You’ve got the new camera and an adorable baby who’s with you 24/7, so how do you turn out photos that do justice to your budding model? Several local photographers have a few hints for taking photos that will show your baby at his or her best.
1 Closer is not always better. The most common mistake people make when taking snapshots is getting too close to their baby, says Paul Rogers of Paul Rogers Photography. The pictures end up out of focus and have flash burn. "If you want that up-close picture of just their face, stand back further and use your zoom instead. If you’re using digital, you can always use cropping tools later on to get a little closer."
2 The more the merrier. Be willing to shoot a lot of photos, especially if you’re photographing more than one child, says Karrie Gottschild, a Northbrook children’s photographer. "Just shoot, shoot, shoot, don’t be afraid," she says. "Because it’s always the photo in the middle that’s magical."
3 How low can you go? Get eye level with kids and babies instead of shooting from an adult view, advises Diana Rasche, an Oak Park photographer. Get down on the floor, and while you’re at it, get rid of anything distracting in the background. The cleaner the background, the easier it is to focus on the most important thing in the photo—your child.
4 Embrace basic backgrounds. Cover furniture with a solid colored sheet (preferably black or white) as a background. For newborns, put together pillows in a V-shape on the corner of a couch and drape with an heirloom baby blanket. Either shoot from up above or prop them up to get the best shot.
5 Nurture natural light. When shooting indoors, try to use window light. If your camera allows, increase your ISO to between 400 and 800 so that you can shoot without a flash.
6 Pick a shady spot. For outdoor photos, put kids in the shade and use fill flash, if your camera allows. Don’t shoot in direct sunlight or you’ll get squinty eyes and harsh lighting. You can have an assistant hold a big piece of white cardboard (about two feet by two feet) close to your child to reflect ambient light onto them if you can’t use flash. The best times for outdoor photos are early in the day or at dusk. Avoid shooting between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
7 Think outside the pose. Let your child do her thing instead of expecting her to sit still for photos. Follow her around and use a photojournalistic approach to documenting the day. If you need her to sit still for a photo, put her on a small rocking horse or in a kid-size chair with a book to look at.
8 Action! Give them something soft and cuddly and ask them to kiss the baby or rock it, so they’re not just staring at the camera. Some of the best photos are the ones that are the least posed.
9 Snuggle up. If you’re shooting multiple kids, get them close together, "cheek to cheek or bum to bum," says Gottschild. Fill the frame with the kids.
10 Strange can be good. Do weird things, like stick them in a bathtub full of bubbles and use natural light. Shoot a series of photos with your child wearing different hats. Don’t be afraid to try something different.
And remember, the best photos aren’t always the ones of your child smiling. Sometimes the photo you’ll treasure will be the one in which you caught your child’s pouty face when he’s had enough or his angelic look when he falls asleep at the end of the day.
What professional photographers wish you knew before your studio visit:
Bring several outfit changes and remember that busy designs take away from kids’ faces. Solid colors are always best.
Bring well-fed and well-rested children to the shoot. Don’t give them snacks or candy during the shoot, or you’ll have a series of photos of your child chewing.
Stay in the background and let the photographers do their thing. If everyone’s stimulating the child, then she’s probably not looking at the camera.
Keep it upbeat and don’t stress the kids out. Talk to the kids about how much fun this will be—don’t present a photo shoot as something negative.
Bring a favorite toy or comfort item so the child feels more at ease.
Don’t leave out other relatives. Schedule a photo shoot with grandparents and aunts and uncles.
For older kids, bring something related to their hobbies, sports equipment or even a musical instrument they play to help show their personalities.
Bring another adult to the photo session if you have more than one child so that if you’re also taking individual portraits, there’s someone to help watch the child not being photographed.
Consider going to a private studio. You’ll pay more, but they usually give you more time for each appointment so you’ll feel less rushed.
Ask about all the photographer’s fees upfront and find out what it includes. Know what you’re getting and how much you can expect to pay before you even schedule the shoot.
Liz DeCarlo, who lives in Darien, is editor of Chicago Parent Going Places, senior editor of Chicago Parent and mom of Anthony, 13, Emma, 11, and Grace, 9.