Having seen many beautiful newborn pictures in the past, when I recently became a father for the first time, I was looking forward to getting pictures of my newborn daughter. Unfortunately, the photographers I wanted to use weren’t available, so I thought I’d try it myself. It was an interesting experience.
In August 2022, I became a father for the first time, like most new fathers, I adore my baby girl, named Poppy, and I spend a lot of time watching her. As parents, we are very aware that they don’t stay small and cute forever, so we always wanted to capture those first moments to remind us how little she was. There is a local newborn photographer I wanted to use, unfortunately our daughter arrived a little later than expected and had to stay in the hospital for a few days before going home. Glad to say mother and baby went home in excellent health. Unfortunately, the photographer we had planned to use had no availability for those first few weeks, so I thought I’d try it myself.
How hard can that be?
I have a good background in portraiture, as well as product and food photography, I have portable studio lighting. How hard could that be? Very hard, it would turn out.
We watched many videos online showing experienced newborn photographers carefully posing tiny babies, who then sat or lay down as needed while the photographer took as many pictures as he wanted without that baby does not flinch. One tutorial alone suggested that there were about 20 seconds to film before the baby needed comforting. Armed with all the information we thought we’d need, I set up the studio lights in our bedroom and made a little nest with blankets and pillows to place baby Poppy in. Me and Tasha were very lucky to have a baby who doesn’t scream or cry a lot, she also sleeps quite well for a newborn. Taking his picture would be super easy, hardly an inconvenience. Or so we thought.
Despite a very warm room, a comfortable bed, a well-fed and sleeping baby, Poppy did not want to be photographed and did not appreciate being posed at all. I immediately had a new respect for newborn photographers, they have to be kind of a whisperer to get such beautiful and calm newborn poses. Online videos have made this so easy!
We had planned to take classic curled up and sleeping baby shots, but those poses just weren’t happening. Poppy was moving around and getting more and more anxious, so we stopped, calmed her down, then tried again a little later after another nap and a big feed.
The second time around, Poppy stayed calm and looked very cute for some photos, but she didn’t like being posed, so we ended up with some nice photos of the poses our little girl chose herself, but none of the poses we decided on. obtain.
I like these shots, but it was not what we wanted. Tasha really had her heart set on group photos of our baby girl lying on her stomach, but that just wasn’t going to happen today. I started thinking about what other classic newborn shots could we get at home without stressing out our baby girl?
Pictures of dad and daughter
I’ve always been very fond of images of parents and babies almost in silhouette against a fully blown background. This type of plan was quite easy to put together, and I was able to comfort Poppy throughout the shoot. I installed a 100cm octabox right behind me with a 120cm silver reflector next to the camera. The camera was placed on a tripod in the middle of the octabox. I had started with a 10 second self-timer for the shutter, but Poppy was unpredictable so I asked my partner to press the shutter for me. I was happier with these pictures than the previous ones, but I still didn’t have the cute curled up newborn photo I wanted.
Photograph of hidden mother
Since I’m on paternity leave, I’m home with Tasha and our daughter all day every day for a few weeks. It gave us plenty of time to think about how we could set up a newborn photoshoot and get the cute images we wanted. Poppy sleeps very comfortably on her mother’s chest in the super cute curled up position we wanted to capture, but she won’t hold that position anywhere else.
I remembered an article about hidden mother photography in the Victorian era. Family photos were becoming increasingly popular in the 1800s, but exposure times were still quite long by today’s standards, which is one of the reasons why so many photos of people on chairs stare sternly at the camera as they do their best to stay still until the photographer says they can relax. You can imagine how difficult it would be to get babies and children to stay still for the duration of a long exposure, so mothers often disguised themselves so that they weren’t in the picture, but could hold their children immobile for the duration. of the exhibition. Some of these images are just comical with mothers disguised as furniture or hidden in curtains, silly as they are, they gave me an idea.
We used Tasha as a pillow for the baby with a blanket over her, and did a modern take on Hidden Mother photography to keep Poppy in position and comfortable while I took the pictures. I was fairly certain that we could disguise the mother in our images more effectively than the mothers in Victorian family portraits. Tasha was lying on our bed, with a blanket over her, and Poppy on the blanket. As long as Tasha stayed under cover and I considered the angles I could shoot from, it could work well.
Using a single octabox behind mother and baby with a second light pointed at the ceiling for reflected fill light, we carefully posed our subject and tried to keep her as calm and comfortable as possible. Tasha was able to give Poppy lots of hugs during filming and make little adjustments to pose our baby and keep them both comfortable.
Finally, we got the cute newborn photos we originally planned to capture. Poppy stayed happy throughout, she even took a little nap while filming.
I never thought I would find a place for the techniques used over 100 years ago when I was trying to take pictures of my own newborn baby. Tasha was absolutely thrilled with the footage, we are both happy to have captured photos of our daughter in those precious first few weeks. And what kind of proud father would I be if I didn’t share some of them with you?
Am I satisfied with the shots?
I’m thrilled to have captured cute photos of my newborn daughter in her first few weeks, I’m thrilled to have captured the poses my partner really wanted us to strike. The images we got are only for family albums and probably some Instagram flexes, and for those purposes, these images are perfectly fine. We didn’t have the props, experience, or setup of a professional newborn studio, but these are better than pictures of our baby taken on a phone and they cost us nothing but our time.
It makes me appreciate the work of professional newborn photographers even more, some of the images we’ve seen are simply stunning, even more so considering how difficult it is to pose a newborn in front of the camera. My newborn images are nowhere near the standards of full-time professional newborn photographers, but we had a lot of fun getting them.
Have you tried newborn photography? How did you manage? Have you ever successfully tried something like Hidden Mother photography? Let me know in the comments.