10 Tips for Photographing Babies

1. Documentary vs Portrait
Have a nice balance between styles.

2. Finding the Angles
One of the biggest challenges in photographing babies is finding a good angle to shoot from. In the days following birth is especially difficult as babies tend to be kept swaddled in bunny rugs and all you end up seeing of them for 99% of the time is a little red head. Add to that the complication of the bumps, marks, scratches and misshaped heads that newborns also tend to arrive with and finding a flattering angle that will make more than just the proud parents ooh and aah can be difficult.

Don’t give up though, all is not lost – here are a number of things that you might want to try to help with the above problems:

  • Get Down Low - one key to many natural baby shots is to get down on their level. Getting down low and getting in close does present some challenges in terms of focal length (using a 24-105 zoom – usually at the widest focal length) but it means you end up with shots that feel like you've entered the babies world rather than you’re looking down on it from above.
  • Close Ups – another way to improve the angles and make your shots seem more intimate is to get in close by either physically moving in or by using a longer focal length. Using a longer focal length for the really close shots is better than getting too close as shoving a big lens in your baby’s face could freak them out a little.
  • Nursed Shots – Try a number of positions (over the shoulder, sitting him up, laying him back in arms, lying him on his tummy etc) as each one opens up different possibilities. Also remember that your baby is not the only potential subject – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends etc all can add context to the shot and you’ll appreciate having more than just baby by themselves shots later!

3. Go Macro
We all love newborn babies because they are cute and small (if only they stayed that way). As a whole they are cute but they also are made up of many little cute body parts that present a photographer with an array of wonderful subject matter – especially if you zoom in on them.

If your camera has a macro mode or if you’re lucky enough to have a purpose built macro lens use it to isolate a single body part (like a hand, an ear, a foot, a mouth etc) and use that as the complete focus of your shot.
Doing this accentuates the detail that is often missed – and you’ll find they punctuate your full collection of photos beautifully and can even make great feature shots.

4. Identify ‘Happy Times’
Another challenge with newborns is that they don’t tend to spend a lot of time smiling. In fact they don’t spend a lot of time doing anything much. Sleeping, feeding, pooing, crying….. is there anything else?

Keep on the look out for those times in your baby’s life when he or she seems most settled and content. They may not smile yet but there are times in a daily routine which are better than others for photos. There are a couple of moments that are especially good. One is bath time and another is mid morning after the baby had half of a feed. These are times when you’re guaranteed to get wide open eyes and even a giggle or two.

5. Keep Your Camera Close
Babies are pretty predictable in terms of daily routine but there are moments all day long that the baby does something cute, disgusting, funny and worth capturing. Without the camera handy you’ll miss these moments as they are usually fleeting.

6. Keep Shooting
Babies change every day, especially in the first few months, it’s exponential and quite amazing to watch. However unless you’re looking for the changes you can easily miss them so it’s it’s important to take shots regularly.

7. Befriend the Airbrush
A lot of shots that you see of babies in Flickr are quite amazing in how smooth and perfect they make them look. The reality is that many babies are not quite so ‘perfect’ (however much their parents think they are). Little scratches, sleep in the eyes, snotty noses, dried milk around the mouth, blotchy skin, birth marks and bumps etc are common for all babies.

You might like to keep a warm, wet face washer handy to wipe away some of these things but in some instances they will come out in your photos. However at times they can be a little distracting and for those special shots that you  might like to give as gifts you might like to do a little photoshop retouching. Most post processing editing tools will have some sort of airbrush or retouching tool – learn to use it, even if it’s just to smooth over the main marks and you’ll be amazed by the results.

8. Take Out the Color
Another tip worth considering for a little photo editing is to tweak the color of your shot.This has been useful for a number of reasons:

  • It’s great for dealing with the scratches, marks significantly lessens the distractions that they bring.
  • It is great for ‘birth shots’ or those taken just after it. 
  • It softens your shots somewhat. Babies are soft, cuddly little things and taking the color out in this way accentuates this.

Similarly you might also like to experiment with de-saturating the colors in your shots to a lesser extent than going black and white. Leave a little color in your shots and you’ll end up with pastel like images that again soften the feeling of the shots and give it a very different look and feel.

9. Indirect Lighting
If you don’t have a bouncable flash, try bumping up the ISO setting on your camera and increasing the aperture setting – this will mean you won’t need to use the flash at all if there is at least some natural light in the room. The other strategy would be to diffuse the flash a little by putting some tissue over the flash.

10. Pick Your Moments
Timing your shots is important. Babies don’t move much but they subtly change their position and expressions in ways that can make or break a photo.

A baby is not just a photographic opportunity and that it’s important to put the camera down every now and again. You could easily walk around with your camera permanently to your eye and forget to actually enjoy the moment. Don’t just create wonderful images of a baby – create memories – balance is a great thing!

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