Baby photography is perhaps one of the most misunderstood subjects.
I mean, kids are cute and all, but most of them, unlike adults, are usually oblivious to cameras and all the hullabaloo surrounding photos. Which, of course, means that they can’t pose or make duck faces as you do for your Instagram pictures.
But that doesn’t mean that there are not fun to photograph, but rather, you have to remember the following valuable pointers.
1. Preparation: Baby, Location and More
Just like in most types of photography, preparation carries over 50% of a job well-done. Babies and infants may not be conventional models, nor do they require cakes of make-up to look photogenic, but they still need some level of prepping up for a shoot to be successful.
• For starters, babies, especially infants or newborns have a tendency to make the weirdest of faces when you’re just about to let go of the release shutter. Some will even start howling and crying in the course of the session. So, it’s important to make them as comfortable as possible just before and during the photo shoot. Which entails making sure that they are rested, fed and in clean diapers.
• Secondly, prepare the background by getting rid of any visible clutter or rumpled clothes from the desired backdrop space. I always recommend people to use a simple plain background, like a clean white sheet so that the focus can be on the child and not the backdrop.
• If you need more colour in the photo, you can try using a solid-coloured fabric instead of the white satin sheets. Such fabrics are readily available online in most textile shops. You can also get a little more creative and throw in a pillow or two, a faux fur duvet, lace or furry mini-bobbles, etc.
• If the room is already messy, and you have no time to tidy it up, then using a black and ivory fabric to mask this mess can still suffice as long as the room is brightly lit.
• Third on the list, keep it at the back of your mind that coloured toys and paraphernalia can easily distract babies, especially those of the crawling age. So, if possible get rid of any toys, dolls, toy houses near the shooting scene before you start taking photos.
• Finally, sometimes it advisable to seek assistance from an older sibling, spouse or babysitter to keep the baby engaged and less distracted by the flickering lights and clicking sounds.
2. Posture and Positions During Photograph
The ideal posture for your kid varies with their age or development stage. Older children are typically more flexible, playful and can even be coaxed to pose for the cameras. On the other hand, in the very early stages (newborn infants) they are typically more comfortable in a foetal position.
Older kids can assume various playful poses depending on their preferences. If they are too uptight or in a foul mood, then you can try tickling them to get them in a jovial or cheery mood.
Whichever posture you or them end up preferring, remember that the baby is the subject and not the foreground or background. So, get up close and make sure that the pixels don’t miss any wrinkle or the slightest dimple.
On that note, when photographing newborns and tiny infants, avoid the rather common mistake of overdressing them or covering them up with shawls and other heavy clothing. For the sake of the photo’s continuity, consider loosening up their clothes for the several minutes of the photo shoot. However, it’s still important to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible.
Sometimes, it so happens that the baby becomes so distracted that it comes to a problem getting them to focus on the camera. If that happens, try drawing their attention to you by making silly little noises to engage them. If not that, throw them a toy or two to calm them down. Once they are settled, you can then easily take the shots as quickly as possible.
3. Lighting for Babies
Again, the type of lighting used is pegged on the age and the development stage of the baby. It’s no secret that small children are easily distracted by bright flashes and so, in such a case, natural light is more preferable.
Similarly, if the room is dark or not sufficiently lit, then introducing a soft fluorescent haze can be a welcome relief from the harsh bright light from a DSLR xenon flash. Not only is such a source of light softer but also more diffuse compared to a glaring flash.
4. Choosing the Lenses
The type of the lens used has a direct impact on the quality and appearance of every photo you take – it goes without saying. And the story doesn’t read any different when photographing cute kids.
For very young children, a macro lens is better suited especially if you want an up close shot. Such a lens will even allow you capture even the most indiscernible of details, such as the kid’s wrinkly bits or a fuzzy shoulder. At the same time, you can also get close enough to focus on your child’s attractive features such as the Cupid’s bow on his lips. Ideally, a 50mm, f2.8 aperture macro lens should be good enough for this.
That aside, we all know that there is nothing as attractive as the momentary expression of a kid capture in HD on film or pixels. However, since you can’t ask your toddler to smile repeatedly for the camera until you get the best shot (as we adults do), you have to make use of the half-press-to-focus button on your DSLR. This way, you can aim the lens at the child, half-press the focus button to lock in the desired pose, then full press to snap the facial expression instantly.
5. Post Photography Effects
Arguably, the last but still important part of your kid’s photo shoot is the post-photography editing. As usual, how you do this depends very much on the aim of taking the photos in the first place. But even then, a black and white photograph is likely to shed more light on the subject (the baby) and the surrounding background’s texture. Besides, children (especially newborns) tend to have discoloured skin resulting from eczema or jaundice, so maintaining a black and white perspective can help cover some of these rough patches.
Baby photography is by far one of the most spontaneous ways of taking photos as children can be very unpredictable. So, tripods and telephoto zoom lenses aside, how good the photo looks at the end of it all boils down to the child’s temperament.