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Baby Photography 101

The last how-to article I did was on photographing expectant mothers. It only makes sense that we follow that up with how to photograph babies and an exploration of Baby Photography. Much of the setup information is the same, such as lighting and equipment, so if you need a refresher, read the previous post on photographing indoor maternity sessions.


Baby Photography Tips

1. Timing

This can be rather tricky as all babies seem to be on their own schedule, especially cute photogenic newborns. Here are 3 things to be aware of.

  • First, babies can loose the ” newborn baby curl” within about 10 days of birth. If your looking for that little rump to be up and the baby to be mold-able, try to shoot within this window.
  • Second, coordinate with the mother beforehand and the two of you should plan the sleepiest time for the shoot. The sleepier the better, and no one would have a better idea of when that is than mom.
  • Third, before the mother comes with said sleepy baby, make sure she dresses him or her in something easy to take off without disturbing the baby. Clothing that doesn’t have to go over the head is good or even bring the baby in a swaddler. You need to be able to undress the baby without losing the deep slumber. Don’t be afraid to have mom help you move and mold the baby. With practice you will feel more comfortable with newborns and babies, but in the beginning advise mom on how she can help you position the baby and shoot away.

Baby  Photography 02

2. Don’t overload with ideas

If you are a fan of Anne Geddes or an avid baby photo lover, it’s easy to set your expectations too high and overload your photo-session with so many “concept” shots that you end up with a big headache and little to show for it. Choose 2 or 3 poses only. If you nail those, take a break a try a couple more later.

As always, I recommend doing a quick google image search for baby photographs to stir the creative juices. For babies it seems like the simpler the better. Unless you have a human sized flower or clam shell lying around, the baby is so new and perfect they can easily stand alone as the center of your photograph. Have fun with them and make sure the mom and dad know they have the cutest baby on earth.

Baby  Photography 03

3. Heating up the Room

More than likely, the shots you will be attempting to get will include cute baby buns, baby feet and baby bellies. All this clotheless shooting can quickly add up to a cold, cranky baby. You might want to invest in a small space heater to get a little extra heat in the baby’s direction. Be sure to turn the heat up to around 74 degrees about an hour before the shoot.
If you are shooting in a clients home this will require prior planning but I would suggest bringing your space heater as well because baby is usually not used to hanging around in just a diaper.

Baby  Photography 06.jpg

4. Prop’s

As mentioned above, the baby usually provides enough aesthetic appeal for most shots. Prop’s though, when tastefully used, are wonderful. They help convey perspective, size, fragility or add a hint of color to show whether it’s a boy or girl.

For this session we wanted to create the popular “baby on a stack of ultra-soft, I wish I were small enough to sleep on towels too, cause that looks so comfortable” look. The list of what you need for this is short.

  • Clean white towels ($4 each)
  • pink ribbon ($2)
  • some baby wipes (priceless)

When I took the baby’s diaper off, a quick cleaning was in order. Save yourself from staring at baby poop particles magnified at 10X in Photoshop as you try to do cleanup.

A couple shots into this pose the baby decided she didn’t like her bedding and peed on the top layer of towels. Fortunatly she was laying on a large stack of replacements. Although I didn’t notice till the shoot was over, after mom lifted the baby and I rotated the top two towels, I wasn’t as precise in layering them back neatly.

It didn’t completely ruin the shot, but remember to take your time and be delicate with the baby and the props. Babies can sense when there is stress or tension. This is not high fashion, it should mellow and beautiful.

Baby Photography 01.jpg

5. Know your simple tricks in post production

Unless you are a very experienced shooter, the pictures may not look exactly how you envisioned straight out of the camera. Not to fear, post production is here.

In the sample shots I showed here, there were a couple problems.

  • Problem #1 Mom’s black sweater was plainly visible and I wanted the viewer to really only see the baby.
  • Problem #2 In the white images, things weren’t lit exactly right. One side of the white wall behind the baby looked whiter and brighter than the other. I wanted a near uniform whiteness.

Can you guess what two tools I used to correct these problems?

If you said the dodge and burn tool, you’re wrong. I decided to go an even quicker route using the vignette tool and the devignette tool. By cranking the dark vignette to its maximum both in size and amount (I use Apple Aperture) it perfectly hid mom’s torso from the shot but kept the baby unaffected. By using the devignette tool it bleached out the edges of the white photo to lose unwanted shadows and tinges. Although not conventional, I find this worked great with just a few clicks.

What Baby Photography Tips would you add?

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Chas Elliott
Chas Elliott

is a freelance photographer in the Northern Virginia and DC area. See more of his work at www.chaselliott.com.

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