When we had our baby girl last year on April 29, 2020, I mourned two things that would be different from my previous three deliveries. The first was not being able to have our parents come meet our new baby in the hospital, and the second was not having a photographer come take photos of us with her during our stay. Post delivery and those early days of recovery are a really special high. Some of the best memories of my life are there, in the little cocoon of our hospital room, with just my husband, and our new baby.
Ideally, you’re able to have a professional photographer come and take some fresh-48 photos, but these days, that’s not much of an option. Covid era or not, you will likely want to take at least some DIY hospital photos of your newborn baby after delivery. Once we’re past the greatest threat of Covid, maybe those sessions will be an option again, but until then, I have some tips and tricks you can use to DIY hospital photos of your newborn. We’ll go over a few things:
What to pack for DIY hospital photos of your newborn
Preparing your hospital bag is key for MANY reasons. You’ve got to be prepared when it is “go time.” After having 4 babies of my own, I have a few tips from trial and error that I’m happy to pass along and wish I’d known sooner.
- Multi outlet extension cord – this is one of those things that is so genius but it wasn’t until baby #4 that I realized I should back one. In most hospitals (my babies were all born at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital) an average 4-6 foot long phone charger won’t be long enough to reach from the outlet to your lovely Shangri-La. Bringing a multi-outlet extension cord will solve the problem of “where did my phone fall this time.” And you’ll want your phone charged for taking pictures of that precious little squishy baby.
- Name sign / letter board / cute printout with space to write in baby’s birth stats – The style of these seems to change every few years, but their purpose is the same: a cute way to share, document, and quickly announce the most important info about your new little bundle.
- Phone or Camera – Unless you’re a hobby photographer, for ease of use, I just suggest you bring your phone. They do a decent job these days.
- A cute robe – Invest in one of these. My favorite was from Posh Peanut. I still love it. A friend gifted me a swaddle set for my baby (swaddle and headband) and I purchased the matching mama robe for myself. It was the perfect thing to wear in the hospital over my nursing bra and lovely hospital underwear. It kept me covered and feeling a little bit put together and left easy access for nursing and other “checks” that will be done while in the hospital.
- Simple makeup bag – just the basics, mama. I packed mascara, brown pencil, BB cream, and lip gloss. There is some kind of magical glow that you will naturally have in the hours that follow your delivery. Embrace it.
- Swaddle for baby – Don’t go overboard with big, bright patterns. Keep it simple. Most hospital rooms are pretty dark so I’d suggest staying away from a dark swaddle. My traditional self loves a baby pink for girls and baby blue for boys. A matching little cap or headband is always a good idea.
- White onesie for baby – clean and pure
- Clothes for dad to wear in pictures – keep this simple. Jeans and a white tee are easy and everyone has them.
How to get the room ready
It’s all about the LIGHT. Any professional photographer will tell you that light is king in making or breaking photos. Not only does good light flatter a person, but it also helps cameras (even basic phone cameras) work their best. If you want to take great DIY hospital photos of your newborn, pay close attention to the light in the room.
Getting the light right
- Turn OFF the lights! That may seem counter intuitive when I just told you that light is good for cameras, however, it has to be the right kind of light and the right temperature of light. Generally, sunlight coming into a window is more neutral/blue, while indoor lights are more yellow. When these compete with each other it does strange things. No matter what you do to try and edit it out, it will never look as good as if you just turn those yellow lights off. The only exception is if it’s a very dark, dreary day.
- Open the blinds! Most important thing is to let all that beautiful light spill into the room. Do this during a time of day when the light is NOT coming directly into your window. This is usually between 10am and 2pm. Diffused light = good, even light, softer shadows. Direct light = harsh shadows, bright whites (too bright).
Setting the background
- Move baby’s bassinet close and parallel to the window. Let that window light fall across baby’s face. You want to have baby close enough that there are limited shadows created by baby’s nose. You’ll notice that the further you move from the window any shadows on baby’s face will first become bigger, and then become more faint. Finding the sweet spot is key. You want that soft window light washing over baby’s face but not creating harsh shadows. Turn baby’s face toward the window.
- straighten the white sheets on the bed. You’ll be putting baby on here for a few pictures.
- clear any clutter – move cords, hospital bag away from view
Getting your phone ready to take great hospital photos
Before you grab and start snapping 20 pictures of the same set up, do a few things. Practice photographing something by framing the picture as you want it to appear, then tap on the spot that you want to focus, this is usually the baby’s closest eye to the camera. Once you tap on that spot a box with a little sun will appear (this is what appears on my iPhone, android devices may be different). While holding your finger on the screen over that box, you can adjust the brightness of the image by dragging your finger either up or down.
This makes a huge difference in the appearance and brightness of your images. When you take the photo, hold very still. You’ll be working with limited light so stillness is especially important for sharp, clear images.
- Wipe off that phone’s camera lens. This alone will make a big difference. Those things get dirty fast.
- If you have portrait mode on your phone, this is the time to play around with that.
- Download Lightroom Mobile app. You’ll use this later to edit your photos
- If you find that your photo is blurry, even after focusing on your baby’s closest eye to the camera, you likely need more light. Move that baby a little closer to the window, or wait until there is more light coming into the room (just not that harsh, direct light). The best light will be between 10am and 2pm.
9 DIY hospital photos to take of baby
Although nothing will replace having a professional photographer there to take these photos, I’m going to list the basic photos that you can do easily enough of baby and some that you can take of your spouse with baby (and they can take of you). One note though, give yourself grace. These DIY hospital photos of your newborn will NOT look like they would if I were to come take them with my 11+ years of experience and thousands in gear. So drop that expectation, sister. However, you can take some pretty great ones yourself. These are the shots I’d suggest you take:
- overhead picture of baby in the hospital cradle – simple as it sounds
- photo of baby in cradle with birth stats, either the card written by the hospital, or your cute letter board / name sign.
- photo of baby’s profile trough the side of the hospital cradle with the window behind them. This is where you’ll be using that brightness slider a lot.
- Move baby to the white sheet on the bed and take an overhead shot of baby.
- Same thing but add in that letter board of birth stats.
- Unswaddle those perfect little baby toes and take a few of them. These are always my favorites.
Change it up and take some of family members with baby
- Have dad wear that white shirt and jeans, hold baby standing parallel to the window and take a few of him facing toward you holding baby, then some closer ones focusing on just baby in daddy’s arms.
- Swap and have dad take some of YOU in the same way. Be sure you’re wearing your cute robe, snuggle that newborn close and have dad hold the camera just slightly above your eye level to angle down at you (think “flattering selfie” angle)
- Since many hospitals still aren’t allowing more than one guest with mom, don’t hesitate to ask one of your nurses to take a photo of the three of you. This is a big deal and I would hope they’d help you out in this way. I can’t guarantee it, but it’s worth an ask.
Once you have these, you can just play around and take more, but those are the most basic, must have photos in the hospital.
How to edit pictures of baby
Now, to make your DIY hospital photos of your newborn not look so DIY
This is where editing comes in to play. You should have already downloaded the Lightoom Mobile app to your phone. There are even presets (like instagram filters) that you can apply to images to enhance them. There is a plethora of knowledge available on how to do that by simply searching google, so I’ll not be going into that. Some presets I like are from Mastin Labs, VSCO, and I’m even working on my own set to have available soon. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to know when that becomes available.