How to… shoot a baby
The other day I was tweeting along happily and mentioned that I was going to be doing a babyshoot later that day. Mona, from the fabulous WiseWords, reacted if I could maybe write something about shooting a baby on my blog… I asked the parents for permission to use some of the photos and they obviously said yes, so here we are! It’s not exactly food, but then this blog IS after all about food, photography and travel, so I figured babies would fall under the right category.. 🙂
I should have probably called this post ‘how to photograph a baby’ but hey, you know what I mean when I say shoot, right? 🙂
Ok, basics first; a baby needs a couple of things in life and they are simple but essential. Take any of those away and you’re likely to get horrible results. The basics are:
- Mom and/or dad
- Something soft and cuddly to lie on
- Food when hungry
- Warmth to feel comfy
- Preferably not too much distraction, other then mom or dad
- Toys and squeeky things
If you have all of the above then you’re good to go. In general – as I am sure I do not need to tell you if you’re a mother or father – every kid is different and that is true just as much for babies as it is for bigger children. So your first job is to make sure you have an idea of your options. Some babies are very hard to work with and will cry as soon as they are left alone. Other babies, as the one pictured here, are just all happy and smiles and really easy to work with. Now I usually work in the studio with babies which is a plus in terms of light but it can also be a minus in terms of setting and comfort for the baby. So if you can shoot at someones home, it will be a little easier for the baby to relax.
Regardless of where you shoot, you need to first know how old the baby is. Can they sit on their own (usually when they are older then 7 months), can they hold up their heads or are they still too tiny. The smallest baby I ever photographed was just barely two weeks old.
Your options are a bit limited when they are this small. I love closeup shots of wrinkly hands and feet or intimate shots with the mom and dad holding the little one close. It’s perfectly fine if they are sleeping as that just ads to the soft feel. If you want to go in close, make sure you use a macro lens preferably as that will blur out any little details in the room you do not want to see and will allow you to go in close to zoom in on tiny fingernails or little wrinkly feet.
Don’t feel the need to show everything of the baby or even everything of the face. I love closeups of those tiny faces where the only thing you see is an eye or half a face. In terms of light; daylight is perfect as that has a soft quality to it, but will also mean that you have to keep control over your shutterspeed to prevent camera shake. You can use a tripod but that is not always very handy when working with little kids. If the baby is sleeping then a tripod is fine, but if they’re awake; you’re not going to be able to keep up with the movements.
That is another thing with little babies; if they are old enough to hold their head up by themselves it is still going to be wobbly. And really hard to get a good focus. You know those really cute shots where the baby is lying on something (soft and cuddly remember?) and they look up with their shaky little heads? Cute it is, but also hard to take a good photo. Patience is the key here and don’t get discouraged when you have 10 images that are blurry. In the end you need only one good shot and also worth to remember is that the parents won’t mind a little blurriness if the picture is really cute. I have this habit of checking every single photo at a 100% but with a 21 Mb camera it is unlikely to be ever used at that size, so no one will probably even notice a little blurriness. I’m not talking completely unsharp and unfocused here but just a little bit off because the baby moved it’s head. In fact the first photo here is not entirely sharp but I loved the happy face so kept it in.
If you do use daylight then a reflector can come in handy too. Don’t use an in camera flash and I would be careful with using a regular flash if it cannot be used off camera (via cord or wireless). If you do have a separate flash with a swivelhead but no option to us it of the camera you can also bounce the flash via a reflector. Just position the swivelhead to point to a reflector and have the reflector point at the baby. You might get a better result that way. Be careful though that you do not scare the baby as bright light can be a problem.
Once you sorted out your lighting situation it is time to entertain the baby. I usually have either mom or dad stand behind me and do funny things. Pull faces, make noises, whatever makes the child happy. I play peekaboo from behind my camera when necessary (focus, hold it, move your face away from the camera, shout peekabook and press the button) although that is double tricky with babies but whatever needs to be done!
Make sure that you are on eyelevel with the baby as that usually gives the nicest results. You can shoot from above or below for variation but in general eye-level works best with kids and animals.
When it comes to babies that can sit but not on their own; I usually ask the parents to sit on either site of the child and hold it around it’s waist to support it. That way I can shoot portraits closeup of the little one (such as the first picture) as if they are sitting. And when need be you can remove an arm later in photoshop. The photo above with the little bathcape was cute but mom was holding the baby so she was half in the frame, as you see the original below.
And then ultimately it all comes down to a lot of patience… 🙂 Good luck! And if you have any other great tips you want to share, feel free to leave a comment!