Having professional newborn photos captured is a luxury expense for most people. Meanwhile, your baby is going to be growing and changing dramatically month to month. Since hiring a newborn photographer like me at that frequency likely isn’t in your budget, in this post I’m going to show you how to create professional looking diy newborn photos with little more than your digital camera.
In This Post I’ll Show You:
- The gear you’ll need to get professional results
- Best lighting for newborn photography
- How to style your newborn photos
- When To Shoot Newborn Photos
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Gear You’ll Need For Professional Looking DIY Newborn Photos
To get professional looking results all you’ll need is a digital camera (mirrorless or DSLR) that you can use in manual mode. You’ll also need a lens… or three. Different lenses do different things well. If you need to buy a camera following are what I’d recommend to a friend.
The Best Cameras For Newborn Photography At Each Price Point
- Under $500: Used Canon 6D (Ebay)
- Under 1,000: Canon EOS RP / Sony A7II
- Under $1,600: Canon EOS R / Sony A7 III
- Under $2,500: Canon R6 / Sony A7 IV
- Under $4,000: Canon R5 / Sony A7R IV
Firstly, all of these cameras will produce significantly better quality images than your phone will. Second, the more money you choose to spend on a camera body the better everything gets. If you’re a beginner or casual armature, the $1600 models (EOS R and A7 III) would be excellent starter cameras you’ll both appreciate the quality of and be able to grow into.
If you’re on a tight budget, the Canon EOS RP or the Sony A7 II will offer good quality photos on modern platforms you can build on moving forward. If either of those options is still too expensive, I recommend you look for these cameras used on B&H or Ebay.
If that’s still too expensive, I’d look into getting a used camera body on an old lens platform like Canon 6D. Although this camera is quite a few years old, and the lens mount is the old EF style, this camera will still capture very good photos of your baby.
The most expensive camera bodies (Canon R5 and Sonly A7R IV) will feel like a total waste of money for newborn photography… Until your baby starts to walk. Once they’re walking, you’ll really come to appreciate the eye autofocus and burst rate of these more advanced camera bodies. I currently use the Canon R5, but honestly any of the flagship cameras the major brands offer will produce fantastic quality images of your baby.
How To Light Your DIY Newborn Photos Using Natural Light
The best natural lighting most of you will have easy access to is somewhere near a window or doorway in your home. The basics of lighting your baby in window light are:
- Turn off all overhead lights.
- Position your baby so their face is closest to the window, and look for a small shadow under the nose for correct placement.
- If the nose shadow touches the baby’s upper lip, the light is too high. If there is no shadow, the light is too low.
- Northern facing windows will have the softest light.
- Any windows that let in bare sunlight will cause harsh shadows.
- Light will be softer with deeper shadows the closer you are to the window.
Strobe Lighting Newborn Photography
Most of you reading this should have good natural lighting in your home to photograph your baby. Some of you won’t. My house for instance was small and didn’t have good natural light opportunities when my baby was a newborn.
If this is the case, you can buy a strobe and create great lighting where there is none. The following is a newborn lighting kit very similar to the one I use. Just keep all of the natural light guidelines above in mind and think of your light as the window instead. Remember that the strobe and softbox won’t create great lighting by itself, it’s the natural light tips I laid out above that will create good lighting for your newborn photos. The light is just a tool.
Example Newborn Lighting Kit
- Light Stand – Impact aluminum air-cushioned light stand
- Strobe – Godox AD400Pro
- Softbox – Angler 48″ octobox
How To Style DIY Newborn Photos
When styling the set for your baby’s photos, beginners should resist the temptation to use too many props or get too fancy with colors. Otherwise you run the risk of a diy newborn photo session Pinterest fail. When you look back on these photos decades from now, you’ll want your photos to be timelessly beautiful. Keeping props to a minimum, the colors simple and the fabrics natural will help you achieve this.
The following are some easy newborn styling ideas:
- Use natural fabrics or materials that don’t have printed patterns.
- Pose your baby nude.
- Use similar colors of different saturations and lightness for an analogues color theme.
- If you want to introduce color, wrap your baby in ONE color and pair it with other neutral colors.
- Use bean bags under the material your baby is laying on to help position them.
- Capture your baby from different perspectives for variety e.g. overhead, down low, close up details, pulled back full body shots, etc.
- Include you or your spouses hand in your baby’s photos to help demonstrate their size.
Related: How to color coordinate outfits for photos
Ideas For Where To Get Fabric & Props For Newborn Photography
If you want to try and go for the posed newborn look, try searching “stretchy fabric by the yard.” Likewise, if you wan to try and infuse more texture into your photos, try and search for something like “crocheted fabric” or “knit fabric.” If you’d rather a turn key option instead, this site sells newborn posing cloth kits
When To Shoot Newborn Photos
The best time for newborn photos is anytime within the first 10 days of life. The sooner you photograph your newborn the more naturally they will pose like they did in the womb.
If you want pictures of them while they’re awake, make sure the area where you’re going to photograph your baby is all set up and ready to go beforehand. This might sound obvious, but babies can have a very short working time for pictures. Thus, you’ll likely miss your window if you try and set everything up while your baby’s in a good mood and ready to go.
Getting pictures of newborns sleeping is pretty easy because that’s mostly what they do when they’re young. Just make sure they’re changed and fed and you should be able to pose them into any position you want pretty easily. Just make sure you’re photographing them in a quiet area without distractions to make your job as easy as possible.
If you want to capture your newborn with their siblings (especially if the sibling is a toddler) again make sure the space is all set up before hand. Setting your kids up on your bed or a couch are good natural environments that usually have good natural light opportunity around them. That said, don’t be afraid to rearrange your furniture closer to a good natural light sources if need be!
DIY Newborn Photos TL;DR
- Capture your baby’s images on the best DSLR or Mirrorless camera that you can afford.
- Keep the styling of your photos simple and timeless.
- Use bean bags to pose your baby exactly how you want.
- Position your baby in flattering natural light from a window or doorway.
- Look for the shadow under your baby’s nose to confirm a good light pattern on your baby’s face.
- Capture high and low angles of your baby.
- Zoom in on details like hands, feet and lips, but also zoom out for full body shots with context to show their size.
- Photograph your newborn’s portraits within the first 10 days of life for best results.