Mom Life: How to Take Newborn Photos this Holiday Season

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a million family photos to prove it. As a new parent, capturing your baby’s first holiday season in photos is essential. But making sure your photos are Instagram-worthy is another story. We spoke to Atlanta-based baby photographer and mom of two Heather Carraway about how she gets her newborn subjects camera-ready and how you can channel your inner “mom-tographer” and take professional looking photos on your cell phone. Plus, why she relies on her DockATot during photoshoots.

Getting babies / small children to cooperate for a photoshoot is not easy. What are your tips for getting baby to remain still for a few snaps?
Oh, this is the story of my life!!  Between photographing my own three children and oodles of other people's babies, my most tried and true hack is to hand them something new to play with and purposefully set it where they'll be encouraged to stay.  Begin photographing them while they play and capture the in-between moments while you wait for them to look back at you!

What props should you have on hand to help baby stay in photo shoot mode?Having something to keep baby's hands busy is key.  Anything that makes noise is especially a hit!  A rattle, some blocks you can encourage them to clang together.  Sometimes, food bribes are a last resort and I always try to go with something dry and less distracting like Cheerios or puffs. Wooden teethers are also a personal favorite for younger babies.

dockatot winter 2018 collection

(Photography by Heather Carraway) 

Any backgrounds you love for an at-home photo shoot?
For in-home shoots, I love a natural background clear of clutter and distractions.  When I'm photographing my own kids or clients' children in their homes, it's because their home is a special piece of the story they want their photos to tell.  Tidy up the nursery, find some great window light to place the baby next to, and click away!

What accessories can an amateur photographer get to help their camera phone photos look amazing?
There is a saying in the photography world that the best camera is the one you have with you.  For most moms, including myself, that is our phone!  The key to taking any photo with any camera is finding LIGHT.  After that, there are so many great apps that allow you to set the perfect tone for your photo.  My personal go-to is Pic-Tap-Go.

How does DockATot help in terms of taking photos of baby?
DockATot provides a safe spot to "anchor" your little one and helps encourage them to stay put while you work your mom-tographer magic.  Don't be afraid to play around with angles!  Photograph from above, right at eye level, and even get way back and shoot from across the room to get a sense of scale.  

What are your favorite Instagram filters?
The only Instagram filters I use are the black and white versions and my favorite is Inkwell.  Otherwise, I prefer to keep my photos timeless and true-to-color.  If I do use Instagram to enhance a photo I've taken on my phone, it's usually adjusting brightness, contrast, temperature, and tint within the edit mode.

Dockatot Winter collection

(Photography by Heather Carraway) 

Favorite newborn poses?
My favorite newborn poses are the ones baby naturally puts himself into!  Snuggled up on their side, hands folded across their chest, arms up in the air.  I love capturing the natural positions of those first fleeting weeks.  Occasionally I'll photograph a baby who is particularly happy to be really curled up and I love to recreate that womb-like shape.

There's nothing cuter than a pic of baby with the family dog. Any tips on how to master that shot?
Snacks!  I have two dogs myself, but I don't claim to be a dog-whisperer.  What I've noticed is that at the stage I'm photographing, the family dog is usually still warming up to their new bestie and tends to be cautious about getting too close.  With the family's judgement and knowledge of their pet's temperament, we'll often place a small treat (sometimes even a dab of peanut butter!) as close to baby as possible and then let the pup in on the secret.  Once the baby and dog are both in the frame, I snap (and pray!) away.  

What’s your favorite photo app or online service to order photos from?
I love my Chatbooks!  It's so easy, affordable, and (most importantly!) automated so that once I set my account up, I don't need to do anything if I don't want to!  Once my catalog hits 60 photos, a book is printed and shipped directly to me.  For higher quality photo products, I absolutely love Artifact Uprising.

Biggest mistakes parents make when taking photos of their little ones?
Striving for perfection.  We're in the digital and social-media age where we have an abundance of opportunities to take the perfect photo so when we deem our results less than frame-worthy, we tend to discard them.  I challenge you to keep some of those "bloopers" and find beauty in the mundane.  They are all part of your child's story and will often be the fan-faves at the wedding slideshow.  My own personal Instagram is full of technically imperfect shots and mama-baby no-makeup selfies galore.

The holiday card photo shoot can take months of planning -- what's a way to make the photos look cute and not cheesy? 
My number one suggestion, if you have the means, is to hire a trusted professional.  Even as a photographer myself, it's the only way I'll sanely get a family picture of my crew and even after the planning and family feuding that photos can sometimes entail (yes, I know what happens in those car rides over to the session!) I have never once regretted having my family professionally photographed.  Even if your littles only grant you a handful of keepers, they are the ones that will adorn your walls and make you smile year after year.  Aside from that, don't overthink it.  Have your family's clothing coordinate but not match.  Don't worry about props - unless you simply need something to keep those little hands busy - in which case I'd suggest a festive but understated wooden train or other shatterproof, neutral ornament.  Keep the focus on your child for the photo and use the wonderful world of graphic design (ahem, Minted) to give a holiday feel to your card. 

Still searching for that perfect holiday gift for the loved ones on your list? Check out these ideas for last minute gifts.