Monday, November 25, 2013

Baby Photography: 8 Simple Tips for DIY Shoots

Baby photography is an art, a craft, a skill and one of the hardest types of photography to do--in my opinion.  My hat is off to every baby/infant/newborn photographer that is out there.  They must possess a certain amount of patience that I could never muster in all of my years taking family pictures.  

I enjoyed taking family pictures but my passion and artistry is better served in the food community and so I became a food photographer.  I love it!  It is the perfect fit for me.  My subjects hold their pose very well, they always look into the camera lens, they wear the same expression and they don't spit up, scream or need a bottle.   

So why do I put myself through these photo shoots with my own little darlings?  

That's easy.  

1.  I want all of the proofs.  I want every out take because I am looking for the emotion the image evokes and the familiar little looks that only a Mom knows.  I want pictures of their personality.

2.  I am cheap.  I know that in order for me to be completely happy with my expectations I am going to have to pay big bucks.  I have no issue doing this, I did it with my older kids but now I am skilled as a photographer and paying someone money for something I think I can do is just a hard pill for me to swallow, especially with the amount of images I want.

3.  I enjoy the editing.  I love using photoshop, actions, textures and my creative nature to play with the images.  When I am taking the pictures, I usually have a "feel" in mind for when the final print is published.  I love high contrast, dreamy, artsy and creative images.  I also enjoy black and whites.

4.  I am able to work with my daughter.  My daughter has been helping me with photoshoots since she was about 10 years old, she is now 19.  Through this time she has carried equipment, held props, held reflectors and tasted her fair share of untested recipes.  She has learned along the way how to use natural light, how to focus subjects, rule of thirds  and how to use aperture and shutter speeds. She has been a great student.  This year she has shot some of the most amazing pictures of Finnley for me.  I must say that together we work well as a team.

So there you have it.  For these four reasons I usually take all of my own baby, kid and family pictures.

I know that I am not the only Mom out there trying to take baby or newborn pictures.  I thought I would share a few of my thoughts about how I do it and what works for me.  While also giving you some examples of my latest shoot with Finnley, she just turned two months.

My Basics

1.  Use natural light.  I don't have a studio but I have great light in my home and an understanding of how light works.  In my living room I have a huge bay window,  that at just the right time of day, creates the most beautiful light, especially on a cloudy day.  Diffused light is your friend. When it comes to shooting the soft, rosy skin of your baby you don't want harsh or flash photography.  Here are two great locations with more tips that can help you visualize this better.  MCP ACTIONS or Iheartfaces.

Here are some examples of Finnley with the window to my left.  Look into her eyes and you will see those windows reflected.  This type of light will literally "light up" your babies eyes.

I was trying to sooth her and she was looking out the window.  Rye captured this image and I love her expression.

2.  Read your camera manual.  I don't have a super fancy camera but I have one that works and one that I know very well.  I bought my dslr about 10 years ago and it still works fabulous for my needs. What I have purchased and spent my money on, are the lenses.  I shoot with a Nikon D300 camera body. The lens I use the most is a 50 mm with an f-stop of 1.4.  This lens will run you about $350.00.  

Know your equipment before you decide to take pictures of your newborn or infant.  I shoot on manual so that I can manipulate the focus and light.  There are lots of blogs and youtube videos that will show you how to use the manual option on your camera if you find your manual to be too confusing.  

Practice...Practice...Practice  { You can always delete everything and start over--the beauty of digital }

Snap...Snap...Snap  {Take a lot of images. This will ensure that you get at least a few that are perfect.}

Blur is always a possibility with babies and kids.

Babies don't always look at the camera and hold still.
3.  Own some type of editing software.   I have an older version of photoshop but it works just fine for my needs.  Adobe is a great place to start because they offer reasonable editing software for beginners all the way up to the pros.  I started with photoshop so that is what I use but many of the new photographers are purchasing Lightroom.  Your camera and computer/laptops will also have some editing software included.  You will need this to crop your image, sharpen your image and add an action to your image.  (Actions are editing layers that improve or change your image with one click).

My favorite actions are from :  Florabella, Paint the Moon and The Coffee Shop Blog.

The saturation of the image has been lightened to give it a pale look.
I was able to lighten and crop the image on the left and create a better balanced image on the right.

4.  Props.  Props are great but I only plan for a few to be used during each shoot.  Do your homework first and have everything pulled together before you start putting "baby" into the shot.  An example of what I usually use are hats, hair bows, baskets, blankets and the occasional toy.  Large pillows work really well for using under your baby while shooting.  Decide on your background or back drops.  I don't usually use a back drop because I can eliminate a lot of back ground noise with editing.

It is also okay to not use any props and just capture your baby.

I fell in love with this hat and had to have it for a photoshoot.  She hated the hat and fussed the whole time it was on.

5.   Assistance.  If I can, I always have a helper to assist (my daughter or husband).  You need to decide if you are the one taking the pictures or assisting with the baby.  The baby will need constant attention whether it is just being there to make sure she is safe, holding her up under the blanket or in your arms, binky/bottle patrol, diaper changer, etc.  Extra hands are necessary!  I am always okay with bottles, hands, binkies and such in my images.  They tell the story of the photoshoot.

6.  Time/Age of Baby.  Babies change a lot in the first 6 weeks.  They transition from a newborn into an infant before you know it.  Most newborn photographers want to get you in before they turn 2 weeks old.  Being a new Mom this can be overwhelming but it is possible to accomplish at home.  Give yourself plenty of time.  Babies get hungry, need diapers changed and get tired and sleepy.  You are on their schedule so work with what you know.  When do they eat and nap?  Do you want them alert or asleep?  With clothes or without (for this one, you will want to warm your home)?  

I find myself setting aside about an hour and a half. It really depends on your baby.  In that time period you will snap all types of reactions, smiles, blank stares, sleeping positions, etc...

 7. Know when to stop.  On several occasions, I have had to stop and reshoot the next day or settle for what I have already snapped.  It happens.  Life happens.  I love my baby and I get caught up in all of her cuteness and forget that I don't really need 500 pictures.   I have to remind myself that for every image I take, I will also have to edit and crop.  It all adds up in the end so be aware of how many shots you have.

8.  Think outside the box.  I am a huge fan of the images that capture my baby doing regular things like hugging, resting on my shoulder, laying on her back, interacting with siblings, crazy hair, etc... The posed shots are wonderful and serve there purpose but I also want to remember those warm embraces, crazy baby hair images and the emotional connection my baby has with her surroundings.

We took her hat off and "kaboom", her hair exploded into the cutest mess. I love this image.

The background is blurred enough that it does not bother me in this image.

A few images using natural light and unposed opportunities to capture Finnley's first few weeks of life.

1 comment:

  1. awwww I love this post and all of Finnley's shots! xo