Match your camera to your subject.
A Dry Run
You can’t overemphasize the importance of lighting.
Pay particular attention to the background too.
Don’t rely solely on posed pictures.
Push the time envelope.
Be the motivator.
It’s a physical job.
Be creative from a distance.
As a casual digital photographer that wants to capture great pictures of your baby (or a friend’s baby), virtually any of the compact cameras on the market today will work just fine. They work essentially automatically, so you can concentrate on finding good locations for your baby pictures and composing pleasing images. Maybe, the best reason to use a compact camera is that you are not thrusting a large piece of equipment, in the form of a DSLR and lens, at your baby, which may scare him or her.
If you’re a more serious digital photographer with a DSLR, then use a lens with enough focal length, so you can shoot from a bit of a distance, so you won’t upset the baby and make it impossible to photograph him or her today.
Before taking the time to dress and primp your baby for his or her pictures, it’s a good idea to select some locations, and then spend some time observing the light, background and other elements in those locations. Consider using an object, such as a stuff animal, as a stand-in, so you see how the natural light falls on the subject and how the background may affect your baby pictures. You may also want to use your baby as a test subject, during a dry run, so you can learn how colors and lighting work with skin tone and mood.
One of the best reasons for scouting locations in advance and a “dry run” is to determine if you can shoot indoors without a flash. The ambient light is apt to be less harsh than a flash, and a flash is likely to scare the child or cause him or her to blink. You want the natural light to illuminate your baby from the side. Placing him or her between you and a window will only create a silhouette, with little or no detail. When looking for outdoor locations, consider the shaded area on a tree. Some sunlight will filter through, but it won’t be too bright and cause your baby to squint. You could also try to use your flash as a “fill” light, helping to eliminate any dark shadows and revealing even more details.
When scouting for good locations, make sure the background and the area around the baby is uncluttered. You want the shooting environment as simple as possible. After all, the purpose is to take pictures of your baby, not the bottom of your furniture if you place him or her on the floor. Find locations that allow you to vary the distance between your baby and a back wall or other background expanse. Placing him or her too close to a wall, for instance, could result in unpleasant-looking shadows. Be aware of the same issues when selecting outdoor locations.
Yes, certainly try to “pose” your baby for a “formal” portrait, but often the best pictures are those that occur spontaneously with little or no input or direction from you. A quick clap of your hands or a snap of the fingers will cause him or her to look directly at you with opened eyes. You can also give the baby his or her favorite toy on which he or she will concentrate while you take pictures.
Babies don’t have very long attention spans, maybe 10 to 15 minutes; so don’t count on him or her posing for you and being cooperative much beyond this limit. Patience and flexibility are key attributes of a baby photographer. You may spend all that time preparing your little bundle of joy and he or she is just not interested in baby pictures today. Becoming frustrated won’t help. Simply try another day.
If your baby is being more cooperative beyond the typical 15-minute time limit, then, by all means, take advantage of your luck. Without overly upsetting your child, take as many pictures as he or she will allow.
As mentioned above, you’ll probably have to create a noise or use some other attention-grabbing method to motivate your child to look at you and your camera. You don’t want to use startling noises, but sounds you can make with your mouth, including singing, should draw their eyes and face into a good position within the camera’s frame. Squeaky toys and colorful puppet will also work. One of PhotographyTalk’s vendor partners, Shutter Buddies, makes colorful and entertaining characters that wrap around your lens. Learn more at http://shutterbuddies.bigcartel.com/.
In most cases, you'll take the best pictures of your baby when you move yourself and your camera to his or her level. If you’ve found a good location on the living room rug, then be prepared to crawl on the floor, so the lens is on the same plane as your baby’s eyes. Expect to be laying on the lawn or the ground for the best images of your baby in an outdoor environment.
No one would forgive you if you didn’t photograph your baby’s body and face filling the frame, but you can also create some very interesting and contrasting pictures by shooting from a distance. The idea is to show your baby within the wider world and his or her size relative to the surrounding environment.
Learn how to improve your baby pictures and any digital photographs you take of family members and friends, when you click here.
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Photograph by Photography Talk Member Laura.
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