Your baby has just been born. It’s unbelievably small and vulnerable, delicate and beautiful, amazing and dependent. This is a very special moment in your life and wouldn’t it be prefect to capture a beautiful portrait of your baby at the very start of their life – before you even leave the hospital and it already feels different. So what’s stopping you?
Well, you’re exhausted from the birth process, tired and emotion like you’ve never been before in your life. You feel anxious at being responsible for a human life, perhaps for the first time ever, distracted by all of the activities around you of the ongoing maternity ward, concerned over the noisy stress inducing crying and alternatively eerie stillness that makes you constantly check the baby is still breathing and accidentally waking it up again. That’s all? Well you most likely didn’t pack your camera or think about preparing a few props.
I understand. In fact it wasn’t until the birth of my third daughter that I had the nerve to pull my camera out of the bag in the first few hours and take a good photo. But I was determined to get it right this time. At the previous birth I got a shot of Pandora wrapped in the unattractive hospital sheets with my phone and while a great memory it’s not a great photo.
So remembering the functional hospital garments I came prepared, and it wasn’t that difficult. I brought a kit stuffed into the maternity bag of two white pillow cases and a basic white onesie for the baby. I just wanted a clean simple shot of the baby without any distractions. And of course one camera and one lens. Not a lot to prepare considering the other contents of the bag.
I didn’t know where or when the it was going to take place and in the end we were in far from in an ideal setting for a shoot. But I was still able to get decent light from one window at the end of the narrow ward.
I replaced the blue well worn sheets in the hospital crib with my white pillow cases. I’m glad I brought two as the dark red mattress would have shown through the one case. I positioned the baby quickly and started to take some shots. Obviously I don’t have too long in this situation so I spent no more than few minutes shooting the baby on her own and another 5 or so with her mother holding her - and she did a fantastic job of standing and holding the baby so soon after giving brith.
Of course the main concern is for the health of the baby and the mother so in less than ten minutes it was all wrapped, the shoot that is not the baby. The baby was back in her hospital gown and in the crib and the mother was back in her bed and my camera was... Where was my camera? Oh there it is, in my wife’s hands already having its contents reviewed and rated.
You really don’t need to prepare that much to get that first shot, certainly not compared to everything else you have to get ready for the birth. But it does take a lot to pull yourself together in the moment, to step outside the anxiety and shoot a mini session right there in the hospital. But it only take a moment and it’s worth having those photos from the first hours for the rest of your lives.