While your plans for a dreamy maternity photo shoot at sunset or an adorable sleepy newborn session may have been foiled due to COVID-19 and subsequent stay-at-home orders, that doesn't mean you can't still document—and celebrate the heck out of—the major events in your life.
Howell, Michigan professional photographer and mom of four Jessica Mehu has been missing connecting with her clients during these extraordinary circumstances. But for those who are missing out on scheduled, time-sensitive maternity and newborn sessions, Mehu has some tips to run your home shoot like a pro.
Mehu's got some great news for the amateurs out there: "You absolutely can get some good shots with your smartphone."
So no worries if don't have a professional camera, but keep in mind that printing larger sizes might not be in the cards due to your phone's resolution. Have a partner who can help with the shoot? Great! If not, Mehu suggests propping the phone up on a table or shelf and practicing with the self-timer a few times.
Here, Mehu's broken down exactly how to DIY a maternity or newborn photo shoot at home.
Maternity Shoot 101
There's really no "right" time to take maternity photos, but Mehu suggests waiting until you're 32 to 35 weeks along. "Your bump is big enough to show off, but you’re not quite at the point of feeling overly 'bloated.'" Here's what else to keep in mind for your maternity photo shoot:
What to Wear
"With any photography, you want to choose clothing that isn’t distracting in the image," says Mehu. "So avoid stripes, plaid, dots, logos, and bright colors." Some outfit ideas you might already have around the house that Mehu suggests include a sports bra or cute bralette with non-maternity jeans left unbuttoned, an oversized men's shirt left unbuttoned, or a robe left open or tied above your bump.
If you're stuck inside and live in a colder state where taking photos outdoors really isn't an option, "a bare wall works great, as well as curtains or pinning up a flat sheet," says Mehu. Just make sure to do this "near a large window for optimal lighting. The window should be off to the side, not directly in front of your background."
Best Time of Day
If you're shooting outdoors, Mehu says you've got to go for the "golden hour, the hour before sunset when the light is softest." Avoid any direct sunlight that will cast shadows. If you're shooting indoors, it's best to use natural light from a window. "Pay attention for a day or two what windows bring in light at what times," recommends Mehu. That way you'll be able to get the light just right.
Strike a Pose
Mehu recommends shooting down slightly, so it's a good idea to have your camera or phone set up higher and angled down toward you. "To show off your beautiful baby bump best you’ll want to take the photo from the side, facing your source of light," she says. One pose Mehu suggests giving a try: "The leg facing the camera should be 'popped' as I say, to give you a nice flattering pose. Make sure that your arm isn’t pressed flat on your body, and pull your elbow slightly back, while resting your hand on your belly."
Newborn Shoot 101
Keeping in mind the lighting tips Mehu mentioned above, which definitely apply for any DIY photo shoot, she also recommends having a space heater nearby—or cranking up your heat—since newborns like it extra warm. It might not hurt to have a burp cloth or pacifier on hand too. Now, time to get started!
What Baby Should Wear
"Nothing! I think babies are absolutely perfect on their own and you want to capture all the cute little details that will change so soon," says Mehu. "They are also the happiest in their birthday suit." If you do want to add on a layer or two, she suggests a diaper with a plain cover or a solid white swaddle blanket so Baby is the real star.
Get some white noise going, and Mehu suggests breaking out any cute baskets or large bowls—don't forget a cozy blanket to fill it with—that you can place the baby in. As for the background, Mehu likes hardwood floors, a fur rug, or knitted blanket. "Another great option is if you have a bed by a window, lay them on there. Make sure they’re not on the edge of the bed though, of course, and never leave the baby unattended."
Best Time of Day
Mehu has three rules of thumb when it comes to photographing newborns: always shoot indoors, opt for earlier in the day when babies tend to be happier, and make sure Baby has a full belly before you get started. "You can do more with a sleeping baby, but once you have the sleeping shots taken, keep your setup together and put the baby back in it when they’re first waking up so you can get a few shots with their eyes open as well!"
Strike a Pose
"Get lots of different angles—close up and full body to capture all of your baby’s sweetness. Don’t forget the tiny toes and fingers!" Mehu's Instagram account has lots of great inspiration. One common mistake to avoid: shooting up the nostrils. Now's also the time to get the whole family involved. "Parents tend to not want to be in photos after having a baby, but I always encourage it. Even if it’s just your hand. You can’t really tell just how tiny that baby is until you see the size difference when they’re in an adult’s arms. If the baby has siblings, you definitely want to get at least a shot of them kissing the baby."
The Bottom Line
"Less is better, especially when trying to do this yourself," Mehu says. "Have fun and don’t stress yourself out. Also keep in mind, though, that it takes many attempts to get one 'perfect' shot. So it’s normal to have 10 trashed shots with one good one. Try different angles, light, and positions, until you get the one you like."
So take a deep breath. You've got this!