How To Take Baby Photos

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Taking photos of babies can be both rewarding and fun.  These images from your child's infancy provide ongoing delight as the years pass.  Whether you use film or a digital camera, chances are you will be taking a lot of pictures of your new bundle of joy.  Here are some tips from professional photographers to help you move from the realm of snapshots to creating artistic images worth framing:

  1. Get in close.  This is the most important aspect of children's photography and the technique most commonly neglected.  Fill the entire frame with the baby.  It is okay even to cut out part of the head to get a close up of the eyes, for example, or to do a close up study of the toes.  Professional photographers do it all the time.  This type of camera cropping makes for exciting images that are timeless and truly capture the child.
  2. Focus on the eyes.  The eyes are the most important part of a portrait.  Even if the subject is looking away from the camera, always make sure the eyes are in focus.  You might have to adjust your focusing sensors if the eyes are not going to be in the center of the frame.  Alternatively, with many cameras, you can focus by pushing the shutter release halfway down and then recompose the image by moving the camera.
  3. Go for natural light.  We all look better in natural light, but babies look especially cute in soft natural lighting.  Ideally, look for open shade (not dappled) or a north facing window.  Place the baby next to the light-filled window and photograph either from the side or head-on.
  4. If you must use flash, try off-camera flash or a light diffuser.  Babies are notoriously prone to red eye.  If you plan to take lots of baby pictures, consider investing either in an off-camera flash using a bracket or in a diffuser for your on-camera flash.  These devises soften the light and reduce the chances of red eye.
  5. Keep it simple.  Choose backgrounds with soft colors and textures.  The same goes for clothing.  Choose comfortable, simple outfits for your baby portrait.  Let the baby be the focus of the image.    Resist the urge to dress the baby up in cute outfits.  As sweet as they may look now, in the future they will begin to look dated.  Try photographing your baby in just a cloth diaper or a white cotton onesie for a timeless look.
  6. Be prepared.  Make sure you have your props and camera ready.  Set your tripod up ahead of time if you intend to use one, and make sure you have batteries in your camera.   Do not expect baby to wait while you adjust your camera settings or take a light reading.  Have a few gentle props on hand such as a feather tickler, a rattle or a balloon.  Avoid annoying noisemakers or anything that might scare the baby.
  7. Plan your photo session for the comfort of the baby.  Usually, right after a feeding works well.  If the baby becomes fussy, put the camera down and try for another time.  Babies do not respond well to pleas for "just one more shot," so you might as well save yourself the frustration of trying.
  8. Take Many Photographs.  Professional photographers know that they have to produce 10-20 images to get a picture that satisfies them.  Be prepared to take and then discard a lot of pictures before you get one that really captures the true essence of your baby.
  9. Banish "cheese" from your vocabulary.  Start now, before your baby learns to make that awkward gummy grin that is unnatural and does not look good.  Allow them to learn to smile naturally, or wait for the smile to come.  Be funny and lively and capture the smile in their eyes.
  10. Consult written material.  An excellent book on baby photography is John Hedgecoe's Photographing Babies and Children.  This book offers advice useful for beginners and advanced photographers and is a great source of inspiration for long-term baby photography projects.

 

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