It’s funny (in a frustrating sort of way) that the most photographed group of people on the planet are also among the most difficult to photograph. Babies are impossibly cute, cuddly, and wonderful, but they can also be fussy, hungry, tired, and angry. Unfortunately for photographers, each one of these versions of babies usually appears during a photo shoot.
Photographing babies is kind of like photographing wildlife: they don’t listen, do what they want, and are terrible about sitting still. Nevertheless, when things go right, the photographic results can be adorable, to say the least. Let’s increase your chances of getting the shots you need by exploring a few tips on how to photograph babies without going crazy.
There are many things to do before you ever reach for your camera to take a picture of a newborn. First and foremost, have a discussion with your client regarding the types of shots they want. Chances are you won’t be able to check every shot of the list, but having an idea of what’s wanted will help you approach the shoot in a much more organized fashion. The more organized you are, the more likely you’ll be able to get most of the shots on your list.
Second, check all your equipment to ensure everything is charged, ready, and in working order. You might only get a few minutes of good face time with your baby, and a malfunctioning flash or dead camera battery can wipe all that time away. Have any props and backdrops you’d like to use organized and within reach. Another tip would be to peruse the app store and find an app that plays funny and interesting sounds. Use that to draw the attention of the baby towards your camera lens.
Third, if the plan is to photograph the baby in the buff, ask the parents to remove the baby’s clothing immediately upon arrival. Doing so ensures that there are no clothing or diaper marks on the baby’s skin. Have the parents do a quick check of their baby’s hair and face as well to make sure there are no tangles in the hair, random eyelashes on their face, or other such imperfections present.
Lastly, even though you might only have a few minutes of cooperation from the baby, you’ll need to block out a significant amount of time to do so. If your normal timeline is an hour for a portrait session, add 30 minutes to that when working with a baby. It’s best to have too much time than not enough, and the last thing you want to do is overlap into the following client’s time.
While in the midst of photographing a baby, it’s important that you take care to make them as calm and comfortable as possible. While they can’t understand words, babies are nonetheless extremely perceptive to tone of voice and mood. If you get frustrated because you’re not getting the shots you want, the baby will pick up on it and you’ll have an even more difficult time. Likewise, try your best to be quiet as you move around. Loud noises will obviously startle the baby, and if it’s loud enough or unexpected, it could cause them to cry. If your camera has a silent mode, turn it on to minimize the noise even further.
Experiment With Your Photo-Taking
When it comes to actually taking photos, babies are the perfect subjects to try different things. Play with your focus points, and instead of taking every photo with the focus on the baby’s eyes, try a few photos where the focus point is on their hands, feet, or tummy. Try pushing your aperture to its maximum to play with very shallow depth of field. Take some shots at f/1.4 or f/1.8 if your lens opens up that far to add images to the collection that have an artistic, focused look to them. Then mix in more traditional shots at a narrower aperture with a focus point on the baby’s eyes and face.
A critical trick when it comes to taking photos is to shoot in burst or continuous mode. This is especially important if you’ve got a fidgety baby because you’ll need all the frames you can get to get some decent shots. Shooting in burst mode also means you can create a short sequence of images that show the baby in several different poses (and the states in between). These kinds of candid montages can actually become the most heartwarming photos of the bunch.
Another way to experiment with your photo-taking is to try various light sources. Natural lighting is a preferred favorite, but if that’s not available, try using a reflector to bounce soft light towards the baby. Using a flash is usually a bad plan with babies as it creates light that is too intense for their eyes. If you absolutely need to use a flash, bounce it or diffuse it so it’s easier on the baby’s eyes. The less stress you place on them, the easier the shoot will be and the more likely you will be to keep your sanity.
Know When to Stop
Babies will let you know when they’re done with the photoshoot. When the fussiness and crying increases, it’s time to take a break. Sometimes the baby will calm down in a few minutes and you can resume; other times it will be the end of the day, even if you haven’t ticked all the boxes off on your shot list. However, if you follow the quick tips we’ve outlined here and make solid preparations, endeavor to make the baby comfortable, and take a few risks with your photo-taking, you might just come away with a solid collection of photos that isn’t too stressful for you to get.