I’ve been taking pictures of children for a long time now (my oldest child is 23). But I’ve only been really into photography for about 10 or 11 years, so I do sometimes wish I knew more about it back when my kids were babies. It amazes me how quickly children grow – they don’t stay little very long. It’s one of the reasons I prefer portrait photography to other types – it’s a privilege to help create images that could very well be family heirlooms and treasures in the years to come. That’s why even though sunsets and flowers are great, they don’t hold the same appeal for me. They are repeatable, predictable events, while portraiture is often unpredictable and unrepeatable. I’d thought I’d put out some tips on how to get the most out of your baby pictures, whether you are doing them at home or coming in for a photo session.
#1 Choose the right time. Babies don’t care that you dressed them up, got them looking good and left work early to preserve some memories – they live completely in the now. Bring a child in for photos during what is usually their nap or dinner time, and it likely won’t work, unless you like the more authentic, ‘screaming their heads off, nose running, red-cheeked, puffy-eyed’ look. Basically I’ve found that when they start arching their backs, the session is over! You can’t always control a babies’ mood, but good timing certainly helps!
A happy baby!!
#2 Bring toys. I always have toys around when doing family photos, but if your child has a favorite, bring it along. Don’t prejudge what might or might not look good in a picture. Parents are sometimes embarrassed that the kid uses a soother (who really cares if it works for them) or something, but a good photographer can work around that anyway. If they have something that makes them happy, bring it!
Including a favorite toy is a great way to capture a moment in time!
#3 Use plain backgrounds. This is a given if you are going to a studio, but you can also try this at home. Busy backgrounds are fine for snapshots or showing context, but isolating your subjects usually makes for a more compelling image. You don’t need to spend a lot for this, try using a plain blanket or buy a shower curtain! My first background was a carpet I nailed to the wall in my basement. (secondary tip- if you are using flash – move your subject farther in front of the background to avoid harsh shadows).
#4 Use props that show the nature of the occasion. Is it a birthday? Use a birthday hat for one of the shots, or a balloon. We tend to only think to do this for graduations, but it works for lots of different types of photos.
#5 Don’t try this at home! Okay – this might sound a bit self-serving, but there really are limits to what you can do at home. If you want a pure white background or other high-end, professional style photos, you should hire a pro. I used to think I could do just about anything in photography on the cheap, but over time I discovered I can’t. I eventually broke down and spent the money and the time needed in order to get the professional results I wanted.
#6 Isolate body parts, show the difference in size, shoot random body parts and experiment. Getting close to your subjects (getting really close sometimes) can create timeless, compelling images. Don’t stay stuck in a compositional rut and shoot things the same way every time.
Most importantly, keep a camera close by and take lots of pictures – if you shoot digitally it isn’t costing you anything, and you’ll have lots of material to embarrass your kids with if you ever have to make a PowerPoint for their wedding reception!
And finally – thanks to the parents of the beautiful babies for allowing me to put them up here!
Have Questions? Want private lessons? As always – reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org