10 Elements of a Beautiful Baby Portrait
There are many things that when brought together will make your baby's portrait be as beautiful and natural as he or she is.
Natural smiles are always better than fake or cheesy smiles. A real smile makes the eyes sparkle, dimples show, and the face just glow. To get a natural smile, the photographer can't tell a baby, child, or even adult to "smile" or "say 'cheese.'" (Babies wouldn't understand this anyway.) The photographer needs to make sure the baby and other people in the photograph are comfortable, relaxed, and having fun, then they will smile naturally. Babies smile most often in response to be being talked to and played with. A photographer who doesn't recognize this or won't interact with the baby won't likely get a natural smile or expression.
Smiles are not always important to have a beautiful portrait of your baby. No one smiles all of the time, but everyone has other natural expressions which are cute, adorable or funny. These expressions often are a window into the person's true personality and when recorded in camera, capture the person's personality. A photographer who will work with your baby to get these natural expressions and be willing to photograph them will help you capture who your baby is, not just what he looks like.
Whatever your baby does naturally will make the best poses for him. If he can't yet sit up, he still does things that are natural. When on his back he probably waves his arms and kicks his legs or holds them up in the air. When he is on his tummy he may push up and look around. Lying on his stomach or his back would be natural poses for him.
Being held by his mother or father would be natural for your baby. Your photographer should have you hold your baby in a way that you would naturally hold him: on your shoulder, cuddled in your arms, sitting or standing on your lap facing you. You baby will feel uncomfortable if held in a strange position or even on the opposite side from which you normally hold him.
When your child gets a little bigger and is able to sit, crawl or stand, allowing him to sit the way he or she does normally will give a much more natural photograph. Trying to get a toddler to cross her legs, put her hands in her lap, or sit up straight is frustrating for the child, the parent and the photographer. Little children don't do that naturally so it looks awkward in the photographs.
A photographer who will work with your baby to allow free natural movements instead of trying to force him or her into set poses will be able to take more natural photographs for you.
What are your baby's favorite things? Is there a special blanket, doll, stuffed toy, ball, book, chair, stool, riding toy, plastic ice cream scoop, cardboard box, paper bag, pan lid, pair of shoes, car keys, cell phone? What does your child enjoy?
The best choice of props for a photograph are ones that portray your baby's personality and that your baby is fond of, or that will tell a story about him, or that are family heirlooms.
The prop should be small enough not to over power your baby in the photograph. To make the portrait have a timeless look the prop should match the color and style of clothing.
Many photographers have props that they will use with your baby, but being able to use your own props will make the portraits more personal and special.
The most important thing about clothing when you want to get a beautiful baby or child's portrait is that the clothes be comfortable. Itchy, stiff, tight, hot, or restrictive clothing, and shoes, hats or head bands will only make your child uncomfortable and irritable. You may want your child to wear dressy clothes, but make sure the clothes are comfortable. Play clothes will allow your child to be more natural.
Solid colored clothes always photograph best, whether it is on a baby, a child, or an adult. This is because when a person looks at a photograph their eye is drawn to whatever is different or contrasts with the rest of the photograph. If the clothing is striped, or flowered, or plaid, or has a design on it that will create contrast, it will cause the viewer to see the clothing before the baby or his expression. It is often hard to find clothing that is solid colored for a baby or child, but it is well worth it. Solid colored clothing will add a timeless quality to your baby's portraits.
The color of the clothing should be one that is flattering to your baby's skin, hair and eye colors.
The clothing colors should also coordinate or compliment the colors in the room in which the portrait will hang. To determine how the colors will look in the room you can lay the clothes out on the sofa, bed, etc. in the room to see how they will look.
An outfit that Grandma bought your baby may be really cute, but it won't always be the best to take photographs in. Of course, if you want to, your photographer should be willing to take a few of photographs in the outfit Grandma bought anyway.
The best location for a portrait is one where your baby will feel comfortable. Studio portraits can be very nice for young babies, especially all white or pastel portraits that reflect their innocence and angelic qualities.
When your baby starts to crawl and walk there are many things which may distract him in a studio, like the lights and props which are not being used. With an active or inquisitive toddler it often becomes hectic for the parents and photographer to keep him within the parameters of the studio background and lights. It is also very frustrating for the baby to not be allowed to explore because someone wants his photograph taken. Instead, by taking your little one's portrait in an outdoor location like your yard or favorite park you allow him freedom of movement and exploration because suddenly the whole area becomes a background and he no longer has to be restricted to just one spot. He will be more relaxed and have more fun and your portraits of him will better show his personality.
When you are choosing a location for your baby's portrait there are several things to consider: where your portrait will hang and what will look good in that room; what location will look good with the clothing (if clothing is chosen first); what location might help tell a story about your child; and will your child feel comfortable and have fun in that location.
The background in a portrait should not be the first thing you see. Your baby and his expression should be the main focal point. Since the eye is drawn to the part of the portrait that has the most contrast, you will probably want that to be your baby's face. The best way to do this is to have the clothing and background colors be similar to each other, or have the clothes and background be similar in light and darkness. Then what will be different is your baby's face, so you will see it first.
Another option, if you really want it, is to have the background opposite of the clothing. Then both your baby and his clothes will stand out. You should let your photographer know your preferences.
Backgrounds can be similar or dissimilar from the clothing whether the portraits are taken in a studio, outside or in a home.
THE TIME OF DAY
The time of day your baby's portrait is taken is very crucial to obtaining a beautiful portrait. Of most importance is scheduling the portrait session at a time when your baby is usually happy. Then, be flexible. Babies sense when something is up and often on portrait day their schedules change. They don't eat, sleep or get happy at the same time that they have been doing. A photographer who is flexible enough during the session to let you feed, change, cuddle, or walk your baby around to cheer him up will be very helpful in producing the portraits you want. Also, your photographer should be willing to reschedule your baby's portrait session on short notice because your baby isn't feeling well or is "off schedule."
NOT HUNGRY OR SLEEPY
Babies and children who are hungry or sleepy, will not be in their best mood for having photographs taken. Always take time to feed your child before the session rather than making them wait until afterwards. Also ALWAYS (from infant thru teenagers) have an extra bottle or snack and drink with you at the session in case your baby or child gets hungry again or just irritated with us. A snack & drink that is uncolored and that your child can eat in his portrait clothing will help sweeten a unhappy mood and allow the session to continue, rather than making the child wait until the session is over and the clothing removed before appeasing them. Taking photographs causes little ones to be more hungry, thirsty, and tired than ordinarily.
PLANNING THE PORTRAITS
As you can well imagine by now, beautiful baby portraits don't just happen. The props, clothing, location, background, time of day, etc. all need to be planned to best suit your baby and what you want the portrait to look like. Your photographer should give you suggestions on the best ways to get what you want. If you are not sure what you want, your photographer should be able to make suggestions and show you samples to give you ideas.
Your photographer should also learn something about your baby or child's personality what makes them happy or sad or excited. This will help him or her capture your baby's personality in the portrait.
A photographer who isn't willing to take the time to plan your baby's photographs with you, or listen to your ideas, probably won't know what you want and like so as to be able to create the kind of portraits of your baby that you will really love.
The most important element in getting a beautiful baby portrait is choosing the right photographer. Meet with the photographer before the day of the portrait session and determine if he or she will work with you to get what you want. Your photographer should truly love babies and children, not just want to photograph them for the money. If he or she doesn't love working with little ones, he or she won't be able to create a portrait that is so beautiful it stirs your emotions and becomes a lifetime keepsake.