The first hours, the first moments.
As mothers, we believe that we will hold onto these memories for the rest of our lives, but the truth is that the memories are fleeting, and as our children grow and change, our hearts will grow and change with them.
I would give anything to go back and document that time in my life with intention, looking to capture every detail I knew I’d miss one day.
Photographing newborns in the hospital is a growing trend, and it is one that I am happy to include as part of my business, and something I love teaching other photographers to do as well. It is also what I hear the most about from participants of my recent Breakout, Newborn Stories.
There is so much emotion tied into this, from all sides. It’s a beautiful thing to document, and an absolute honor for me to do for so many families.
Whether you’re a professional newborn photographer, a hobbyist, or just a mother who wants to remember every little thing about the first moments with your new baby, this is for you.
Find and use the light
What am I looking for when I walk into a hospital room? Light, light, light.
Every hospital is set up differently, and where some will have large rooms with a wall of windows, others may be small with a tiny window tucked into a corner. My first mission is to locate a natural light source and place the bassinet in front of it.
Use the traditional hospital items
I personally love the hospital issued swaddling blankets, hats, and shirts. The items may not hold personal meaning, but they speak to a very specific time period, one that cannot be mistaken.
So, with baby swaddled tight in pink and blue, I place her in the bassinet, still in front of the window, and shoot from various angles. When baby is warm and sleepy, I’ll remove the swaddle and capture the details like little feet and umbilical cord. I try to keep this quick as babies have a hard time regulating their body temperature.
Shoot in live view
Now mamas, you’ve just given birth. You’ve created a human being, and that is an incredible task! My favorite trick for hospital sessions is going to be your best friend.
It took me years of shooting dSLR to learn about this, mostly because I just didn’t see the benefit. I love using it to set white balance, but that isn’t the best part.
Live view will allow you to use angles and composition in ways that would require so much extra effort when shooting through the viewfinder. Another benefit is that you can set focus by zooming into your subjects, eliminating any errors or guessing that may occur.
The How To?
- Switch your camera into live view mode.
- Hold your camera at the desired angle. If you have a tilting screen, you can get even more creative.
- Find the composition that you desire and toggle the focus box so that you can zoom into the desired area of the image.
- While zoomed in, set focus manually with your focus ring.
- Get your shot. You do not need to zoom out to do so, but I typically check the image to confirm it’s what I was going for.
The beauty of documenting your own baby in the hospital is that you can take your time.
Mama and Daddy, too
While individual portraits of baby are important, don’t forget to document the love and connection of other family members as well. I strongly encourage you to get in the frame, too, mamas. This is the perfect time to get your settings in place and give dad a quick tutorial on where to place the focus box and let him snap away.
I love to use side light for parent or sibling shots, whether that means standing to the side of the window, or sitting on a piece of furniture. Have the person hold the baby to their chest, ask them to be sure the baby’s face is toward the window.
Another option is to have them hold the baby with bottom on chest, feet pointing up, and head cradled in their hands. This pose will allow for a variety of angles.
For younger siblings, a sturdy chair paired with a boppy pillow for support are always a hit. It’s also incredibly sweet to have a parent holding the baby with the older sibling snuggling up. No matter the situation, simplicity is key, as the emotion will take center stage.
Hospital photography is a wonderful time to give up the idea of posing and perfection, and embrace the beauty of the moment. Everyone is filled to the brim with emotion, so in love with this new little life. Well, there are times that siblings take some warming up, but that’s worth documenting, too.
Over the course of your hospital stay, if you’re documenting this time for yourself, capturing the baby in the bassinet, and documenting the connection of family and friends with your baby is a priceless gift you’re giving to future you. If you’re a friend or a photographer coming in to document this new life, you can do so in under an hour, and in a way that requires no extra effort from the new parents.
The session itself is simple, but the images produced as a result are something to be treasured for many, many years. If you can’t tell, this is where my heart lies, and I’d spend every day documenting new life if I could.