Young children are notoriously difficult photography subjects, but many photographers find the challenge worthwhile. Uncover the secrets of these six pro photographers as they share their favorite tips for capturing charming portraits of babies.
Since the dawn of the camera, one portrait subject has remained elusive: babies. Small children are, and always have been, difficult to photograph. Consider this: back in the Victorian era, when typical exposure times easily reached well over a minute, mothers often stepped into the frame to hold their infants still. If you look hard enough, you’ll see that many antique photographs of babies from this time have a cleverly-hidden adult helping with the portrait session; often, they’re obscured behind a sheet of fabric or made to blend in with the furniture.
Of course, modern cameras have come leaps and bounds since those Victorian days, but perfect baby portraits still require patience, creative thinking, and a pinch of ingenuity. Behind every great picture of a small child, there’s a quick-thinking photographer, and most likely, a supportive parent. We asked six portrait photographers to tells us their stories and secrets for making one-of-a-kind pictures of young children, ranging from newborns to toddlers.
1. “For the best newborn shots, you want the baby to be asleep so that you can pose them.”
Image by Katrina Elena. Gear: Nikon D4 camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f3.5; ISO 200.
What’s the story behind this photo?
This photo wouldn’t have been possible without the talent of my friends. My boyfriend made the wooden moon prop, and my friend from WillowsGarden on Etsy handmade the PJs and crocheted teddybear.
For the best newborn shots, you want the baby to be asleep so that you can pose them. Generally, a full tummy, heat, and white noise will help to do the trick. A great tool that I use is a “Baby Shusher.” It’s especially good to use when the baby is being fussy but can be used throughout the entire session. Photographing the baby within the first ten days of birth will also improve your chances of getting a sleeping subject.
Image by Katrina Elena.
For composition, avoid shooting (and lighting) “up the nose.” Keep your light and your lens aimed down the baby’s nose. When photographing their face straight on, keep both eyes on the same focal plane to avoid having one eye out of focus. Also, for certain poses, newborn photographers often shoot with their cameras at an angle so that the baby’s face will be higher than the feet in the final composition.
2. “If you want a sleepy baby, make sure the room is warm and cozy.”
Hannamariah (Barbara Helgason)
Image by Hannamariah (Barbara Helgason). Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon 28mm to 80mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f10; ISO 100.
What’s the story behind this photo?
This sweet little boy was only a few days old when his mom brought him into my studio. He was wide awake and alert. Mom fed him, and then I spent a good part of that first hour trying to get him into a deep sleep. I shushed and rubbed his little forehead and back while holding his little legs tucked in to keep him nice and snug.
When he finally did fall asleep, he was like putty in my hands. Photographers usually call the time around sunset or sunrise their “golden hour.” Newborns in a deep sleep are my golden hour. I took numerous images of this little guy on various blankets, wearing different hats; however, this sweet and simple image was my favorite. No frills, just a brand new baby and his sweet wrinkles.