Photographing Children and Babies

One of the most enjoyable moments for any parent is looking back at photographs of their children when they were young or when they were babies. Unfortunately we don't all have great expertise as photographers so have teamed up with a professional children's portrait photographer to provide you with a selection of tips to help you take the best possible photographs for you to treasure.

When to Take Your Photographs

The first point is to take photos when you are in a relaxed and happy mood yourself. Children are surprisingly adept at picking up on how we are feeling, so if you are cheerful and bright this can transfer to your children and help to produce a set of natural, happy photographs.

Choose times when your children are wide awake and a meal time is not just around the corner. If your children are tired or hungry then any photo session becomes hard work.

Always try to take your photos as quickly as possible. Younger children will soon become bored, especially if they are being asked to pose. Older children will always have something else they would rather be doing.

With babies and younger children don't wait for them to perform. Actively engage and entertain. This can lead to very pleasing results.

Where to Take your Photographs

Before a child is able to walk the best environment for taking pictures is likely to be indoors. In this more controlled environment the background can cause a problem, especially if there are stray toys or other objects in the background. These can catch the eye in the photograph and detract from the main subject. Therefore you may wish to consider using a black or white sheet as a backdrop.

Once they are up and walking (or running) it is a good idea to use their natural environment as much as possible. Your imagination is the only limit to the number and quality of photos you can take of your child. Photo opportunities can be found when they are at play or doing other everyday tasks such as reading a book.

Always keep a camera handy. You never know when a good photo opportunity is likely to occur. By having a camera with you, with the battery charged and space available on your memory card for film you should never miss a shot.

Photographing at Different Stages of Development

1-3 months

As very young babies can do little I suggest laying them in the prone position and shooting directly down focusing the camera at the baby's head. Lay them on a soft cosy background like a sheepskin.

4-6 months

Once a baby can raise their head I suggest lying them on their tummies and waiting for them to raise their heads, you will need to be on the ground to capture them looking up towards you or a strategically placed toy.

6-9 months

At this stage most babies can sit-up briefly and this affords you the opportunity to photograph them playing with a soft toy or rattle. At this age babies love to chew and play with their feet, this can make a very nice photo when they are lying on their backs.

9 months to a year

Now your baby is mobile you will need more toys to keep them still. A good idea is for someone to stand behind the photographer playing peek-a-boo and the photographer is then able to catch the moment of excitement on the baby's face.

1 year and above

Your child will now play with you and this is a great aid in capturing a wonderful photo, throw a soft ball to your child and photograph him/her throwing it back. Most important of all is to make the child feel relaxed.

Can you Use Flash?

Although it is safe to use flash, even with new born babies the harsh light given off by a flash unit can produce unflattering results. Try to use natural lighting whenever you can. The best results can usually be obtained using light coming in through a window.

Do you need any specialist camera equipment?

Not really, but there are a couple of points to consider here.

.I would look for a camera with very little shutter lag; this is the time taken between you pressing the button to take the picture and the picture being taken. This becomes more and more important as a child becomes increasingly mobile. A long shutter lag means the child has moved on by the time the photo is captured.

.When your children are on the move I would consider a camera with a decent sized zoom lens. This allows you to take photos at a greater distance when they are at play. Cameras can be of great interest to children and many a photo shoot has been stopped suddenly as they notice the camera on them and come to investigate. A longer lens means that you can shoot at a greater distance. This can stop you from being detected until the photos are safely in the camera.

Happy shooting!

These tips were put together with the help of Richard Austin. Richard specialises in children's photography.

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