Parenthood may be all about the moments—the good, the great, the tantrums, and everything in between. How can we look back on these moments, especially when our babies grow so fast? Most of us can’t afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a photographer to capture every moment we want to remember, so allow me to help you become the best momtographer you can be by sharing some tips.
The first thing everyone asks when they see my “action shots” is how I got the baby to do that. Did I do something special? Much as I’d like to pretend these shots involved some fancy photographer trick, they really didn’t. Here is the secret: keep shooting. Boldly click away. Will this leave you with some weird shots? Sure, but there will also be some absolute gems among those, snaps of moments you wouldn’t be able to capture otherwise because they’ll slip by before you can reach for your camera. In my humble opinion, the best shots of babies are always of them just being babies, so keep the camera rolling and don’t be afraid to capture that.
Lighting is everything
All photography revolves around lighting, but it is especially important when taking pictures of children and babies. The key here is indirect light, meaning light that doesn’t fall directly on the subject but around him or her, dispersing throughout the environment in a soft, even way.
Outside shots are a good way to avoid too much lighting work because you will be using indirect sunlight. It will help boost your shots and allow you to highlight all those tiny, amazing details.
There will be times when you can’t go outside. (I’ve gone outside in some crazy conditions, but I’ll do anything for a good shot.) If you’re not shooting outside, you can get indirect light in the following ways:
- Flick a paper towel over your flash so it disperses the light for you.
- Use a window behind you. Stand in front of it and position your adorable subject before you.
- Try side lighting. Put the baby beside the window and stand in front of him or her. Make sure your shot doesn’t accidentally change to backlighting, which is where the window of light would be directly behind your model. Backlighting doesn’t make for a bad shot and can be fun if you’re creative, but it will dull some of the details.
They always tell models to work their angles, and honestly, while I’m shooting, I say it to my baby as well. But you can’t expect a baby to know how to do it, so it’s up to you to work those angles. Here are some tips:
- Get low: Don’t be afraid to lie on the ground with your baby and shoot from that angle. I’ve gotten my best shots when at eye level with my baby. To be honest, this is my favorite angle. It offers you a peek into how they see the world, and you can capture that in your photo.
- Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal: There are so many things worth capturing on a baby’s body and face—think of those feet and hands, the sparkling eyes, the chubby cheeks, the rosebud mouth, and all the other impossibly cute details. I urge you to record them all.
- Don’t always go for the obvious: Take risks with your angles. Don’t be afraid to turn your body or turn the camera and get a little weird. It may turn out to be a great and unique shot.
There are many ways to get those angles. Play around with them and have fun doing it. The shots you come up with may surprise you.
Picking clothes for a photoshoot can be quite hard, especially when the entire family is getting ready to pose. Even if you’re only searching for baby outfits, the choices out there make it a daunting task. Here are some options that work well:
- When in doubt, go naked. This applies to babies, of course. Naked baby photos are always adorable; they show them in a natural and vulnerable state, paying homage to the way they were before entering the world.
- Crochet and lace. To keep things interesting, you can try a crochet- or lace-themed outfit. These cover very little of the baby, resulting in a soft, simple, and almost naked look.
- Neutral town. A choice of neutral shades prevents the clothes from becoming the center of attention in photos, leaving the focus on the faces, poses, and backgrounds.
- Monochromatic way. Another option is going with one color, but using different shades and tones of it. It gives the illusion of sameness, but there’s still a sense of uniqueness.
- Matching outfits. When in doubt, match. Have you noticed how this has become a craze with celebrities? We have all seen those photos of parents and their kids in matching outfits, and they are simply adorable. Even flannel works in these cases.
Whatever you choose, keep in mind your background and props. You don’t want anyone sticking out or getting obscured. At the end of the day, outfits play a small part in the grand scheme of things. What you all will remember best is the experience and the faces.
Have you ever happened upon a photographer with no people skills? I have, unfortunately, and it was hard even though I was an adult subject. The shoot felt like a chore; the photographer did nothing to give me confidence and make me enjoy the experience. Don’t be like that with your baby. The best shots come from the push and pull of the game you create.
Get silly: roar at your baby, pretend you’re about to attack, make funny faces, throw some toys around, or smack yourself on the head. Change things up to get different responses as you keep shooting. The point is to create an environment where everyone is relaxed and happy.
Be ready for the moment
How do you know when to get the camera? The answer: you don’t. Not helping here, I know, but babies are extremely unpredictable. My advice is to always have a camera at hand so that you can be ready for the moment, whatever moment that may be.
Documentary style versus moments
A lot of momtographers get stuck in a certain style. Our babies reach so many milestones in their first year —first word, first sign, and first step, among others. Far be it from me to say those aren’t worthy of capturing, but I do want to tell you not to stop there. That moment your baby laughs until they fall down is a milestone, too, as is that time when they hug a sibling. Don’t fixate on creating a documentary—make sure you capture those in-between milestone moments as well .
Props a lot or not?
This is definitely a matter of opinion, but regardless of the side you’re on, there are some basics to keep in mind. Whether you want a bunch of props or just a few, remember this:
- The props aren’t the focus.
- Don’t overwhelm the shot with props.
- Keep your props as neutral as possible (barring holiday or other special occasion shots)
When dealing with minimal props, there are some great go-to items that truly add to the photo without taking away from your tiny model. A cute sign for them to hold sends a message without usurping the photo. Milk baths are extremely versatile, and there are so many festive occasions for them. Blanket wraps are the go-to option for a newborn photoshoot—it’s both simple and sophisticated and allow your baby to shine. Minimal props are great when you want a quick shoot but also a little extra oomph.
Another option is filling up the background with props. This is fun to do, but you want to be careful not to overpower your baby. This usually works in holiday shoots, like all those precious Valentine’s Day and Christmas photos we’ve seen. A home shoot with a bed and room decor (basically a natural background) is a charming idea, too.
Whether you like few props or as many of them as possible, be sure to make your baby stand out. Choose a good background regardless of the props there and, most of all, have fun.
Posing your baby can sometimes be hard, whether by themselves or with the family. Here are some great suggestions to get you started. My top three poses for solo baby photos are back, sideways, and tummy. These three are super basic as well as customizable. For example, you can tweak the tummy pose to have the baby’s bottom up in the air and their face resting on their hands, as shown below.
Every family is different, so posing its members with a baby will strongly depend on the personalities involved. You know your family and what will work best. Give clear instructions, but don’t over-direct. Make sure that whichever family member is holding the baby is the focal point and arrange everyone else around that.
Let me wrap this up with one really solid tip: don’t get too caught up in posing everyone. It’s always good to just let them interact and play around as you capture those moments. It’s my favorite way of doing it.
Don’t overthink it
Let’s be honest: the biggest issue I’ve seen when people photograph their kids or babies is their own big adult brain. As grown-ups, we see the details and try to control every aspect. Let’s leave all that behind. Not only should you get silly, but you should also try not to overthink it all. Although it’s a process, don’t treat it like one. Don’t strive for the perfect shot. In my own experience, trying to create the perfect shot never yields results, but letting go does.
Share and print the memories
We live in a digital age, and if digital is what you want, I totally respect that. However, I’d urge you to print out copies, too. My age may be showing a little here, but few things compare to the sweet nostalgia of flipping through a stack of old photographs. Their tangibility creates a totally different experience. If you’re wondering where you can print out photos, check at local drug stores. Of course, you can always pop into Walmart and have your pictures ready the same day.
This may not be an actual tip, but as a mom and a budding photographer, I can surely use this reminder. A reminder to cherish the simple things and not to sweat the small stuff. A reminder that props, backgrounds, and poses are only small pieces in what should be an enjoyable experience.
If you treat a photoshoot like a chore, your baby will know it and feed off that energy, which will affect the outcome. Have fun and your baby will too. Well, until they get hungry, thirsty, or tired, but that’s motherhood. The principles that apply to motherhood also apply to photographing your baby. Enjoy yourself, cherish the unexpected moments, and give up on trying to control everything. It’ll all work out in the end, and you’ll have some amazing baby shots to boot.