Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby love

Today I'm teaching a class on photography at Falmouth Hospital.  As promised on my past post on photography, here are some guidelines for taking better photos.  All of these "rules" should be broken from time to time, except perhaps rule one. . .

Here is the abbreviated version:
1) Have a camera
2) Take lots of pictures (then choose the best ones)
3) Don't forget to look at the background too
4) Turn off the flash if you can
5) Be in the picture

Here is the slightly longer version:

1) Have a camera.
Your baby is super cute and does lots of super cute things.  Most of the super cute activity is one time only performance.  Blink and you will miss it.  Thus, here is Rule 1: Have a camera.  It doesn't matter if its your cell phone, a DSLR or a crappy point and shoot: any camera is better than no camera.  If you bought a DSLR "for the baby," don't leave it packed up.  Take it out of its case, learn how to use it (most have a point and shoot mode), put fresh batteries in it, and have it ready. Mine lives on the sideboard in the living room: not great decor, but handy.

2) Take lots of pictures (then choose the best ones)
Babies are mercurial creatures.  Their expressions change moment to moment.  Often the smallest gesture makes or breaks a photo. A tiny movement turns can turn into a gesture pregnant with meaning.
At a coffee shop with Maj. C.  The photo was a target of opportunity
Digital media is nearly free, so take tons of photos.  Move up, move down.  Get on the same level as your baby.  Move side to side.  Take lots and lots of photos.  Do the hokey-pokey if you can get your baby to smile. Another tip?  Make photo time play time with Mommy.  In the beginning I had a million pictures of a sleeping baby, which is utterly misleading as I have no memory of Bunny ever sleeping.
I was wearing a dark skirt and Bunny was sleeping on my lap.
But there is caveat-- become friends with "Delete". Whether you do it on your camera or in post processing, be ruthless about selecting a few great photos of Baby.  S/he is not going to thank you someday for zillions of bad photos: s/he will thank you for that big handful of great photos.

3) Don't forget to look at the background too
Yes, your baby is cute.  And if you are like me, you stare into your child's face, oblivious to everything else.  Unfortunately I've found that this does not make for great photos.
On a baby blanket made by a friend
Try if you can to look at the background behind the baby.  Is there a messy kitchen, a plant, a pile of laundry? Move a few feet (or move the baby) and make it disappear.  Or, if cleaning up the background is too much work, place your baby on the bed or a blanket so the background is clean and the focus is on the baby.
Changing the angle transforms the photo
4) Turn off the flash if you can
One of the best things you can do is to turn off the flash in your camera.  The in-camera flash can be harsh for a baby's eyes.  And skin tones can get bleached out (and your angel may get demon eyes). Stabilize the camera-- you can do that by bracing the camera with our body or against a piece of furniture.  Exhale, hold your breath, and press the shutter-- you'll be surprised on what pictures you get.
Black baby blanket and hand held crappy point and shoot
5) Be in the photo (This is important!)
Your baby thinks you are beautiful.  Your child does not care if you have a double chin, have 25lbs to loose, hair with goo in it, or a shirt covered with cat hair. When s/he looks at these photos years from now (maybe with their own children), your child will only see your love and your smile (and maybe the 2012 fashions--"Neon Mom?  What were you thinking?").  Yes, your kid will love cute baby photos.  But the photos they will truly treasure are the photos together with you.  So let go, and make it a point to hand the camera to someone else so you can be in the photo.
Babies are slimming, so be in the photo

Bonus tip:  Use your photos
Are you still reading? Yes, digital media such as facebook and flickr are nice, but nothing beats a photo book.  Your friends and family will look through them.  You can make board books for your kid.  Use photos as thank you cards.  Live with your photos: print them out, swap them in and out of frames.  Digital frames are great-- Kodak has a great one web connected one in which I upload photos to the frame via the net.  This is great for grandparents (or Maj C. when he is away) as a new photo appears on the frame whenever I make a new one available.

Photo Idea list:
A series of photos playing with a toy
A time series next to a favorite toy
A photo a day, month,
Favorite outfits
Favorite toys

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