by Maria Murray, Maria Murray Photography
I hope this blog post will help you to get some fantastic maternity and newborn images, in the comfort of your own home.
You won’t need any special equipment, and the only thing you will need is a little time!
Regardless if you are looking to carry out a maternity or newborn shoot, preparing well in advance is key. So, what do you need to consider?
The first and most important thing to consider is light. Forget flashes and lamps, you can take perfectly beautiful images at home using natural light coming through your window. Ideally use a window next to a bed, or next to the side of a plain wall. For newborns, the bed is normally a great place to start (as it’s normally next to a window!).
Figure out which windows in your home are the least overlooked, and let the most light in, then work out what time of the day is best for soft diffused light. During the summer months you will find either early morning and late afternoon works best, but it will also depend on the direction that the room you are using is facing. Avoid direct sunlight, as it’s too harsh and contrasty. You can always soften light using some thin nets if you have some.
Make sure that any other lights in the room you are using are switched off – especially overhead lights, as they can cause unpleasant shadows & colour casts.
Apart from lighting and posing, a big thing that will make your images look more professional, is a clean background. So when you have decided WHERE you will be shooting, clear any clutter.
If it’s on the bed, make sure the sheets look nice and fresh (and preferably ironed), and either clean up, or move anything you have laying around that you don’t want in the image.
Even for lifestyle shots, where you prefer to use your home as background, it will look much better if it’s nice and organised.
Basically think tidy & simple.
- SAFETY AND ASSISTANCE
For newborn shoots, ensure that wherever you choose to shoot is safe for the baby – so remove any cables, or things you could trip over from your working area. If shooting on the bed ensure that the baby is away from the edge. Never get yourself hovering over the baby with heavy equipment in hand in case you drop it.
It’s always great to have someone who is a “spotter” who can help out with the shoot. But this is not essential – just make sure that you do not attempt to replicate the newborn posing you see on professional photographers websites. Many of those images are achieved in post production, and with assistance of another person. Stick to simple, timeless poses that are easy on the baby. The baby will let you know if they are not happy, so make sure you listen out for any signs of discomfort.
Also, a note if you are including brothers or sisters. From a photographers perspective I can tell you these are the most challenging images! You will need to stay patient – you will get best results when the sibling is relaxed and happy, rather than feeling like they are under pressure. And definitely don’t leave your toddler unattended when close to your newborn, as they can get fed up and throw the baby off when you least expect it. If you are attempting sibling images, having another person there is pretty much essential! Here are some great ideas for SIBLING SHOTS.
For maternity shoots, If you have a willing partner who can take the photos for you, and you can stay relaxed then that’s fantastic. If not, you will need to get yourself a tripod, and make sure you get familiar with the self timer facility on your camera. You can also get things that set off your camera remotely. THIS is a good example – I haven’t used it myself, but it’s inexpensive and from what I hear, super easy to use! Perfect if you you want to take a family picture with all of you in it , rather than losing the person who is taking the picture.
For maternity , If you don’t want nude/semi nude images, it’s best to wear form fitting clothing or something that shows off your bump. Make sure you are comfortable, try to keep make up nice & natural, and avoid excessive jewellery ( unless of course you have something special you would like included, or it’s part of the styling).
For newborn images it can get tricky with clothing. Babies often don’t fit their clothes properly, so my preference is to use a wrap, swaddle or baby blanket to cover up the nappy. I have put together a WRAPPING & SWADDLING ideas board to help you with some techniques.
I would always advise my clients to wear clothing that isn’t too busy – so avoid heavy patterns, logos & keep everyone involved in the same tones. In a nutshell, you want the attention on the subject rather than the clothing.
Lastly, If you want to accessorise, go for it! Always take the image without the added details first, just in case you prefer the plainer version. For newborns this can mean little hats, cuddle toys, soft fabrics, headbands – whatever you you like. For maternity you could use things like lace for more creative effects, items you have bought for your baby or anything else you may like.
Whether its Maternity or newborn shoot, decide on a max of 2-3 poses and concentrate just on those. It’s good fun to put together a Pinterest board to get some ideas on how you want your images to look. I have already done this for you, so you can easily re-pin any images you like, and create your own idea boards.
Equipment wise, use what you have. An SLR is great, but a point and shoot, or a phone, are fine too. What makes the image is the lighting, composition, pose, and the feel of it. Often images which are technically imperfect are the ones that speak to us most – because they capture a feeling, or a moment that is special to us.
If your phone or camera have a portrait mode setting, then use this. The purpose of this mode is to get those nice blurry backgrounds.
You can download a free equipment guide form my website HERE.
- TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF
Keep the pressure off yourself and remember, if the shoot is not going according to plan, you can just take a break – you are not on a time limit. With baby sessions especially, remember your little one will feed off your mood – so if you get stressed, the baby will be too. Keep nice and calm, and the baby will be calm too. Take your time and enjoy it!
There are many free editing apps available nowadays so really you are spoilt for choice. Personally I am not a fan of unnatural effects and prefer to get the image right in camera. So make sure you pay attention to the lighting and posing ( remember remove the clutter) and that way you can use editing software for finishing touches. SNAPSEED is excellent on mobile devices and it’s free. Photoshop and Lightroom are great too, but these are paid subscriptions, and not necessary unless you are a more advanced photographer. VSCO is great for film like effects.
There is also an app called PRECIOUS, where you can take your baby images and they make up some great little montages for you, and it comes with a free trial.
And if you want something really different, check out DIGITAL BACKDROPS – I design these myself and I can pop in your baby or maternity image into different settings, after you have taken the picture.
EXTRA MATERNITY SHOOT POINTERS
SHOOT TIMING – between week 30 – 38 is great, but it will depend on the size and shape of your bump and how you feel. Don’t overthink this one – it’s really up to you! Some mums photograph their bump weekly or monthly, and then create a time line afterwards. For some ideas check out this TIMELINE IDEAS board.
LIGHTING – as mentioned before, choose a day where the light is soft & diffused. Using your window as a light source, position yourself about a foot away with the window to your side. Don’t be afraid to experiment – take lots of images at different angles, and move around. Notice how different the light is depending on where you stand. Take some images with your face & bump turned towards the window, and then play with your position. So for example next you could just turn your body away from the light, but turn your face towards the light. I have put together a coupe of idea boards to help you out –
If you would like to play with lighting and get a more unusual effect, you could use things like blinds – perfect for creative effects with the sun streaming through! Or maybe use fabrics like lace?Check out this board for more CREATIVE LIGHTING ideas.
POSING – Bend what bends! So wrists, knees, elbows – also relax your fingers. Lean slightly into the camera and slightly angle your body away from the camera. Side on images are great – rotate and see what angles work best for you. Don’t be afraid to smile – I love images that show joy. Even if you do a fake laugh you will find the more you do it, the more you make yourself actually laugh.
SPACE CONSTRAINTS – If you are not in a position to make a lot of space around where you will be shooting, use close crops to get rid of any unwanted background details. I adore close crops, and they are super effective – check out this CLOSE CROP board for ideas.
EXTRA NEWBORN SHOOT POINTERS
SHOOT TIMING – For newborns, shooting between day 7-14 is the easiest for achieving those sleepy curled up images. This is not to say that you can’t get them at other times – but there are always “optimum” times for certain types of images. Those timings don’t apply to early babies or twins, as they have to be adjusted based on what would have been the original due date. Feeding needs to be well established, so your baby is happy and calm. If you missed the optimum time, don’t worry – you can get beautiful shots at any time. Personally, I love awake newborn shots and the older the baby is, the more their personality will show. They don’t have to be asleep! And if you would like some extra help on how to prepare you baby for the newborn shoot, you can download a free prep guide HERE.
LIGHTING – When I shoot sessions at my clients homes, I will most often utilise the bed in the bedroom that has the nicest light. Sometimes it means moving rooms, as light moves through the day. Remember you want a nice bright room, but without direct sunlight coming through. Place bubba on the bed and try different angles. Check out the ON THE BED POSING IDEAS – they are mostly nice and simple shots, but they are definitely timeless!
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – If you are taking images of your bubba with less clothes on than they are used to, and maybe just using a wrap, I would recommend that you heat up the room you are shooting in a little more than usual. Also, a little extra food before your start the shoot will keep your little one more sleepy. Some babies may enjoy a warm bath before the shoot so they are nice and relaxed. For nudie shots make sure you have a waterproof handy – especially on the carpet, in case any little accidents happen.
POSING – some of my most favourite shots with newborns are ones that show love. So when holding your newborn just be natural – nuzzle into them , close your eyes and breathe your baby’s smell in, give them little kisses. It’s all about that beautiful moment of connection. For me personally this always overrides the technical aspects. I would much rather see an image that is raw and real and makes me feel something, than a perfectly staged image that that is just “nice”.
Don’t forget the LITTLE DETAILS too (hands, feet, eyelashes). If you have a macro lens or setting you can use, then this is best for details.
PROPS – If you love images with props, it’s a little more difficult to get those images at home. But this is where digital backdrops come in! If you have a white or cream furry blanket, that you can use underneath your baby, this is a great start. Make sure the baby is nicely swaddled and create a little dip in the bed ( you can use pillows) or check out THIS IDEA . Photograph your bubba all snuggled in (on their back) and this will create a base image that can then be used to create a composite image. You can check out pre-made digital backdrops HERE. If you like those, after purchasing you can use a retouching service to do the rest, and combine your image with the backdrop.
If you would like more detailed information on any of the above, you are more than welcome to visit my blog, where I will be breaking things down in a little more detail.
Please do make sure you make use of the PINTEREST BOARDS I have put together for you – hopefully this will inspire you and give you lots of ideas!
Website/ Social Handles
PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE – https://mariamurrayphotography.co.uk/
DIGITAL BACKDROPS – https://sweetbambinidesign.com/
INSTAGRAM – Maria Murray Creative
FACEBOOK PAGES – Maria Murray Creative
PINTEREST – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/mariajmurray
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/MariaMurray