Photography Challenge: Babies

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Article Courtesy Scrapjazz.com: by Maegan Hall

Babies are cute and cuddly, and they change right before your very eyes. I remember being in the hospital with my own children and thinking they seemed to look different every time I awakened them to eat. What a joy to be able to witness it, but what a challenge to catch it on film! It's not like we can go back and re-create the scene. I can't promise that you'll get amazing photos every time, but here are some things I've found that work.

  1. Keep in mind that the baby has to eat.  How long the baby will be awake will depend on his/her age. You can try to schedule the appointment for when the baby is most likely awake, but the most important thing is that the child is well fed.

  2. Have the house nice and cozy. I usually wear a tank top and have the mom crank the heat. I cool off by sticking my head in the freezer. If you've got a naked baby, you're going to have a cranky baby if he/she is not warm and comfortable. If that's not an option, bring a space heater to warm the room you're in. A white-noise maker is great too.
  3. A newborn needs to be new. I prefer a nine-day-old baby for newborn shots. As the baby gets closer to two weeks old, the baby is not as "positionable" and begins to lose the newborn look. If you're not too concerned about poses, then two-week-olds are great because they're awake more than a younger baby.
  4. If the baby can't sit up, try these props and poses:

    • A Boppy pillow twisted like a corkscrew underneath a blanket for back or side poses.
    • A Boppy pillow opened and a baby's ribs placed on it, tummy down, for pushing-themselves-up poses.

    • A Bumbo seat in front of a neutral backdrop for sitting-up poses.
    • A bouncy seat covered with a blanket for sitting up and foot-in-mouth shots.

  5. If the baby can sit up, have a brand-new, long-handled feather duster handy. Have the parent "dust" or tickle the baby's face and quickly back away. The child will giggle and you'll get a great smile. Have your camera ready and don't snap the photo until you're sure that the parent is completely out of the photograph.

    Can't get the baby to smile? Have a parent, or both parents, interact with the baby and steal some photos of the little one enjoying his/her parents.

  6. Allow time for breaks. If the baby is hot, tired, or needs a new diaper, photos are going to be a nightmare. When I schedule an appointment with any baby, I make sure that there is plenty of break time for a cup of juice, hugs from a parent and a favorite toy or pacifier.
  7. If the baby is crying and crying and won't stop, let a parent hold the child on his/her lap and sitting up against his/her chest. (This is why I have the parent wear a dark-colored solid shirt.) Zoom into the baby's face and crop out the parent's hands, shoulders, etc. You can blur out the close proximity of the backdrop (the parent's shirt) later; just hold your camera vertically and get a shot of the baby's head and ribs, like a school portrait.
  8. If all else fails, be candid. Sure, these are not the shots that people want to put on a birth announcement or Christmas card, but I promise that these are the shots that a parent will look back on and sigh, "Aw, I remember that. Look..."

Babies are a challenge in itself. They control the shoot and you're just there to observe and try to get decent pictures. Don't stress; you can always get sleeping shots and there is always tomorrow. Face the baby towards the light, which should be behind you, and everything else is up to the baby. Just enjoy the process. 


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