Baby Photography, Not as Easy as It Seems!
A few months ago I published an interview with baby photographer extraordinaire, Carrie Sandoval. Her photography is stunning, and she makes it look so easy! While I had photographed plenty of young children, I had not tried my hand at babies, and after featuring Carrie’s photography on EtL I was itching to try it out. Plus, if I can shoot 4-year old kids that run around and don’t know what posing is, how difficult can a little baby be, right?
Hah! So wrong, so wrong…
Two friends from my home town were kind enough to have a baby during the time I was visiting my parents back in March-April. That’s how I know they’re good friends, see? I thought “I want to try some baby photography”, and they promptly had a baby a few weeks later. You can’t buy friends like that! Of course, they were all too happy to let me practice my skills on their little Simon, a mere 3 days after he was born.
Babies are cute, and I would have to be a bad photographer to mess that up. Turns out babies are cute over the medium or long term, say over a minute or so; but in 1/100s, they can look like scary aliens. No mother wants a photo of their child looking like a scary alien (or Winston Churchill, as my friend says). That must be Rule #1 of baby photography, surely. So as I stood there scrolling through the first pics of Simon on my camera’s rear LCD (and promptly deleting each one) I desperately tried to remember everything Carrie had said: Soft light, large windows, uncluttered background, cute props, make sure he’s fed, use 50mm-equiv lens… OK, OK, I have all that…now what?
In the end I figured out the missing ingredient was patience. While Simon had finished eating (drinking!) just before I arrived, he wasn’t quite ready to hang out butt-naked while some guy pointed a black box at him and made him lie in strange positions. It’s not his fault, and that’s something the photographer needs to understand: Sometimes it just isn’t the right moment to photograph the baby. Because I was flying back to Boston the next day, however, there were no other moments we could use. Eventually the there was a lot of daddy holding him until he calmed down, then 60 seconds of shooting in the basket until he grew restless, then mummy calming him…and just when things were on a roll, grandma and grandpa arrived for a surprise visit! I made the most of it and took some pictures of them with Simon. They were a bit suspicious of me to begin with, but the magic thing about babies is that everyone forgets the photographer when there is a baby in the room.
In the end I found that the best way to get good photos is to go with the flow. There is no point in forcing the baby to do something he doesn’t feel like because nobody wants photos of sad, crying babies (Rule #2, I believe). I took some photos of him lying down, but when he was being held by his parents I tried to capture that tender connection too. While the baby is important, we need to remember that he’s part of a family, and capturing that spirit of love and unity is just as important.
I hope Simon’s parents enjoy the photographs. As for me, I’m on the lookout for more babies; I reckon in 50 babies I’ll be able to show Carrie some of my work. And Simon? I told him I’d be back next April for the 1 year reunion, and I won’t be taking any monkey business from him this time!
Do you have any baby photos to share? Show them in the comments section! Extra points if there’s a funny story around them.
All photos: ©Miserere.