Framing Your Little Angels
A baby’s early years are an important time of their life. Samira Pillai shows how you can use patience, timing and a bit of luck to shoot some great photographs of your baby.
The arrival of a new member brings tremendous joy to a family. Naturally, taking pictures of the baby becomes the first priority. Babies can be quite the naturals in front of the camera. The challenge lies in how to make more than just ‘cute’ pictures. To shoot adorable yet stunning pictures that your kids can look back at in wonder when they are older, take advantage of the following photo opportunities.
When They Are Newborns
Since most babies do not move at all or even assume really funny poses while asleep, make it a point to keep your camera ready. Set the shot and choose a nice, comfortable bedspread for the baby. Your baby will place its hands and legs on either side, and their head will be angled to one side—and that would be the shot you are looking for.
All Dressed Up
If you plan to do a portfolio of your baby’s very first pictures, remember to keep the clothing simple. The colours, too, should be neutral. Pastel shades like pinks, blues, and yellows work best as they complement babies well. With light colours like these, remember to overexpose by half a stop from the camera’s reading to get the colours right. Never clutter the frame with too many props, and do not dress them up too much. Keep it as natural as possible, for more pleasing photographs.
This is an excellent photo opportunity! During bath time, get your partner or family members to help you keep the baby busy. Some babies love splashing in the water, while wearing the goofiest expressions on their faces. Photograph them playing with their bath toys, with the person bathing them, or when they are covered in soapy lather. You can also photograph them just after their bath, when they are being towel-dried, powdered and clothed.
When They are Being Fed
Feeding time can give you stunning black and white photographs. When the baby is being fed either by the mother or with feeder bottles, go for a tight close-up. When your children are old enough to eat by themselves, they love playing with their food. This is the time when you should get the messy look in your photographs. Remember to capture their happy expressions while they are eating. Talk to them and trigger the shutter when they pause to look at you.
With Favourite Toys, in Favourite Places
Generally, when kids are dressed and well-fed, they are at their playful best. They spend time with members of the family, engage with siblings, and idly play with their toys. Some children will even have their favourite toys and corners in and around the house. If they happen to be the naughty types, you are sure to find them indulging in innocent mischief. Their expressions when ‘caught’ can be priceless.
‘The’ Moments of Growing Up
Your baby’s many firsts—smile, crawl, walk, bath—are critical moments that you would want to have a visual record of. But to ensure that you have strong photographs, wait till the baby is ready, rather than trying to get it to do something you want. Catch their attention by calling their name, or making funny noises. If your baby waddles with a walker, or a family member is trying to teach them to walk, photograph the baby with them.
Their response to you is what will make the photograph. Ensure that the background is clean and use a shallow DOF to blur the clutter.
With Loved Ones
Your child’s photo album would be incomplete without parents, siblings and grandparents. Make it a point to capture your baby interact with other members of the family, and do not forget to include yourself in these pictures. Some of the most poignant photographs can be made by shooting a father holding his child, or a mother holding her baby close to her chest. When grandparents hold their grandchild, capturing their fragility makes for an endearing photograph.
Also, organise a photo-session with the entire family. Choose a space in your home where everybody can be accommodated— the sofa set in the hall, or even in your baby’s nursery. Direct everyone to their place and let the baby be the centre of attention. Then, place the camera on a tripod, table or shelf, set it on self-timer and run into the frame yourself!
With babies, it is more about what you photograph than how you photograph them. Techniques only enhance the visual strength. Years down the line, time will seem to have gone by quickly, but by shooting great photographs of your little one, you would have preserved their childhood forever.
Use Available Light
A baby’s eyes are very delicate and sensitive to any kind of harsh, bright light. Thus, the use of the right kind of light is important.
- Make use of natural light whenever possible. Light coming in through windowpanes, or diffused light of early evening are perfect for rendering natural skin tones.
- Flash is best avoided, because it can cause discomfort to a child. Direct flash can harm a newborn’s eyesight or cause trauma.
- If you are shooting outdoors, and the sunlight is too harsh, use fill-in flash to reduce the contrast.
- When you are indoors, take advantage of nearby lamps. Keep the flash turned off, boost your camera’s ISO, and use a tripod to see what results you can accomplish.
Experiment with Compositions
- Shoot Extreme Close-ups: Babies give the most adorable expressions— they yawn, smile, and form an ‘O’ with their mouth when surprised. Encourage these by playing with them. Then, get as close as possible, fill the frame, and focus on just the face. Also, focus on just the feet, hands, eyes, nose, toes and ears, especially when they are newborns.
- Go Down the Child’s Height: Shoot pictures from a baby’s perspective. This will minimise distortion, and also give a personal touch to pictures. Also, there is a greater chance for interaction and expression when the baby can see you.
- Let a Family Member Be the Background: Have an adult hold the baby in a way that the person becomes the backdrop for the baby. This is more useful when photographing newborns.
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Better Photography.