Congratulations on your new bundle of joy. Although I’ve been photographing babies for many years it never ceases to amaze me how much they alter in their first year. From a tiny dependent new born to an inquisitive toddler, the changes in the first year are truly incredible! As a parent I am sure you will want to capture and record all those wonderful developments.
Twenty years ago I was a struggling, penniless photographer living in London. My lucky break came when I was asked to photograph an exclusive nursery in Chelsea. The parents of the children must have been somewhat bemused when I turned up to deliver the pictures on a knackered old Chopper bike. However they loved the pictures and many of them remain loyal clients to this day.
The point of this story is to illustrate that it is possible to produce great results on a shoe string, and today I am going to share with you my five top tips that will ensure you always produce great pictures.
The most important ingredient to producing a wonderful picture is lighting. The best light source is the sun…natural light. Look at any painting of Rembrandt to see a master of lighting at work!
However to prevent your subject squinting and to be sure the skin doesn’t burn out, i.e. go white, the sunlight needs to be filtered…it’s not just for the aesthetic value that photographers always photograph a wedding couple in the doorway of the church. The soft light always produces great results!
Remember the light source needs to be behind you, with your baby facing it, and ensure the person keeping your baby safe doesn’t block the light source and cast a shadow on your subject.
The best light source in your home is obviously from the window. If your baby is tiny place her on a surface near to the window. A bean bag is ideal for protecting and supporting her, and can be covered with a sheepskin or textured material.
You must have the window to your back, or at 45°, depending on how large it is you need to be between ½ and 1 ½ metres from your baby. However play around with the distance.
Patio doors are ideal, and if you have wood or textured floor tiles, place the beanbag on the floor for an interesting backdrop. You made need to open the door and position yourself outside.
Always position yourself with the light source behind you. Don’t stand above your baby and shoot down, but lie on the floor at the same level, between ½ and 1 ½ metres away.
Avoid using the zoom on max, just to get closer. If you have a macro facility on your camera, use it to do detail shots of hands and feet.
If the picture is over exposed (too light) your baby is too near to the window. If it is under exposed (too dark) your baby is too far away from your light source.
Patio doors are ideal and if you have wood or textured floor tiles, place the beanbag on the floor for an interesting backdrop. You made need to open the doors and position yourself outside, and ensure the area in the shot is clutter free! You don’t want a lamp coming out of the top of your baby’s head!
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
The key to producing great results is to practice. Use a toy rather than your baby to test that the exposure and your position are correct before starting to shoot.
Once you baby is in place your window of opportunity is very limited so don’t waste precious time on getting the basics right.
4. Avoid Flash Light
Don’t use flash on your compact, phone or SLR. Flash that is inbuilt in a camera produces very flat and washed out pictures. It’s not for nothing that professional photographers invest large sums of money in buying off camera flashlights.
5. Engage with your child
Obvious of course, but you do need to ensure that it’s only the person taking the pictures that calls to your child. If two people are trying to make her smile your baby won’t know where to look!
My preference is that eyes look straight in to camera on the majority of shots
After many years of photographing small people duck noises do the trick for getting that all important similes…trust me it works!
Those penniless days in London are now behind me. It is 14 years now since I opened Redpath Studios in our fantastic converted outbuilding in the grounds of beautiful Chenies Manor between Little Chalfont and Chorleywood.
I photograph hundreds of babies and families every year in our modern studio, and on locations around the farm. Woods, blue bells, barns and wood sheds for example.
If you can’t get that all important picture of your loved ones, I am more than happy to shoot them for you! With a camera!
The picture on the baby girl was taken in the door way of my studio and I was positioned outside in our car park. Using the techniques described.