When I went searching for photos that jump out at me to feature in our Highlights Reel of Grad photos next week, I couldn’t help but notice an abundance of gorgeous baby and toddler portraits. And so it was this week’s Highlights Reel is themed around exactly that, with some tips for capturing them for good measure!
Enjoy, and leave our Grads some love!
I know, I know… toddlers are movers and it’s not always easy to pin them down for a beautiful portrait like this one. In fact… it’s almost always not easy! So how did she do it?
Confine them! In this shot below he’s sitting on a wooden rocking horse, which of course he loves and it’s making this moment all about fun, and not all about stopping to get his photo taken.
Baby on a bed… they can’t get far! Unless they’re crawling, in which case don’t do it at all unless you have a second set of eyes to keep an eye on their safety as we all know what it’s like to get lost in taking photos.
This is another way to get portraits easily without having to chase them. Set them up at activities in good light, then step back and shoot. Don’t interrupt their play by asking them to pose or look at the camera. Not all portraits have to be looking at camera and this is a way to document their childhood authentically.
Related: Documentary Kids Photography Tips
Including lots of negative space in your photos of your little one is a fantastic way to convey their size at a given point in their life, as it adds a sense of scale relative to the environment.
Don’t take all your shots of little ones at your adult height. Get down to their eye level, not only does it make it easier for you to engage them for the photo, but it helps the viewer engage with your portrait subject. And also, it’s quite simply the best view of your portrait!
The alternative to getting down to their eye level is getting up high, and shooting down on your subject. This is a common angle for newborns and babies that aren’t sitting up yet.
When standing over a baby and shooting down, make sure your camera is secured around your neck with the strap to prevent accidentally dropping it on them.
Don’t forget the details that change in a heartbeat. Get in close and capture eyelashes, tiny fingers and toes, whisps of baby hair, rosebud lips.
If you have a macro lens or macro tubes this is a perfect opportunity to use it. If not, just get in as close as you can with your sharpest lens, narrow your aperture to give you good depth of field then crop a little in processing to get closer.
Related: Macro for Newborn Photos
If you tell a child to smile, you’ll get cheese without fail. For a more natural look, engage them. In t his shot below he’s singing the song to his favourite tv show. Just chat to them, ask questions, sing songs, be silly!
This is the key difference between professional portraits and snap shots. That beautifully blurred background doesn’t just look amazing, it serves a purpose: it separates your subject from the background and makes them pop.
Create it with a wide aperture, eg. f/2.5. And make sure you focus on your subject’s eyes by choosing the focus point that sits over the eye closest to the lens.
If you’re new to photography and just want some good, crisp, light filled photos of your baby, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Light can be a very complex topic, but it doesn’t have to be. Make it easy on yourself and look for soft light coming through a window or doorway, and position your baby at a 45 to 90 degree angle to the light source.
Soft light is gentle and wraps around your portrait’s face evenly with subtle variations in shadow and light. If you have jarring bright patches of light on or near them, that’s not soft light, and you either need to move them, or diffuse the light.
In this gorgeous portrait below, there is soft light at camera right. Her position 90 degrees to the light has created gentle shadows on the left which help add depth and interest. That interplay of light and shadow has also sculpted her features, highlighting those beautiful curves.
Related: Finding Natural Light Indoors
Also notice the catch lights in her eyes, they add sparkle and life, and are a good rule of thumb to help you determine if your portrait is positioned well in relation to the light.
Lighting a newborn from the top down is one of the easiest ways to ensure you illuminate their features in a way that is gentle and flattering. In this way the light washes down their head and wraps around their eyes, head and lips beautifully. When the light comes from their feet up, it illuminates up their nose, and creates shadows in all the wromg places.
Suffering a lack of good light indoors? Try your bathroom! A white bath acts as a natural reflector as it bounces light around the room and over your subject.
Related: The Bathroom Studio
You’ll find soft light outdoors early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is low in the sky and diffused by the atmosphere. You can also find it when it’s cloudy, or in open shade such as porches and gazebos and under trees (but watch out for dappled light when shading under trees).
An oldie but a goodie! Planning and styling a cake smash for your almost-one year old can be lots of fun, and we have two great blog posts on exactly that topic. But if you’re too busy, you prefer simplicity, or you’re style challenged… set up outdoors in an area with good soft light and just your baby and a cake. Easy peasy!
Oh and here’s a thought… why wait for their first birthday? Or maybe you’ve missed that occasion… who says cake has to be for birthdays?!
Don’t forget to vary your angles and frames for lots of variety!
I’ll be the first to agree toddlers are hard to capture, and newborns can be too… so together? Yes, it’s challenging! But there are tricks and tips to make it easier and we have a gazillion of them, compiled by some of our most talented (and busy!) professional newborn and family photographers. Check it out for a detailed how to (and grab the free cheat sheet!).
Related: Toddler & Newborn Photography Guide
If you’re new to photography, editing can be overwhelming to the point that, well, you just don’t do it.
But take a leap of faith, shoot in RAW to give you total control and start with simple, clean edits in Lightroom.
Last but not least, I have some top tips to ensure success when photographing babies and toddlers:
I hope you enjoyed those tips and can get your camera out and practice them!