Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Photographing Infants: The Trick is.....

For the past few days I've focused this blog on photographing infants and today's final installment will provide you with some tips for a smooth photo session. Recently a friend of mine tired to photograph a newborn for another friend. Later when we were talking about her experience she said with some surprise, "Infants are hard to shoot!" She's right! Photo shoots have to be tailored to the exact needs of the infant and every concession must be made to make them comfortable if you wish to get the images you want. Here are a few helpful tips:
  • Make the baby happy. Where ever you're shooting should be some place warm, especially if your model has no clothes on. This will help keep your baby asleep as you move them around over and over. And when I say warm I really mean hot. If you're not sweating it's probably too cold.
  • Think about context and choose props accordingly. Babies in baskets is very classic look that is reminiscent of nursery rhymes and biblical references alike, but feel free to try other props, pillows, football helmets, gift boxes, etc.  Also think about texture and color. Choose blankets that enhance the mood of your shoot or other props that even juxtapose the soft look of an infant. This could be anything that isn't harmful to the little one. Also stability is a major factor, don't try to balance a newborn on a beach ball or anything weird. Use your head. Parents can make great props too. Close ups of parents arms, face, feet, anything really can show scale as well as convey belonging.
  • Shoot newborns ASAP! Within the first 1-2 weeks babies still have some very obvious signs of their age. These include, curled limbs, loose skin, fuzz (everywhere!), and a since they lack a lot of muscle control, you can easily pose them as you wish. After about two weeks they become more and more alert, their limbs began to become stronger and straighten, they are now gaining weight to fill out their baggie skin, and the newborn fuzz is being shed. Plus they also may experience baby acne in a greater degree and dry skin as they grow and change. When exactly your child is photographed is up to you. I prefer within the first week if at all possible.
  • Be prepared for anything. It might be assumed that if you are photographing someone sound asleep that it shouldn't be all that time consuming. This is a big mistake. Often infant portrait sessions are my longest and at least one hour should be set aside but whenever possible up to three hours may be necessary if a variety of shots are to be captured. This allows for the baby to eat on demand, have the accompanying diaper changes and be soothed back to sleep when fussing.
  • Finally, leave expectations at the door. New parents are often not aware that smiling for the camera is not a skill possessed by newborns. I have on occasion caught a muscle reflex on an infant's face that can be called a smile but the chance of this happening is so slim that to hope for it would be setting yourself up for failure. Save the smiling photos for another shoot, don't worry there is plenty of opportunity in the future.Additionally don't expect wide open eyes. Having a newborn I know how exciting it is when they come out of their coma-like state and actually look at you, but for photos I feel it's best to show them acting natural. 
For anyone that wants to know the above photo was taken with my Lensbaby lens. The lighting was window light from the right and a large reflector for fill on the left. ISO 500 was used to get the exposure I wanted which turned out to be 1/40 at F8. I've found with the Lensbaby I tend to get better images when I use smaller apertures. I wanted to blow out most of the highlights especially in the blurry edges. There was also another white fill card placed behind Alex to give the illusion of a plain white background.

I would love to hear your stories or experiences photographing infants. Please post your comments here!

Tomorrow is our final installment with baby photos of Alex in the studio.


  1. I did better on my second infant photo shoot. The key was having a LOT of time. I told the mom to plan on three hours and I used ALL three hours! We had a lot of time just sitting around, talking, and waiting for the baby to fall back asleep between each different pose . . .

  2. @ Heidi Lawson
    That's good news, you should post a link on this blog as a comment, just to show your work. I know I'd love to see it. I hope you don't mind that I mentioned you in my blog, since our conversation a few weeks ago inspired it!