Professional family portrait photographer Julia Boggio shares 10 top tips for helping you get the most out of your baby portraits.
The first year of a baby’s life is unequivocally the time when he or she changes the most. One minute they look like a distant relation of Gollum (though still cute) and the next they’re closer to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, chubby legs and all. Newborn babies are the subject of countless candid and staged photographs, with probably more snaps taken of them during their first year of life than at any other stage in their lives.
As the Duchess of Cambridge proved recently with her lovely pictures of Prince George and newborn Princess Charlotte, you don’t have to be a pro to take amazing baby portraits. Here are a few hints and tips to help you take equally beautiful pictures.
1. Let there be light
I just want to get this out of the way up front: to take a good photograph, you need good light. If you are indoors, then position your subject near a window. Up to about 3-4 months, this would involve laying your baby on its back on a blanket or in a basket, facing up towards the light. When your baby gets confident with tummy time and sitting up, then you can try facing them towards the window and getting down to their eye level to take the picture. And when they start walking, relocate your shoot outside where light is all around you, as you will be photographing a fast-moving target.
2. Contain them
Once babies do start to move about on their own, whether they are walking, crawling or bum-shuffling, photographing them can become difficult. At this point, you might need to contain them in something to keep them in one place for long enough to focus. Bathtubs are good for this. So are vintage wooden or cardboard boxes.
3. Pimp your lens
Young babies will often look anywhere other than where you want them to look; that is, at your lens. In order to draw their attention to you, try putting something bright and colourful around your lens: tape a small teddy to itl better yet, sew something to a scrunchy and put that around the lens – anything to encourage eye contact.
4. Include milestone markers in the picture
From month to month, the changes will be significant. You can make or purchase milestone markers for babies. These are signs that you can place near your baby, or that your baby can hold, saying something like ‘I am one month old’. To create a nice series of images, try taking the photograph in the same place on the same blanket every month, so that you can frame them all together at the end of the year.
5. Use more than just your smartphone camera
The easy and most available option will always be to take pictures of your little one on your smartphone. However, it’s a good idea to use a proper camera, too. Firstly, the image quality will be better, meaning you’ll be able to blow up the picture bigger if you want to put it on the wall. Secondly, there is something less permanent about smartphone images – we tend to back up these images to the Cloud and never see them again. Digital images from a camera tend to be better cared for in the long run. Thirdly, you can do more creatively with a camera than a smartphone. I’m not saying you can’t take brilliant pictures on a phone, but using a camera allows you to make more creative choices.
6. Think about the outfit
When I’m planning to do a shoot with my daughter, I think about what she’s wearing. I’ll buy clothes specifically for the shoot. If you’re not sure what to dress them in, then look at a colour wheel. Colours that are opposite or directly next to each other on the wheel will work well. Aside from family portraiture, I shoot a lot of children’s fashion editorial and there is a plethora of amazing baby clothes out there. As a starter for ten, check out Mini Rodini, Alex and Alexa and Gigi Brooks.
7. Exercise your inner Womble
You’d be amazed at what sort of fun things you can do and the variety of scenes you can create with the items you already have in your house. Socks can be transformed into fireworks. Blankets can be moulded into rolling hills. You’ll have a lot of time to dream up fun scenarios for photographing your baby during those late-night feeding sessions. If you’re stuck, then try creating a scene that works with an upcoming holiday, like Halloween or Christmas. This sort of image works best in the early months, when your baby is asleep.
8. Keep it fun
The best way to turn a child against the idea of being photographed is to make it seem like hard work. To get real, natural smiles, you have to put yourself out there and act silly. Sing songs; make nonsensical noises; tickle tummies. Remember: babies love slapstick comedy. And try not to appear desperate to get a specific photo; they can smell it like a dirty nappy and will act accordingly.
9. Get help
Babies have a tendency to move when you don’t want them to and look left when you want them to look right. Just as you’ve lined up a beautiful shot, they roll over. If you’ve got out your good camera and you’re putting effort into taking pictures of your little one, a second pair of hands is a godsend. My husband has become adept at helping me photograph our daughter, so I don’t have to keep putting my camera down.
10. This is the most important thing
Do something with all these beautiful pictures that you are taking. Don’t leave your photographs on a hard drive. Hard drives fail. It’s really important that you print your images and do something with them. If you don’t have the time, then hire somebody else to do it. I love going through old albums with my daughter – she gets a kick out of looking at my wedding photographs, when mummy was ‘a princess’. When you make an album, you’re creating heritage for your family – much more important than watching another episode of[insert your favourite TV show here]!
About the Author
Julia Boggio runs Boggio Studios, which is London’s top family portrait studio. 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the studio. In that time, she has photographed hundreds of families from across the world, including Holly Branson and her twins. She has also photographed Her Majesty the Queen, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Richard Branson and Dame Judi Dench, among others. She believes the secret of the success of the studio is creative images, exceptional customer service and organic growth.