About a year ago I was at a baby expo in Melbourne. [sigh], yes, I was one of those people who actually attended those things. Anyone that has also been will agree that you will never go again (even with a free ticket) – never again… the prams… everywhere!! Whilst there I entered a competition at one of the many professional baby photographer stalls (I saw it as a chance to get out of the pathway of all the prams and catch my breath for a while). The prize was a personal photo shoot with your family, the focus being your new arrival. Sounded great, who wouldn’t want some beautiful memories captured by a professional photographer – Free!
Much to my excitement I get a call at work a month later congratulating me on my win. Fantastic!! The lady on the phone then wanted book in a time for the photos to be taken – then and there! I was only 5 months pregnant! I really wasn’t ready to book in a time for photos to be taken four months before I was due – so much needed to happen between now and then, she was being way too pushy.
Then the fine print was revealed…. I had won the cost of the shoot (mid week mind-you … the unpopular times!), I then needed to spend a minimum of $200 on their cheapest print in order to claim the prize. I was having a lot of trouble getting the message across I didn’t want to lock-in a time now, she was clearly working on commission for bookings made. At this point I was looking for any excuse to get off the phone and not claim the prize; I told her that we had just upgraded our camera (which was true), and I was going to try my hand at taking some of those special baby shots myself (really? was I going to do that??). There we had it – my (unrealistic) commitment to myself to take some beautiful baby shots just like the professionals – Easy! It worked, she ended the sales pitch, and wished me well.
I’ve now had nearly five months learning (on the job) about taking photos of babies. It is a challenging task. It’s easier photographing a dog – at least they will look at you when you say their name! We don’t have a professional camera, it’s a Canon EOS 550D – good enough to get some high quality shots. I am still learning all the features, and most of the time I fluke the settings on the camera to get that great photo. I do adjust my photos afterwards – mostly the brightness and exposure, occasionally the saturation and white level. I have never taken a photo that hasn’t looked better slightly adjusted.
Of every twenty to thirty photos taken, I (usually) get one good one…. I’ve needed some time, and a little patience too! (two things many new mothers are not in abundance of). Having an ongoing collection of really lovely (set-up) shots of Heidi at different stages is great, but the spontaneous, personality filled, special moment shots are often the best ones (not perfectly focused, and dark – but they make you smile or sigh anyway)…
A few little tips I’ve use as a guide when attempting to imitate the professionals (I’m sure if you asked a professional photographer you would get some amazing advice – this is simply what has worked for me!):
- The time of day is important (not for light, but to get the best mood from your little one)- mornings without a doubt have been the most successful time, and straight after a feed.
- Natural light is always the best. Try and position them near a window, where there is lots of light shining in (but not directly on them or they will be squinting the whole time).
- Angle – try different angles. The ‘front on’, ‘baby in the centre of the picture’ look can get a bit boring. Side on, close up, from above, behind… anything really.
- Background – look it see what you are capturing in the background – this can make or break a good photo. Placing them on a large plain rug, that covers the entire background (up the back too) is always good. You can do this on the sofa, placing the rug over the entire sofa (cushions and back).
- Black and white always looks great. Let’s face it …. our little ones always have marks, blotches, scratches, milk spots on their faces… shooting in black and white doesn’t seem to pick this up as much.
- Outfit – I try for something bright or soft and dreamy for colour photos, white always looks great for black and white photos (especially with a white background)
Anyway, enough from me… here are some of my favourites:
I also made sure I got some shots with me and my husband in them too – mum and dad can too easily be forgotten (these are the hardest, because when you like the shot of yourself, Heidi will have her eyes closed – luck plays a big part here)…
This plain white wall with some texture in it works brilliantly for a backdrop…
Self timer and tripod helped with this one … (the biggest challenge of all – trying to get Heidi to look at the camera when there is no-one standing behind it calling out, or waving their hand)
I don’t think I have quite achieved the quality and style of the professional photo shoot, but I have achieved my goal of getting some special shots of Heidi. More importantly I have photos from every stage of her development, rather than just that one moment in time with the professional. I think one photo shoot and the cost of prints would probably cost the same as the camera, which will give us years of memories.