How to capture the precious newborn days?
March 13, 2016 11:39 PM   Subscribe

My first child was born a few days ago, and I'm worried I'm not doing enough to capture how beautiful he is and how special these days are. Should I pay a photographer? Other ideas? Reassurance and perspective?

Our newborn is only a few days old. Overall, my hormones and mood are pretty good, but the one thing that reliably makes me feel really emotional is the thought of how precious and fleeting these days are. I don't know if I'll ever have a moment of quiet happiness quite as sublime as the first night in the hospital room looking at this new beautiful person and being grateful we all survived.

I'm worried I'm not doing enough to capture these days. In particular, I'm tempted to drop a bunch of money I shouldn't spend on a photographer to come to our house and do a newborn photo package. We have the money, but we're saving for a house down payment, so we should probably just take a boatload of photos ourselves. The thing is, we forget; we're not that good at photography; we're always tired and busy; and the lighting of our photos always looks weird. And given that my overflow of weepy emotions has gotten fixated on the fact that these early days will be over without us having in some way captured how beautiful they are, it's starting to feel almost necessary, to avoid regrets and have peace of mind. On the other hand, maybe the photos will just feel glossy and fake.

Does anyone have any feedback or perspective? Was there anything you did in these early days after your child was born that you're particularly glad you did or wish you had done (especially things that are not too late for me to do)? Did you pay for photography, and if so, was it worth it? Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by slidell to Human Relations (30 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Live near a college or university? You could try paying a student less.

Be warned. Speaking as a photographer, you'll generally get what you paid for.
posted by Strudel at 11:50 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

My sister made a tumblr for her new born and posted one picture a day for her entire first year. She made a book out of it later. These pics were nothing fancy, just from her phone that she could quickly do no matter how tired/exhausted she was. The photos weren't always perfect but it's really fun to look back at them and see how much she grew. Congrats!!
posted by ilovewinter at 11:53 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Are there any older cousins who might want to take on this list for you?
29 photos every parent must take
posted by calgirl at 11:56 PM on March 13, 2016

Best answer: Make some videos. My wife made a video of our little one sleeping at six days old and it's the most beautiful thing. I wish we'd made more.
posted by liebchen at 12:20 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

The birth of my daughter was a life changing event and I'm glad I took lots of candid shots, way more than I could afford to print, even using B&W film. The pro shots just look staged.

I wish I hadn't slowed down on the pix as she approached Jr. High and I wish I had a few more of me and her.

My suggestions: perfection is the enemy of good, shoot lots, discard the bad, keep the ok for you later, share the good widely in case something happens to the originals. A crappy camera in hand beats a great one across the room. If you're using a cellphone, the default camera app isn't going to be the best, get a friend to research which apps are good for your phone's camera.

Oh yeah, grab a nap whenever you can, you're gonna them ;)
posted by ridgerunner at 12:25 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

When my little one was born, we called around to local photographers and were quoted prices around a thousand dollars! Then we figured out we could get great pictures (and many more prints) at JC Penney for about a hundred dollars. Worth it, especially if you want to frame your photos.
posted by thorough at 12:54 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

We don't have any professional photos of our kid, but we do have a bunch of cameraphone photos and videos. A lot of them are blurry or weirdly lit or badly posed, but if you take enough you stumble across some good ones. Babies change so much that it's a good idea to regularly take candids - I love scrolling back through the months and seeing how he's grown.

I have zero regrets about not getting professional newborn photographs done, but I have never really been that kind of person, know what I mean? If you like seeing that style of picture, you'll like having them for your little one. If they aren't your thing, they don't need to be.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:36 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just a archivist's perspective: if you want to see these pix a few decades in the future, make printed copies on quality photo stock paper and store them carefully. We have no idea if our present digital info will be compatible in a generation.
posted by zaelic at 3:53 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I guess I'll be the dissenting opinion! We hired someone who specialises in newborn photography to come to our home and take a bunch of photos. She does "documentary style," so they didn't look staged at all. She captured us hanging out with our child in creative and endearing ways. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these photos and consider them an excellent use of our funds.
posted by whitewall at 3:56 AM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

We did pro baby photos around six months when the babies have a little personality and can be differentiated. They all look like gollum as newborns and the pro photos are all very samey. Take lots of snaps and ask your friends if any have a "nice" camera and would be willing to come shoot a couple dozen of you guys.

Write down your fleeting thoughts ... I texted them to my email and a year later compiled that all into a single file to print out for the baby book. That's my favorite little bit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:25 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Write down your thoughts and take videos, for sure! I will say something that might not go over well: When my daughter was born I thought she was the most beautiful miraculous being ever and was slightly offended when strangers didn't stop to goggle over her on the street. But those hormones have worn off in the past 7 years and... well, she wasn't objectively THAT cute. She looked kinda weird.

But all of my personal snapshots / videos / notes of those times are enough to evoke the memory of how she made me FEEL in those early days, which is really what I think you're trying to capture.

If you can find an empathic, affectionate, friendly photographer who gets that (and they are out there - I know one), great, but otherwise I would save the funds.
posted by nkknkk at 4:37 AM on March 14, 2016

Best answer: Regarding JC Penney: this is what we did and it worked fine. But with the prints and digital image included, it cost about $200, which is close to the $300 I was just quoted for a good photography session in our home. Do you have a friend or family member who could call around and get photography quotes for you? That could be a good job even for someone who lives out of town, but wants to help.
I was prepared to say no, don't spend the money, but after reading your full post, I think you should get them. You're anxious about it and you have the money. I think new moms should be allowed to splurge a bit. Have the photographer take photos of you holding the baby too, because I think that's a bit more meaningful than one of those "baby wrapped in a swaddle that looks like a net" or "baby perched on a distressed chair surrounded by anchors" photos.
If you don't get the photos, please know that your little one is going to get even more photogenic as the weeks go on! 6 months, when they can sit and smile, is kind of peak cuteness too! Congratulations and all the best!
posted by areaperson at 5:45 AM on March 14, 2016

Damn, here I thought one kid graduating from college this year and another kicking ass in college meant that we had done a decent job as parents. However, according to Buzzfeed I'm a total failure because I think we got maybe 3 of the 29 "must have" photos.

Seriously, just relax and take lots of pictures. A few will become your favorites. There is no such thing as a "must have" pose. If you want to spend money of professional photography go for it, but I'll bet you favorite picture ends up being being something you took with your phone.
posted by COD at 5:55 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Quantity has a quality of it's own."

Take a bunch of pictures, it's not like you're paying to develop film.

Seriously, take tons of shots, and sort through them late at night when the little nipper is asleep.
posted by Sphinx at 6:02 AM on March 14, 2016

Best answer: I think you should do it -- you'll definitely want to look at the portfolios of the photographers you are considering and pick someone whose style you really like. But provided you like the style, these photos are objectively of a better quality than what you're going to get snapping a picture with your iPhone while sleep deprived. :) It sounds like these photos would be objectively valuable to you, so I think it's worth it. The cost of newborn photography is not even on the same order of magnitude as a down payment, so I don't feel like you have to feel you're sacrificing one for the other.

Another option would be if you have a talented friend who is a good photographer. You still might offer to pay, but presumably the cost would be less (maybe just the cost of ordering in dinner depending on the friend). A friend of ours did the photos for our wedding website, and in my opinion they turned out just as good as the engagement photos we later got from our wedding photographer (although in a different style).
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:17 AM on March 14, 2016

Have you thought about keeping a babies first year style journal, top capture not just the images but your thoughts as well. I know my heart would have melted to read such thoughts as those you had the first night from my own mother, and you wrote so beautifully. You can but some lovely fill in the blank ones and the have spaces for photos.
posted by wwax at 6:26 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

You could put the word out to everybody who comes to visit to please take a bunch of pictures and send them to you? Other people's candid snaps can come out very, very nicely. My favourite series of photos were taken by Grandma.

+1 on the video. It need not -- should not, perhaps? -- be long. Just enough to capture the little sounds and movements; all mine are under a minute, many under 30sec.

I don't have an enormous number of newborn photos and no professional ones (and some of the professional ones are, frankly, odd), but they are more than sufficient. Not very long ago everybody was fine with just the few that turned out well from the rolls of film, and I think contemporary photo expectations can be a bit...burdensome. You will not suffer for not having week-by-week photographs.

Instead of spending $ on photos I would spend $ on hiring somebody to do household tasks or whatever so I could spend more of my time being my newborn's personal mattress. You can't get more of that later on, so max out on it now -- I am really grateful for all the times I thought "X needs to be done" and then realised "No, this baby is napping on my chest; this needs to be done" and stayed put.

One thing I do enjoy about my own baby photos is stuff in the background -- the furnishings, the packaging, that sort of thing. Try to capture some things that are very much of the era. Also, if there is a baby blanket or a teddy you suspect has a shot at being The Blanket or The Teddy, get some good snaps of that while it is still in its new condition. We (daughter is now 8_ have some photos with a lot of toys in the background and enjoy going "Aww, there's [dolly] when she was new!"

It's also nice to have shots of baby in the arms of relatives/beloved friends, too; those are also nice to look back on.
posted by kmennie at 7:17 AM on March 14, 2016

Videos, videos, even if it's just of the baby breathing as she sleeps, or peering back at you as you coo at her. It is unbelievably hard to get the picture of them back in your mind of how they used to be. Take as many videos as you can.

We did a pro photo shoot for our newborn and it was money very well spent... now that I think of it, those photos are among the very few where WE her parents and sister are decently - naturally but attractively - posed and lit along with her. The ones we took of her are great, but mostly she's the only one in the picture.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:31 AM on March 14, 2016

I agree with the video thing. In the age of smartphones with great cameras, we have a TON of photos of our son, like multiple shots of practically every day of his life, but the videos are really what are precious to me. Learning to walk, learning to talk, singing songs... videos, I'm telling you.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:46 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

My husband bought a new camera just before our baby was born, and we used that instead of hiring a photographer. It was cheaper, and we've gotten our money's worth in the last 3+ years! It takes lovely photos and video. I regret not taking more videos in the early days - my husband took a couple of the baby while I was sleeping, and they are so so so wonderful.
posted by Maarika at 8:47 AM on March 14, 2016

Best answer: We have TONS of pictures of my now six month old son but I have to admit that I sort of regret not having someone come to the house and do a series of Anne Geddes-style newborn pictures where he's posed in a basket of feathers or whatever. It's not a huge regret, but it pokes me a little.

Definitely take videos! I only have one video from when he was tiny and I took it by accident while trying to snap a selfie of me and the baby so it's about three seconds long and I wish I had more videos from when he was so itty-bitty.

I'm a horrible photographer, but natural light always makes my cell phone pictures look WAY better. Maybe try taking some in the morning near a window?

You are so right that this time is precious and fleeting! My son is SO MUCH MORE FUN now as a somewhat older baby, he's chubby and giggly and he actually responds to us. But I do miss that tiny newborn phase where he was more like a hairless bear cub than a human baby. I freaked my husband out by bursting into tears and telling him that if I had a time machine, I'd use it to go back in time to when my son was a day old and hold him and smell him again. PARENTING. IT'S BITTERSWEET.
posted by Aquifer at 10:31 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm in the camp that says skip the paid photographers and just shoot your own cameraphone snaps all the time. We have SO MANY of my son and even the blurry ones are fun -- they catch a moment, a look, an angle, something.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:49 AM on March 14, 2016

I used the free app 1 Second Everyday. You try to take one picture or one short video a day on your phone/tablet, and then it can compile it into a long video to play later. Low-key, and it made a really fun video to watch on his first (and second) birthday. You pay a little bit to make a video for longer than a month, but it was totally worth it.

We did pay for a nice family portrait session around the 1 year birthday from a local photographer via craigslist. (Make sure you see their portfolio first, because some amateur photographers are very amateur.) Some folks like to do the professional newborn portrait session, which is lovely, too. I personally don't regret not getting the newborn portrait session.

I'm worried I'm not doing enough to capture these days.

Oof. I remember those days. It is so hard when baby is so little and is just a sinkhole for attention with no feedback, and then you feel you have to keep up with the Jones's picture-perfect Instagram. Over 2 years later and I don't even recognize that tiny infant anymore - their faces change so much every day. My mom told me recently that kids are just on loan from the universe, and that kind of makes sense. They grow so fast, and no matter how many pictures you get of them, they are already older a second later and there's nothing we can do to slow time down. "The glass is already broken" from a recent AskMe. Which isn't to increase your worry, but more to let you know it is OK. Snuggle that baby as much as you can (and as much as it lets you).

I had Post Partum Anxiety that I didn't really climb out of until my kiddo was almost 2 years old, and I think that picture-perfect Instagram pressure didn't help any. I mention this because of how you say you are worried. My local LLL meetings and KellyMom Breastfeeding Support Group (on facebook) helped keep me functioning. I hadn't heard of PPA at all until I was mostly done with it, and all of the PPD documentation out there just didn't click for me. PPA is usually just lumped vaguely under the PPD umbrella, which was very unhelpful for me. Don't be afraid to ask for help if the worries get too big.
posted by jillithd at 11:54 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Taking pictures is one of my hobbies so with both of our kids I've just been taking lots of photos of them. My wife has her own camera so she also takes pictures on that as well as a fair number on her smartphone. Every few months we will actually go through all the photos we've taken and select which ones we want to print. A nice side effect is that we now have online albums that contain the best photos for the various periods, as opposed to just having everything online in some unorganized mess. I get that sometimes the moment is the most important thing and you can get this on any old camera, but when we go through the hundreds and hundreds of photos, the ones that end up getting printed usually both captured the moment and were technically good as well (proper focus, exposure, framing, etc).

So if you're not confident with your ability behind a camera then I would recommend hiring a photographer to come in at least once to take some pictures. It may be that you are so happy with the results that it'll become a more regular thing, or it may be that you look at the pictures and think they're good, but that you wouldn't shell out the money to do it again.

Videos are great for looking at on your phone and just enjoying the cuteness of the kids, or sharing with people far away, but it is just so much easier to view photos. We have prints in albums or on the fridge/walls, the backgrounds of our phones from time to time, and as part of the rotating background slideshow on our Chromecast, so we see them a lot more than the videos we've taken. I even had a series of photos taken in quick succession printed as a lenticular animation, which was neat but expensive.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2016

Aside from pictures, I have always regretted that I didn't jot down a few notes about my babies and little kids--now young adults. I think writing about the baby himself and your feelings can help you capture and remember this time in a wonderful way that pictures can't. It can be just a sentence or two every day or two in some crappy, cheap notebook or in a beautiful blank book, whatever works better for you. This can actually be helpful, too, if you ever want to look back to track various milestones. Enjoy this very special time!
posted by primate moon at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2016

video video video

Why didn't I take more videos?

Take a TON of videos. I don't regret not doing newborn photography (they do all look the same) but oh I wish I'd taken more videos.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:37 PM on March 14, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I hear you loud and clear -- videos, notes, our own photos, and being the baby's mattress as much as possible. And, we did end up paying for photography, about 50-50 posed (wrapped in white linen asleep) vs. natural. It has been so very worth it. The peace of mind it has given me ALONE has been worth it. I've been able to do more living in the moment than trying to capture the moment. That's not to say I don't appreciate all the other suggestions. We definitely are taking lots of our own photos and asking friends to as well, so it's been great to hear so many people say how well that approach worked for them. Thanks!
posted by slidell at 7:35 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: By the way, I always think it's odd when someone asks a question, and 80% of the answers say one thing, but they mark the other 20% as "best answer." Now that I find myself doing that, I want to say how helpful it was to have someone tell me what in retrospect felt obvious: you're anxious about this, you can afford it without going into debt, and a professional probably does offer a quality you won't attain on your own, so why not go ahead and do it. That answer jumped off the screen for me, which really helped me clarify what I wanted to do. But it was also quite helpful to learn how many people wouldn't do it, and to hear all the other ways that people captured the newborn days, so every answer was sincerely helpful and appreciated. Thank you!
posted by slidell at 7:45 PM on April 3, 2016

Best answer: My baby was born March 8 of this year. We scheduled a newborn photoshoot with 2 photographers (to have options in case the first set came out crappy). They both ended up nice and we have enough photos for the entire family.

The thing that I regret the most is not telling people to hold off on visiting until the baby was 1 week old. That first week I wanted to hold on to actual memories of spending time and bonding with my baby. We were innnundated with extended visits by eager grandmas and friends that the whole newborn stage was a blur for me of constant breastfeeding, interrupted sleep and sitting bleary eyed on the couch trying to make conversation with visitors and protecting my baby from being woken up "to play with grandma". Newborn pictures and videos can't replace those bonding moments lost and there are no do-overs when time flies so fast.

I am now trying to focus on being present when spending time with my newborn so I can have memories imprinted in my brain of those special moments rather than posed photos and videos of a baby in a hammock.
posted by Karotz at 9:28 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the update, Slidell. It's nice to hear you found a solution to give you some peace of mind (and cute photos!)
Congrats to you and to Karotz too! Babies, yeah!!!
posted by areaperson at 4:27 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Who is on the cover of Will the Circle Be Unbroken...   |   Where is a good small city with decent weather for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.