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How to photograph a newborn baby

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Mason Resnick is the editor of the Adorama Learning Center and a lifetime photography enthusiast.

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How to photograph a newborn baby

Yes, you can get great pictures at the hospital

Expecting a baby? With the right preparation, you can take home not just a bundle of joy, but a bundle of joyous photos of your newborn.


A newborn baby has a unique look that changes dramatically within hours of birth; if you want to capture this special moment, you need to bring a camera with you to the hospital (assuming you aren't into home births). Hospitals pose a unique set of problems for photographers, but with a bit of preparation, you can overcome these minor obstacles.

Hospital etiquette

Generally, hospitals don't allow cameras, but maternity wards are usually lenient about this, especially if you promise not to use your flash, and your camera doesn't look too scary (read: professional). DSLRs may cause a problem. It always pays to ask the staff in advance if possible. Shooting without permission is certain to get you kicked out of the maternity ward, guys. If you are lucky enough to be in the birthing room at the moment of truth (I'm addressing the dads, now, obviously!), definitely ask the staff if it's OK to shoot and if they say no, don't.

Be prepared to shoot at a higher ISO...400 should do it. Turn shake reduction on. Since most hospitals are flooded with fluorescent lights, be sure to adjust your white balance accordingly as auto white balance might not do a thorough enough color balancing act.


If you're allowed to photograph your child's birth, be respectful of the staff's needs. Ask where you should stand so you're not in their way. They'll appreciate your asking. Remember, your baby and wife come first, but any pictures you get will be valuable treasures. And while you might get caught up in the moment, edit your shots carefully: the dramatic images you capture might be too graphic for some viewers, so choose images with sensitivity towards who will be looking at them. Some people may simply not be able to handle looking the blood and fluids that cover a child at birth. Photo © 1joe/iStockphoto.com

Shooting tips

Get close: Shoot tight close-ups of the baby. Don't zoom in—move as close as possible with your lens at its widest wide-angle setting. Zooming reduces your effective aperture and increases the chance of shaky shots, and since you're shooting with the flash off, you need every shake-reducing advantage you can find.

Get Mommy into the shot: After the excitement and drama of birth, Mommy and Baby will be exhausted. Get them sharing a nap, face to face.

 

Mother and child reunion: When baby is done eating, he will nap, but might yawn just before closing his eyes. Be alert as nursing time ends, and be prepared to capture the moment. Photo © rest@iStockphoto.com

Not a whole range of expressions: Babies do three things very well and often: Sleep, cry, and eat. All three can happen within minutes of each other, so be prepared. When eating, baby may be alert so you have a chance of capturing those newborn eyes. Get in really close!

Show the scale: Have Mommy hold baby in her hands (or give her the camera and have her photograph you holding baby). Get a shot of baby's head cradled in a parent's hands and you'll see exactly how tiny she is. Years from now, you'll show her this picture and tell her how she was this small!

 


Get a grip: Even a just-born infant will grip an adult finger. This is another great way to show a newborn's diminutive size. Get right up close and shoot away! (Also consider photographing a baby's feet, as they are amazingly tiny. Photo @
oversnap/iStockphoto.com

 

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