Community & Current Events

Baby pics: How to take great baby photos

Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Baby pics: How to take great baby photos

"The first few years of a baby's life are the most precious," says Lisa Stead, a professional photographer in London, Ont., who specializes in baby portraiture. "Be sure to take pictures often and you'll be amazed with the transformation of an infant turning into a baby, and a baby turning to a toddler."

And of course, never get caught without your camera. How many times have we heard someone say, "I wish I had my camera?" So start taking great photos of your bundle of joy with these tips from Stead (check out her work at www.photosbylisa.ca). "Years from now you'll have great moments frozen in time to look back upon," she says.

Choose the right digital camera
 "I'm often asked, What's the best camera? There really is no definite answer," Stead says. Ask yourself if you're just an infrequent photographer, or a shutterbug who carries a camera all the time. Consider the size and weight of the camera. If it's too large or heavy, chances are you won't tote it around.

Most manufacturers make a number of different models, all with many features. "The worst mistake is buying a camera for all the features it offers and not using them. Buy something that has the features you are looking for, and with a few you hope to be challenged with. It's good to step out of your comfort zone, but never so much that you're too intimidated to use your camera," she says. As for megapixels: the higher the number, the better the image quality.

Know your camera's features
For the beginner, Stead recommends a camera with automatic settings that let you have some fun without all the worries. You'll also want a built-in flash that has a few different options, and a lens that can zoom, she says.

Let the photo tell a story
A good baby photo is one that tells a story, says Stead. "It could be the expression on the child's face or the activity they are doing. The trick is to know when to press that button and seize the moment."

For a newborn who is sleeping, keep the light soft and indirect, as harsh lighting won't make for a flattering picture and the flash will disturb the baby, she says.


Page 1 of 3 -- Find expert tips for taking pictures when the family's together outside on page 2"For older babies, you'll want to capture those innocent moments when they first discover something new or just want to show you a good grin. You'll know its time to take the picture when the softness comes into their faces and their eyes seem to smile. You may have to fuel the reaction by getting very silly but if you get the shot and have captured the moment, you'll know it immediately," she says. Bottom line: "A good baby picture is one that tugs at the heartstrings and speaks for itself for many years to come."

Use lighting tricks
Good photography requires good lighting. "After all, the word photography comes from the Greek meaning ‘writing with light'," says Stead.

Decide whether you're looking for a snapshot or a portrait. A snapshot is a quick response but a portrait will be planned and the lighting will be your best tool. Soft lighting is key. "A harshly lit subject – especially a baby – is very unflattering. If you're taking a portrait of an infant indoors, turn off the flash and try to use indirect natural light. Light from the sun is best, provided it is not directly on your subject," she adds.

If your camera has an ISO setting, turn it up and experiment with the available light in the room, because a camera sees differently than your eyes. "By changing the ISO to a higher number you are telling the camera to be more sensitive to the light," Stead says.

Take photos outside
Take pictures in the shade or on a slightly overcast day. "An overcast day actually offers nicer, less direct light that is much softer on your subject," Stead says. Use the "fill" flash on your camera if you have this setting, as the camera will expose automatically for the light outside and your flash will fill in by lighting the faces of your subject softly.

The basic rule for a portrait is to make sure the subject isn't lit by direct sunlight.  "For taking outdoor portraits in bright sun, place your baby so the light is coming from behind them on a slight angle. Definitely use your flash and you will have achieved a beautiful effect called "rim lighting." It lights your subject from behind giving a halo effect and then your flash lights the front of your subject," she says.


Page 2 of 3 -- How do professional photographers capture such compelling moments? Find out on page 3
Get baby to sit still and smile for the camera
You need a great deal of patience and you need to be willing to do whatever it takes to make them perform for the camera, Stead admits.

For babies under the age of three months, a snap of the fingers might do the trick. Little babies love to stare at the light, so a trick that she uses to draw their attention to the lens is showing them a toy and slowly drawing it up towards the camera. They may still be looking at the toy, she says, but their eye contact is in the direction of your lens.

As parents know, older babies know need entertaining. A puppet, silly faces or wacky sounds can work, Stead says. And loosen up: "You have to learn how to play again! Little ones react to the silliest of things and often want to be entertained by you. Go for it, have fun, get down on their level and play. I guarantee if you're willing to do it, their eyes will light up and the smiles will start flowing," she promises.

Sit down, have fun, get creative
"Don't make the mistake of being boring. Anyone can take a picture while standing up," says Stead. She encourages parents to get down to the baby's level. "I spend most of my day sitting on the floor of my studio with babies and children. Very rarely am I standing."

You can also get creative by taking a picture from far away. "Have your subject in the bottom corner of the picture and have the picture tell a story of the subject and their surroundings," she says. Or take a photo close up so baby's entire head and shoulders fills the frame. "These create a new perspective and offer the viewer something more interesting to look at," Stead says.

Most importantly, experiment and be proud of your photographs.


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