10 tips for photographing your own newborn

  • 10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

Bringing a new baby into your family is one of life’s most amazing and wonderful moments!

The newborn days are so precious, yet so fleeting. As photographers, we can appreciate how quickly these days go by and how important it is to capture all of the sweet details of our new babies, while they are still little.

While some may opt to hire a professional to photograph their baby, some of us are excited at the prospect of capturing our baby’s first days ourselves. My 10th child, Gabriel, was born on June 24th of this year, and I was determined to get some amazing photos of him myself.

I would love to share with you some tips and ideas to help you create beautiful images of your own baby and to make this experience an enjoyable and stress-free one for the both of you.

1. Pace yourself.

One of the benefits of photographing your own newborn is that time is on your side. Unlike shooting a newborn session for a client and having a 3-4 hour window in which to work and create a varied gallery, you have days – weeks even – at your disposal.

Remember that you just had a baby! You need to take time for yourself to rest and recover from the childbirth experience, so please do not rush and try to do everything in one day. I have learned the hard way that this will end in exhaustion and frustration.

When I had Gabriel, I would shoot for a short period of time using just one or two setups every other day or so. Not only did this keep everything low stress, but it allowed me to capture the subtle changes as Gabriel changed over his first few weeks of life.

Contrary to what you may have heard about the first two weeks being the best time to photograph a newborn, it is very possible to photograph older babies in the ‘newborn style’ as well. I was still capturing Gabriel’s newborn photos when he was over a month old.

Remember, time is on your side! Take it easy and don’t over-do it. If you pace yourself, you can capture an amazing variety of images of your sweet new baby.

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

2. Lighting is everything.

One of the most common mistakes I see in newborn photography from pros and amateurs alike is improper lighting. If I had a dollar for every up-lit baby I saw floating around online, I’d be a very rich woman.

Whether you’re photographing for a client or for yourself, one of the things that can make or break a photo is your lighting. Think about the most natural source of lighting we have – the sun.

It is in the sky above us. Therefore, seeing a person who is lit from below is very unnatural looking. It is so unnatural looking that it is often seen in horror movies or to depict something frightening. We definitely do not want our baby to look like they belong in a horror flick!

You do not need any fancy studio equipment to get this right. Almost all of the photos I took of Gabriel were done either in my garage or in front of one of my living room windows utilizing natural light.

A good rule of thumb for nice soft shadows and highlights is to have your baby angled such that the light flows from the top of baby’s head on down their body at approximately a 45 degree angle. Look for a soft shadow underneath baby’s nose to verify that you have this right.

Feel free to experiment – for more dramatic lighting and shadowing as in the photo of my husband’s hands holding Gabriel in the photo above, go for a more drastic angle. Have fun playing with different angles and perspectives, but do not, I repeat, do NOT up-light your baby!

Related: 11 pictures to take of your baby in the first month

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

3. Keep baby happy and you’ll be happy, too.

There are a few simple things you can do that will ensure a happy baby and a productive photo session. The first is to keep your shooting area warm – really warm. I have successfully used my quartz infrared space heater that we use to heat our bedroom in the wintertime, but any small space heater will do.

The alternative is to crank up the thermostat in your house while you are shooting. Luckily, Gabriel was born during the summer in Arizona, so I didn’t need to do anything other than head to my garage. It was like an oven!

In addition to having a warm shooting area, white noise does wonders for keeping baby asleep. I downloaded an app to my iPhone called ‘Sound Sleeper‘ which has a number of soothing sounds that you can play for baby while you are shooting. I would just tuck my phone underneath the blanket I was shooting on and it would keep Gabriel happy and snoozing!

The third trick probably goes without saying but make sure baby has a nice, full belly and is not hungry during your shoot.

In addition to these three things, I have found that most babies (including my own) are much more cooperative and ‘lazy’ in the morning hours than in the afternoon and evening hours. Try to do your shooting between breakfast and lunch, and I think you will agree that this is the best time for most babies.

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

4. Keep that baby safe.

This goes without saying, but please make sure your baby’s safety is the number 1 priority while you are taking his or her photos. If you are trying a more difficult pose or working with props, have someone there to help you and to spot baby.

My newborn photography style is simple and organic with more natural posing, so this was not an issue for me. If you need help from someone, make sure that you ask for it. My husband has been an excellent spotter in the rare times that I’ve needed one. Remember that many of the more difficult looking poses and setups are actually composite images, and not created from a single image.

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

5. Capture the tiny details.

Don’t forget to document all of those sweet little details that make your baby unique! That little upturned nose, her rosebud lips, his crinkly little chin, those tiny toes and fingers – these are all things that you will not want to forget as your baby grows.

If you have a macro lens, now would be the time to pull it out of your bag, dust it off, and put it to good use. If you are having trouble getting the images you want from your macro lens, here are a few tips.

Close down a bit – when you are working as close-up as you will need to be to do a macro shot, shooting wide open will give you a very small depth of field. Unless that is what you are going for, try closing down to f/5.6 or even further.

In addition to closing down, take that lens out of auto focus and try using manual focus. I had much better results with my macro using manual focus! Do not worry too much about your ISO. If you need to crank it up to avoid underexposing your images, do not be afraid of doing so.

Experiment and have fun! When I was shooting Gabriel’s newborn photos, I kept my macro lens sitting on the table next to me so I could easily swap out lenses and snag some macro shots during each of our ‘mini shoots.’ I found this to be much easier than trying to get them all at once. If you have an extra camera body, you could leave your macro attached to it to easily grab those macro images as you go.

Some things to consider shooting with your macro lens: noses, lips, eyelashes, ears, toes, fingers, belly buttons, hair, and fuzzy shoulders. Those details will change so fast as your baby grows and this is a wonderful way to preserve those memories.

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

6. Expirement with angles and perspectives.

Instead of rushing to change your setup or reposition your baby, try getting up and walking around your baby to see what unique angles you can photograph. Try walking behind your baby and shoot some pictures from the shadowed side – you may end up with an image that you love! Exhaust all of your different angles and perspectives before moving on to a new pose or setup. This is an easy way to get variety out of a single pose.

Gabriel didn’t move an inch between these two shots, but look how different they are! The first was taken from the front as a nice close-up of his sweet little face and hands. In the second image, I walked around behind him, loved how the lighting looked, and took another picture from that angle. It ended up being one of my favorites!

Related: Less is More: Mastering the Minimalist Style of Newborn Photography

While some may opt to hire a professional to photograph their baby, some of us are excited at the prospect of capturing our baby's first days ourselves. I would love to share with you some tips and ideas to help you create beautiful images of your own baby and to make this experience an enjoyable and stress-free one for the both of you.


10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

must haves


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

You are going to want to capture all of those sweet little details: tiny eyelashes, rosebud lips, and dimpled hands. A macro lens will let you get nice and close so that you can see all the small things that make newborns so special.

collapsible reflector

Collapsible reflector

This handy little tool will allow you to add light where you need it. Get softer light with the white side, warmer light with the gold side, cooler light with the silver side, or keep light from reflecting with the black side. When you are all done, it folds up into a little lightweight package making storing it and traveling with it easy as pie!

Backdrop clamps

Create beautiful, clean backdrops anywhere and hold them in place with these little clamps. Whether you are using a roll of paper, a muslin backdrop, or a simple blanket, these clamps will keep it from moving, wrinkling, and falling away by holding it to your backdrop stand.

7. Get outside.

I am an on-location photographer and most of my work is done in the great outdoors. Who says you can’t take a new baby outside, too?

Weather permitting, take your baby out of the studio and into nature – you can get some amazingly beautiful and unique newborn photos this way. I get bored easily and was definitely over blankets and beanbags, so my husband and I took a little drive and did a few images of Gabriel outside. They are definitely some of my favorites!

Being outside in nature opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and creative freedom that you may not have shooting indoors. Bring along some simple props to place baby in and have fun! I have found that many babies tend to sleep more easily outside on a warm day than they would indoors in a studio setting.

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

8. Include your older children.

Some of the sweetest and most endearing photos you can take of your new baby will be the ones you get with his or her older siblings. I set out a task for myself to get an image of Gabriel with each of his nine older brothers and sisters. I still have two to go, but I am getting there!

Older children may be able to hold their new brother or sister, while simple laying down poses are perfect for younger children. This will make your older children feel special and involved as well, which is always a bonus when there is a new baby in the house getting a lot of attention!

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

9. Get in the picture.

I know firsthand how difficult it can be having photos taken of yourself, but please, hand your camera to someone else – your husband, an older child, or a friend – and get a few pictures of yourself with your new baby. No one cares that you still need to lose your pregnancy weight, or that you are tired, and don’t feel that you are looking your best – just do it.

Trust me. This will be a priceless treasure for your new baby as he or she grows up.

As photographers, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are more comfortable being on the back side of the camera, but it is so important for our children that we get in front if it once in a while, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  My 14-year-old daughter, Calista, took this image for me and I absolutely love it!

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

10. Print those pictures out.

Please, for the love of all that is newborn photography, do not leave all of your beautiful newborn photos sitting on your hard drive. Print those babies out!

I feel a bit hypocritical telling you this, as I myself have been absolutely horrible about printing my own images, but just do it. Do not wait to design the perfect wall display, or to choose the perfect picture. If you see a good canvas sale going on, just order something. You will love it – I promise!

What am I doing with all of Gabriel’s newborn images? I am making an epic baby album for him, of course. I cannot wait to order it and have it in my hands! There is NO substitute for the actual finished product for you and your family to enjoy.

Pictures on a computer screen are nice, but a huge 30×40 canvas hanging in the entryway of your home is even nicer. Trust me on this. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Related: 6 ways to photograph a newborn after the first 10 days

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

Photographing your own newborn can be challenging but also so very rewarding.

The pictures taken from your perspective, the mother who loves her baby like no other, are going to have a little something extra special about them. Just take it slow, and be sure to get a lot of rest.ย  You just had a new baby. Enjoy your baby!

These days go by so fast – before you know it, they’ll be heading off to school, learning to drive, getting married, and giving you grandbabies. I’m not even kidding! It seems like just yesterday I was bringing Clint home from the hospital, and now we are working on a driver’s license. It goes by in the blink of an eye!

10 tips for photographing your own newborn by Lisa Holloway

About the Author:

Lisa Holloway is a Las Vegas newborn, baby, child, family, and high school senior portrait photographer. She lives in Northwestern Arizona with her husband and 10 awesome kids. She loves hiking, camping, archaeology, taking that dirt road on a whim just to see where it goes, living in the mountains, fresh air and wide open spaces, thunder storms, the smell of the desert after a good rain, sunsets, dark star filled night skies, roller coasters, and getting away from it all.


  1. Sara Dec 05 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Ugh, these are all so beautiful, and great tips! Makes me want another baby just to take some newborn photos. My heart melts!

  2. Danielle Dec 05 2013 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    So sweet! Lovely article Lisa. I love all the examples – just beautiful!

  3. Megan Dill Dec 05 2013 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Such fabulous tips, Lisa–your work is just stunning <3

  4. Frayda Dec 05 2013 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    This is just lovely!

  5. Mindy Dec 05 2013 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe you have 10 kids! Absolutely love the B&Ws with your husband

  6. Katy Laulo Dec 05 2013 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Beautiful Lisa. I <3 You

  7. Kira Dec 05 2013 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the ideas Lisa, and all of your examples are gorgeous. I’ve loved seeing them pop up in my facebook feed over the last few months.

  8. nan Dec 06 2013 at 8:32 am - Reply

    Just beautiful! I would love to know how you color balance for such gorgeous skin tones.
    Also, what camera and lenses do you use? Thank you.

  9. Lesley Dec 06 2013 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Wonderful advice and these are the most lovely newborn photos I have ever seen.

  10. Jane Dec 11 2013 at 6:02 am - Reply

    I wish I had read this before I had my littlie. Luckily my sister is pregnant so I’ve got a new subject about to pop. Thank you for the tips.

  11. Sheila Dec 22 2013 at 4:48 am - Reply

    Hi Lisa, these are absolutely gorgeous. I would like to ask the same question as Nan – how do you get such lovely skin tones and also what lights do you use in the studio? I love the warm background in the beautiful image your daughter took of you and Gabriel (a white background can be so cold and clinical). Would you mind telling me how you achieved that?
    Thanks, Sheila
    PS Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas. I bet Santa is very busy with 10 kids!!

  12. Carol Dec 26 2013 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Wow! These pictures are breathe taking!! Thank you for these amazing tips.

  13. Angel Jan 06 2014 at 10:44 am - Reply

    These are absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing, and for inspiring me to take it easy, and to take some beautiful images when baby #5 arrives for us in March. (Btw, I have been feeling like a freak for having so many children, so it’s nice to read that you’re on #10! Congratulations!!)

    • Lisa Holloway Jan 06 2014 at 11:26 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Angel, and congratulations on your #5! So exciting – I love big families. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Elizabeth Jan 06 2014 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I can’t thank you enough for this – and it couldn’t be more timely: I’m giving birth to my 4th little bundle on Thursday! ๐Ÿ™‚ So appreciate your insight and sharing your expertise. Your images are gorgeous, as always.

  15. Lisa Holloway Jan 06 2014 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much, ladies! I appreciate your kind words! <3 To answer some of your questions…skin tones are tricky, but here are a few tips that have helped me. For newborns especially, since you are generally shooting in lighting that won't be changing drastically throughout the session, go ahead and take a few seconds to do a custom white balance (I have a simple grey card that I try to remember to use when shooting babies). You can always tweak it from there using your temperature and tint sliders in LR. For my newborns, I like to use a tiny bit of negative clarity as well as desaturate the reds and oranges just a tiny bit.

    I use all natural light (I love a good window and REALLY love my garage). I actually purchased the AB400 and a 50" Westcott softbox this year but they are still sitting in the packages – thanks for the reminder! I do want to pull those out and see how I like them. ๐Ÿ™‚ I shoot with the 5D Mark III and a variety of lenses. For newborns, I really love my 85L if I have the space to spare. I only use my 50L as a last resort as it is really quirky with focusing (aka I don't trust it at all).

    The background on the pic of Gabriel and I is actually just bone seamless. It photographs differently depending on your light and how you edit, but it is always a nice, rich, warm tone. I love it!

  16. Edward Apr 25 2014 at 3:50 pm - Reply


    Great article! My first little one is one his way at the end of the month and we can’t wait. I’m fairly knowledgeable with my camera and photography as a whole but I rarely take my settings outside of (P). What we some of your camera settings?

    Hope to hear from you soon,

  17. Carmen Apr 30 2014 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    wonderful newborn photography tips and absolutely gorgeous images too! I love natural light also, you can’t beat it for newborns ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Meghan Oct 02 2014 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    The photo of you and your son is just perfect!

  19. Rozarfedo Nov 20 2014 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Hi Lisa your tips are very usefull for my liitle one . Problems you describe in this are natural and solutions to these are very easy and now i take daily photographs for my newborns.

  20. Miriam Faber Dec 12 2014 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I love your pictures for the diy photo session. What brand/model camera do you use? Thanks so much.

  21. Wayne Jan 04 2015 at 5:59 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for these tips! They helped me capture some beautiful pictures of my daughter Nora in her first few days!

  22. Danie Mar 17 2015 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    So so precious! Newborn sessions are my very favorite. I love these tips.

  23. Roo Jul 31 2015 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Your site is so informative and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing!

    What type of fabric did you use with each photo? It seems to look extremely soft and beautiful.


  24. Dassy Eilfort Oct 29 2015 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    What camera did you use or what camera would you suggest for someone who’s looking to buy their first professional camera (something afordable)?

  25. Chepolinko Nov 16 2015 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    Great post! Thanks so much!

  26. dilsy Dec 22 2015 at 1:49 am - Reply

    thank you

  27. Shawn Alexander Mar 03 2016 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this, lots of great advice. If you are going to use flash would you recommend using bounce flash? Also what settings would you recommend for these pictures as far as aperture and shutter speed? Also, any other general advice on settings or any other advice on setting in general? My sister is do in a few days and just looking to get any last minute advice.


  28. Dinamicostudio Jun 24 2016 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    Wow excellent article . Really i want to know how can i keep the baby skin tone color ? what\’s the perfect skin tone color . I always feel hesitate to select new born baby skin tone color . But this article inspire me about the newborn baby edit .Thanks for share ..

  29. Samara Jun 25 2016 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    What beautiful pictures and awesome ideas! I love the idea of taking photos of all the details. I have one photo of my daughter’s tiny hand grabbing my finger and it’s one of my favorite. I wish I had taken more! Thanks for all these great tips!

  30. Bella Jun 29 2016 at 12:08 am - Reply

    Lovely as it is! Thanks for the article.

    Stumbled this site by Natacha Silber, all shots are great. Planning to practice my skills in photography to take shots perfectly. Good luck to me!

  31. Bea Jul 22 2016 at 3:36 am - Reply

    Beautiful pictures of babies, love them all. I am new in motherhood and I cant get enough of collecting pictures of my baby.

  32. Shohag Aug 23 2016 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Lisa Holloway
    Your site is so informative and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing!

    What type of fabric did you use with each photo? It seems to look extremely soft and beautiful.


  33. Lucy Sep 01 2016 at 5:26 am - Reply

    Amazing pictures. Very talented photographer. I love the tip around the tiny details. Take a step back, slow down and just adore those tiny little details

  34. Sarah Sep 30 2016 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    The B&Ws have perfect contrast. Good work

  35. Angel Oct 03 2016 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much for these helpful tips I am just beginning to photograph newborns so this is a lot of help.

  36. Nancy Shaw Oct 15 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    This is so lovely! Iโ€™ve always wanted to learn how to photograph a newborn because it can be mighty expensive to hire a professional. The photos are all breathtaking and very impressive, by the way. It makes me want to have more babies. LOL!

    The first image is especially adorable because we received some knitted stuffs during the baby shower which I think will look perfect. The tips are absolutely helpful and Iโ€™m so excited to try doing the โ€˜photoshootโ€™ on our living room where he have huge windows and just the right amount of lighting. Can you tell how excited I am for our next baby?

    I wish I read this before though because we had to hire a professional photographer for my now-toddler. I love the lovely skin tones too and the warm and pretty background. Everything is utter perfection. Sorry, I canโ€™t seem to stop gushing. This is just so awesome!

  37. Kathleen Oct 16 2016 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Hi Lisa! This article is very helpful, and I gained lots of insights that are very useful…I have a question, though…how do you make sure that the baby behaves according to how you want him or her to behave? Can you also share some techniques on this?

  38. Chirs Nov 03 2016 at 6:08 am - Reply

    Hi Lisa, The post is amazing. I hope you can write more helpful & informational articles and share with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. angelisaella Nov 03 2016 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Amazing pictures. Very talented photographer. I love the tip around the tiny details. Take a step back, slow down and just adore those tiny little details

  40. Vivian Nov 04 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Lovely pictures. Thank you for the tips.

  41. baby Nov 09 2016 at 4:42 am - Reply

    Thanks for all these great tips! beautiful pictures and awesome ideas!

  42. Thanks for sharing. And such great shots.

  43. Megan Ann Mar 04 2017 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    I recently discovered your site and I am loving it! The activities are great. I sense that I will be coming back to your site pretty often.

  44. Linda May 10 2017 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Hey, Lisa,
    I Just found your amazing site recently. This is an excellent post! Thank you for all the beautiful pictures and awesome ideas!

  45. Amanda Adams Aug 10 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Priceless tips and great photos! And I couldn’t agree more with printing them out, that makes a huge difference when appreciating your work later on!

  46. Tony Diago Jan 10 2018 at 1:56 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for these tips, i am sure they will help me as I am new in this field of photography.

  47. Elizabeth Feb 21 2018 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Hi! Do you have a tutorial or is there one on here on how to achieve the black and white photos with the baby in your husband’s hands? I know you use natural light but I don’t understand how to do it. I love it!

  48. Debbie Jun 04 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    I dont have a macro. I want the small details such as the eyes, nose, hands, etc. I only have 35mm, 50mm, 55-200mm. Would one of these do the job? Thank you love your images.

  49. carey biggs Aug 16 2018 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Hi – 5 years later – where do you suggest to pose a baby? If we don’t having posing pillows / beanbags etc. what’s the best way of getting a good placement? thanks x

  50. Malia Davis Jan 24 2019 at 11:20 am - Reply

    I love how you said to capture the little details about your baby. I want my maternity photos to turn out great, so I\’ll find a photographer that pays attention to the little details. That will make it so my pictures are just what I want them to be!

  51. Ian Baki Feb 05 2019 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Another great project I can pin for me and baby girl! thank you so much!

Leave A Comment

Follow this blog