3 Quick Tips to Take Better Photos of Your Baby
A Parent Photography Coach Shares Her Secrets
A couple of years ago, as our two-year-olds ran around happily in the grass together, a friend of mine confided in me that she bought a new DSLR before she became a mom and actually took her camera manual with her to the hospital when she went into labor, hoping to do some last-minute reading in preparation for photographing her new baby. We laughed as she described how of course she never even cracked the manual openâ€“and how itâ€™s still sitting on her side table with all the photos from the hospital!
Hereâ€™s the thing though â€“ who wants to read the camera manual?
Not only is it boring and incomprehensible, but itâ€™s not going to help you. All it will tell you is which buttons do what. But itâ€™s not going to show you when to use them.
Fear not. If ISO, aperture and shutter speed has you glazing over in your already sleep-deprived state in which you are barely functioning on two-hour blocks of sleep, I have three easy things that you can do today to take better photos of your baby that involve NOTHING TECHNICAL.
In fact, you could use these tips on your iPhone to get better results (all the photos in this blog post were taken of my younger son Jack on my iPhone). They are that simpleâ€¦ and yet, not what most people would think to do.
1) Look out for background clutter.
Itâ€™s ok, we know that your house is a mess right now. Youâ€™ve got piles of laundry, burp cloths, toys, and who knows what strewn everywhere. You donâ€™t have to clean up, just keep an eye on what is in the background of your photo. You probably wonâ€™t notice it while youâ€™re taking photos of your baby because youâ€™re focused on the baby (as you should be), but background clutter can be quite distracting once you look at the photos on your computer later.
Or you may not even realize itâ€™s the background clutter that is making your photo look more blah than wow. Once you start paying attention, youâ€™ll find this simple trick can make all the difference.
- If you can, before you take out your camera, do a quick sweep in the immediate area where youâ€™ll be taking photos to move those piles of laundry and toys.
- Keep an eye on the background while youâ€™re taking photos. Capture the moment first, but if you have time, move anything distracting out of the frame, or reposition yourself so the clutter is hidden.
- You can also crop after the fact to get rid of background clutter.
2) Move to the window or to the shade.
If youâ€™re photographing your baby indoors, chances are the light isnâ€™t great and you might be getting blurry photos with a weird orange or yellow tint. Instead, move your baby close to a window that gets good natural light (but not direct sunlight streaming in). The light will be much better and it will make all the difference in the world, even for iphone photos.
If youâ€™re outside, you might think that being in direct sunlight gives you the most light â€“ it does, but itâ€™s also harsh, unflattering light that creates weird shadows. In general, moving into the shade where the light is more diffuse will give you better results, especially if you can also avoid having a very brightly lit background. You still want to be near the light so it isnâ€™t too dark, just out of direct sunlight.
3) Edit your photos.
Pretty much every professional photograph you look at has been edited in some way. And yes, the same is true for the best iphone photos. Itâ€™s one of the reasons apps like Instagram are so popular â€“ itâ€™s because their filters will make pretty much any photo look much better! My favorite iPhone photo apps are Camera+ and Snapseed. Camera+ has great filters and best of all, you can adjust their strength as well as easily layer them on top of each other. Snapseed allows you to adjust traditional photo editing controls such as brightness, contrast, and saturation. Increasing each of those a little is bound to improve your photos.
On your desktop computer, any basic photo editing software such as iPhoto, Windows Live Photo Gallery or Picasa will give you those same controls (and more â€“ but those three are good ones to start with).
About those iPhone photos
Parents confess to me all the time that they have a fancy DSLR but their iPhone (or other smartphone) is the camera they end up using the most because itâ€™s easy and they always have it on them.
Itâ€™s OK if you use your iPhone camera the most!
I love my iPhone and use it daily to photograph my kids, whereas Iâ€™ll take my DSLR out once or twice a week. My iPhone is always on me and the instant editing and sharing canâ€™t be beat. Plus itâ€™s a great camera for capturing everyday moments and experimenting without getting bogged down in the technical aspects.
As I mentioned, all the photos in this blog post were taken with my iPhone. Of course, the quality that I get with my â€śrealâ€ť camera isnâ€™t there, but emotionally these are some of my absolute favorites.
Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick is a family photographer and photography coach for parents with Photosanity. A former architect and interior designer, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her two boys Liam, age six, and Jack, age three.
Alethea is on a mission to help parents more fully experience the precious fleeting moments of their childrenâ€™s lives through photography. Find her on http://photosanity.com