How to take dreamy photos of your newborn with your iPhone

How to take dreamy iPhone photos of your newborn baby

Babies equal photos. It's really just that simple. Nothing sells more cameras or generates more images than a newborn baby. Whether it's yours, your family's, or your friend's, the moment we see them our fingers fly to the shutter. Babies are the celebrities of our lives and we all want the best possible photos of them we can get. Now you may seen especially dreamy photos of babies in galleries or on the web and wished you could capture similar images of the baby in your life. Well, you can! All you need is your iPhone, the right tools, and the proper techniques!

Before we jump in, I should mention that the best age to get the types of images you'll see in this article is between 5 and 14 days old. This is when a newborn baby is most sleepy, flexible, and tolerant of being touched when sleeping.

Note: Every newborn image used in this article was taken with an iPhone and edited with iPhoto for iPhone and iPad. There will be a follow up article on how to edit newborn photos with iPhoto.

Get the right tools: Beanbag, blankets, heat, light, white noise

First things first, let's talk about what tools you need to get great images. The most important element is light. You could make things work without anything else, but light is a requirement. My favorite source of light is simply a window. Avoid direct sunlight, however. If sunlight is shining through the window, you may want to wait until a different time of day.

Most of the images of newborns taken by professional photographers are of sleeping, naked babies curled up in adorable little poses. So the question on your mind is probably "how?" The first trick is heat.

The general rule of thumb is to dress newborns in 1-2 more layers than yourself, so stripping down your newborn for a photo shoot may make you feel a little uneasy -- as it should. If you do want those naked baby photos, you're going to need to crank up the heat. And when I say crank up the heat, I'm talking 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Personally, I typically have parents turn up their heater to 75 degrees and I bring along a space heater that I have pointing towards the baby at all times. (Don't put the heat too close!).

Ok, now that you have a warm newborn, where do you put him? I recommend a beanbag. Many photographers use huge, expensive beanbags for newborns, but you can get by just fine with a cheap-y from Target. The trick is to make sure the beanbag isn't too soft. You can either buy extra beanbag filler, or simply tie up the excess material with a hair-tie. You need the beanbag to be nice and firm.

Combine your beanbag with a big blanket, and you've got yourself a little studio. Place the blanket on the beanbag and use the excess as your back drop. You can either find some furniture, like chairs, to drape the blanket over, or you can have some hold it up for you.

In the image above, the blankets are clamped onto a professional backdrop stand. This is by no means a necessary tool. Also notice, that in the image above, there's a couple blankets layered on top of each other. This makes it quick and easy to switch between your backdrops.

Now, sometimes heat and a comfy beanbag is not enough to keep a newborn asleep. The secret ingredient may be white noise. I use an app called White Noise Lite to produce loud, calming noise. More often than not, this app does the trick and keeps the babies in a nice slumber.

The Lite version of White Noise will not run in the background, so if there isn't another iPhone around, you may want to look into the full version, as it will let you use your camera while emitting audio from the app.

Lastly, you need to patient. You are at the mercy of the baby when it comes to newborn photography and you need to embrace that fact and be patient. Do not rush the process. Make sure the baby is completely asleep before attempting to put him or her in any poses. If that means rocking the newborn in your arms and singing lullabies for an hour, then so be it.

(Pro tip: wait until the baby is sound asleep and on the beanbag before taking off the diaper. It lessens your chance of being peed or pooped on. It doesn't guarantee anything, though. If you want naked baby shots, be prepared for pee and poop.)

Don't photograph up the baby's nose

How to take dreamy photos of your newborn with your iPhone

The most common thing to photograph on a baby is, of course, his or her face. This comes as a given, so by all means, snap away at that adorable face, just make sure you're not shooting up the baby's nose. The dark (and usually red), unattractive nostrils will end up dominating the shot.

Add some tilt

When we were little kids, our parents taught us to hold the camera strait when taking a photo, but with newborns, tilting the camera adds a great impact. Just make sure the baby's head is composed higher than his or her body. You don't want it to look like the baby is falling down hill! The image above demonstrates tilt nicely, as does the photo in the section before this one.

Use props

How to take dreamy photos of your newborn with your iPhone

When a baby is naked, introducing props like beanies and headbands can have an adorable impact on your photos. Wrapping the newborn up nice and tight in a blanket is also commonly done, and if the baby isn't happy about being naked, this is a great alternative.

If you're looking for the types of beanies, headbands and wraps that professional photographers use, check out ETSY. You can often times find adorable stuff at a great price.

Objects that emphasize the small size of the newborn are also great. For example, I've seen wedding rings around tiny toes or an itty bitty hand grasping Daddy's finger.

Don't forget the details

How to take dreamy photos of your newborn with your iPhone

Speaking of the tininess of a newborn, don't forget to capture those tiny details! The iPhone does a great job at macro photography, so don't be afraid to get up close and take images of little hands, feet, toes, ears, nose, and lips.

When taking these close up photos, don't forget about what's happening in the background. If you're able to have other parts of the baby out of focus in a different area of the photograph, it gives more of an "aww"-factor to your image. For example, in the photo above, I used the rule of thirds when composing the feet and made sure the baby's head and face was still in the frame to the left.

Leave the complex poses to the professionals

If you head to Google or Flickr for inspiration on newborn poses, you will discover photos of very complex (and beautiful) poses with babies holding up their head in their hands, hanging from trees, and resting their heads over the edges of baskets. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt these types of photos.

The secret to these images is that advanced software, like Photoshop, is used to compose multiple images into one photograph. The safety of the newborn always comes first. Do not hang your baby from a tree branch. Do not make your baby support his own head. Do not have someone hold your baby up over their head. Do not pose a baby on a guitar. Do not put a newborn in danger.

Now go get some beautiful photos of that precious baby!

Now what are you waiting for? That precious newborn of yours is only going to get older, so go get those beautiful photos! When you're done, share them with us in the iMore photography forum! (Please do not share images of another person's child without their permission).

(Huge thanks to Baby Kannon for being such an amazingly adorable model for this post. And thank you to his parents for giving me permission to use his modeling skills).

How to get more help with iPhone photography

Leanna Lofte

App and Photography Editor at iMore. Mother, wife, and math instructor. Follow her on Twitter @llofte and send her apps to consider for review at iosapps@imore.com

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There are 8 comments. Add yours.

Trip says:

Such a cute baby. Great article!

j00w00t says:

Great article! And just in time (my wife is scheduled to be induced at 0500 tomorrow). The last kid had to settle for pics on the iPhone 3G. I can't wait to go crazy with the 4S ;)

AfroMonk says:

Great Article. I wish I had 7 months ago when my daughter came into this world, but I'll have those tips going forward. great stuff

D4RkNIKON says:

You should leave all of the above to the professionals. This is what some people actually do for a living.

west3man says:

Some people actually cook for slicing, too.
Sadly, not everyone can afford to eat out, every single night.
Silly.

Leanna Lofte says:

Really? So the people who can't afford to hire a professional aren't allowed to learn how to do the best that they can with the tools that they do have and can afford? Newborn photographers are expensive.
This is an iPhone we're talking about. With the 4S, you'll get a decent 8x10 print. Anything bigger and you have to hire a professional.

Aurora Doggett says:

Exactly!!!! And some people aren't that bad at taking photos. How the professionals got good was training (...and a good eye). But why not learn to use a valuable tool we already have... Our smart phones.

Sheila Baranoski says:

Great blog! I took pics of my grandson with my iphone 4 last year and at the end of the year, wanted to make a photo book. The photo book programs told me that the pictures couldn't print clearly. Can you do photo books or print nice 8X10's or 10X 13's with an iphone? (I have an iphone 5 now).