Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beautiful babies...

Years ago, when James was very little, I bought the cheesiest how-to book for photographing babies.  Up until then, I had never (not EVER) photographed a baby (or children, for that matter), and it was a whole new world.  And (not gonna lie) a big challenge.  The classic "portrait" formula does you no good here.  Babies are squishy, floppy, wiggly, uncooperative, and their edges are so soft and round, that shadows and light seem oblivious to the subtle little curves.  The book had a few helpful insights, like:  "Get close", and "take full advantage of the month or two when they're able to sit, but not yet crawl".  I took an absurd amount of baby pictures.  I learned a lot.  Now with Elliott (and digital, and apps, and editing), I've learned even more!  A lot of it is common sense, but I've had several inquiries about the baby photos I post, so I thought I'd share a few tips with you here:  

1. They're tiny - get DOWN.  I lay on the floor to photograph him all the time.  When he was even tinier, I would lay him on the bed, and crouch on the floor in front of him so that we were eye-to-eye.  
2. Think you're close enough?  GET CLOSER!  Babies don't have that same sense of personal space that adults do.  In fact, they have an utter disregard for personal space.  I like to take advantage of this.  Some of my very favorite photos of Elliott have been from just inches away.  
3. There is a purpose, a time and a place for flash photography, but if your goal is to capture a beautiful, bright, and natural portrait of your baby, the FLASH is your enemy.  This was one of the very first instructions my photography teacher gave us in my very first photography class, and (in my opinion) it is the single most significant difference between a snapshot and a photograph.  For this picture of Jeffrey and Elliott, I walked into our room, noticed the sunlight dappled all over our bed from a big tree just outside the window, and hurried to  lay the baby down in the glow.  Jeff kneeled in front of him- trying to coax a smile for me, and I loved how their faces profiled together. 
4. NATURAL LIGHT is a gift.  There is nothing more gorgeous than the light from a bright, open, window on luminous baby skin.  Use your curtains or shades to control how little or how much light you'd like.  Study the light in your bedroom, living room, or kitchen.  Do you prefer it in the morning, or as the sun is going down?  The photo above was lit with an open window to the right side.  Late morning.  Another of my first lessons in photography was to avoid backlighting, unless you were trying to capture your subject in silhouette.  But lately, I've been really intrigued by backlit photos, light flares, and light manipulation.  I feel more confident experimenting, and some of the results are so dramatic and fun.  
5. DON'T SKIMP ON THE PHOTOS!  Ok, if you take away anything from this...  it should be to shoot, shoot, shoot.  I can't emphasize it enough.  Babies move constantly, you have to SHOOT CONSTANTLY.  Unless they're sleeping (and sometimes even then) you're guaranteed to get blurred, wiggly, shots.  So whether it's with a camera or a phone, I'll do 10, 20, 30 shots at a time.  It takes a fraction of a second to delete unwanted photos, and if it helps me to capture exactly what I was hoping for...  perfect alignment, a sun ray, a smile, a twinkle, a laugh, a kiss, a hug...  well, then it's priceless.

So that's it.  That's my little mini photo-tutorial for photographing mini people.  I'm not an expert, but I hope you'll find something useful in it.  


  1. the most documented kid i've ever met.

    1. That's because you haven't met mine. ;)

  2. Heather M.18/5/12 15:48

    I think I have the most documented little sister :D


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