Baby Photography: Photographing Babies Without Losing your Mind
Today Natalie Norton shares with us a series of 6 tips for photographing babies.
*Image Credit Nicole Hill.
Babies, babies everywhere! It seems like everyone around me is either pregnant or has a new born! I’m a total sucker for tiny people. I love the way they look, all pink and wrinkled. I love the way they smell, like baby powder, and well, let’s just face it, slightly like sour milk. I even love the way they sound, fire engine siren screams and all.
However sweet they may be, they are NOT the easiest of photographic subjects! Here are 6 tips to nailing your next newborn session with flying colors.
1. Plan ahead of time!
Here are some things you’ll want to discuss with Mom and Dad about a day or 2 prior to your scheduled shoot.
- Talk to Mom and Dad about the baby’s schedule. They may or may not have one, but one way or another, 9 times out of 10 Baby’s parents will be able to tell you which time of day their baby tends to be at their best, most calm state.
- If you’re shooting the baby at home, be sure to get specifics as far as where Mom and Dad would like to shoot. If you don’t have studio lighting (which I don’t) you’ll want to make sure you know which way the windows in the chosen room are facing at the time of day you’re shooting to be sure you’ll have adequate light.
- You’ll also want to know how Mom and Dad feel about wardrobe (or lack there of) for the baby. I love a naked, pink, wrinkly baby booty, however, not all parents share my affinity. Be sure to discuss this with Mommy and Daddy before you get to a shoot, ask Mom to strip the baby down, and then have to deal with awkward tension when she says “no way!”
- If the parents are comfortable with shooting baby in the buff, be sure to request that they remove all baby’s clothing at least an hour in advance of the scheduled shoot so that the baby won’t have any funky clothing lines on their skin. I even tell my clients to fasten the baby’s diaper loosely during this time as well. Those lines can be fixed in Photoshop, but I for one would MUCH rather be out shooting than spending hours using the healing tool in front of my computer.
2. Come PREPARED!
Make sure that you have EVERYTHING you need VERY well organized and easily accessible. Babies are fidgety, fussy and very impatient, and you’ve got to take the initiative to plan accordingly.
- If you’re using studio lighting, you should be set up at least 10 min before you’re scheduled to start shooting. That will give you time to run a few test shots before the baby is brought into the room.
- This next one is a given, but remember that sensors and lenses should be checked before the shoot and cleaned if necessary. You can’t afford to stop in the middle of a newborn shoot because you notice a spot on your sensor. Babies are not as forgiving as their adult counterparts. They’re like ticking time bombs, and I guarantee all you moms and dads out there are nodding in agreement!
- Get a good night’s sleep! You have got to arrive a vision of patience and with energy to spare. Remember, you’re likely walking into a home where NO ONE has gotten more than an hour of consecutive sleep for days on end. The last thing everyone needs is another exhausted, grumpy adult, whose patience has run dry to add to the mix. YOU set the tone! Come with a full tummy and a good night’s rest. (The full tummy thing is PARTICULARLY important for me as I tend to have low blood sugar. My patience, not to mention my creativity, is out the window if I don’t have something in my belly).
3. Get the Details!
Don’t be afraid to get in close and focus on the details. Most images I shoot of babies are shot with very low apertures (wide open) to encourage very shallow depth of field. I’m not by ANY means saying that this is right for everyone, but this is my particular style, and I do this for many reasons.
- They are only tiny tiny for a VERY short time. I like to focus in and capture little feet and toes for example, before they slip away into roller skates and ballet slippers. . . it happens sooner that you know!
- Shallow depth of field creates a mood of tenderness and intimacy which are so very appropriate for a shoot of this nature.
- The main reason that I shoot the majority of my infant sessions with such shallow depth of field is that shots like this, in my humble opinion, help depict how suddenly your whole world is about that little person. Though everything else around you may be out of focus, the one thing that matters is perfectly clear.
4. Bring a Hat!
My friend and fellow photographer/mentor, Nicole Hill, of Nicole Photo (nicolephoto.com) and A Little Sussy (nicolehill.blogspot.com), recently informed me that a little stocking cap (beanie) can be a solve all for the . . . (cough cough) alien looking infant! Well, she didn’t say the alien part. That’s all me, but we have to just be honest and admit that often tiny babies look a little like E.T. My 3 boys included. Yup, I said it. If you saw their baby pictures, you couldn’t deny it either! Nicole is right, a beanie can cover a misshapen head or just soften a face that hasn’t quite grown into it’s features. Enough said.
5. Establishing Shots!
Establishing shots are images that establish the feeling, location, etc of the time during which an event took place. In this case you’re trying to tell a story about the feelings surrounding the birth of a new child. The welcome of another little person into an already established family unit. Each family unit will be different than the next, but each is special and should be documented as such. For example:
- If you’re shooting in a home, most likely you’ll be in a nursery. Grab a shot of that! Establish the environment. It will be a treasure for the family to remember what their home was like at the time that they welcomed their little sweet heart into their heart and home.
- Whether in studio or on location, try to grab a shot that establishes the whole family as they were at the time of the birth.
6. For Heaven’s Sake: BE FLEXIBLE!!!!
You’ve got to be flexible. There are so many variables when shooting a tiny baby. They can be SO unpredictable. Remember to:
- Handle each hiccup in a loving way. I am convinced that babies can sense our tension and frustration and that they will respond in kind. Likewise, if we can remain calm and collected, they will find it easier to relax as well.
- If you have to stop, STOP! If the baby is on the brink of a full blown freak out, TAKE A BREAK! Let Mom and Dad pop in and calm baby down, feed, burp, change a messy diaper, whatever. NEVER push a baby to the point of no return. If you let a baby get to the point of total freak out. . . well, sorry sweetheart, you may just be plum out of luck. . . and with no one to blame but yourself. Be in tune to baby and let him/her run the show.
- If baby is fussing just a bit, you may not be bothered by it. Mom on the other hand may be totally on edge. Part of your job is to be aware of that. Ask her if she’d feel more comfortable continuing after she’s had a chance for a little snuggle. The last thing you need is a Momma bear worried about her cub. I’d ellaborate, but something tells me, ‘nough said.
- Give yourself plenty of time. I have never had an infant shoot that has lasted longer than 30min-1hour. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky! Probably so!! But I ALWAYS schedule a 2 hour block so there is time to feed, change, soothe etc between shots if necessary.
There are SO MANY more things to remember when you’re running an infant shoot. Hopefully the few I’ve shared will be helpful. Feel free to add others in the comment section below! I also encourage you to make a checklist out of the information above to be sure you’re prepared in the future!!
Natalie Norton lives and shoots on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii with her wonderful husband and her 3 crazy sons! Raleigh (5), Cardon (3) and Lincoln (22 months).
PS from Darren: Coincidentally – I also had another baby photography tutorial submitted yesterday – so as we’re in a baby mood here at DPS this week I’ll post that one tomorrow – I think they compliment each other nicely. Stay tuned!