The photos on their site for their product events inspire me to be a better photographer with my own son, LB. Here are my top three tips for how to capture memorable photographs of babies and children.
1. Plenty of natural light.
The more balanced lighting, the better the image will come across. The camera needs light to define shape. If natural sunlight is not available, daylight bulbs are a great alternative or use the Tungsten setting on your camera, if available, or edit afterward for any yellow tone.
2. Fast shutter speed.
I use the sports setting when photographing my son. You can always adjust exposure or color later if necessary but once an image is blurred by too long a shutter opening, it can’t be brought into focus.
3. Have fun and focus your attention on the baby/child.
If you’re enjoying yourself and smiling, the baby or child will too! Being tense, uptight or in a rush can be sensed by the little one and he or she won’t know what’s wrong but may act out or not cooperate as a result. There is a whole roll of photos my Mom took of me in my ballet outfit at age four that she shot while we were having a standoff. She was rushed to take me to ballet and I thought she was more interested in the camera than in me. When I photograph my son, I usually hold the camera by my shoulder and talk with or make faces at LB and shoot away. My aim took practice but the photos that result are amazing because he’s truly responding to my face and not the weird black boxy thing with the glass circle (remember, cameras may look weird to babies). Patience is also important because you need to anticipate what he or she will do next without forcing it. Including classic or favorite toys can make the experience more enjoyable and distract him from going after your camera.
Here are some examples approaches I use that work out well.
Lots of natural light and when they’re too young to roll over, it helps to look through the camera to get the eyes in focus.
Patience is key because babies, toddlers, and children keep moving around and looking in all directions. I often shoot from my shoulder while talking with the child, usually my son, to get him to make eye contact.
Anticipation of what may happen next is key, whether it is about to be enchanting, memorable, or messy. In this photo, my son had shared his cracker with Céilidh (pronounced ‘Kay-Lee’, she’s a Collie) before so I suspect he would again and was poised and ready with my phone.
My fast shutter and Readiness helped me capture this photo because LB kept moving the blanket and flying it around him. I was trying to show my knitting project here so having both the baby and the blanket in focus was key. The coordinating shirt was planned.
Having fun is even easier when there’s a costume involved – or a favourite toy or ice cream. Halloween photos in costumes also make for a nicer outdoor photo in winter if that’s your best option for natural light since most costumes are rather warm. Instead of a costume, you could try your favorite sports team uniform or even a fun cap. Any Magnum PI fans out there? A stick-on moustache and a Detroit baseball cap is just the thing for a cute toddler pic. Just remember that this is for fun and not to worry about it being ‘perfect’.
Though I didn’t mention this above, sincerity is also helpful when photographing babies and children – or families. If your little girl is always in dresses and boots out feeding the horses, don’t dress her up in white lace for the portrait unless it’s her communion or something. Document her authentic appearance and her personality, if possible. This can also help distract your child from the photography if they’re busy admiring something they love, like a bubble machine.
Just remember that even professionals (Neil Danton pictured below) can find photographing babies and children to be challenging, forgive your mistakes and have fun.
2015 UPDATE: I have removed most of the photos originally in this post because they were of my son and showed his face completely. I’ve since decided it’s his choice where his likeness goes online and am working to remove his photos from my blog posts until he is old enough to be informed and decide for himself. Thanks so much for understanding.