Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Get Great baby photos

Photo by Cheryl Murfin

Get great baby photos: 10 tips from a pro and a wannabe

An LA professional and Seattle amateur offer their wisdom for getting shots you'll cherish

So you’ve just purchased the newest fancy schmancy iPhone Gazillion and you can’t wait to see the practically pro photos it delivers of your brand new baby.

Take it from an actual professional — you need more than a smart phone for smart (meaning beautiful) photos of your precious new family member. Here are some simple ways to your phone camera (or any camera) take photos you’ll treasure forever:

#1 Take photos during the day — especially indoors

Yes, your phone has a flash. And, you could use the flash. People DO. But, the truth is, those are the photos they will hate. That’s because taking pictures in the dark, even with a flash, often results in ugly red-eye, harsh, unwanted shadows, garish skin tones and tons of grain. Not to mention, cranky, startled babies!

Instead of sub-par night shots, look for the the daytime sun spots around the house. They will change throughout the day as the light moves around your abode though windows or other light sources. Indirect light is best — that is, through a window for example or one of those IKEA lamps that directs light upward to bounce off of the walls or ceiling to light a room. Be sure to face your baby toward the light. For example if lush light is wafting through the window in the living room, face your baby toward the window to get the best lit shot.

Get great baby photos

Follow the light. Usually face the baby toward the window or light source. In this case we have shot the photo with the baby in front of the window to create a silhouette and halo.

#2 The best outfits are simple and comfortable

Every new baby receives ugly, itchy outfits from their loving relatives and you may feel obliged to have your sweet baby wear them during your fancy phone fashion shoot. Toss that guilt out the window — that same window you’re going to be taking gorgeous photos of your baby in front of. The simple fact is, babies, like big people, are happier if they are comfortable. So. Skip grandma’s hand-knit wool matinee jacket and scratchy caps and pull out the soft comfy clothes in which your baby can wiggle luxuriously. While you are at it, avoid plaids, small dots, stripes and brand labels. Why mar her picture with someone else’s name?

Get Great baby photos

Dress that baby in SIMPLE clothes and colors — no strips, dots, logos!

#3 Go horizontal

Unless you are trying to capture your baby climbing a palm tree like a baby sloth, don’t shoot with the camera in the vertical position. Photos taken in the horizontal (wide) position are best and give ample space for catching your baby in action, when they are reaching, waving or stretching out. And, don’t forget to zoom in now and then, close up on his face or her tiny foot or hand.

get great baby photos

Stay horizontal, unless you like tall skinny photos.

Stay horizontal, unless you like tall skinny photos.

#4 Don’t say “Smile!” to your baby or whoever is holding them

There is nothing more counter-productive (or forced) than telling someone to smile for the camera. Instead think of something else to say, anything else, whether the subject of your photos is a baby or a grown up. Get their attention with a joke or a surprise word or move and help them smile spontaneously! Be imaginative. Use humor. Do something silly. For a baby, Peek-a-Boo works EVERY TIME!

Shoot quick — that real smile, especially on a baby, is fleeting. You’ve got to get that shot before your subjects (at least the older ones) realize they are on camera and return to the fake, forced smiles. As a new parent, you’ll soon realize that newborns have about a half-second hold on any facial movement outside of sleep.

#5 Remember the Rule of Thirds

Break your camera screen into thirds horizontally and vertically. Try to get your baby’s face into any one of those thirds except the middle one. That middle square makes it a mug shot. The others make it art!

Here’s the technical meaning of this phrase (thank you wikipedia): The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section. The picture on the left is BAD. See the rock right in the middle of the phone? The picture on the right is following the rule. It’s more interesting. By placing the rock in an outer third it the eye is led into the photo.

Get great baby photos

Notice where the baby faces are? Top left third of image.

#6 Get above the baby, like high above

You have that sweet little thing in front of you and it’s easy to forget your are bigger and taller than the baby!

Shoot from above. Put your baby in a basket and shoot down at her. A lot of professional photographers will climb up on a ladder and literally shoot down at those little angels you see on calendars.

If you DO climb up on a ladder over your newborn, of course exercise common sense. Be sure someone is holding the ladder.

And of course be sure you have your phone attached to your body somehow, someway — by lanyard perhaps or taped to your palm if need be. She’s not going to smile if you drop your smart phone on her super smart brow.

Getting above your baby truly makes for some awesome newborn pictures!

Shoot from above!

A high perspective offers context.

#7 Go outside, bring outside in or use props

Even with a newborn. We mean it. Of course, dress for the weather. But exteriors, especially the greenery of a park or leaves in fall or snow in winter can make for some of the most beautiful baby photos. Pull out the antlers, the pine cones, put them out naked (on a warm day) but make sure all their bits are fully covered (it’s the law).

Get great baby photos

Antlers, pine cones, a special toy . . . this family made this baby their own!

Bring hot hands to stick under the blanket to keep them toasty, find that adorable hat, stick them right in the middle of it all (first put the warm blanket on the ground, then the baby, then cover them strategically with those fall leaves — Voila! Anne Geddes has nothing on you!

#8 Go for the details

Hands, feet, ears . . . these are the details of your baby that will soon slip away in memory. Preserve them. Get in close with your phone or camera. Try different angles. Use “portrait” mode if your phone offers it to create a soft background and a focus on that sweet tender part,

Get in close and get the details.

#9 Ok, about Santa

Or the Easter Bunny or other holiday creatures. There’s trick to getting a good baby shot with a stranger in a red suit or wearing floppy ears. Nurse or feed your newborn or baby to sleep before placing the baby in their arms. A sleepy baby is a cute photo. Make sure awake babies are well-fed and not tired. Avoid getting photos between 5 and 7 p.m., the baby witching hour. Bring a favorite toy to wave. And if all that that fails, just get in the photo with them.

Get Great baby photos

Ok, even crying babies make good Santa photos. But really, lull them to sleep first. They’d be asleep when Santa comes down the chimney, right? Photo by David Fulmer, Creative Commons

#10 Print Print Print

Back up your phone frequently and make sure you print the photos you capture on your phone. Make printing a monthly task. Put it on your calendar and set aside and hour to go through the million shots you took and pick and send the best to print. Consider creating a photo book. A simple Google of “photobooks” will give you lots of easy options for creating and printing great ones from online sources. For special prints, turn to Seattle’s Moonphoto or Panda Lab print labs.

This article was a collaboration between wanna-be photographer Cheryl Murfin, MFA, and wonderful professional photographer Diana Hineck, MFA. Diana’s great advice; Cheryl’s amateur photos. To see Diana’s stunning photography go to www.artshapedphotography.com

More at Seattle’s Child:

“Favorite spots for a walk and a family photo shoot”

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin and Diana Hinek