I think we have the only seven-week-old baby who can look at the camera on cue…! Mark has seen me so often with the Nikon that he probably thinks I have a lens glued to my eye, like some kind of mommy-cyborg.
I didn’t like having my picture taken when I was pregnant because I felt strangely self-conscious. I still sent updates to my parents, i.e. the classic “belly bump” shots, but I can’t say I enjoyed it much. I couldn’t wait for the baby to make an entrance into the world and take pictures of him.
We documented the birth: I took pictures between contractions up to the moment I was actually pushing and nothing else around me mattered. At this point, I handed the camera to Feng, who took great shots of that special moment—and none of them are too gory, yay! (okay, still not showing the placenta pic to guests at home)
I took countless pictures of Mark since he was born (I think he is about one minute old on the first one!) but as I quickly found out, taking pictures of a baby can be a challenge. Babies move a lot, they don’t open their eyes much at first, and their skin can get quite red.
So I practiced daily with Mark and… ta-da, we are getting better every day!
Here are my ten best tips and tricks to take better baby pictures. You can see the entire set of pictures of Mark (updated quite often!) on Flickr: Baby Mark Floyd.
Do take pictures when baby is happy – Sure, the classic pic of a wailing baby can be fun but snapping shots of a baby when he is tired, hungry or just fussy is a pain. I usually take pictures of Mark in the morning, after he eats and while I’m changing him or just after. He is more relaxed and doesn’t move too much, and since he is wide awake he makes funny faces or just looks at me.
Adjust the white balance – I love vivid colours and usually adjust the white balance accordingly but I found it doesn’t work well with baby pictures. In this specific case, I like neutral or pastel tones best, it’s more flattering and it highlights the eyes.
Natural light is the best – I hate using the flash because the colours look strange, and I don’t want to blind Mark anyway. So I use as much natural light as I can—we usually do the photo shoots by the window, curtains open.
Details, details, details! – Babies are cute, we all know that. And I love taking pictures of little details: Mark’s tiny hands and feet, his eyes, his belly button… I find these shots special. So don’t hesitate to go macro!
Shoot at eye level – I usually put Mark on the bed and kneel at his level for portraits. He is really starting to look at me too, so this way I can catch his attention better than if I was shooting from above him.
Use a shallow depth of field – I love it when the background is out of focus, it gives pictures a softer dreamy feel.
Minimize the clutter– For better focus, I keep the background simple and easy: neutral colours, no pattern.
Use a fast shutter speed – Babies move all the time and they don’t really get it when you beg them to stay still. To avoid frustration, use a fast shutter speed, shoot, and keep the best pictures of the bunch!
Use props – Mark is still too young to play with toys but he does enjoy looking at them, and I use them in pictures. They keep Mark focused and they add something special to the shot!
Capture the moment – Their funny faces, these precious first smile, a very cute position… observe the baby and have the camera handy. You won’t regret it!