A baby sits upright, playing with coloured beads on an abacus.

BABY PHOTOGRAPHY

12 baby photography tips you can use today

Photographing babies is a pleasure that many doting parents, family members and friends will be rushing to enjoy as soon as they meet a new arrival, and it’s easy to see why: they’re ridiculously cute and, as they grow, more and more signs of their personalities start to shine through. Whether they’re being giggly, curious, thoughtful or lively, photography is one of the best ways to track and preserve these unique and fast-moving developments.

Anyone can take a quick snap, but these techniques will help you to produce amazing images that truly capture such precious moments – ready to share with family and loved ones near and far.

1. Choose the best time

With the exception of newborns, babies are creatures of habit. Nearly every baby is going to be used to doing certain things at certain times of the day. You’ll know when your baby is at his or her happiest, so aim to shoot during these moments. For instance, your baby might be at its calmest just after feeding. Or just after a mid-morning nap.

2. Shoot at eye level

Classic newborn shots include close-ups of their tiny feet and hands, or sleeping on mum's or dad's shoulder. For toddlers and older children, images that incorporate movement, showing them at play or within the context of their lives, are timeless memories. The golden rule of these types of shots is to shoot from their eye level to ensure a feeling of intimacy.

It’s always a good idea to plan the shots you want to take. You never know how long your baby’s good mood is going to last, so be prepared to skip lower priority shots if time is running short.

3. Set up your camera before you shoot

Time is of the essence when you’re photographing babies. In moments of calm, you might find you’ll get 10 minutes of shooting time. Make sure your equipment is ready when that clock starts ticking so you have the maximum amount of time with your happy baby. Of course, lighting changes and babies move, so it’s inevitable you’ll have to adjust settings as you go. But getting the basics – such as your lens, exposure mode, white balance, drive mode and other fundamentals – set up in advance ensures you have more time to shoot.

4. Work with natural light

A flattering and intimate way to brighten up your baby photos is to make the most of natural light. A simple technique is to use a reflector to bounce some window light around. You don't need a professional photo reflector, just a white sheet or a big piece of white paper or cardboard. Pose your child next to a window and enlist a friend or family member to angle the reflector so that the light from the window lightens the shadows on the side of your baby's face that's away from the window.

5. Prepare your lenses

Which lenses you use will depend on the type of photo you’d like to take. For general shots, try a prime lens such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, which handles low light environments such as bedrooms with ease, or a portrait lens such as the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, It has a fast autofocus speed that could come in handy for capturing movement such as crawling and eating.

If you’d like to get clear close-ups of your baby's tiny features – hands, toes and eyelashes – then a macro lens such as the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM for DSLRs or the Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM for mirrorless cameras is an excellent choice.

Generally, lenses with fixed focal lengths, such as 50mm or 85mm, are great in dark environments because they let in a high amount of light. But you might want to use a zoom lens for situations when your baby is active. A zoom such as the Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM allows you to keep framing as your baby moves around, and gives you a higher chance of getting the shot within a short timeframe.

6. Shh! Shoot silently

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A baby wears a shirt and lies on its front on a green, pink and white blanket.

Babies can be easily distracted and even scared by loud beeps and shutter releases. This is where your quiet or silent shooting mode will come in handy. If you have a Canon EOS M50, you can choose silent mode from within the scene modes. If you have a Canon PowerShot camera, the shutter is already quieter than on many other camera models. Another option is masking the shutter noise with soothing or playful music, depending on the mood you are aiming for.

7. Shoot in shutter priority mode

In Tv (Shutter Priority) mode, you can set the shutter speed you want, and the camera calculates the best aperture accordingly. This mode gives you the freedom to work quickly and creatively without having to concern yourself with making a lot of adjustments mid-shoot. For example, the shutter speed needs to be fast enough to avoid movement becoming blurred, so when photographing a lively baby 1/250 second is a good start. Take it from there and adjust depending on the activity.

You'll usually want your baby's entire face to be in focus, so it's important to check that your depth of field isn't too shallow. Leaving ISO on auto will help you achieve your desired shutter speed and aperture settings, but keep in mind that the lower the ISO, the higher the image quality will be.

8. Use the continuous shooting mode

For most of your other photography you probably shoot one frame at a time. But for baby portraiture you should try switching your camera’s drive mode to its continuous shooting setting. Continuous shooting (also known as burst mode) is especially useful if you have a baby on the move! It will help you to follow all of the baby’s sudden movements and give you the best possible chance of capturing that perfect moment, because no baby is likely to hold the pose you want for long.

9. Experiment with focus points

Normally in portraits you will want to focus on the subject’s eyes. But with baby portraiture you can create some striking images by breaking that rule every once in a while.

Because babies are so small, parts of their body such as the hands and feet can make interesting subject matter. If your camera has a touchscreen, it’s a simple case of touching the part of the screen where you see the fingers or toes to focus. Using a large aperture will blur everything else in the picture, keeping the focus firmly on the feature you want to emphasise.

10. Bounce the flash

In situations where you want to control the light with a flashgun, it's important not to direct the flash into your baby's eyes, as the light from your flash can be very harsh for babies both big and small. Instead, use an external flashgun and bounce its light off the ceiling or an opposite wall. The Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI* makes this easy with its motorised bounce and swivel head that automatically finds the correct angle for flattering lighting. Not only will the results look more natural, but the motorised head can itself be a source of interest and attract your baby's attention.

11. Use a tripod

A baby wearing a headband faces the camera. Her dad holds her up above his shoulder in one hand, facing away from us as he looks at her.

Babies are likely to make sudden moves, so a tripod might not seem like ideal accessory, but it leaves your hands free to pose or distract the baby and elicit the expressions you want.

Using a tripod also allows you to include yourself in the photo and create timeless, classic shots with your hands encircling your baby's hands or feet, for example. With your camera set up on a tripod, switch the drive mode to its self-timer. Often you'll have 2- and 10-second options. Go for the 10-second option. Either take a test shot first just of yourself or ask your partner or a friend to stand where you intend to stand so that you can get your focusing and exposure settings right. Once you're satisfied, press the shutter button and get in position!

12. Make use of apps

There are numerous useful apps that will make shooting, learning and sharing easier and more fun.

If you have a Wi-Fi enabled camera, you can use the free Canon Camera Connect app to control your camera remotely from your Android or iOS device, avoiding the chance of camera shake. With your camera mounted on a tripod, you can engage directly with the baby, monitoring your camera's Live View on your phone and triggering the shutter when the decisive moment arrives. You can also use the app to quickly import your photos straight onto your phone for easy sharing.

Lifecake is an app specifically designed for parents of young children, to help you keep all your photos and videos in one place and create a beautiful timeline of your child’s development. You can categorise the images in useful ways, and you can even use the app to create printed photobooks. Your Lifecake timeline can be enjoyed by family and friends on smartphones, tablets and computers, helping grandparents, aunts, uncles and others feel more connected and involved in your children’s lives.

The Canon Photo Companion app offers personalised tips and exercises that are suited to your specific camera model. All you have to do is select your EOS camera when prompted, and a wealth of video tutorials, inspirational articles and tips on various topics such as photographing children is available at your fingertips, allowing you to constantly improve your photography and learn on the go.

Written by Jeff Meyer

*Note: Fully automatic bounce flash is only possible with EOS cameras introduced in the second half of 2014 or later, except EOS 1300D, EOS 2000D, EOS 4000D, EOS M10, EOS M3, EOS M5, EOS M6, EOS M100.

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