You don't have to be a pro-level photographer to take some incredible images of your baby. With a few tips, you can capture your little one's special milestones and everyday moments in photos you'll love for the rest of your life. Knowing how to take professional baby photos is really about keeping a few things in mind to achieve the best results.
Find the Best Light in Your House
It's not fancy equipment or special tools that make a professional-quality portrait; it's the right light. Every house has some great light, and the lighting can change over the course of the day. You're looking for soft light that will flatter your baby, not bright light that creates harsh shadows. These tips can help you find it:
- Turn off all lamps and electric lights. Electric lights create unnatural shadows because of their placement, and they can also change the color cast on skin. Your photos will look much more professional if you turn them off and shoot with natural daylight.
- Look next to windows. You need lots of light, but it should be soft. Consider shooting next to windows that aren't getting direct sunlight.
- Check your direction. If you have a west-facing window, it will offer good light in the morning. An east-facing window will have good light in the afternoon.
- Find north light if possible. If you have a window that faces north, this will almost definitely work for your photos at most times of the day. The sun shines softly through north windows and will make your baby's skin light up beautifully.
- Use your hand. You can easily check what the light will look like by holding your hand in the spot you're considering. If there's light on your hand that looks soft, you're in a good spot.
Choose the Perfect Background
An uncluttered background is important for giving your photos a professional look, but that doesn't mean you need to remove all the pictures from the walls or clear everything out of the room where you'll be shooting. Instead, you can find a blanket, sheet, or piece of fabric that is just right. Small patterns are okay, but you'll get the most professional results with a solid. It should be a color that isn't too bright, and that is considerably darker or lighter than your little one's skin. That way, your baby will stand out against the photo backdrop.
Create a "Studio" at Home
Once you've chosen a place with great light, it's time to make your own photo "studio." Don't worry about having special equipment. This type of studio setup is more like a blanket fort than a professional building, but it will give you similar pro-level results. You'll need a large blanket to use as a background, some dining room chairs, a few clamps or clips, and a white sheet. Here's how you set it up:
- Stand next to the window you chose for its great light. Clear away any furniture or clutter you can in the surrounding area. With the window on your right or left, decide where you want to set up the background for your baby photos.
- Place two dining room chairs where you'll be setting up the background. The chair backs should be facing you. Clip your blanket or background fabric to the backs of the chairs, allowing the fabric to extend onto the floor.
- Move two more chairs so they are opposite the window. Clip the white sheet to these chairs. It won't be in the picture, but it will reflect the light from the window and help keep the shadows from being too dark.
Practice With the Camera You Have
While a fancy DSLR can help you get beautiful photos, it's not what's going to give your baby photos a professional look. In fact, you can shoot lovely baby photos with any camera - including a cell phone. The key is practice. Keep the following in mind:
- Get to know your camera. Take some time to play with the different settings and get an understanding of your camera's features. If you're using your phone, learn how to use your camera app.
- Take lots of photos. Set yourself a goal to take 10 photos a day for a week. You can take your camera with you and practice with it to become comfortable.
- Practice with a doll. When you're ready to take professional baby photos yourself, put a stuffed animal or doll on the background where you'll be placing your baby. Practice taking photos of it, and make adjustments as you need to. You might find you need to be further away or closer to the baby.
Pick Outfits That Are Simple
If you work with a professional photographer, she'll tell you what to wear for portraits. However, the advice is pretty simple, and it's easy for you to choose something perfect without professional help. In general, you should pick clothing that isn't too busy or fussy. That's because lots of patterns and ruffles can compete with your baby for attention in the final image. Go for a simple, solid-colored top or outfit, or let your baby just wear a diaper.
Start the Photo Shoot When Your Baby Is Happy
You actually have a major advantage over a professional photographer if you're taking your own baby photos. Because you're with your baby all the time, you have a better chance of capturing meaningful, genuine images than a professional photographer who sees your baby for an hour or two. You can choose a time when your baby is rested and happy, and that translates to adorable smiles. You can also control the environment in your home to keep your little one comfortable and warm. These tips can help:
- Give baby a full tummy. Choose a time to shoot when your baby has recently eaten and is full and happy. Hungry babies have less patience.
- Make sure baby is rested. Shoot your photos after your little one's nap or first thing in the morning. Babies who are well rested are more likely to smile.
- Keep the house warm. Set your thermostat a little higher than normal, or bring in a space heater. This is especially important if you want to get photos of your baby in only a diaper or onesie.
- Keep sessions short. Because you're taking baby photos at home, you can stop when your baby gets fussy and start again when your little one is in a better mood. Plan to shoot for only about 15 minutes at a time, and then take a break to play or eat a snack.
Keep Poses Uncomplicated
Complicated poses can frustrate your baby, so it's always better to keep your baby poses simple. For really young infants, you can plan to have them lying on a blanket or snuggled in a basket. For older babies, simply having them sit in front of your background will give you the best results. Either way, turn your little one so the light falls on their face.
Trick Your Baby Into Looking at the Lens
Professional photographers are good at showing an emotional connection between the subject and the viewer. In the case of your baby, this means the best images will often show your baby looking right at the camera lens. There are some tricks to help you get this camera "eye contact" that will give your photos a pro look and make them extra special:
- Play peek-a-boo. Hold the camera in front of your face and peek out from time to time. This will keep your baby engaged and looking at the camera.
- Try some music. Cue up your baby's favorite song on your phone and as you're about to take the photo, play the song right behind the camera. Your baby will naturally look to see where the sound is coming from.
- Use a small toy. If you're having trouble getting your baby to look at the lens, attach a small toy to the lens or on top of the camera. Bonus points if it squeaks or plays music.
Don't Stop Shooting Until Your Baby Is Done
When a professional photographer does a portrait session with a baby, she shoots hundreds or even thousands of photos. The photos you see when you get them back are only the top five to ten percent of the photos that were taken. Knowing how to take professional baby photos means continuing to shoot until your baby is done with the session. You should also shoot continuously if your camera or phone will let you, giving you a chance to capture those fleeting glances and sweet wiggles. Even if you think you have some great pictures, an even better one may be coming. Just keep shooting.
Edit Your Baby Photos Like a Professional
Professional photographers don't just hand you the pictures they shoot. Instead, they go through all the images and choose the best ones. Then they edit those photos to bring out even more beauty. There are lots of options you can use, depending on whether you're shooting on your phone or using a DSLR. Phone apps like Snapseed can help you enhance photos with a few taps. If you're editing your photos on your computer, you can use the photo program that came with it, or try the program many professionals use: Adobe Lightroom. Either way, keep these editing tips in mind:
- Make sure baby's face is bright. Professional photographers know that the viewer's eye naturally goes to the brightest thing in the picture. Use a brush to brighten your baby's face in editing or use a vignette to darken things around your little one.
- Get blacker blacks. The "blacks" or darkest parts of your photo should be really black. Use sliders in your editing program to make them a little darker. You may need to bump up the overall exposure a little to compensate, but the deep blacks will look more polished.
- Warm up the image. In general, professional baby photos look warm and a little sunny. You can adjust the white balance in your editing program to make your photos a bit warmer. Just be careful not to go overboard.
- Crop carefully. When you crop a photo of your baby, make sure your baby's face or eyes are in the top third of the picture. Don't crop off any limbs or cut off the top of your baby's head at a strange place.
Capture All Your Baby's Milestones
The more you practice with your baby, the better you'll get at taking professional baby photos yourself. You'll be all set to capture those big milestones like sitting up for the first time, and you won't hesitate to get out your camera to take smash cake photos for their first birthday. Practice gives you the confidence you need to get pro-level results.