I've always been interested in photography, but I finally decided to learn how to use my camera when I wanted to take pretty photos of my first-born son. After he was born, I found myself wishing I had hired a photographer to capture all those cute newborn details and squishy newborn poses. I tried (and failed!) to get the Pinterest-worthy baby pictures (although I have a ton of baby pictures I wouldn't trade for the world).
I've had a lot of practice since then, and while I did hire a photographer to document our birth and time at the hospital this time around, I couldn't hire a photographer to live with us for the first month, so during my pregnancy, I made note of the ways I could document the newborn phase myself.
Here are a few tips based on my experience:
1. Details - My photography interests and style have changed from traditional posed portraits to candid, documentary and lifestyle images, but capturing details is still a must. Who doesn't swoon over baby toes? :-) But details go beyond baby toes and fingers. It's important to give attention to moments when you feel that little pang of sentimentality - when you know you're seeing something you will want to remember. Something that will be brief and forgotten if you don't capture it. Which brings me to my next tip.
2. Pay Attention to Moments - While the images above are indeed of details, the idea of paying attention to detail is important across all the images in this post. Determining which moments are important to you and making note (literally sometimes, in my case - hello, Evernote) if you aren't able to photograph a moment right away, is key to documenting this time in a meaningful way. I'll talk more about planning for images in a follow-up post on getting in the picture with your baby.
3. Go with the baby flow - Figuring out your baby is one of the earliest tasks of parenting and it isn't suspended while you're trying to get through your own personal photo shoot. If your baby (or you!) just isn't feeling it, try again later. It's helpful to make note of good areas of light in your house and when to find the best light in each area. That way when you and baby are ready, you know where to go.
4. Happy and not - Not every moment is an easy one. It wouldn't be parenthood without some stressful moments. Own it. Someday you'll look back on those moments and feel strength for having come through them. It's part of the beauty of motherhood, so try to capture that in your images.
5. Remember family (but don't stress about it) - We were lucky to have many grandparents come to meet our new son and I knew I wanted to capture those special moments of them with our son. Especially in those early days, it was hard to balance caring for a new baby, engaging with family, and photographing it all at the same time. So I made peace with the realization that I could not capture everything. It's more important to just be present and take some down time to rest while others are there to help. So put the camera down sometimes (or hand it over to someone else!) and don't feel bad about not capturing every moment.
Another note on the family front, I found it so hard to document moments of my 3 year old and newborn together. For one, 3 year olds move fast. And while newborns do not move so fast, when you're behind the camera your reflexes aren't so great. So it was hard to think about all the usual composition aspects and camera settings while simultaneously protecting my newborn from his big brother's love. I didn't get many of these, but that's one benefit to the newborn phase - they grow quickly and become less fragile. :-)
Finally, I can't leave off without saying it: get in the frame. I'll share more tips in a later post about how to get in the picture with your baby, but for now, here's one of my favorites from the early days.
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