It can be exciting photographing a newborn so compose a list of shots you want to take before you pick up the camera. Grab these ‘safe shots’ first and once you have this selection in the bag, start to get creative with new angles and ideas.
The best lens to use when photographing any type of portrait is a fast 50/85mm prime lens. Operating at wide apertures (small f number) will allow you to work in darker environments and capture stills with the focus on your subject and a blurred backdrop to remove distraction.
If you’re uncomfortable operating in manual mode then plump for Aperture Priority and opt for a wide aperture of f4 or f5.6. Focus on your subject’s face and include a section of the backdrop into the frame. This is where an interesting or colourful background can make the scene more dynamic. Alternatively position yourself at the end of the child and focus on the feet – throwing the rest of his/her frame into a creatively blur.
Attach a zoom lens to vary the composition of your shots; catering for up close cute pictures of feet, hands, nose or ears for example and then span out wide to grab contextual portraits or ones that reveal the entire length of the child.
As with any portrait pictures you’ll want to use even light. Avoid flash at all costs – not only is this disruptive to the calm atmosphere you want to create but it can rob the image of texture and tone. Position the cot or child near a window (using a white sheet or curtain to diffuse if it is a particularly bright day. Remember to exposure for the face.
Declutter the scene of distracting items such as nappies or bottles and incorporate soft blankets for interesting colours and texture. Consider placing props such as a loved toy or teddy to emphasis size.
Black and white images can carry more emotion that their colourful counterparts so experiment when photographing or editing images post shoot. Some cameras offer this as a menu choice but so you don’t restrict yourself it is advisable to shoot in colour and desaturate or select a B&W option in an editing program later. Play around with curves in Photoshop or the Presets in Lightroom to control contrast and brightness of the shadows, midtones and highlights.
As newborns grow at such a daunting pace, many proud parents choose to photograph their tots at periodical intervals to chart the change. A collection of these images printed in a photobook can make a wonderful gift for a family member.
To emphasis the petite proportions of your newborn try taking images with the parent. For example – baby’s hand on mum and dad’s hand, or the baby’s feet in between the fathers. Use a wide aperture and ramp up ISO if shooting in low light environments.
The best time to shoot an infant is arguably after he/she has had a feed and has been put down for a nap. The noise of the shutter shouldn’t disturb them and means you can move their little hands and feet delicately without resistance or movement.
Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.
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