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Okay so one of the biggest subjects within portraiture photography are infants and children! Children and in particular newborn babies bring out the photographer in all of us. So whether or not you're looking to go pro and snap babies professionally or whether you just want to brush up on some tips for your own family or friends, this could be the article for you! I always thought that when I got my first baby shoot booked, it would just be a case of snapping them on the carpet or wrapped up in a blanket. I had no idea how creative I could really get - and how simply it would be to do that.
Until a few weeks ago, I had never photographed a baby in my life, let alone had to pose and arrange one in cute positions with lots of fluffy toys surrounding it. I had also never used a lighting kit before, but that's another story. Anyway, I found it incredibly easy once I knew what i needed, to set up for the shoot and since then I haven't looked back. Whether you want to photograph for fun or for work, there are some really easy things you can do to prepare - and without it costing too much as well.
My set up looked something like the diagram below - although I wasn't lucky enough at that time to have a backdrop frame (but I had the backdrop material) so I was making do with folding the heavy material over the back of a radiator - which actually works out well when you have a small subject like a baby! Additionally TouchedD is thankfully really tall and quite a good budget backdrop stand (he holds all the things) so that's a substitute to save a bit of money!
I spent many evenings lurking on Ebay trying to outbid all the pro Ebay lurkers and win myself a set of studio lights complete with umbrellas e.t.c. It took a while but eventually it paid off and for approximately £40 I had the kit I needed. And an extra umbrella. For 99p. Handy in the rain. I have also since bought a backdrop stand and some clamps so that I can clamp my own material to the stand and adjust it how I want. That wasn't all that expensive either and most come in a handy carry case.
For my flooring I spent ages trawling the internet gasping at the prices of proper 'photography matts' which claimed to solve all my problems, cook dinner AND clean the house for ONLY (I use that word lightly) a million pounds. Okay a hundred. Maybe a little less but still who wants to pay that much when you're just starting out or wanting to photograph your own children? So in the end I had a genius plan, headed to the local DIY shop and browsed their laminate flooring aisles. I was rewarded. I got some fantastic oak look laminate flooring for just under £10. They had lots of different kinds and colours, so it's worth remembering that in the future if you need something and can't afford the crazy internet prices.
All ten pieces are quite heavy to carry, but for a baby you only need a small area and wouldn't necessarily need all bits. I just bought a small strip of wooden edger to match the flooring, chucked in a £20 piece of material from a local fabric shop et voila - I had a makeshift studio set up for the baby!
For the props, well. You can either do it the way I did it, and be looked at really strangely by the staff in IKEA, or you can just go online and get a few bits and pieces. I went to IKEA one evening and made the staff find me lots of baskets and then proceeded to ask them which ones they thought would fit a baby in. I got what I wanted, in the end, and I wasn't even arrested once. I bought a silly little crochet basket from an online crocheter person - waste of money, the baby didn't even fit a tiny bit inside it. So I suggest you find yourself a nice white/blue/pink blanket, a basket and then let the parents do the rest with regards to outfits. In a few weeks time I've got another baby photo shoot booked and we're planning pumpkins and pumpkin outfits! Fit in with a theme, it gets more exciting that way. Zebras, Penguins, Chickens...costumes are great and there is a costume for every cute or pretty animal going!
The shot above has all sorts of flaws - the backdrop is creased, the lighting from the window is encroaching on one corner, the whole angle is wonky and Winnie the Pooh looks like he has been punched in the face by Eeyore - but it's an example of how it can all work!
Using a basket or cocoon gives the baby a place in the scene. Otherwise it's often difficult to know where to put them and where to focus. The one thing I will say about the flooring option is that although it slats together you don't want little fingers getting caught. So having a lot of blanket padding around the baby works nicely and a basket is an even safer option (pad the basket well too!) You can use other props like ClaireCollyer has done below...
Eyes are so reflective and newborns eyes especially can be incredibly bright and beautiful. Capture them whilst you can, use angles and lighting and complimentary outfits to bring out colour. Capturing that first smile later on with the laughter in the eyes is also worthwhile!
You won't be achieving any decent shots by standing up. You need to be down on a level with the baby, on the ground, practically lying flat out to get some of the really good shots you see in galleries online. Enter the babies world, don't shoot from yours and make sure you have the right lens!
Be prepared for sick. Most parents feed their baby before a shoot so that he or she is calm and placated. That can mean milky mouth leakage. Don't get too attached to your props beforehand because you may be walking them home afterwards at arms length. Keep something handy for wiping down!
Include Mum and Dad where applicable and possible. Parents often forget about getting themselves into a capture, too concerned are they with changing outfits, arranging mittens and mopping up aforementioned sick. But gently remind them that you're there to capture the family just as much as you are there to capture the little guy and try and include them where possible. If heading outside then a reflector is great for capturing family shots with the perfect lighting. It's often difficult to know how to pose with a baby so standing works well with baby in arms or even squishing them altogether into your tiny studio space for ultimate lighting!
On the topic of lens, I armed myself with an 18 - 55mm and a 70 - 300mm but in the end I needed only my portrait macro close up lens. It worked best, it was sharper and let in more light.
Ultimately have fun. Don't watch the clock. I immersed myself in the job I had to do and before I knew it two hours had flown past. Charge accordingly, but if you're practising or doing personal photography, don't concern yourself with that. Just enjoy yourself and enjoy getting creative!
On a completely separate note, I love how I can write these articles and illustrate them with actual deviantART images - who would have thought that searching laminate flooring on dA would actually bring up...laminate flooring?!