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How to Photograph a Preemie

 

Photographing a Preemie

Sasha Emmons is executive editor at parenting.com, the website of Parenting Magazine. Her son Julian was born six weeks early. Valerie Fischel is parenting.com’s photo editor. These are their words. Follow @parenting on Twitter or on Facebook.

Whether your premature delivery is expected or out of the blue, you might find yourself pining for the birth experience you see in movies, where there’s plenty of time for photos afterward. Instead, you find your premature baby whisked off to the NICU before you’ve had time to see what he or she looks like, much less compose the perfect shot.

But the birth of a child is a huge moment, regardless of the circumstances, and you’ll want to capture it as much as circumstances allow. And let’s be honest: taking photos gives you something to do in the NICU, other than worry. Hopefully, your little preemie will overcome his early start, and will someday ask you to show him photos of when he was born.

Read on for tips on how to get sweet shots and work with the challenging circumstances of the NICU.


Photographing a Preemie

Sasha Emmons is executive editor at parenting.com, the website of Parenting Magazine. Her son Julian was born six weeks early. Valerie Fischel is parenting.com’s photo editor. These are their words. Follow @parenting on Twitter or on Facebook.

Whether your premature delivery is expected or out of the blue, you might find yourself pining for the birth experience you see in movies, where there’s plenty of time for photos afterward. Instead, you find your premature baby whisked off to the NICU before you’ve had time to see what he or she looks like, much less compose the perfect shot.

But the birth of a child is a huge moment, regardless of the circumstances, and you’ll want to capture it as much as circumstances allow. And let’s be honest: taking photos gives you something to do in the NICU, other than worry. Hopefully, your little preemie will overcome his early start, and will someday ask you to show him photos of when he was born.

Read on for tips on how to get sweet shots and work with the challenging circumstances of the NICU.


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Photographing a Preemie

Photo by: Parenting

Go on: take photos.

Your preemie might be hooked up to monitors, IVs, or even a breathing apparatus. But she’s still beautiful to you, isn’t she? As rough as they might be, you’ll want to remember her first few days. Also, photos give you something to gaze at when you’re at home and missing her.

Go on: take photos.

Your preemie might be hooked up to monitors, IVs, or even a breathing apparatus. But she’s still beautiful to you, isn’t she? As rough as they might be, you’ll want to remember her first few days. Also, photos give you something to gaze at when you’re at home and missing her.

Previous | 2 of 7 | Next

Go on: take photos.

Photo by: Parenting

Get Close.

If the medical equipment feels too scary, go for close-up shots of hands, feet and hair. If you’re shooting with an SLR, a macro lens is great for getting very close to the subject while maintaining sharp focus. If you don’t own one, you can rent a good lens for around $20 for a few days. Most point-and-shoot cameras have a macro setting as well—it’s the little flower setting on your dial. Tap the shutter button lightly to focus; you should be able to focus within a few inches of your baby. To show perspective, place a stuffed animal next to baby (if NICU regulations allow) or wrap his tiny hand around your finger.

Get Close.

If the medical equipment feels too scary, go for close-up shots of hands, feet and hair. If you’re shooting with an SLR, a macro lens is great for getting very close to the subject while maintaining sharp focus. If you don’t own one, you can rent a good lens for around $20 for a few days. Most point-and-shoot cameras have a macro setting as well—it’s the little flower setting on your dial. Tap the shutter button lightly to focus; you should be able to focus within a few inches of your baby. To show perspective, place a stuffed animal next to baby (if NICU regulations allow) or wrap his tiny hand around your finger.

Previous | 3 of 7 | Next

Get Close.

Photo by: Parenting

Prepare for challenging light conditions.

Unless your baby is next to a window in the NICU, there might not be much natural light, and hospitals are not known for their flattering lighting. You most likely won’t be able to use flash, so you might want to bring a small tripod to combat camera shake, and use the auto setting. If you’re feeling comfortable with your camera, go ahead and put it on the manual setting (that’s the M on the dial); now you have full control. Using a high ISO will allow more light (keep in mind that the higher the number, the more grain). The other two settings that affect your light are the shutter speed, and the F-stop. A slow shutter (a lower number) combined with a wide aperture, or F-stop (a lower number as well) will allow the most light into the camera. Note: using your aperture at its widest setting gives you a shallow depth of field, so if you’re focusing on the baby’s feet, you probably won’t be able to also have her face in focus too.

Prepare for challenging light conditions.

Unless your baby is next to a window in the NICU, there might not be much natural light, and hospitals are not known for their flattering lighting. You most likely won’t be able to use flash, so you might want to bring a small tripod to combat camera shake, and use the auto setting. If you’re feeling comfortable with your camera, go ahead and put it on the manual setting (that’s the M on the dial); now you have full control. Using a high ISO will allow more light (keep in mind that the higher the number, the more grain). The other two settings that affect your light are the shutter speed, and the F-stop. A slow shutter (a lower number) combined with a wide aperture, or F-stop (a lower number as well) will allow the most light into the camera. Note: using your aperture at its widest setting gives you a shallow depth of field, so if you’re focusing on the baby’s feet, you probably won’t be able to also have her face in focus too.

Previous | 4 of 7 | Next

Prepare for challenging light conditions.

Photo by: Parenting

Use what you have.

Your preemie might be in an isolette and under phototherapy lights for jaundice, but even those limitations can present opportunities. Open the isolette windows to get in close and let them frame the shot. The bluish-purple light can provide a cool effect, and actually helps with lighting a clear shot.

Use what you have.

Your preemie might be in an isolette and under phototherapy lights for jaundice, but even those limitations can present opportunities. Open the isolette windows to get in close and let them frame the shot. The bluish-purple light can provide a cool effect, and actually helps with lighting a clear shot.

Previous | 5 of 7 | Next

Use what you have.

Photo by: Parenting

Take someone along as photographer.

The opportunities to cuddle your babe might be few and far between, depending on your baby’s health. When the big moment comes—you finally get to hold your baby!—just enjoy it, and let someone else document it. I usually hog the camera, but my husband and I passed the camera back and forth when my daughter met her brother for the first time so we could both just take in the moment.

Take someone along as photographer.

The opportunities to cuddle your babe might be few and far between, depending on your baby’s health. When the big moment comes—you finally get to hold your baby!—just enjoy it, and let someone else document it. I usually hog the camera, but my husband and I passed the camera back and forth when my daughter met her brother for the first time so we could both just take in the moment.

Previous | 6 of 7 | Next

Take someone along as photographer.

Photo by: Parenting

Blow out going-home day.

The day your baby leaves the hospital is always a photo-worthy occasion, but for a preemie who may have battled serious health problems (and for the parents who saw them through it), it’s especially triumphant. I treasure the photos of just-released Julian, still jaundiced and swimming in his heirloom going-home outfit, coming home where we could hold him as much as we wanted to, without a single wire in the way.  

Blow out going-home day.

The day your baby leaves the hospital is always a photo-worthy occasion, but for a preemie who may have battled serious health problems (and for the parents who saw them through it), it’s especially triumphant. I treasure the photos of just-released Julian, still jaundiced and swimming in his heirloom going-home outfit, coming home where we could hold him as much as we wanted to, without a single wire in the way.  

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Blow out going-home day.

Photo by: Parenting