- Baby Photography Tips for Parents with Kelly Brown
Canon Master Kelly Brown has been a professional baby photographer for the best part of a decade. Here she shares her baby photography tips to help parents capture beautiful photos of their little angels’ precious first moments.
I love photographing babies because they’re so unpredictable. They have these incredible personalities that are just waiting to burst out.
Kelly believes the key to a successful photography setup is all about creating the perfect environment for the baby. If the baby is comfortable and relaxed, you will get much better photos.
You will need as much space as possible to allow you to move around freely with your camera, so it’s important to clear out a room or a least a large section of a room.
Make sure you have space to set up your backdrop stand. If possible, use a large seamless roll of paper or vinyl to create a neutral background to shoot against. Simple colours are best, so stick to white, grey or beige. Kelly likes to use organic colours. For the quintuplets in the video she uses a soft shade of natural brown, which is complemented by the babies’ outfits in lighter shades of the same colour. If you don’t have a backdrop roll then Kelly recommends using a blank wall.
As Kelly explains, your tiny tots are going to be on the move for much of the shoot, so make sure they have space to crawl around, especially if you are photographing multiple babies – be ready for anything.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects to consider when setting up your baby photo shoot, but you don’t necessarily need to invest in lighting equipment.
“I always prefer to photograph with natural light,” says Kelly. Wherever possible it’s best to set up your shoot space somewhere with lots of windows. If possible, try to time your photography session during peak daylight hours, but be sure to avoid harsh sunlight as it casts dark shadows and might also make your little cherub feel uncomfortable. If the sunlight is direct, you could try hanging a sheer curtain to diffuse the light and avoid any shadows.
“I highly recommend shooting in manual mode. This is going to give you full control over your camera,” says Kelly. “I always adjust my ISO to the light that's available in the space. When you're choosing your shutter speed and aperture you want to make sure that it’s nice and fast, especially if you’re photographing babies that are on the move.”
To capture spontaneous fits of giggles and subtle expressions of emotion, use continuous shooting mode on your camera to capture multiple photos in just a couple of seconds.
In the video for the Tucci quintuplets photo shoot, Kelly uses an aperture of f5.6, and ISO of 1600 and Shutter speed of 1/320. These settings will make sure your baby’s little face is in full focus. For the cake smash shoot she uses an aperture of F 5.0, ISO of 1600 and shutter speed of 1/500.
Many parents wonder what type of lens to use for their baby photography shoot and assume they need a special piece of equipment, but a 50-80mm focal length is perfect for photographing babies. A couple of lenses which are suited for baby photography are the EF 24-70mm f4 and the EF 50mm.
First things first, before you even take your camera out of its case, you need to organise your baby’s outfits and any props you might want to use to bring the scene to life.
Be careful not to over-do it with your decoration and use complimentary colours and textures that don’t distract from the baby.
For me it's really important not to take away from what I'm photographing,” says Kelly, “which is these beautiful little people. You don't want to overpower the children, you want them to be the main focus of the image.
When dressing your baby for the shoot, remember to consider your backdrop colour and choose outfits to match. If you’re photographing more than one baby then it’s also important to ensure their outfits compliment one another.
In the video Kelly uses soft pink and blue balloons, which work beautifully with the colourful cakes in the “cake smash” setup. Kelly also tapes bright white paper to the floor to create a crisp and light setup. It also makes it easier to clean up after, which is important because this is probably the only time you’ll be encouraging your little one to play with their food.
Ideas like this can be really good fun for babies, but remember to do it at the end of your shoot schedule as you don’t want to have to stop to clean midway through your shoot.
Kelly encourages parents to use props that have special meanings, whether it’s that all-important security blanket or that much-loved teddy bear.
Whether you want to photograph your beaming baby or have a team of toddlers, there are tons of posing tips and tricks to help you get more out of your photo session.
In the video Kelly places the Tucci quintuplets in a row, keeping the frame balanced and symmetrical. Don’t worry if your baby is crawling around as this can add character and a sense of movement to your photos. This is when it will be convenient to have a spotter to help you.
Kelly elicits responses from the babies by interacting with them from behind the camera, playing around with funny sounds and faces to make them smile and giggle. This is an easy and fun way to get different expressions from your baby.
You can also use props or wave toys around out of shot. “When I've got parents behind me I always make sure, if they are going to be making loud noises and jumping around, to come down really low to the camera,” Kelly says. So be sure to call on the help of your partner or friends to play the role of either photographer or entertainer during your shoot.
“I really encourage you to try all of these tips at home with your own family and children,” says Kelly. “And don't be afraid to push that shutter and take as many photos as you can, because that's how your style is going to develop, and you're going to find what you're attracted to. We all see things differently.”
Don't ever risk the safety of a baby for the sake of getting a shot. For newborns I would recommend always engaging a professional who knows how to photograph your precious bundle safely.
For older babies who are able to move independently, do use a spotter so there’s someone there to jump in if the baby is wriggling towards any kind of danger.
Don’t forget to pay attention to lighting — learn how to read artificial and natural light.
Do everything possible to ensure your baby is calm and comfortable so they look relaxed in every photograph.
Don’t worry too much about what other baby photographers are doing. Instead, follow your heart and do what you love.
Kelly Brown is an Australian Canon Master from Queensland and has specialised in newborn portraiture for almost a decade. As an award-winning photographer, Kelly has photographed countless babies and holds newborn baby posing classes to help parents and other photographers capture better shots. One of her favourite things is to do follow-up shoots with the same families and seeing new additions enter the scene.