I can’t believe it! I have just joined the grandpa club and discovered another wonderful way to use my digital camera , I’m looking for baby photography ideas! What family photo album is not filled with pictures of babies – wonderful, laughing, crying, smiling toddlers?
Some photographers have even established entire mega-careers by focusing on this one very tender subject. If you’re like me, you’re ready to go out there and shoot away with your digital camera.
But wait … simply clicking picture after picture is no guarantee that the images will be good. They could be too dark, too light, poorly framed, out of focus and most importantly, the subject might not look good!
A baby not looking good? Impossible, you say. Not so. Not every expression is adorable, not every pose memorable.
A good digital photographer will not only have a good command of lighting techniques and know how to use his or her camera to best advantage, but will also understand composition and, perhaps most of all, will look at every view with an artist’s eye. You say you can’t do that? Oh, but you can … and here’s how.
Baby Photography Ideas – Lighting Up
Photography has often been described as the art of light, and just because we are digital doesn’t mean that has changed. A digital camera is just as affected by light as film. In many ways, the two are very similar. Both film and digital cameras work by allowing light to pass through the opening of the lens (aperture). For both, the shutter speed controls the length of time that the lens remains open. Understanding this relationship is the first secret of taking good pictures.
The automatic exposure meter on your digital camera makes a judgment about the amount of light present. When taking a picture in low light, such as at night in a room lit with soft lamps, the camera knows that it needs more light. Set on Auto, this means the digital camera will add flash, hoping to deliver an image that is properly exposed.
The camera selects an appropriate shutter speed that matches the flash setting and takes the picture. The trouble is that, most of the time, this image will be less than perfect. Often, the flash will create harsh shadows, with faces looking washed out, flat.
Flash is a real problem with babies. There’s the possibility of red eye, particularly a concern when capturing close-ups of wide-eyed babies when the flash illuminates the retina. When it comes to baby photography, in general, using the flash is a “no no.” Some camera manufacturers even issue a warning in their manual that it could even damage the eyes of an infant.
Using Flash With Baby Photography
Use your flash when it is the only way to get a picture for a subject or situation that only exists in that moment and will be lost unless you use the flash. Unless you have access to a studio lighting kit, when taking basic family photos, your best pictures will always be those shot in natural light. This means making plans to take pictures during the day, utilizing a natural light source like a window to provide the illumination you need.
It may be necessary to set up an area for picture taking, either by having the mother and baby seated in a comfortable chair next to a window, or by spreading a blanket out in a room that has a nice amount of natural light.
When you take a picture without a flash, you can begin to understand how aperture and shutter work together, and how they affect your picture, especially the shutter speed. To compensate for a lack of light, the camera leaves your shutter speed open for a longer period of time. This may be fine if the subject is perfectly still. However, if there is any movement, it will appear blurred in the picture. Unless they are asleep, count on babies to always be moving. Therefore, getting enough light and a high enough shutter speed to avoid blur are constant problems.
Avoid Camera Shake
Then, there are your own jitters. As you press the shutter button to take a picture, it can be difficult to keep the camera from moving ever so slightly, putting the picture slightly out of focus. Generally speaking, you can take hand-held photographs with shutter speeds down to 1/6o of a second, maybe even down to 1/30 of a second, if the subject is very still, such as with an inanimate object. Any slower shutter speed and just the act of pressing the snapshot button will introduce enough movement to blur the image, thus reducing sharpness.
One solution: Try a tripod. Using a tripod will remove the hand-held variable. It helps, but you still have to contend with whether your subject is moving. (A few digital cameras and many camcorders with a digital still feature will offer image stabilization, which should help enormously.)
After you try a few pictures without flash, call them back up on your color LCD screen. (The Preview function found on many digital cameras does not give a good indication of true lighting.) It will quickly be apparent if you have enough light for the camera to use a fast shutter speed. Either the pictures will be bright and clear or dark and blurry. If the pictures are bad, erase them and start again.
To correct for blur and dark images, add more natural lighting, and work on keeping the camera steady. The image will get brighter and more in focus. Keep working at it until you’ve got it right.
Baby photography ideas can also include the idea of telling a story in movies or television, the director of photography begins with an establishing shot, moves in closer for a medium shot, then pulls in for the close-up and extreme close-up. This is also a technique we can use when creating a digital still baby photo album. The establishing shot is a broad view, with your lens opened to its widest angle.
You are looking for pictures that show not just the baby, but the mother and father, as well. Other establishing shots would be grandmother, mother and baby, aunts and uncles, along with the parental siblings holding the baby.
This is an important time to include brothers and sisters of the new baby, who might feel left out or jealous of all the attention the more recent arrival is receiving. Get them involved by specifically setting up shots with only them and the baby in frame.
It is important to give the older brother or sister the attention he or she needs before it is demanded through some less pleasant fashion. Producing a picture with big brother or sister and the baby gives the child something to be proud of and a way to feel a part of this important event.
Although your primary focus is on your subjects, often it is the background that can be the deciding factor as to whether a picture is good or bad. Take some time to analyze the background, removing distractions or unsightly objects that have no relevance to the picture. Take a few moments to straighten up the area, make the bed, or add items that will make the picture prettier, like a vase of flowers. Objects, like flowers, can add color to a dull scene without overpowering and distracting the main subject.
The medium shot moves in closer, anything from showing medium the mother’s arms to just the baby from the waist up. Get a full-body shot of the baby to show the infant’s length. If a wide, or establishing, shot shows a group and a close up only the face, then you can see how the medium shot falls right in between.
Up Close And Personal
The close-up shot reveals all sorts of dynamics, from personality to family resemblance. In addition to tight shots of the face, you might want to also get some extreme close-ups that focus only on tiny hands or feet. Adding the mother’s or father’s hand into the shot illustrates scale, giving the viewer a way to realize just how small the baby really is.
Naturally you’ll want to have a few shots of the baby sleeping like an angel, but your most dynamic images will be those you take when the baby is awake. Often, the baby will have its own set pattern of sleep and awake times. Make an effort to be there during the awake times that happen when you also have good lighting.
The clear curiosity and expressions that move across your baby’s face are a gold mine for great pictures. The beauty of digital photography is that you can just keep shooting and erasing, until you catch that perfect but elusive smile. Then, stand back and reap the rewards of praise. After all, the baby doesn’t get any cuter.
Remember when shooting close-ups to pay attention to your distance from the baby. It may be necessary to switch over to your camera’s Macro Focus mode for your auto-focus mechanisms to function properly over such a short distance. Another option on some cameras is to switch over to Manual Focus. You can tell the camera the exact distance you are from the subject and rest assured that the focus is properly set and will not change. The camera does not have to auto adjust for every shot, helping you to save time when trying to capture that fleeting smile we talked about.
One of the small secrets of the professional baby photographer is the use of props – items added to the shot to stimulate the interest of the person viewing the picture. It might be a funny hat, a favorite toy or teddy bear. Adult items, like a large pair of eyeglasses, can invoke humor. A prop can also occupy the child’s attention, so that he or she is less self-conscious about having a picture taken. This allows the child to relax in front of the camera.
There was once a man who took a picture of his daughter every year on her birthday. To make this picture special, each birthday he would have her put on the same bathing suit. It was an adult‑sized suit, so at first it was more of a prop, with pictures of a little baby “swimming” inside this large article of clothing. Eventually, she grew into an adult woman and the suit fit her perfectly. What a long-range vision this man had! There are other ways you can approach this same concept. Our family planted a tree to celebrate the birth of the new addition. We took a picture of the babe next to the tree, both of them small and new. We hope to continue taking pictures documenting their growth over the years while at the same time giving our grand-baby a way to understand growth and change.
Keep Those Pictures Coming
When you look through family albums, there is a common tendency to take pictures like crazy of the first born, noticeably less of number two, and by the time numbers three and four come along, they are lucky if there are pictures of their birthday. We all need to remember that each child is special and deserves his or her fair share of the spotlight. Take those pictures now for the future. Years from now, when looking back through your collection of memories, you’ll be glad that each child got his or her turn in the spotlight, or before the lens anyway.
Well hope you enjoyed some of these baby photography ideas, and, many, many years from now, when the new child is having children of his or her own, you’ll be able to take out your pictures from the past and compare generations. It can be an amazing eye opener, revealing how much alike or different each baby is compared to parents, aunts or uncles and other family members. Pictures freeze time and share it back again. Babies often represent our best of times, the beginning of a unique story captured forever in pictures.
by Doug Stevenson
Reprinted from “DIGITAL Photographer”