5 Photography Tips All New & Expecting Parents Need to Know

Jill's baby

I have pictures of my first baby with us in the hospital after he was born. Good friends of ours, photographers, took them.

I cherish them. Not only because they capture those first 24 hours so perfectly with my first squishy newborn, but because I have maybe 2 or 3 more with him from the time we brought him home from the hospital until he was 4 weeks old.

4 weeks may not seem like a longtime to go without taking pictures with someone you love, but 4 weeks is an eternity in newborn years. It was also an eternity in new-mom years, and that eternity was full of mastitis, colic, and anxiety.

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It wasn't that loving, bonding, happy time I thought life with a newborn should be. And so it went undocumented.

By the time I had my 2nd baby 2.5 years later, I regretted that so much that I purchased my first DSLR- a Canon Rebel camera and a Canon EF 50 f/1.4 lens- the month before she was born. I know the saying goes that poor 2nd babies end up with no pictures of their childhood, especially compared to the first, but that's far from the truth in this house.

Jill's family

Family photo taken days before I had Leyna with my brand new Canon Rebel DSLR camera (on Auto because, wow, it's overwhelming when you get your first fancy camera!).

By the time I had my 3rd baby another 2.5 years later, I mastered and embraced documenting ALL the baby emotions and moments.

The good..

Jill's baby

And the kinda rough...

Jill's husband and baby

If I could pass on 5 bits of wisdom to new and expecting parents when it comes to documenting all the first family moments, they would be:

1. Both parents should be familiar with how to work the camera!

I never even bothered asking my husband to take pictures for me with my first son because he was clueless about lighting and settings. He didn't even know where the camera was half the time. By the time we had Leyna, our 2nd, he was much more proactive, taking pictures of me even when I was convinced I looked terrible and didn't want to be in the shot. (More on that later.)

Jill and her newborn daughter

In the hospital with Leyna, 1 day old

This becomes an even bigger problem when one parent is using a DSLR camera and manually adjusting the settings. My husband still doesn't know what aperture is or how to adjust the ISO.

So what I like to do for him is to put the camera on AV (aperture priority) mode, and set the aperture relatively wide (small number), like a 3.0, and adjust the ISO accordingly (higher if indoors, lower if outdoors). Then I send him on his merry way, and he mostly gets amazing shots for me.

2. Know where the light lives in your home.

You'll be spending a lot of time inside with baby those early weeks/months. If you can, try to scope out where the natural light comes pouring in your house and at what time of day before baby comes. Natural light is a million times more flattering (especially on newborn skin!) than a flash from your camera.

Take advantage of those sleepy afternoon naps. I loved putting my 3rd baby in his Rock & Play, with a pretty muslin blanket under him, and getting pictures in the sun.

As he got older I used the same spot in the living room and tossed him in a beanbag!

Jill's baby in a beanbag

I also highly recommend getting a different lens for your DSLR camera that has a wide (low number) aperture, like 1.4 or 1.8. This makes shooting indoors with low light so much easier, and produces beautiful shallow depth of field.

3. Put white sheets on your bed, or keep a white cover nearby. This is especially great for those newborn days when you and baby spend a ton of time on your bed anyway. I got so many amazing pictures of my 3rd on our bed. The white was a natural reflector and a neutral, simple backdrop.

baby feet on a white sheet

4. As baby grows, get creative with containment.

Trying to get a mobile baby to sit still for a picture is pretty close to the definition of insanity. Try the beanbag trick like I mentioned above (always keeping a very close eye and never leaving baby alone in it), but also experiment with angles around their crib and their highchair.

Jill's baby in her high chair

I liked to keep the highchair next to our big window in the kitchen, and tried to keep the background and surrounding walls clutter free.

Get in close for those happy crib shots post nap or first thing in the morning. 

5. Take more pictures. Don't delete the ones you think you look bad in.

I will never apologize for taking too many pictures of and with my kids. I can never get back those first 4 weeks of my first baby's life, and I hate that I have very little to look back and remember it with.

That said, I am just as guilty as anyone when it comes to not liking pictures of myself. I'm quick to delete ones that I don't feel are flattering.

But then I stumble across ones like this...

 Jill and her family

And I'm just so dang happy to have that moment now.

At the time, I remember looking at the back of the camera and wanting to cry. I was close to deleting it when Scott took the camera from my hands. I recall pretty vividly that I was feeling the frump on that vacation. None of my pre-baby clothes fit. Maternity clothes looked ridiculous. My hair was falling out in clumps. My skin was breaking out.

But now I look at it and see beyond all of that. THAT is a picture of life with a newborn and toddler. The fact that I even managed to put on makeup that day is a triumph. And look at my happy little boy?

It's perfect.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to capturing all those sweet family moments after you have a baby is to give yourself room to grow! Put more emphasis on the picture capturing the moment and the emotion than it being technically perfect.

10 years from now, you won't care if a picture of your newborn is a little blurry, or you had a big pimple on your cheek. You'll be happy to just have the moment captured.

 

How do you capture the best pictures of your own kids?

Jill writes honestly and a little too openly about pregnancy, parenthood, and all the moments in life that she has to laugh at or she just might cry into a bottle of wine. Baby Rabies… it’s more than a fever.

All images courtesy of the author

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