You can’t start too early in photographing babies
Baby’s first photograph can be an ultrasound picture. In later years, your children will be fascinated when looking at pictures you took of them as a baby. Undoubtedly, you will, too. They are among the few kinds of pictures you never tire of looking at. You will believe then, as you probably do now, that your baby is unquestionably the most photogenic subject on the face of the earth.
But babies turn into toddlers and then into teens pretty quickly. You shouldn’t put off taking their pictures until “later,” because babies change so quickly that they will frequently not look the same at all when “later” comes. You should bring out the camera whenever an opportunity for a good baby picture arises, because if you don’t you will regret it later.
In fact, there is no reason why your baby’s picture series can’t begin with a picture of the pregnant mother. We even know of proud parents who keep ultrasound photos of their soon-to-be-born in the family album and even framed and displayed on a wall in their home.
Is there anything more beautiful than a soon-to-be-mother? She is just getting her baby used to having his or her picture taken.
A baby’s look of joy when mom peeks into his carriage. You can’t start too soon, and you can’t shoot your baby often enough, especially in the first three years of his or her life, when change occurs so rapidly.
Can you shoot too many pictures of your baby? Undoubtedly, you can, but don’t ask us to cut out the ones that are no good. You will have to be the judge of that. The funny thing about baby pictures is that you might not think a particular shot is very good just after you have taken it, and then years later, it becomes your favorite. So, be cautious in what you cull out.
Don’t leave dad out when the baby pictures are being taken. You won’t often catch such a look of pride and happiness.
(1) Don’t use flash close up to avoid startling newborn babies. They have been through enough recent surprises
(2) If there is insufficient light for your normal ISO 100 or 200 speed film/sensor setting without needing flash, use a faster film/higher sensor setting, ISO 400 or even 800.
(3) Black and white film can sometimes surpass color in capturing the peaceful innocence of a sleeping infant, or the gentle mood of a new mom lovingly cuddling her new bundle of joy. And if the room in which you are shooting is lit by fluorescent lights, with B&W film you avoid the sickly green effect it gives to many color photographs. If you’re using a digital camera, you can always convert your images to black and white, in post production, using editing software such as photoshop.
(4) There are generally two types of “newborn” baby pictures – those with one or both parents, and those with baby alone. We suggest shooting both, so long as mom is comfortable with it. You will never have a better chance to capture baby alone just after birth, and also to photograph the combined look of pride, wonder and love that suffuses all new parents’ faces.
(5) If it is daytime and mom can carry the newborn to a comfortable location by a window, the natural light coming in will usually produce a more pleasing picture. Choose a window that does not have the direct rays of the sun streaming in for softer, more-diffused lighting.
(6) Speak softly and do nothing to startle mother or baby when you are suggesting how she can hold her newborn for a better picture.
A wide-open aperture (for shallow depth of field) will throw the background out of focus
Don’t expect much more animation than a great, big, healthy yawn from a newborn infant.
(7) Have a little patience. Don’t expect much animation from the newborn, who will likely have his or her eyes closed most of the time you are there, but be prepared to capture the movement when it happens. It might be a yawn or a bunched-up face as baby begins to awaken or simply an expression that occurs during a dream.
(8) A medium telephoto lens (a portrait lens) can be very useful. You won’t have to personally get in close to fill the frame, and the fact that you remain somewhat distant from your mother-and-baby subjects may encourage mom to express intimacy with her baby that you would not otherwise see if you were “in her space.”
(9) If mom or dad should hold the baby up for a picture of the baby alone, try using a shallow depth of field (a wide-open aperture) to throw the background out of focus, suggesting a soft environment and drawing the viewer’s eyes directly to the baby. Make sure you focus on the baby’s eyes and have sufficient depth of field to have both in focus, if not the the entire face.
(10) If you photograph the baby alone while he or she is lying on a bed, make sure the baby is on a clean and comfy-looking blanket or soft quilt. You can’t surround a baby with too much softness. And don’t stand directly overhead for all of your shots. Try getting down to the baby’s level. Your picture will be much more intimate than one that looks like the photograph was taken from an aerial balloon.
(11) A close-up with dad’s strong hands holding the newborn is always a powerful image, and don’t forget to shoot when mom or dad lifts the baby so they can look straight into each other’s eyes. Although you will be strongly tempted to ask mom to look at you and smile while holding the baby so he or she faces towards the camera, try to avoid it, at least for a while. That kind of shot is okay and will look all right, but the best shots are usually those that make it look as though the photographer was an unnoticed observer as the parents interacted with their new child.
(12) If you are using a basic point-and-shoot camera, you may find that you have to get quite close to fill the viewfinder frame because babies are so small. You will want to check your camera’s minimum focusing distance (which is typically around 20 inches) and then be sure that your camera is at least that distance away from the baby to ensure sharp focus. If you can’t get in close enough to fill the frame, bear in mind that pictures can always be cropped later to remove extraneous items around the baby. Having the picture in focus is more important than filling the frame.
A word about your camera’s flash: Since the flash may be triggered automatically with many point-and-shoot cameras, check to see whether yours has an override switch or setting that will let you turn off the flash before you take a picture of a baby, particularly a close-up.
(13) If you can’t be there to take pictures during the daytime and the ambient lighting is inadequate – in other words, if you have to use flash – then avoid direct flash and go instead for either bounce-flash off a white surface or diffused flash through a white sheet or tracing paper to keep the light soft.
(14) Permit mom a free moment before shooting her picture to freshen up so she will be pleased about the way she looks. If her hair can use a combing or her outfit needs to be straightened, point this out and then give her some free time to attend to herself. You and she will both be happier with the resultant pictures.
(15) Finally, remember what mom and baby have just been through, and that they can tire quickly. If they need to rest, stop shooting, pack up and leave, even though you may feel you didn’t get the shot you wanted. Come back at a suitable time when they are rested, and mom feels fresh.
TIPS FOR YOUR NEWBORN’S FIRST PORTRAIT
(1) Have mom hold her baby so the little one’s face is placed in natural light.
(2) You may need a high ISO setting if light levels are low.
(3) Get in close to fill the frame with the baby’s face, and take a number of pictures as the newborn’s expressions change.
(4) Watch out for the thumb in the mouth, and have mom gently remove it just before you take a shot.
(5) Don’t rush, wait for little changes in expression and take plenty of pictures. You won’t regret it years from now when you open the family album and re-live the moment you were introduced to your new son or daughter.
Pointers for Baby Pictures
General Hints & Advice for Photographing Babies
Direct sunlight causes strong, harsh shadows which work in this picture only because the baby’s face is not the centre of interest.
1. THE BABY’S CONDITION IS IMPORTANT
Babies must be rested, look healthy and be comfortable (dry, warm and feeling secure) to look their best when their picture is being taken.
2. CLOTHING AND APPEARANCE
You may be tempted to dress your baby in the latest designer outfit or a costume that is brightly-colored or boldly-patterned, but odds are that you will get a better picture if the baby’s clothing is more neutral, because nothing should draw your attention from the baby’s face and eyes. Gentle pastels, whites, blues or pinks are usually fine. Patterns in both the baby’s dress and surrounding blankets or comforters should be compatible with babies, not garish or bold. Simplicity is usually better than a busy setting. After all, the baby should be the center of attention, not the clothing.
A bib is a good idea for baby to wear to protect his or her clothes, but should be removed just before pictures are taken.
Be sure that bonnets and hats don’t create too dark a shadow on the baby’s face. Tilt them up or remove them altogether if they do. Be sure to have a soft hairbrush handy to straighten to ensure the baby’s hair is tidy, and keep a washcloth nearby to catch any run-away drools.
3. BE PREPARED TO DEAL WITH A BABY’S REACTION TO YOU
If the baby does not know you, be alert to the baby’s reaction when you meet. Some babies may find you with your camera to be a curiosity and others may be frightened by what to them is a strange sight.
Take the time to establish a rapport with the baby so that you don’t appear in any way threatening.
Don’t move suddenly or make loud noises. Speak in a soft, reassuring voice, and establish friendly eye contact with the baby. Say and do things that will elicit a happy reaction.
You may look as imposing as this to a baby who is not familiar with you or your camera
Natural indirect light coming through a window is ideal for baby pictures. Mom or dad should be nearby at all times for the baby’s reassurance, and should remain handy throughout the session.
Having mom or dad stand behind you and attract their baby’s attention will often produce the bright-eyed looks of joy that can make a baby picture great, but be prepared to hear a lot of strange sounds and unadult-like noises right in your ear. We are all guilty of throwing our inhibitions to the wind and acting silly when babies are involved, and parents are the guiltiest.
4. PLACE THE BABY IN SOFT LIGHTING
If shooting outdoors on a sunny day, the baby should be placed in open shade, away from the direct rays of the sun, but still brightly illuminated. Ideal outdoor lighting occurs when the sky is lightly overcast (bright illumination but no direct sunlight). The baby can be placed just about anywhere that is safe and provides an attractive setting, and the overall diffused light will be soft, without harsh shadows and without the baby having to squint.
Natural, indirect window light indoors remains our first choice for baby pictures, as it is for many portraits where you wish to have soft, surrounding illumination without strong shadows. You may not have a lighting choice sometimes, and will have to take your picture in whatever illumination there is. Be sure to take your light meter reading from the baby’s face, the center of interest, so that it will be properly exposed.
Although soft lighting suits a soft subject. sometimes high-contrast light will produce a fine baby picture, too.
Introduce babies who can sit up to something new that will intrigue them, and you will probably capture a series of neat photos in a sequence that goes something like this:
(1) an absorbed, interested look at the item;
(2) close examination, maybe a taste test or a good eyeball and touchy-feely scrutiny;
(3) joy in discovery of its features;
(4) holding it up with a big smile to show you their great discovery;
(5) and, finally, playing with it.
Let a little one play with the phone after you disconnect the line, and he or she becomes absorbed in pushing the buttons.
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