March 19, 2020

Photographing Your Newborn Without a Professional Photographer

In the midst of all the postponements and uncertainties, there are so many people weighing on my heart. We are a country built on community and relationship, so this time of “social distancing” COVID-19 has brought has made a lot of our day-to-day life shift.

As a momma and photographer, I can’t help but think of all the new parents who are now missing out on the Fresh 48 and Lifestyle Newborn Sessions they’ve been dreaming of for months. It may feel trivial in light of all the hardships others are facing, but that doesn’t take away from the feeling. I firmly believe that having quality photos of such an incredible time of life (even in the midst of a hard time in the world) is still important and valuable.

So, in hopes of helping you preserve those memories on your own, I wanted to share my #1 tip for capturing gorgeous images without a professional photographer on hand. It’s a lot simpler than you may think, and it all comes down to one thing. Here it is:

Pick a clear space near a window in order to take advantage of natural light and TURN OFF all competing artificial light sources.

That’s it! That one tip will make a WORLD of a difference in the quality of your phone photos. When you have two different kinds of light competing, the white balance and overall feel of your images will always be off. But, by turning all indoor lights off and moving into soft light near a window, you’ll have a much more natural image!

To prove my point, I’m going to share one of my favorite photos of Adam ever! It wasn’t taken with a professional camera, but by following the above rule, it still is simply beautiful. We didn’t hire a Fresh 48 photographer (although my good friend Emily captured his birth (well…5 minutes after his birth, thanks to his super speedy arrival)), and I didn’t want to bring my own camera to the hospital, but I knew I still wanted a few sweet photos of him regardless.

Our hospital has lots of wood tones and orange colors, so it’s not the best for simple photos unfortunately. However, by following the tip above, I was able to capture his sweet newborn self (in my very favorite outfit I had been dreaming of putting on him for months) just with my iPhone!


Here’s how I did it:

  1. I moved a chair over by the hospital window and made sure it was facing the light. The sun wasn’t streaming through directly at that time, but if it was, I would have made sure to keep him out of the direct light and move him back or over far enough to have even light.
  2. I flipped off all the overhead lights and grabbed a white cotton hospital blanket and laid it down to cover the orange chair.
  3. Then, I laid Adam on top of the blanket in his cute little bonnet and swaddle and took a few photos from above, making sure to hold my hand steady and keep my iPhone directly parallel to the floor (to avoid wonky angles).

This process would work exactly the same whether you’re wanting to DIY photos at home or the hospital. Find a window, turn off any lamps or ceiling lights, pick a clear background with minimal clutter, and pay attention to the angle of your phone when taking any photo!

A few bonus tips:

  • Make sure you and your husband get in the photos, too! Wear neutral, soft colors, avoid black shirts, and take turns photographing each other with your babe! Make sure you are angled towards the window light and that you aren’t standing in direct sun.
  • Try doing photos right after a feed! Newborns are most content when their bellies are full and diapers are clean.
  • Don’t worry about changing their outfit a lot…this will just make them fussy! Stick with a simple swaddle or sweet outfit (white onesie, neutral + plain sleeper (I love these ones!), or a favorite gifted outfit always works!).
  • Direct light is when the sun is shining right through the window and you can see actual LINES of light. You want to avoid that for photos (at least for now!). Even light is your friend!
  • Photograph your baby in his or her crib (the clear hospital bassinet or their crib at home). Don’t be afraid to get creative: use a step stool to take photos from above or shoot through the crib spokes, too!
  • Details!! Get in close and try to capture their little feet, hands, belly button, ears, and nose. It’s much easier to take these photos when they’re asleep, FYI.
  • Find a flat surface in even light, lay down a favorite swaddle or blanket, and take photos of your little one from above! Make sure to pay attention to the angle of your phone and avoid tilting it.

I hope this is helpful for any of you finding yourself in need of DIYing your newborn photos! I’d also recommend taking some sweet videos of your little one, too — I love looking back on videos of Ryan and Adam’s little squeaks and baby movements. :)

Editing Tips:

I edit all of my iPhone images either directly in Instagram or within the mobile Lightroom app. Both apps are FREE and pretty user friendly! This is what I change in just about every photo:

  • Adjust the image so that it has straight horizon lines.
  • Brighten the exposure.
  • Slightly increase the contrast.
  • Bring down the highlights and raise up the shadows.
  • Slightly sharpen the image.


And, as another encouragement, know that it is *never* too late for professional images of your newborn! Even if the images don’t happen in the first two weeks…they will still be beautiful and so full of love! Here’s a couple of cuties who had their newborn sessions at a later date: one took place at 5 weeks and the other a little after 8 weeks.


So, even if you are unable to have professional photos done within the first two weeks of your little one’s life, talk with your photographer and make a plan to reschedule for as soon as possible!

Again, I hope this was so helpful, and I look forward to seeing the images you are able to capture using these tips! Comment below or tag me on Instagram (@samireneephotography) — I’d love to share!



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Sami Orndorff is a Wedding Photographer & Lifestyle Newborn Photographer located in the greater Indianapolis area.