This is the first in Snapblog series on photographing children at different stages of their lives. On Monday we will bring you an article on photographing children, and then on Tuesday photographing teenagers.
Some of the most precious moments that a photographer can capture are the first hours, days, and months of a newborn infant’s life. Photographing infants can sometimes be a challenge, with having to work around a newborn’s sleeping and eating schedule, plus trying to get a pose right and adapt to varying degrees of light. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that these most precious photographs are captured successfully.
One – Understand the parents’ immunization preferences, and your own. This tip may have little to do with the actual photographic process, but it is a good idea to have a discussion with the parents regarding immunization. To some parents it is very important for the people around their infant to be immunized against flu, pertussis, mumps, chicken pox, and the like. Often times you will be photographing the infant in their home for the exact reason that the parents don’t want to expose the baby to potential illness present in public spaces. Be sure you understand one another’s expectations ahead of time.
Two – Take advantage of naptime. When young babies are awake, they’re generally awake for a reason. They’re either hungry or in need of a diaper change, and often express their displeasure with grumpy faces. While these expressions can provide fun opportunities for pictures, softer and more composed shots are usually desired. Try photographing the baby when it’s asleep, or during those golden moments of first awakening. Be careful when arranging sleeping babies, and use pillows (or “boppies”) to gently arrange the baby into photogenic poses. Make sure the baby’s neck and head are supported at all times. Ensure the environment is warm and draft-free if you are photographing the baby without blankets or clothing. Be patient, as the baby’s arrangement in the photograph is completely subject to the baby’s whims, and NOT the photographer’s desires.
Three – Bring three lenses. A telephoto lens (such as a 70-200mm zoom) will allow you to take shots from a long distance away (use a tripod!) and achieve great depth of field while minimizing the noise and disturbance to the baby. A 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 prime lens will allow you to shoot clearly in low light levels even with hand-held shots, and creates beautiful bokeh in the background. A fast 100mm macro lens will allow you to take beautifully composed shots of the small details, like delicate eyelashes against a rosy cheek, or tiny fingernails on tiny hands.
Four – Avoid flash. The use of a flash often creates a harsh light that is uncomplimentary to the dreamy look that is popular when photographing infants. If a flash is absolutely necessary, be sure to bounce it off of a surface to soften the light. It is recommended to use natural daylight (a northward-facing window provides excellent light quality) or use indirect constant light bounced off of hand-held reflectors to illuminate the baby.
Five – Use backdrops and accessories. Take a couple of test shots using a doll as a test subject so you can get the composition right before having to disturb the infant. A solid colored dark or black blanket or backdrop, when used in tandem with a single off-center light source, creates a soft yet dramatic look. Beanies can cover heads that are still growing into a natural shape after the rigors of birth. The use of solid colors, rather than gaily patterned blankets or clothing, reduces the risk of a shot being too busy or distracting. Limit the range of colors within the photograph so the attention is fully drawn to the intended subject, the baby.