WNY FaceTime Newborn Session During COVID-19

Well, that title alone should warrant some head turns and eye rolls, am I right?

Since photographers weren’t considered “essential” we couldn’t shoot any sessions during the early phases of a COVID quarantine, much less a NEWBORN session! So, now, I guess I’ve got you scratching your head wondering “just how did she pull this off?”

newborn in the arms of mom during facetime newborn session by one fine day photography by reen
baby stretching out in a crib during facetime newborn session by one fine day photography by reen

The minute I heard my nephew Mark and his wife Brittany were expecting their second child, I promised them the gift of a newborn session, but now here we were at the peak of COVID -19 in Western New York, and I couldn’t deliver on my promise.  Insert the saddest face you can imagine.  Oh, and truth be told, I’d sat around long enough twiddling my thumbs, just dying to shoot a session. I just had to find a way around this, without violating CDC rules and regulations, but HOW?

The Answer “Let’s Do a FaceTime Newborn Session!”

“Wait, what?” I wish I could’ve taken credit for this idea, but in all honesty, I can’t.  See, I read a blogpost featured on Shoot Proof’s site “Facetime Photos are a Thing We’re Not Mad About”  sparked my interest, while at the same time had me thinking “You’ve got to be kidding!” and “What about the quality of those images?” Not to mention,  “How on earth could I do that?”

“I couldn’t possibly!” And yet, I did, or should I say, WE did ⎯together. 

black and white photo by one fine day photography by reen of dad holding newborn baby in rocking chair

Once I explained the process, Mark and Brittany were totally on board and let me tell you, they rocked this bizarre newborn session! We danced a new session dance and laughed a lot throughout the whole process.  Though a bit awkward at first, especially when it came to my directives, together we created and captured some sweet tender moments and some that really highlighted what real life with a newborn looked like!

Those  moments with cheeky little 2 ½ year old  Hayden who’s trying to make sense of this major overnight change in her life. 

toddler brother holds newborn baby

Preparing for a FaceTime Newborn Session

I prepped Mark and Brittany a day or two before their session, with a pretty detailed step by step email that outlined how this session um, would/should/might unfold?

Some suggestions were:

  • Locate the best natural light areas within your home
  • Tidy up around those places (or don’t) it all depends on how honest you want your images to look. “To leave or not to leave the breast pump in the background⎯THAT is the question!”
  • Turn off all artificial light 
  • Change your camera angles ⎯by moving around your subject 
  • Don’t be afraid to ‘get in’ close
  • Use the phone’s exterior lens (not the selfie screen side lens) because the exterior lens is much better. Now that makes things pretty tricky. 
  • Turn ON FaceTime live photos in your settings 
  • And most importantly⎯there’s no need to rush
photo of baby's had in dad's by one fine day photography by reen

FaceTime Newborn Session

And so, during our FaceTime call, with only iPhone 8 cameras in hand, I gently directed Mark and Brittany while I took screen shots on my end of what they saw. At one point Mark actually used duct tape to stick his phone to a dresser in order to achieve a shot of the whole family! (I’m not sure we ever got Jersey, their frisky golden doodle, fully in the frame!)

black and white family photo laughing on the bed by one fine day photography by reen

An Opportunity to Learn & Take Risks

Talk about learning something new, getting outside of your comfort zone and giving up some control of your session! This exercise did all those things for me as a creative. I learned how to take a pretty big risk. I’m sure some photographers out there may frown on this and that’s perfectly okay. I was certainly skeptical at the start. It felt super risky to even post these images, I mean, I’m breaking some major blogpost and social media rules here! We’re supposed to only post our best work, right? We’re all about curating that perfect Instagram feed that truly represents out brand. Yeah, right. Sorry, not how I roll. Certainly, these images don’t reflect my best work. They don’t even come close⎯ yet here they are for all to see! They’re moodier and obviously softer than my typical style of shooting and editing, even after post production in Lightroom.  

mom sitting in a chair and holding baby during facetime photo session

BUT these images do show a very genuine effort to help this beautiful family document a special event during a very strange time⎯and that brought us joy and made me proud to share them publicly. 

black and white photo by one fine day photography by reen of dad holding newborn baby in had

You might ask, “Do I fear that FaceTime or virtual sessions may someday replace professional cameras and traditional photography sessions?” Nope, not one bit. Although using this novel approach can be a great tool during these uncertain times, it still lends itself to far too many limitations. And heck yes, I’d do again, if the COVID cases spike up and we return to a quarantined state. Who wouldn’t want to spread a little joy and happiness during times like these?  As for right now, in WNY, I’m back to shooting sessions since our Phase 3 re-opening. And I’m taking it slowly, keeping my newborn sessions outdoors for a bit. 

A HUGE “thank you” goes out to Mark, Brittany, Hayden and little Hudson for taking Aunt Reen up on this strange creative adventure⎯I had a blast! 

Would love to hear from other photographers – and happy to answer questions about this experience. 

Stay Healthy and above all, Stay Happy!

  1. Brittany says:

    This was truly one of the coolest experiences, and one we will never forget!!! We were certainly bummed to be stuck in the middle of a pandemic when we welcomed our son, but I am so thankful we got the opportunity to capture these moments!! Thank you Aunt Reen, we couldn’t be happier with how they turned out! Your creativity and determination made this shoot so fun!

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Aw, you guys were amazing! I’m so grateful to have had that really fun opportunity!

    • Laura Cheney says:

      Reen I am so grateful for your ingenuity in the midst of a pandemic. As Grandma, who is unable to see my new grandson in person, these amazing photos are such a gift! With Mark and Brittany’s help, you were able to capture those first days beautifully. Your persistence and creativity is awesome and most appreciated ! Thank you ! Thank you!

      • Irene Salek-Raham says:

        Thanks for your kind words Laura. Hoping that bridge opens up soon for you to get to that cute little guy!

  2. Alli says:

    The pictures came out amazing! They are a gorgeous family, but I still give you credit.

  3. Michael Raham says:

    So cool to see you refuse to be limited by situations beyond your control. I love the whole concept. Of course, it helps to have a subject family photogenic enough to overcome the technical limitations of the equipment, but don’t sell yourself short on the quality of the results. What a day brightener! Thanks for sharing, Reen.

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Thanks Mike for your comment! Hey, we all need a good “day brightener” right about now! Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Claudia Johanson says:

    What a beautiful outcome in a difficult situation!

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Thanks Claudie for your comment! Yep, quarantine can’t stop the celebration of a beautiful baby’s homecoming!

  5. Jill J says:

    Beautiful photos of a beautiful family! I love these shots. ❤️

  6. Catherine Pavon says:

    Such beautiful photos! it’s really neat how, even in this time that we have to spend apart, the love can be captured from afar.

  7. Diane Royston says:

    Reen, I think the photos are beautiful….how you can say they aren’t some of your best work, I don’t know!!! The tips you gave about the natural lighting are great…the photos looks so natural and not staged, which I know if your type of photo.

    Wishing you much continued success in pursuing your passion of photography. I certainly enjoy seeing the results, whether or not I know the subjects!


    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Di, thanks for reading and commenting! You should’ve seen my big fat smile when I read that you thought the images looked natural and not staged! That’s lifestyle photography! According to one of my photog course instructors, When we gently pose our subjects, we get a “fictitious representation of reality”, which then releases the magic…the real emotions sneak through!

  8. Nathan says:

    What a great way to capture such an important moment. These photos will be something their family can look back on and smile. Thank you for sharing and being honest about the challenges and fun that this can be.

  9. Melissa says:

    Beautiful photos that really capture the love in that family. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Thanks Mel for taking the time to read and comment! I love your comment about the images capturing the love shared in that family, because my hope is that my photography makes you “feel” something rather than just see something.

  10. Mia Miller says:

    A remarkable and genius way to make the best of the COVID-19 situation. So happy this family was able to preserve such beautiful memories!

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Thanks Mia for reading and commenting! If anyone knows about getting through a covid situation, it’s you! It’s all about making lemoncello out of lemons!

  11. Doug R says:

    Reen – your photography, even from afar, really captures the love of family – beautiful pictures of a beautiful family! Keep up the good work!

  12. Annemarie says:

    Beautiful pictures during this crazy time! They really captures the love.

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Thanks Annemarie- they, like so many other couples who brought home their newborn during this quarantine sure had quite a story to tell. Thanks for reading the post!

  13. Brian says:

    The pictures look fantastic and good for all of you to not let the situation prevent you from capturing this moment. Now these family memories will certainly be one of a kind!

    • Irene Salek-Raham says:

      Thanks Brian! They will certainly have some stories to tell this little guy about the time in which he was born. Thanks for taking the time to read this post!

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