The birth of a child is a joyful occasion, with the months that follow filled with special moments. A great way to capture these is as photographs. In fact, it is hard to think of any subject more photographed than babies. With digital photography reducing the cost of each snap to virtually zero, the number of baby pictures has exploded.
This has led to drawers, boxes or SD cards crammed with rarely looked at photos. Ignoring them may be partly due to a lack of time, but could also be because they are simply snaps. Snaps of a wonderful time to be sure but with little to differentiate them from the wads of other images languishing out of sight. Let’s consider ways you can turn a snap into a picture that deserves to be hung on a wall with pride.
As with almost all matters relating to art, what you enjoy looking at may well differ from the next person. You may think that a baby dressed as a bunny, complete with long fluffy ears, is adorable. Or you may not. When you’re taking photographs of your baby, you should not be afraid to express your individuality. After all, it’s your baby and your camera (or smart phone).
Regardless of your preference, it’s worth getting a little inspiration before you start. There are many inventive photos available on the Internet, some adorable and others not so cute. Begin your search with Pinterest or enter ‘baby photos’ into the Google search engine.
These days many smart phones have lenses and software equal to, or even better than, standard digital cameras. Whatever you use, before you click the button you should understand at least the basics of what your camera can and cannot do.
Having the ability to change the film speed (or ISO) setting will be invaluable. Even if your camera is digital, it may still have a ‘film speed’ adjustment which can help you overcome poor lighting conditions. If not, the most basic camera should still allow you to adjust the brightness. Knowing the size or pixel rating of your camera’s photographs will determine how big they can be enlarged.
It is only natural to want to capture baby’s first toothless grin, quickly grabbing your camera and snapping the shot before the moment is lost. Only later do you realize that flowers appear to be erupting from the top of baby’s head due to an unnoticed vase lurking in the background. In normal circumstances when you focus on the infant, your mind blanks out the tissue boxes, books and ornaments. Your camera doesn’t.
Keep the background uncluttered. Many photographers have obtained great shots by hanging a plain sheet on the chair or settee behind the baby. With nothing to distract the eye, the baby is now the sole focus of the picture. If you are unable to do this, check what is behind the baby.
There is a tendency to rely on flash when taking photographs indoors. For parties and actions shots this is fine, but a flash will wash out the baby’s skin tone and create unnatural highlights.
Try to use natural light from a window but avoid the harsh sunlight of midday, which will cast awkward shadows. Morning and afternoon are the best times to take photos. You may need to adjust the ISO settings to capture enough light for the right skin color but still be fast enough to avoid any blurs if the baby moves. Depending on the quality of the camera you should be able to do this even when the outside light is not overly bright. The downside is that enlargements may be grainy.
By experimenting you’ll soon be taking great shots.
A newborn baby is unlikely to pose for you, so keep your camera handy for those not to be missed moments. If you are setting up a small ‘photo shoot’, it can be useful to have someone to help you. Most babies do not need much encouragement to smile. If your helper is willing to make a funny face, the baby should repay you with some wonderful expressions.
Close-up shots of the baby are often more impressive than distant ones. If possible, use a camera that has a zoom facility as you don’t want to be so close that your camera frightens the infant. Taking photographs down at the level of the child, rather than from above, gives a more natural look.
Posed shots have their place and can allow you to keep a track of the baby’s growth and development. However, other photos that may end up on your wall will be the candid shots, when the baby interacts with a sibling, older relative, friend or pet.
From your selection of photographs choose the ones that you like the best. Make sure they are the ones in focus, with good lighting, a non-distracting background and which capture the baby’s character. Take them to your nearest photo store or camera shop and ask for advice about getting them printed large enough to hang on your wall. Some stores can print the photo onto canvas, which can make it look like you have commissioned a painting.
It is inevitable that you will take dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures. Be reasonably brutal when it comes to deleting virtually identical ones and those that did not turn out well. Keep enough that document special milestones in your baby’s development but not so many that you may be put off looking at them at a future date.
It is important to take back-ups. It would be devastating if your SD card or computer hard drive became corrupted and you lost the precious record of your young one growing up.
With the speed that a baby develops during its first six months, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can take your photos later. The chance will never present itself again. This is a unique time in both your baby’s life and your own.