A while ago, we shared the #1 tip from experts in kids photography. But how about baby photography? Photographing a baby can be as challenging as photographing a kid, if not more. Babies have their own minds, and sometimes their mood can get in the way of your work. But if you know how to get around it, you’ll be able to ace it.
We’ve got some important tips that will help you get through the process. To begin with, there are a few tips and tricks that are on the generic end, which applies to clicking babies of ages 0-3, and there are more professional techniques you can adopt for each kind of baby, for example, toddlers or newborns.
1. Dress them up
Florals, checks, fall collection by Gucci, you name it. Babies grow up so fast, so help the parents cherish this time and creating the best memory ever. Suggest a few fashion options to parents, play with themes, colours and styles and dress up the babies in creative, adorable ways that get your heart melting and make for excellent photos.
2. Set up a home studio
Babies will look livelier and comfortable in an environment that they are familiar with, so instead of getting them into a studio, set up your work studio in your home itself. Bring in lots of pillows, cushions, blankets and set them up against a window, on the dining table or near the cozy corner of the living room. Remember the natural lighting rule, and use the props to make the baby more comfortable. Another great option is to do the session in your clients’ house, but make sure beforehand that the space gives you ample natural light, and minimum clutter in the background.
3. Perfect the background
Make sure you use soft tones for the background. Baby photography is all about putting the little human in focus, not making the background too colourful and chaotic. Get soft hues filters for the backgrounds and preferably, keep the background a simple, singular colour tone.
4. Make the most of the natural light
To bring out a natural and calming hue, it’s advisable to use natural light whilst clicking babies. Use the natural light seeping in through the windows, preferably during mornings and late evenings. Let the light wash over the baby’s face at a 45-degree angle, this makes for a good rule of thumb. Avoid clicking during the afternoon, as the sun rays will be too strong at that time and can hurt the baby’s skin. The light should seem like soft shadows hitting the face from an angle that does not glare into the eyes, preferably the kind of light that comes from windows. An important setting up tip: turn the camera mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode, select a high ISO and a wide aperture.
5. Lay them down
This tip is for newborn photography. When clicking newborns, lay them down with their back upwards and face turning towards the camera, with fists on both sides. Toddlers and babies over 1 year-old can sit up, but newborns look best when they are laid down, whether on a flat surface or in their parent’s arms.
6. Make them laugh
A happy baby makes for photos that look naturally beautiful, candid, and full of life. Try to get the baby to laugh while you click away, through gimmicks, toys, rattles, and more. Get the baby laughing, and you will have a photo the parents will love more than a sleeping baby one. Their eyes express their innocent laughter even better, so make sure you find the golden shot. Work fast to capture the moment. A fast shutter speed of 1/500s or more, along with a wide aperture (f/1.8-f/4) for a blurred background will be perfect for the shot you need.
7. Make use of props
Toys, rattles, gentle fans, baby blankets and various props will help give more elements in the photo. You can also use flowers, oversized clothes, and other creative, harmless props for the photoshoot. Placing a flower crown atop the baby’s head, placing a tie loosely around the baby, all work as cute, creative props that bring out beautiful, pure photos. Just make sure you don’t use all the props at the same time, as you want to keep it simple and not distract the focus from the baby.
8. Keep clicking
There’s no ‘right’ moment. You have to keep your camera in continuous shooting mode. Babies are prone to tantrums, tears, and code brown situations that can happen anytime, so it is up to the photographer to keep their camera to capture every angle, emotion, and gesture of the baby. Use a continuous shooting mode on your DSLR and capture 2, 3, 4, or 5 photos in mere seconds.
9. Get candid with the baby
Focus on all the candid shots you can get your hands on. When editing or printing photos, make sure you focus on the ones that are not really planned. This especially helps when there are siblings involved. Make the moments playful, full of life and naughtiness; the elements that give a baby photo shoot its true essence. Watch out for moments where the baby is on their back, rolling around, gurgling or laughing at their parents, and click it.
10. Focus on the eyes
Always highlight their eyes. Take shots from above, and make the baby look up, and for newborns, you can take shots of their eyelashes whilst they are sound asleep. Babies have huge eyes that can light up the darkest room, so click away, with the camera’s focus being constantly on the depth of their eyes. For this to look good, make sure the background is not too loud or chaotic.
11. Talk to the baby
It might sound weird, but talking to the baby hugely helps in making a connection with them, and it will show in the photos. Talk to the baby and get them to look at you, as much as you can. Make good eye contact with them before you disappear behind your lens. Coo, make funny sounds, and get the baby to look right at the camera. It may even help to talk to the parents before you begin the shoot to understand what makes their babies laugh, and what their babies are scared of so you avoid it and more. Babies are well aware of sounds so they will tilt their heads towards the sound they like hearing the most.
12. Get the family involved
Involve the parents of the baby as much as you can in the photoshoot. Click a few photos with the baby alone, and then proceed to click some photos with the mother, father and siblings. When clicking photos with the siblings, try to capture candid moments. Moments of tenderness between sisters and brothers, and if they are posing, get the older siblings to keep a protective stance around their younger one, as this emotes well in the photo. With the parents, go for close up shots and try clicking photos when the baby is looking into the parent’s eyes; this will keep the emotion genuine and makes for beautiful candid clicks.
13. Get help from an assistant if you need it
Clicking a baby all by yourself could get difficult, as the baby might move around mid-shot, mess up props, or throw that dreaded tantrum his/her parents warned you about. Therefore, hire an assistant to help you with the photo shoot. They could help get the baby ready, make them laugh, and also help with the props. Get an assistant to hold the external flashes (if needed), cajole the baby for the perfect shoot, and also assist with the equipment you have for the shoot.
14. Shoot in macro mode
A lot of babies photographs look best in macro mode, where their faces are up close in front of the camera, with the focus on their eyes and lashes bringing out all the emotion you need for the day. This applies mainly for solo shoots of the babies alone. When you have other members of the family joining in the frame, go for wide angle shots.
15. No flash please
Work around the darker edges of the photo using your Photoshop tools, but do not use flash on the baby. Nothing is more difficult to calm down than a baby that is just woken up rudely by blinding light. Use only natural light and work patiently with shadows, they are sometimes the hidden gems you need to see in photos.
16. Click based on size
Babies come in all shapes and sizes, and also depending on age, you need to know your perfect shot. For example, when you are clicking small babies or newborn babies, focus on macro shots and for toddlers and babies who can sit up and move around, wide angle shots will do the trick smoothly.
17. Frame your shot
A good photo with the baby is all about framing it well. Play with the geometry such as lines, curves and angles to give the photo a well-framed look.
18. Learn how to use Photoshop and/or Lightroom
All photographers use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to edit their best photos. These tools help in brightening photos, making them black and white, cropping, etc. You can use these tools to make the post-processing work easier. Do not over-edit the photos; leave them pure and use minimal filters for good effect.
19. Play with filters
The defining characters of baby photographs are the purity and simplicity, and sometimes filters are needed to enhance these characters. For the perfect baby photo, experiment with black and white filters to bring out more emotion in the photo. For photos with good sunlight, try a pale filter that will complement the colour of the props or the theme that you have adopted for the photo shoot.
20. Practice, practice, practice
Before the big day arrives, grab your camera and click dummy shots as much as you can. It pays to know what you want to do, the settings, and the lighting that will bode well with the shoot; so make sure you are prepared, with lots of practice.