When it works, it all seems to come together and the babies are so cute, you can get some great shots. But when Babies go bad…………..well not so great. After doing quite a few baby portrait sessions, I have learnt a few things and thought perhaps I might make a post on it.
It’s all in the props?
You can go to town on Props, however remember the client is there to get photos of their child, not your props! So yes they can add a certain something to the photo, but it is not the be all and end all, great props is not going to fix a bad photo! A lot of the props I use with babies and kids are not overly expensive, I have found things in Opportunity shops and cleaned them up, they are great for blankets and my big bear I use (he is a little thread bare on the back, but you can’t see in photos). I have picked up the flowers and petals and things here are there in bargain boxes. Scrap material is great for draping and layering. I did however splurge and bought 6 rayon wraps, 2 natural, 2 different blues, a pink and a mauve, as well as the fake mongolian fur rug……..they were all new and a little on the expensive side, but I feel they were a good buy. If you are in Australia and are after some baby stuff, visit MollyCoddle Photo Props, they were very good and really quick!!
Just to prove that not all baby shoots are sweetness and kisses (although there are a lot of cuddles involved!), here is sweet little Grace, although here she is not so sweet in this gallery. Grace really only wanted to be held, most of the time we put her down she screamed (I’m glad the neighbours didn’t call the Police – it probably sounded like I was torturing infants!) and if we put her on her tummy…………..Whoa Nelly she hit a whole new octave!
There is a big difference between a Newborn and a 1 month old. If you can shoot a Newborn, please do, it is actually a lot easier. Once they hit that magical milestone of 4 weeks, they become more alert, they are often have started to settle into a routine of sorts. Newborns are still sleeping all the time, once fed they slip into a ‘milk coma’ and you can move them around and they keep sleeping, not so with a one month old.
The next age which is good for photography is approximately six month or when they can sit on their own…….you still have to be quick, and they still get cranky, but you can make them smile, and that smile can melt hearts!
1 year………wow at 1 year they can be really quick, often they are walking if not close to it and some are running. Set your ISO up a bit higher and shoot continuously, you can actually get some great action shots. Grainy you can deal with but blurry is hard to come back from. Also – BUBBLES!! young kids love bubbles.
18 months can take a little direction, if not some coaxing, depending on the child they can be clingy, or adventurous and inquisitive. If they are clingy, keep mum or dad close, if not even in the shot. You can get some nice Mummy (or Daddy) and Me photos, use balls, bubbles, flowers (fake are better), food can be used as a bribe, just keep wash clothes handy! If they are adventurous, use lots of props, box, bags, balls, fake presents, old suitcases, ottomans – they will climb, open, crawl, pick up and investigate everything, everything is a game, just have your camera ready to catch the action. Don’t forget the garden or local park, even in Winter can still be a great spot for photos.
Go with the flow….
Now I am not claiming I am the baby whisperer here, but I have had 2 babies of my own (yes a LONG time ago) and lots of nephews and nieces, a little patience goes along way, sometimes just some gentle rubbing on the chest and tummy and soothing words goes along way, sometimes we need an extra cuddle to settle them. If Mum or Dad is a little nervous and clingy, get them to hold and move bub, otherwise if the client is comfortable you can do this yourself, more often than not you will have to.
Planning The shoot…..sort of
I had a shooting list with Grace and apart from the very first shot in the basket (which she was really too big for), everything else went to hell! So we improvised. At one month they are more alert, they know who Mum and Dad are, so we either had Mum draped in a blanket holding Grace (out of shot), or I had her propped up on a large ottoman I use in the studio (draped first with a plastic drop sheet and then a blanket, furs etc). But Mum was always in sight. Younger Babies like the tactile approach, so lots of touching, rubbing and talking softly. Some love to cuddle the big bear, some do not.
You can put babies in buckets, boxes, baskets. Naked is always cute……don’t forget the plastic drop sheets. I also read a post where they used puppy training pads! Soft material, furs and blankets soften and hide things. I use those travel neck pillows under blankets, they are a great support for babies. Don’t forget Mum and Dad, maybe they don’t want to be in the picture (most don’t – go figure), they can be covered with sheets, towels, blankets and still support and hold the baby, get them to sit on the floor and cover them up, if they face away from you with baby over the shoulder, or in their lap you can get great close up, just increase DOF for softer effect.
Maintain your inner calm….
The one thing which is most important is to keep calm, if you get rattled, they parents will get rattled and then the baby gets upset, then nothing works. Even if nothing is going to plan…….always keep something in reserve. You don’t always have to have a lot of props in photos, a really good close up is worth more than any cute teddy or blanket. Remember that is why the client is there………they want photos of their baby to remember and cherish forever. If you get 5-10 really good shots, consider it a good shoot and call it a day. With Grace it was 1 – 1.5hours (with a feed in there as well) we really only shot for about 1 hour, I took approx 50 images and got 12 really good ones. Mum was really happy with final result and so was I, even if I did not get any of the shots I was originally aiming for! If nothing else Mum can save the bad shots for her 21st!! Well let’s face it there were no naked ones in the end (pun intended!).
Til next time……….happy snapping