Published on June 25, 2020

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When Jet Chi Stel was born last year, Jenny Nguyen and Bob Stel couldn’t wait to show her off. But with family and friends spread across the globe (Nguyen is Australian; Stel is Dutch), they realized in-person introductions would be next to impossible. And there’s only so many FaceTime sessions new parents can endure. That’s when Nguyen and Stel, an art director with a knack for storytelling, decided to get creative with a specially designed birth announcement.

What resulted was an 11-by-22-inch foldout that gave people a glimpse into Jet’s world from her point of view, including her freshly shaved head (a Vietnamese tradition for newborns) and her favorite hangout spot (“This is my crib”). Flip it over and the poster became a life-size photo of baby Jet. The response was so successful—Jet is proudly displayed on many a fridge door—that the couple realized more parents would want to welcome their little person in a more playful and modern way than the usual letterpress card.

This month they launched Hey Hey Baby, a service that offers customizable baby announcements complete with a life-size poster of your newborn (just snap some pictures, fill in your story, and send in an email). The company’s mission couldn’t be more timely: Bring your bundle of joy to the world when the world can’t come to you and involve faraway loved ones in a major life moment. 

Here, the duo breaks down how to craft an announcement.

Step 1: Create a Makeshift Photo Studio

Even brand-new parents know that taking a good photo of a newborn in focus is a feat. First, Stel and Nguyen suggest laying a wrinkle-free sheet or festive tablecloth on a baby-safe flat surface (alligator clips are helpful) to use as a smooth background. Shoot from directly overhead to capture the baby’s full length (they used their iPhone). Next, the lighting. “The ideal is diffused and coming from two directions, so one side of your baby’s face isn’t in the dark,” says Stel. “Try to avoid hard shadows.” Placing two lamps on either side does the trick and is easier on baby’s eyes. The most challenging part is, of course, the talent. “Working with the model is not easy,” Stel notes with a laugh. He recommends just taking a bunch of photo bursts and editing down later. A favorite toy is a good distraction and focus point, and have a cloth on hand to wipe away drool. 

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Step 2: Bring Out Their Personality

After you’ve captured your life-size shot, scroll through your camera roll to find supplementary images that mark your baby’s milestones thus far or any defining features you’ve noticed. For example, if your baby has particularly long fingers, you may want to include an up-close shot for loved ones to get a sense of the unique feature. The couple’s advice? “Let the story write itself.”

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Photography by Bob Stel
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Photography by Bob Stel

Step 3: Channel Their Voice 

When it comes to text, Nguyen and Stel’s secret was letting Jet chat away in her own words. “Start with the customary information you’d want your loved ones to have on hand, like height, weight, and birth date,” Nguyen suggests. “Then you can add personal details in the baby’s voice to make it extra special.” (Jet went with, “These are my feet” and “Look, I have no hair!”) All you need to do is observe your little one being their magic self.

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