How to Photograph Your Preemie in the NICU

I'm thrilled to share some incredible tips from my friend Jessica who is seriously the best NICU photographer ever. You must check out her incredible gallery of work


 She generously offered to share these tips, originally shared on her website, on how to use your cell phone to capture wonderful photographs of your preemie while you're in the NICU.Enjoy!




What a weird, crazy and unsettling time in living history we find ourselves in! I have been thinking so much of all the parents with babies in the NICU and how all the added safety precautions must be stressful on top of everything else going on. I was just starting to get back in to volunteering for NICU portraits for families before everything shut down, which is a big bummer! 


I have no idea when it will be safe for visitors to return to the NICU, so I thought it would be a great time to offer up some tips for parents to capture great images of their babies in the NICU using the most common camera they have, their cell phone! 

Tip #1 - Find The Light


Lighting is everything. Since I never use flash on the NICU babes (for both a safety precaution to protect their eyes and to not over-stimulate them), I rely on window light and overhead light the most. 


It’s not always possible to have window light, but if you do, open the blinds and take photos with baby facing towards the window (so you want the window behind you) or if someone is holding, near and facing the window. This will help with avoiding shadows and give a nice soft look to your photos. 


black nicu mother holding preemie baby next to window, for good NICU photography lighting

An example to show the light coming from the window, you can see the shadows on the opposite side of the isolate, so photograph baby from the side of the window.

This was a room that didn’t have a window so we turned on additional lighting just above the open crib, which you can see above her head and down by her feet it’s darker, so it really does help.

Tip #2 - Less is More

Try to ‘de-busy’ your baby’s bed and remove busy prints or bright colors. White bedding is the best for photos as it not only helps reflect what little available light there is but doesn’t cause a color-cast on your baby’s skin that other color will. 


What I mean by this is if you put a bright pink blanket under baby, for example, your baby’s skin may show a pink hue. Or red, yellow, green, etc. Keep it simple and sweet, white bedding is best. 


An example to show you how this little guy had a striped sheet in his bed but we put a white blanket underneath him to bring the focus to the baby. On his close up it made all the difference!


preemie baby with oxygen and OG tube in incubator in NICU holding mother's hand
closeup preemie baby with oxygen OG tube in incubator, nicu photography

Tip #3 - Remember the Room

While the NICU is not what any expectant parent envisions as baby’s first room, be sure to take images of the little details of the room that make up their stay. This is their home right now and you’ll want to remember it down the road and show them where they started from. 


Whatever monitors and machines that are needed, their bed be it a bassinet, isolate, or open crib, the chair you spend all those hours cuddling them and sitting beside them watching them sleep, the little décor details you brought from home to make it feel more cozy. 


Take photos of the daily white board so you can remember the little big details like weight, staff, and goals or notes the nurses right for you. Whenever I do a NICU session for families, the board is always the first thing I capture so I can remember how much baby weighed during the session so I’m sure it’ll be even more handy for parents! 


Side note: take a photo of the check in desk, the wash station (don’t be afraid to ask a staff member take a photo of you washing your hands!), the hallways down to your baby’s room, you’re going to want to remember it all, I promise!


Tip #4 - Show the Scale of their Size

One of the most popular items parents love to use to document the size of their baby are rings, which is are so precious! 


But you can use other things too, just think of items that are easy to wipe down and disinfect prior to laying next to baby. 


For micropreemies, one thing you could use is a can of soda as it’s easily wipeable. You could also use a sentimental toy, one thing that comes to mind are baby rattles. I really like the Fisher Price Tiny Take-Alongs gift set as they are miniature versions of the classic FP toys, and you got it, wipeable.


(We include a fun photo prop - a NICU Stress Star that is very small, soft yet sanitizable - in two of our NICU care packages, FYI) 



Tip #5 - All in the Details

Don’t just focus on their beautiful face, be sure to capture those teeny tiny fingers, toes, their hair, they body, those tiny scrawny arms and legs, all those details that change so fast as they grow. 


Capture their ID bracelets, their bed ID card (anything with their name on it really). Try to remember to take photos of the daily cares, such as diaper changes, temp taking, the doctor or nurse doing their checks, bath time, and of course, feeding (whatever stage you’re at that it looks like!)


Tip #6 - Your NICU Family

It is well known that the NICU staff can become like family, with key players especially imprinting on the hearts of parents. Make sure you take photos of them with your baby, you’ll love the memory and they are precious keepsakes.

Tip #7 - Play with Different Angles

In the NICU with your baby, you’ve got a lot of time. Try to find creative vantage points to take the photos from. Portholes, over shoulders, from above, from below, so many options! Allow yourself to have FUN with it!

preemie feet in isolette porthole photographed in NICU

Tip #8 - Back Up Your Photos


Google photos, iCloud, Dropbox, Shutterfly, whatever service you can, find an auto back up service that automatically backs up your photos from you phone. This is simply a must because if your phone breaks or is lost/stolen, you don’t have to worry about losing your precious photos too.



Tip #9 - Tell Their Story


Remember, you are not just taking these photos for yourself now, but you are taking these to tell your baby’s story. They will want to see these one day and you can’t take too many photos. 


One way that may help you find things to take images of if telling your baby the story of each item as you’re going through the room. When you vocalize out loud what you’re doing, it gives power to that moment. Trust me, try it out! Your baby is listening!


preemie



Lastly, if you have any questions, know you can always shoot me an email at jessicastromphotography@gmail.com to ask, I love supporting NICU families anyway I can, especially when I can’t physically be there for you right now. 


Hang in there, you are so loved & supported and you are not alone! 


Much love, Jessica


Jessica Strom is a Canadian-American professional infant photographer based out of the greater Kansas City metro. She is the leading expert in the field of NICU Photography and her passion for her work in documenting the journey of micro preemies is unparalleled. Between 2016 - 2018, after a 10 year struggle with infertility, Jessica and her husband welcomed their two wonderful children, Charlie & Rachel, into their family.


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