At Home DIY Newborn Photos

As a new mom, time is always of the essence. And if the thought of planning and going to a couple-hour photography studio session to do newborn pics just isn’t fitting into your schedule (or budget), fear not. You can do your own pics at home, either with a photographer or totally on your own (depending on how handy you are with a camera), and still end up with beautiful mementos of your squishy little babe.  

I chose to forgo professional shoots with both of my sons and to pursue at-home sessions instead, saving me lots of stress, my sanity, and some serious cash. Here are a few tips (and a bunch of photo ideas) from a non-professional, non-photographer, regular-ol-mom, if you are looking to go this route too. 

And don’t over-complicate things. You will take thousands of pictures throughout your baby’s life, so while these may seem like the BIGGEST deal now, in a couple months, they won’t be. Plus, it’s your baby. Regardless of how these newborn pics turn out, you’ll still think your babe is the cutest little peanut on the planet. And if all else fails, take tons of pics (we live in a completely digital age where memory is cheap and deleting is fast and easy). Simple math shows that even the most photographically-challenged moms can still succeed at this feat; your chances of catching an especially photogenic moment increases as the sheer number of photos you take increases. Snap away.

DISCLAIMER: These shots are of both of my sons, so of course I think they are all fabulous. My oldest was shot by an amateur photographer at her home as part of a class-project, and my youngest was shot at our house by a family friend who runs a photography side-business (Kirk Morales Photography - check him out if you live in the Phoenix area. He's absolutely fantastic!)

 And without further ado, here are my DIY newborn photo sesh tips:

Pre-Game
Make sure you feed your baby shortly before you start your photography session. A full tummy means your baby will be sleepy and much, much easier to take pictures of. This is also a good time to strip him down to just his diaper so you won’t wake him later; strip completely naked at your own risk… Moms of boys know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s also helpful to have spare blankets and towels on hand for those little unexpected showers.

Kohen Sebastian Carter (age 14 days). Kirk Morales Photography.  Blanket by Modern Burlap.

Kohen Sebastian Carter (age 14 days). Kirk Morales Photography.  Blanket by Modern Burlap.

Temperature

When taking pictures at your house, turn the AC off (or the heat up). Remember, your baby will be in his birthday suit, so 85 degrees is perfect to keep him warm and sleepy while you mold his little body into those perfect Pinterest poses you just can’t stop obsessing over (TIP: don’t expect every pose to work for your baby...try as you might, certain poses just aren’t gonna happen. Keep calm and move on). 

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. Blanket by Modern Burlap. 

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. Blanket by Modern Burlap. 

Age
Most newborn photography experts suggest doing pictures between 5-12 days of age. Tiny, newborn babies spend most of their time sleeping (except at night, of course, when you are trying to sleep) and naturally curl up into sweet, tiny poses. I did not heed this advice with my first (or second) child and did pics at 20 days old and 14 days old, respectively. Both worked out just fine, but 20 days was definitely pushing it. My little guy woke up frequently and wasn’t quite as pliable as I had hoped.

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. 

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. 

Setting
Your bed is probably the easiest place to create a soft surface where you can lay your baby. For certain poses that require propping your baby up, place a couple pillows underneath the blankets. This also adds some dimension to the photos, so I suggest playing around with this. Draping blankets/sheets/fabric underneath your baby and up over your headboard will create the illusion of a continuous backdrop (TIP: solid, neutral colors work best to let your baby shine as the focal point).

Being near a window will help provide plenty of natural light, which makes it easier to avoid the shadows that come with using artificial lights. By using natural light you can also avoid the yellowish tint that many artificial lights give off. Shadows can be tricky; shoot from multiple angles and have a step-ladder on hand if you plan to shoot from above. It also helps if you can contort yourself into awkward positions...your baby can’t see you (he’s sleeping), so do what you need to do to get that perfect shot!

Don’t feel confined to a bedroom. Any place in your house that has a cool backdrop will work. For my oldest son, we shot pics of him in a basket on top of a butcher block table. These are your pics; be creative. No one ever has to see the awkward mess-ups.

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. 

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. 

Props
I tend to like simplicity for newborn pictures: neutral colors, a prop or two, a favorite blanket, and your baby’s birthday suit. But your options here are really only limited by your personal preferences and your Etsy budget. Cute hats are popular, as are baskets, bow ties, large bows and headbands, and swaddle blankets. Another popular idea is to include a stuffed animal or favorite toy (this way you can see how your baby grows over time… Yes, this will require due diligence on your part, in the form of taking pictures of your baby with said-toy as (s)he grows. I have faith in you). And then again, some of the best props are your baby’s own hands and feet. Use them to prop your baby up, or simply take close-ups of these tiny little features.

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. 

Kohen Sebastian Carter. Kirk Morales Photography. 

Siblings
It just seems right that you should take at least a couple pictures of all of your children together, right? Well, everyone else was doing it, so I thought I should too. The pros of doing photo sessions at home are that the older kid(s) can play in the other room and be called in only when you're ready for them. Keylen hung out in the Living Room with his Legos until it was time for his 10 minutes (...sounds like a game of Clue...minus the weapons). And if they destroy one outfit while you're taking pics of the baby, you have an entire closet of additional outfits to choose from. So much less stress... 

 Keylen (age 6 years) & Kohen (age 14 days). Kirk Morales Photography.

 Keylen (age 6 years) & Kohen (age 14 days). Kirk Morales Photography.

Tools
I am a huge advocate of using my iPhone for everything. However, this is a time where an actual camera is probably best. If you don’t have one, this might be the time to invest or to call a friend to see if you can borrow theirs. Conversely, you could also find a photographer who is willing to come to your home. Or you could get super lucky, like me,  and have a friend who doubles as a photographer and is willing to come to your house (hate me all you want). 

But the App Store has so many photo editing options! I know… I know… But you still can’t compete with good ol’ fashioned cameras. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those crisply focused, beautiful newborn pics with the soft focus backgrounds were not taken with a phone and edited via Instagram. No buts. They weren’t. I promise.

My youngest son’s pictures were shot with a Canon 6D camera (using various lenses), and edited using Adobe Lightroom software (which is actually pretty affordable depending on what you want to do with it). My oldest son’s pictures were shot with a nice camera (I have no idea what she used… it was a long time ago), and some light post-processing was done, using software that is probably completely outdated by today’s standards, so it probably doesn’t matter that I can’t recall what it was. 

To invest or not to invest: For a one-time use, you’re probably better off borrowing a camera or having a photographer come to your house. If this is your first child and you are going to go snap-happy by recording every single movement your baby makes (very common for new moms, no judging here), investing in a camera might be the right option for you. Your call.


My final piece of advice: save the blooper pics. These are usually the best ones and you’ll think they’re hilarious in a month or two after you’ve slept and your hormones have calmed down. 

Happy shooting you money-saving, take life by the reigns, super DIY mommy, you! 

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Here are a few more photos from Kohen's recent at-home photo session {October 2016}. All photos are by Kirk Morales Photography.

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Here are a few photos from Keylen's at-home photo session {October 2010}. 

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If you have at-home DIY photo tips, please feel free to share in the comments below. Thanks for reading!