When I was younger, I thought to myself – when I have a baby, I am going to photograph him or her every single day so that I can see how they change in the first year of life. Now that digital photography is everywhere – even on our phones – this is seemingly easier than ever. On the other hand, I learned that 365 photos of a baby, however cute he is, could get monotonous and to tell the story of his first year of life, the key is to get QUALITY images, not necessarily a high quantity of photos. That said, snap away every chance you get – I know you want to – but consider these tips when photographing the most important moments:
- Document the “firsts” – while it is tempting to undertake a project to put little Bella in each headband she has and take a posed picture with a lot of props, what story does that tell? As a true lover of the art of photography, you will likely have a professional newborn photo session on the first two weeks and receive beautiful portraits of your baby. Obviously that’s great! But what about the first time you hold the baby, or big brother meets her? Capture those fleeting moments and take pictures of your baby with each new visitor. They make great gifts for those family members and can later be put into an album to show Bella just how loved she was right from the beginning. For older children, continue to document their life – the “firsts” may be more spread out, but they are still constantly happening: first lost tooth, first day of school, first trip to Yellowstone, etc.
- Get Close – Finding the right angle to photograph your little ones can be tricky. In the beginning they are so wrapped up you can barely see them, and their little head looks like a cone from so many angles. Then they grow and they are on the move and you likely get set on their cute little face and snap the photo just as they run out of frame or turn their back. Photos of their cone head and their little tushie have a place, but an easy trick to getting their “good sides” is to get close. For babies, get down low – the photo will become about their faces and not how short they are. If your baby is awake and alert, you can better get his attention by being close – they cannot see very far away at first, so towering 5 feet over them won’t do the trick. As they get older I find that having a child connect with me (and therefore with the lens) takes a bit more work – but getting down to their level allows me to make that connection and capture a beautiful smile my way instead of a head tilted awkwardly looking up at me. Another great thing about getting REALLY close, it capturing details such as toes and eyelashes. It takes a lot of skill and patience to create a focused images of those little details – so I always use special tools for this and make adjustments until the image is just right.
- Choose natural light – Often in my studio, more lighting is necessary in addition to the window light – but the main focus here is that you want the light to look natural in color and in shadows. The lights in your home likely give off a yellow tint which is not flattering – especially to babies who already are jaundice with yellowish skin. I love natural light for showing
us life in true color, and I am able to adjust my images to achieve this natural color even when using studio lights. For those without studio lighting, try shooting near a window where the light is softly entering. Turn off the lights in your house or they will still cast color in the background. Outside, find a beautifully shaded area under a tree or a walkway and make sure your camera’s flash is off. There are so many technicalities of lighting that I could go on for days, but experiment with your settings and with different times of day and you will find what works best for you.
- Location – To me, location doesn’t matter in the sense that one is better than another. I have become so used to shooting in different places all over the country that I have learned they are all the same. What makes a location unique is the subject – unless of course your subject is the landscape in which case – go to Ireland – it is the most beautiful place I have seen. But what I am talking about is portrait photography – with your child as the subject. If he is amazingly lit and looks like a sweet little angel – does it matter if he is in your backyard instead of the cliffs of moher? The key to choosing a good location is just determining if (and when) it has all the other elements you need to create a great photo. Is there natural light? Does it allow you to get close to your subject? Lastly, and I haven’t mentioned this before – but consider background distractions – a trash can at a park isn’t cute – but can you change your angle to remove it from your frame? Most locations are able to be molded into whatever I need to create that great image – of course I have my favorite spots for consistency at the time of day my clients book sessions, but if I need to shoot a weeding in terrible light – maybe the bridesmaids can hold parasols so their face isn’t over exposed.
- Exist in Photos for your children – Years down the road when your baby is an adult, I know she will enjoy looking at images of herself surrounded by her loved ones as opposed to album after album of herself alone. Capturing special moments is so much more powerful when you are able to document a connection between people. Consider these images of a bride with and without her groom. Alone – yes, she is happy – it is obviously her wedding day. The colors are in her bouquet. But with him – yeah, it is her wedding day but her happiness is reflected in her natural smile from seeing her future husband and his love is radiating toward her. Another point to make about this is that the 2nd image is not a “look at the camera and smile” picture, it is a moment captured. Of course my clients love portraits of the family as well but I always make sure to let my subjects know that it is even better when they relax, be themselves, and let me capture the interaction of mother with baby, siblings, etc. Would you rather have a photo of you and your two kids standing in front of the swings with cheesy grins, or you in the background smiling with joy as you push them in the swings and hear them laughing with pure excitement?