The New Mom’s DIY Guide to Beautiful Hospital Newborn Photos (Using Just a Cell Phone!)

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I'm a mom, just like you. I've blinked and my 3 boys have jumped from babies to kids and I wholeheartedly agree believe that creating & capturing special memories together matters more than anything.

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Fresh 48 photos are some of the sweetest, most intimate pictures of your baby that you will ever have.

As a Boise, Idaho newborn photography studio, we believe in the importance of capturing memories in the most real and beautiful way possible. And while we are all about bringing your baby to the studio (we firmly believe that every parent should have professional portraits with their little one) we also recognize that during those first few hours of holding your baby in your arms, you might want to keep it to just you and baby. And yet, you still want to capture those first, amazing moments!

Fortunately, you can have it both ways with the New Mom’s DIY Guide toBeautiful Hospital Newborn Photos…using nothing more than a cell phone! Here are our tips for a DIY Fresh 48 session—the perfect prelude to professional newborn photos.

Create a Shot List

It’s tempting to skip planning ahead and just wing it at the hospital, but you will be so much happier if you write down beforehand the most important things you want to document. You can ask a nurse or support person to get any shots that you want the whole family included in.

The staples we swear by for Fresh 48 photos and poses?

  • First family photo  
  • Look down at baby and smile
  • Hold baby by the window
  • Smile proudly for the camera
  • Inspect baby’s toes
  • Compare your hand size with baby’s
  • Smell baby’s head
  • Touch your nose to their nose
  • Overhead shot of baby in basinet
  • Closeup of baby’s face

All of these poses are easy to achieve and make for wonderfully sweet and natural hospital baby pictures.

detail shot of newborn baby's toes in the hospital

Set Yourself Up for Success with Good Lighting

Hospital rooms don’t always have great lighting. In fact, let’s be honest. Hospital lighting sucks. It’s harsh, clinical, and absolutely not what you want for your DIY baby photos. So do yourself a favor and turn off all the lights in the room. Then use the soft, natural light from the windows to illuminate your portraits.

Note: If you put baby’s basinet by the window, make sure their head is closest to the window rather than their feet. That way you’ll get that pretty light falling gently down their face.

Cell Phone Settings for Perfect Portraits

As promised, you don’t have to be a pro to get precious photos of your little one in the hospital room. All you need is a cell phone! That said, there are a few quick adjustments you can make to your phone settings to make your portraits feel a cut above the usual snapshot.  

  • If the light seems a little dim, try increasing the exposure. First, tap on your phone to lock the camera’s focus on baby’s face. Then drag up. This simple trick will increase the exposure and brighten the image.
  • You’ll also want to lock the focus on your phone so it stays zeroed in on baby’s face. The best way to do this is to tap the image on your baby’s closest eye. This will give you the best focus.
  • Different cell phones have a variety of modes for capturing different types of images. If you have a newer model, try portrait mode when you want to blur the background, and macro mode for when you’re capturing tiny, up-close details like their lips or the peach fuzz on their shoulders.

Experiment with Angles

Cell phone modes make it easier to get great shots, but it’s also important to watch your angles. One of the biggest mistakes people make with DIY newborn photos is shooting from too low and straight-on…we call this shooting up the nose! This is nobody’s most flattering angle, no matter how cute they are. Instead, try getting parallel to baby and shooting at eye level, or shooting a little to the side and slightly above baby.

It will take a few tries to get this right, so don’t be afraid to move around and play with the angles. You’ll find some favorites!

In Newborn Photography, Safety Comes First

At our professional Boise newborn photography studio, we love capturing great images. But safety always comes first! The same should be true of your DIY hospital newborn photos. So,

  • Always hold your cell phone with both hands, especially when you are shooting from above baby.
  • You might also try using the volume buttons on the side of your phone to snap the shot, to give you a better grip.

These are easy but effective ways to keep your precious baby safe while you capture memories.

Prepping for Your Hospital Photos: What to Bring

Those are the absolute essentials for how to take beautiful baby pictures at the hospital with just a cell phone. But here are a few things you can bring to the hospital to make sure your DIY Fresh 48 photos are as beautiful as possible!

For Mom

Be sure to bring a hairbrush, toothbrush, and makeup. You don’t have to get totally dolled up, but it’s nice to feel as fresh and cute as you can so that you’re comfortable being in the pictures too! We also recommend bringing a cute robe and/or stretchy maternity leggings and a cozy sweater so you have a comfy outfit for photos.

For Baby

An outfit for baby can be as simple as a swaddling blanket. Look for a solid color with a nice texture (we love muslin) or even a custom swaddle with their name. We also recommend bringing a couple of white onesies, one in a preemie and one in a newborn size, so you’ll be sure to have one that fits. A dainty headband for baby girls is optional, but a fun touch!

Tip: Choose clothing and blankets (especially if they’ll be near the face) that are light-colored. Hospital rooms tend to be dark, and creams and whites can help to reflect light and brighten up your pictures.

Download the complete New Mom’s DIY Guide to Beautiful Hospital Newborn Photos

Need more details? You can download our full version of The New Mom’s DIY Guide to Beautiful Hospital Newborn Photos here! It includes all the information we’ve covered here, plus an easy cheat sheet with all the essential tips (print it out and pack it in your go-bag for the hospital!), shopping recommendations for our favorite mom and baby photo outfits and accessories, and a few more ideas for your shot list.

Glean & Co | Professional Newborn Portraits in Boise, Idaho

Once you have your gorgeous DIY Fresh 48 photos, it’s time to continue the story with professional newborn portraits! Book your consultation with Glean and Co today, and let’s start planning your session. Once we have your baby’s due date and tentative schedule date on the calendar we will start counting down the days. We’re almost as excited as you are!


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