Photographing Infants – An Update

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Regular readers of Beyond Megapixels may recall my request for advice a couple of months ago, about how to photograph an infant.

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Well, last week baby Oliver was born, and last weekend I visited him and his parents and his big brother at their home. I brought my gear with me, and with the help of Oliver’s parents, we got an impromptu studio set up.

Here are a few things I learned while photographing the baby:

1. At four days old, the best pictures were taken while Oliver was dozing. When such young babies are awake, they’re generally hungry or in need of a diaper change, which equates to grumpy faces being made at the camera.

2. Such young babies cannot be posed, they can only be placed. The photographer must work according to the baby’s whims, with the shots that we have in mind being secondary.

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3. The 50mm f/1.4 worked very well in low light, so we didn’t have to disturb the baby very much with light sources. However, I’m still getting used to it – on auto-focus, the lens tended to focus on the parts of the image that it wanted to focus on, which didn’t necessarily jive with what I wanted it to focus on.

4. Bouncing the light source (a single bulb in a clamp-on fixture) off of the white ceiling, and off of a white screen affixed to one of the walls, worked really well to achieve the soft sort of indirect lighting we wanted for the photographs. Also, necessity is the mother of invention – in a couple of cases, we bounced the light off of an empty white pizza box.

5. A soft black fleece blanket is an invaluable tool. We laid the baby on it, and held the edges in various positions, to give the images the black background we were looking for. I might just buy one of those for my own use, I can think of a million scenarios where it would come in handy.

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6. A boppy pillow is also an invaluable tool. Newborn babies are rather boneless and need lots of support – laying the fleece blanket over the boppy pillow provided just the support the baby needed for the photographs. We utilized the parents’ ottoman, which we could easily move around the room and light sources as needed for the individual shots.

7. One shot that we wanted that was too hard to achieve was of the baby laying across daddy’s forearm, on his stomach, head supported by daddy’s hand. The baby ended up looking uncomfortable – I think when the baby can support his own body and control his own limbs better, the shot will be possible.

8. An hour is the upper limit for a newborn’s patience for a photo shoot, even when taking several, well, we’ll call them “coffee breaks”. I’m thinking that several sessions spread over a couple of weeks, at a half-hour at a time, would be optimum. I plan on going back in a couple of weeks to take more photos, and it will be a delight to see how much the little one has changed, even over such a short period of time.

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All in all, I took many pictures and came away with a handful that I felt were satisfactory. As a first attempt at infant photography, I have mixed feelings about my success. As a photographer, I want every single shot that I compose to come out perfectly. As a realist, I understand that it takes a hundred photos, sometimes, to come away with one great shot. No matter how many years we’ve been working on our passion, practice, patience, and perseverance will always be necessary!

My sincere thanks to everyone who left their helpful comments in the original post. I put them to very good use and really appreciate the advice!

Photo Credits (all): Laura Charon.

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