborn photographer without leaving the comfort of the family home.

When’s the Best Time to Photograph Your Newborn Baby?

The short answer? Soon after you bring your new baby home, ideally within the first fortnight.

These early days pass in such a flash and your little one grows so much in the first couple of weeks that it’s lovely to take pictures that record this unique time.

They’re pictures that will bring back memories that could otherwise be lost in the fog of sleep deprivation: how tiny their little toes were, how they could fit in the palm of your hand, how you discovered that the best way to soothe them was to sing that special song over and over while walking around the garden.

They’re the things that will make you smile as you look back on the images.

As your newborn grows in those early weeks, the opportunities for pictures change. When they’re teeny tiny, it’s all about snuggly sleepy shots before they become more alert and start to really stretch their limbs as they snooze.

As deep milk-sleep is so common at this age, it also means you can get shots of them being held without disturbing their slumber. A few weeks later and your baby may become a little more fussy about being moved around when they’re dreaming of their next feed.

To continue with the longer answer, days four, five and six after their birthday are the perfect time to schedule a newborn photoshoot, but definitely within the first fortnight. Most parents book the session before their baby is born to get it in the diary. And all photographers will be flexible on moving this date backwards or forwards, depending when your little one chooses to make their debut.

If you’d prefer not to make any plans before your baby is born, get in touch with your chosen baby photographer as soon as you’re home and many will try to fit you in if they can.

From about three weeks to just before they turn three months, there’s a short window when it’s not ideal to photograph your baby. They’re not quite as tiny and new and haven’t either started to smile or developed the neck strength to hold themselves up when lying on their tummy.

Pictures at this age can be rather limited to your baby being held or lying on their back. Instead, it’s recommended waiting until your baby is at least three months old before taking pictures. This ensures you all have the very best experience and a really wonderful set of images.

 

Why Choose an At-Home Newborn Photography Session?

Search online for “newborn photographer” and you’ll be dazzled by several choices: do you want the pictures taken in a studio or in your home? Do you want a more relaxed, natural style or do you want your baby to be photographed in elaborate props and staged poses? it is all down to personal preference and it’s important to choose the photographer who is right for you.

There are many benefits to booking a photoshoot that takes place in your home, not least of which is that you don’t have to leave the cosy nest you’re all relishing.

It’s so much easier for a photographer to arrive on your doorstep: they have all the equipment they need, you have everything you need within arm’s reach. Everyone can relax while baby guides the pace of your shoot, happy in familiar surroundings and easily able to nap and feed when the mood takes them.

These sessions should never be done on a strict timetable as newborns are a law unto themselves, as they should be. Working entirely around your newborn baby, and maybe a mammoth four-hour feed, is essential, as well as respectful.

Being in your own home means that the time pressure is off: you can have a sandwich for lunch if things overrun and nobody is worrying about the parking permit or getting back in time for grandma’s visit.  And of course, if grandma does visit during the photoshoot then they can be included too. The more the merrier.

Newborn Photography at Home for Memories

I believe the most important reason for having family photographs taken is because of the memories they contain: they instantly transport you back to a time and place and the feelings you had at that moment.

Newborn photographs are magical. They take you straight back to that sense of wonder at your tiny baby, the overwhelming love and incredible euphoria of bringing a new person into the world.

Because memories are such an important part of these pictures, I think it’s great to have them taken in your home, the place where you’re living out those family memories every day.

Nobody has a memory of their baby posed like a frog on a cotton wool cloud wearing an elaborate hat unless that was as part of their photoshoot. So, for me, instead of props and costumes, I want to focus on real life, on what’s important.

Instead of elaborate set-ups, let’s focus on your here and now. Let’s take pictures of you rocking your newborn to sleep in the chair by the window where you sit and feed. Let’s take pictures of your partner soothing your baby to sleep as they walk around the living room. Let’s take pictures of you all snuggled together, happy and proud of your tiny baby or sharing a yawn as you remember the days of a full nights sleep.

These pictures will have real memories attached that will only get more valuable with time. They’ll act as starting points for stories you can tell your baby as they grow up and want to know about their earliest days.

Beautiful Black and White Style

Different newborn photographers will have different styles and approaches whether they photograph in a studio or at home. Do make sure you have a really good grasp of what your chosen photographer offers to ensure you’re delighted with your pictures.

For example, all my work is in black and white and taken in a very natural style. I’m keen that the pictures are all about you as a family, focusing on connections and emotion.  Photographing in your home can bring a lot of distracting elements into an image and so by working in timeless black and white there are no worries about plastic toys or colours cast from brightly-painted walls.

Black and white photography is perfect for newborns as it will really stand the test of time. It will shine through the generations, looking great now, as your children grow up and when they’re adults. Delve deeper into why black and white is perfect for family photographyhere.

Sleeping Shots and Interaction: A Lifestyle Approach

While the current fashion in newborn pictures is posed sleeping shots, newborn photography sessions at home allow for a more relaxed lifestyle approach. While sleeping pictures are lovely, it’s also nice to see your little one awake. Over the course of a session we’ll take some of both.

Over the years, I’ve found that it’s the pictures of babies that are awake and interacting that are the ones people come back to, even if the initial favourite is a sleeping shot. There’s simply more personality on show in a picture where your baby is awake.

I love this approach of taking both types of image over a relaxed morning session. Sleeping shots are so peaceful but who wouldn’t smile at a picture of siblings interacting or those hilarious moments where a tiny baby mimics their mum or dad’s expression or nibbles on their nose.

A lifestyle approach to pictures is also great from the point of view of your baby’s comfort.  We aren’t worried if their hand isn’t in the perfect position as we aren’t trying to create an elaborate pose. While many very posed images can look beautiful, it’s worth being aware that they’re often composite shots with a lot of Photoshop done behind the scenes.

And if you’re planning on booking a photoshoot where you want very stylised images, do make sure your photographer is trained in safely working with these poses as some can be dangerous if done without care.

Lifestyle pictures don’t carry these risks as you’re not propping up your baby in unnatural poses. Instead, you’re enjoying them as they are, happy and safe in your own family environment.

Photographing at Home for Siblings

Taking your newborn pictures in your home is also wonderful for older siblings who might be feeling a little left out.

The first few weeks with a new baby brother or sister can be overwhelming for older children. Here’s a new person for them to love, a new person who will become their best friend and playmate as they grow up. But also, a new person who is taking up a lot of their parents’ time and attention.

Because it can be a tricky few weeks for them, you and your photographer can play an important part in making them feel comfortable and in control.

Photographing in your home means your older children feel secure in their own environment. They know they have the freedom to be in the room where the pictures are taking place but also have their own space if they need some quiet time with their own toys and books.

An older sibling will often introduce me to their new baby brother or sister and their favourite toy in the same sentence and want to get into the pictures right away. It’s also common for older siblings to be a little wary and so being in their own environment really helps.

Getting Outside During Your Newborn Photography Session

It’s a lovely idea to go outside for part of your newborn photography session, whether that’s just out to your garden or a little further afield to a nearby park. Sometimes it’s the first time people have left the house with their new baby and fresh air is a wonderful thing.

Being based at your home means we have this flexibility to stay indoors, venture outside if you feel ready to or do a combination of the two.

Heading outdoors is particularly good if you have older children to think about as it lets them have a run around and relax even more. As the youngest of four children myself I was always carried around after my brothers as they went to play in the park and these days I’m amused by how happy tiny babies are being held in one hand while their parents push their older siblings in a swing with the other. This is real life and it’s what family photography is all about.

“Will My Home Be Big Enough or Tidy Enough?!”

This is a question I hear a lot. And the answer? A skilled photographer can take beautiful newborn photographs in any setting.

Most houses contain a level of chaos and that’s particularly true when children are involved. It’s amazing how far Lego can spread! Photographers may move the odd thing here and there but will be able to work around piles of washing and stacks of nappies. This is their everyday so please don’t worry about it.

Equally, if you’re concerned about not having enough light, perhaps you have a basement flat, then don’t be. Your photographer should be able to work in any setting although if your home is very dark do let them know in advance as they may wish to bring additional lighting to ensure the best images.

Photographers will probably ask for a tour of your home when they arrive and will find pockets of light you may never have spotted to create beautiful images for you. Natural light can be used in different ways to create evocative images and additional light can be added in a way that you won’t even notice.

How to Prepare for an At-Home Newborn Session

While you don’t need your home to look like a hotel, there are a few things you can do to prepare for newborn photography at home. It can be helpful to tidy surfaces in the main rooms you’re likely to be taking pictures, your bedroom for instance as bedside tables always look better clear of water bottles and paperbacks and perhaps your living room.

Often newborn photographs will be taken on your bed and so having a clean duvet cover, ideally in a plain colour, is great. If you’re someone who isn’t keen on creases then running an iron over them in advance is helpful. If you’re not bothered by the odd wrinkle or three, then don’t go to the trouble.

You might like to have some different blankets or throws available to mix up the backgrounds that our baby is lying on, dark and light backgrounds give pictures very different feels. Lovely fleecy blankets look beautiful and the bigger the better. Equally, if you have important heirlooms or blankets that have been knitted by a doting parent or grandparent, have these to hand to include.

What to Wear for Your Photoshoot?

As you’ll be at home, you won’t need to pack lots of different outfits in advance. And when it comes to babies, less is often more for a newborn session.

A simple nappy cover can provide you with beautiful images where you really get to see how tiny your newborn baby is and allows your photographer to take pictures of their beautiful hands and feet, details that you’ll love to look back on.

A plain bodysuit or vest can also be really effective for pictures. You want the focus to be on your baby rather than what they’re wearing but equally there are so many beautiful clothes for babies now that if you have a favourite outfit we can definitely include it.

With little ones they often go through a few sets of clothes over the course of a session, so you get lots of variety. But remember that you want these images to be timeless.

I like to think in terms of outfits that they’ll be happy to have shown to their first boyfriend or girlfriend when they’re a teenager. Dressing them up as a woodland animal can seem cute now but if you choose something too twee, you might regret it further down the line. Simple and timeless outfits will always look good and make the focus on your baby rather than on the outfit itself.

For adults, simple plain colours work best, although do avoid having one of you dressed in black and one in white as that can cause contrast issues. The most important thing is that you feel good in your pictures. So if your wardrobe choices are limited after having your baby, just choose your favourite and we can go from there.

Equally, one of the wonderful things about having your newborn photography at home is that you can easily change if your photographer spots an issue with your outfit or if you want to add variety to your pictures.

Newborn Photography is Fun

The most important thing to remember is that these pictures are for your family. They’ll be full of memories you can share together as your baby grows up. So just focus on the important things: you, your baby, your family and the love you have for each other.

Let your photographer do all the thinking about light and angles, about composition and creativity. All you need to do is settle back and enjoy the moment. You can enjoy your day with your family, relaxed and happy in your own home, with no time pressures and no stress.

This simple approach of newborn photography at home will result in beautiful pictures that you can all enjoy for many years to come.

Find out more about my newborn photography or the other options for baby photography on my website www.helenbartlett.co.uk