Babies and Littles grow and change quickly, so it's so important to try and capture their precious photos to look back on for years to come. You can bet the best shots possible, and it’s not just about putting him in the cutest outfit you can find.
Choose an attractive outdoor spot when the weather is ideal. While you may get lucky, it's not uncommon to find yourself in a situation 30 minutes and 150 shots later with nothing great to show for it.
We spoke with professional photographers — all with children of their own — to get their valuable tips and tricks to help you take better pictures of your litle ones.
Get on Their Level: Literally and Figuratively
Ashley Segroves, owner of Ashley Segroves Photography in Nashville, says parents should give themselves enough time so they don’t feel like they are scrambling to get to their location and then be in a hurry to get out of there afterward.
“I find that most children respond better when they have time to take in the environment before making any pictures,” says Segroves. “Playing games will help your child loosen up and relax. A favorite song, peek-a-boo, silly smiles, a favorite toy as well as spontaneous joy are always helpful,” she adds.
It’s hard to keep Baby still, let him play. You will be able to capture moments when he's enjoying himself and completely unaware of the camera. If that doesn’t work, wait until it’s naptime. You'll be surprised to see the many faces a baby can make while snoozing. You may be able to maneuver him into the right lighting or set him in a position during his most peaceful moment.
It’s all About the Lighting
Ask any pro photographer the most important ingredient for a beautiful image, and he will tell you, “Light.” But how do you discern good lighting from poor? Good lighting inside your own home is the natural light that brightens a room through the windows or open door. It's also the drama of a candle lit in a dark room.
When shooting indoors, Segroves suggests using as much natural light as possible, but avoiding shooting your children directly in front of windows since most cameras expose for brightness, which will result in your child looking too dark.
“If the window must be behind, turn on your flash for a correct balance of light,” Segroves says. Think of creative areas — your child’s playroom, your baby’s crib, even in a highchair during dinner or in the bathtub — all of life’s moments are worth documenting!”
Meanwhile, shooting outdoors and attaining perfect light without too much shadow can be tricky.
“During bright, sunny days, try to find a shady area to avoid squinting eyes and hot spots from the sun,” says Segroves. “If shade is not available, turn on your flash to even out the shadows and get a great highlight in your child’s eyes.”
Darker lighting in the shade can be compensated by using a make-shift reflector out of aluminum foil or a car shade to reflect light back into the face of the subject and add sparkle to the eye. Cloudy days provide nice, diffused light and are a great time to shoot.
Segroves says the best time of day for outdoor shoots is early morning or late afternoon, and she reminds parents to pay attention to what’s behind the subject so you don’t wind up with a picture of your child with what appears to be a tree “growing” from his head.
Great pictures don’t necessarily require an expensive camera and lots of equipment. Point-and-shoot cameras now have settings to be used in different lighting situations. Read and learn your manual to better understand what settings are best for the light you have available. Plenty of today's Smartphones have incredible built-in cameras.
Whatever type of camera you work with, Segroves suggests a little bit of experimentation to learn the ropes.
“Use your flash for one picture, then turn it off in the next to compare the difference a flash makes,” she says. “Try using different combinations of light, natural, interior lights and flash to see which results are best, which will give you an understanding of your camera in advance of a big life moment.”
Experiment with different angles and backgrounds.
“Get down on your child’s level to create more of an intimate feeling,” says Segroves. “Avoid having your child stand against a wall to escape odd shadows, and make many images for variety, including far away environmental shots and tight close-ups to see all of your child’s many expressions.”
Use the “Rule of Thirds” as a guide for taking better images. Mentally divide your image into thirds, and place your subject in one of those thirds. Sometimes an off-set subject is more interesting and helps tell the story better than one where the subject is directly centered. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Tilt your camera for new angles, or try focusing just on your child’s hands and keeping the rest of the image slightly blurred. Simply have fun and don’t think about it too much. Get up close, play on the playground or climb up in a tree or on a slide. Get into the action.
Be Prepared ... and Spontaneous
Baby will have no preconceived notion about a camera or looking a certain way. He will just be himself. Rather than trying to create the perfect picture moment with your children, perhaps a better strategy is to be ready for those spontaneous times in order to capture images of pure delight.