Today I wanted to share a little bit about my favorite subjects- photography and babies.
I love to take photos of babies. I am addicted to it. And who wouldn't be with such adorable little models always in reach?
Yup, get ready for a kid overload post. I can't help it- I think they are the cutest little buggers around. And I am sure you do, too. In fact, that is probably why you didnt bat an eyelash at spending a few months car payments on a fancy schmancy camera. You love your kids, you want beautiful shots of them. But taking great shots of kids isn't always easy. It isn't always fun. I have a few easy tips I compiled here for you today. (sorry for the lame-sauce watermarks- these babies are mine, and I don't want their images stolen.)
So grab your camera, find a baby to practice with, and let's start snapping away!
First off, know that babies move. A lot. Bring out a camera and it's like they are re-enacting scenes from the Wiggles.
When you take a portrait shot of an adult, you can get away with a slightly lower aperture (higher f-stop), because they can sit still.
When you take pictures of a baby, you either need to have your lens wide open (super low f-stop), or have a LOT of light. Since babies are small, you can get away with a low f-stop, but it can be hard to get their tiny wiggly features in perfect focus at anything under 2.4 or so.
So to allow you to use a slightly higher f-stop, you just need a lot of light. Light loves babies. Babies love light. It's warming, its comforting, and it makes them look so beautiful.
Find a nice warm spot next to an open window, and shoot your baby in front of it. In the picture above, I usually stand off in front of where my daughter is on the bed closer to the window. This way, the light is shining directly on her face, in her eyes when she looks at me.
Light in the eyes (not too bright- you want the sun to be bright but not directly shining on your subject or it will look harsh) is always a great thing. It will make your baby's face sparkle and shine. Since her room is east facing, I try to photograph her in mid-day. The sun is bright, but not directly coming through her windows. If you shoot when the sun is coming in, try hanging a white sheet or sheer drape in front of your window to filter the light slightly.
Next, you'll be tempted to take a lot of pictures looking down on your baby. I have a ton of them, and I do love them. Here's the thing though- you always see your baby from this angle. It gets a little boring after the 10,000th shot and it's time for something different. Try getting down on their level. Show your baby from a baby's view. The results will be stunning.
Another important thing to try to grab is some images of teeny, tiny details.
I am a baby foot fanatic. They are so insanely cute, I have a ton of pictures of the little piggies. Same with baby tummies and baby hands. Little bits are only little for so long- take the time to snap a few of the most delicious baby details!
Don't forget to tell a story with your work. If your little one loves his puppy, be sure to document it. Snap away when big brother decides to pull out all your fabric, toss your paint jars in the air, or get into shenanigans. Those shots are always a lot of fun, and great evidence later in life.
The unscripted, unplanned moments your kids dish up during your sessions will give you the most fantastic memories.
I could have easily shooed away my son, who was getting in the way of my shots of his sis this day- but then I never would have captured this positively heart melting image:
And finally, the quest for perfection will ruin your photos 100% of the time. I have a two year old and a four month old. That equals over 10,000 photos. Seriously.
I will set up times for pictures once a week or so, and just kind of roll with what happens. I will stage shots for sister (she's small enough to still let me use her as a prop and enjoys the attention), and then when brother comes along, I'll try to snap him in action. I'll try later in the day to just shoot away while he is playing, running, etc and sister is napping.
I have a lot of blurry shots. I have a lot of shots I should have used another lens for. I have shots where the feet are oddly cropped out and the stuffed animals are more in focus than my kid (see below). You know what? I don't care. Some of my favorite photos are like that- because they just happened in the moment. He looks happy, relaxed and it makes me think of the day I snuck in his room and set up a huge pile of all of his friends and he jumped in to snuggle right away. Won't be on a magazine cover, but it is an amazing memory.
Here's a few additional tips that are handy to use. I'll be adding a new cheat sheet index card for these later this week (thursday or friday) so keep an eye out!
- Use a lens with a fairly low f-stop, or one that is very fast. I don't have a ton of money, so I use a 1.8 50mm and an 18-55 Canon "kit" lens for my kiddos. I have nicer lenses (a sweet wide angle and telephoto for example), but these two work the best inside, with lower light, and can take quick images of squirrely babies. (On my wishlist: a 1.4 or -drool- 1.2 50mm, and a much snappier 18-55). If you have a Nikon, the f-stops might differ slightly, but they have similar lenses at similar price points and they all do the same thing.
- For a blurry background with either lens listed above, set a low f-stop. All the pics above were taken at 4.0-5.0 with the 18-55mm lens, and 2.0-4.2 for the 50mm. The blurrier the background, the lower the f-stop. Don't forget though that this can make it hard to focus on little features- so try to set your focus plane, and consider sticking above 2.2 if possible. (more on aperture here and here)
-If you aren't comfortable with full manual mode, try A/V mode. In fact, until you become fast setting shutter speed, I recommend A/V mode for taking pictures of kids since they move so quickly and you have to resent CONSTANTLY in full manual with them!
- High ISO will give you grain, and baby's fine, smooth skin will show grain a LOT. If it is dark, try 800 ISO- but I try to keep it at 400 for baby shots. Speeds up a lot more than 100, but very little grain. (learn about ISO here)
-DONT USE FLASH. Babies hate flash. Just say no. If you MUST use it, make a little flash diffusing box (tutorial soon), aim it at the ceiling and let it bounce, and for heaven's sake don't use it close up. It is just too hard for little eyes and they find it massively annoying.
-Try presets! I use Pretty Presets for lightroom with a lot of my pictures- and their Dreamy Baby collection is fabulous. Babies have a tendency to look overly pink on film, so they have special presets designed just to combat too-red tones and other beautiful presets. I am a lightroom devotee- it is hands down the best editing program- but it isn't cheap. If your pictures are your passion it is worth looking into. (I am not affiliated with Pretty Presets or Adobe Lightroom in any way and am not being paid to promote them- I just love their products).
So there you have it... my "tricks" to baby shots! Most importantly, if you are taking pictures of YOUR kids, and not for money, you need to breathe. Have fun with it. Kids can sense tension, and they make it miserable. My little dude knows I get annoyed that I can't get a normal picture of him, and I am pretty sure it is his greatest sense of pride. Laugh, breathe, and go with it. You'll love the results!