Genealogy: Photographing babies

Genealogy: Photographing babiesBy Barry J. Ewell

For over 40 years I have used the camera to capture the lives of my family and friends.  The camera has been a very important tool in my professional career in public relations and advertising.  I first started with a film camera and spent hundreds of wonderful/fun hours in a dark room developing and printing my on prints.  Since the late 90’s I have used the digital camera extensively in to aid in my genealogical research.

I would like to share with you a few of the lessons I have learned when photographing babies.

  1. Take pictures frequently:
    1. Catch each step of baby’s development—the first smile, the first bath, the first tooth, the first step.
    2. Babies change so rapidly, make sure you capture all the milestones before they become history.
    3. Show a day in the life of baby. From the morning’s waking stretch to the evening’s yawns, track your child for one full day. You’ll have a series you’ll cherish for years to come.
  2. Capture feelings.
    1. Capture all the emotions—a  smirk, a frown, a wail—not just the pretty smiles. Babies are uninhibited and uncensored; show it in your pictures.
  3. Get close:
    1. Fill the camera’s LCD display with your subject to create pictures with greater impact.
    2. Step in close or use your camera’s zoom to emphasize what is important and exclude the rest.
    3. Check the manual for your camera’s closest focusing distance.
  4. Try different angles:
    1. Start by shooting at the baby’s eye level.
    2. Prop the baby on someone’s shoulder.
    3. Line up several wee ones on the sofa.
    4. Try something different—stand on a (sturdy!) chair and shoot down at the baby in the crib.
  5. Include other people in pictures:
    1. Capture others with the baby—big sister feeding the baby or grandpa dancing with his baby granddaughter.
    2. Introduce two babies to each other and catch that instant bonding in their eyes.
  6. Use a simple background:
    1. An uncluttered background focuses attention on the subject, resulting in a stronger picture.
    2. Place your subject against a plain, non-distracting background.
    3. Alternatively, sometimes just moving yourself (and the camera) a few feet one way or the other can eliminate distractions from view.
  7. Use natural light:
    1. Cloudy, overcast days provide the best lighting for pictures of people.
    2. Bright sun makes people squint, and it throws harsh shadows on their faces.
    3. On overcast days, the soft light flatters faces.
    4. Indoors, try turning off the flash and use the light coming in from a window to give subject a soft appearance.