by Sandy Puc Published 01/11/2009
Photographing Babies: The First Three Months
A wonderful time to create what we call relationship portraits is when the baby is six weeks' old and younger. As much as parents love images with their child's eyes open, newborns sleep a lot. Encourage parents to be a part of the session, explaining that this provides the strongest image. These tender portraits provide precious images for first-time parents.
It is often difficult to get parents to relax and enjoy the moment. They are still newbie's when it comes to handling these little bundles, so allow a little extra time. In addition to allowing time for your client to relax, don't forget about feedings. Inevitably within an hour session, the baby will get hungry. Make sure you have a comfortable and private area for the mother to nurse, she will really appreciate the kindness. Also, offer her a bottle of water. The first few weeks after giving birth are emotionally and physically draining. Extending this little courtesy will go a long way in creating a bonded, loyal relationship with your client.
Most of the images at this age are taken skin-on-skin. You must be comfortable explaining all the session options to your client. I have a studio full of wall portraits that illustrate the difference between clothing-on and bare skin. I show them the power of an image that focuses on nothing but the moment. We also provide tube tops in all sizes for the mom who wants skin-on-skin but is not comfortable going topless.
Oh, don't forget to prepare your client for the possibility that they might get wet. Infants are like mini machine guns. They are constantly projecting something from one end or the other. I assure the parent that we do a ton of laundry each day, and that I feel bad if my studio doesn't get the child's blessing. They laugh and are less uncomfortable when the inevitable happens. Have wipes, cleaning supplies and paper towels ready, and don't just stand there. Help with the clean-up! It is not fun, but it demonstrates compassion and makes your clients feel like you are a super hero!
At three months, the child has usually been smiling for several weeks. He recognises mom's voice and responds to her cooing. I really prefer the baby to look like a newborn at this stage. Poses that work best include the basket shot with baby nestled in his own blankets and the traditional tummy shot. For most clients, this is their first session, so I always try to include the parents for some relationship portraits, especially if they missed the three-to-six week session. Also, doing little vignettes of the baby's hands, feet, tummy and a tight close-up of the face ensure an add-on sale that mom cannot live without. We always showcase these images as a complete framed set.
The best attention grabbers for children of this age are small rattles, black-and-white baby toys and mom's voice. Try to get the baby to look into your eyes. Once you have their attention, do not look away. Speak softly to them using their name. Use words like sweetheart and baby that are commonly used by the parents. Try short sentences like 'who's the sweetest baby' with a really soft voice, keeping your eyes fixed on the baby.
Working with six to seven-month-old infants really gets fun. We educate our clients that the portrait session will be best if their child is sitting up. This usually happens between six and seven months of age. If the child is not sitting, the images will be very similar to the three-month portrait.
Once a child is sitting, the posing options expand. Now you can use age-appropriate props that reflect a child's interest. You can bring personality into your images by posing little boys with a sailboat or blocks and little girls with flower wreaths and beads.
Also, the classic nude shot is a must. A baby sitting bare on a blanket, or photographed from above, creates a fantastic image. While taking portraits of naked children, always remind parents to turn the baby away from the camera, and be discreet in what is photographed.
By six to seven months, babies love games like peek-a-boo, and pretending to sneeze will usually make them laugh.
This is also the age that children start to have stranger anxiety. If a child is clingy, sit on the floor while keeping your distance, and let mom continue to hold the baby. Start to play little games like peek-a-boo while maintaining the child's attention. Mom can slowly inch away from the baby, and soon the baby will forget mom. Explain to mom that it's important that she doesn't push the baby away from her to get the image. This can cause the child to panic and will make the session much harder. Tell her anytime her baby needs a hug, to stop and give one.
Many times a child may cry, and by using simple toys or bite-size crackers, you can win their attention.
The perfect time to photograph a year-old child is as soon as he can stand, but before he can walk. The ideal session would be with the toddler walking forward with one foot off the ground. Good luck scheduling that! If the child is not walking, it is a good idea to have several props for him to lean against. I prefer using antique strollers, tricycles and chairs for a more traditional look. This is also a good time to try outdoor photography. A little girl having a tea party or a little boy fishing make excellent portraits and will generally command a much higher sale than a session in the studio.
One year of age is also the perfect time to do a series session. The simple birthday-cake series (destruction of a birthday cake) will add another product to raise your sale profits. Before you decide that this session is too messy, keep in mind that this is an add-on sale. In addition to a package, any client who makes the effort to bring in a cake will definitely add a framed version to their sale. Be prepared that in addition to cleaning up the cake, you will need to provide a place to clean the baby. We have a large sink in the bathroom where mom can bathe her little one. We provide washcloths, infant soaps, towels and diapers. These are the little things that clients really notice. Be sure to clean the bathroom before and after the session.
The first-year session is a great time to mention a future family portrait. The toddler now looks much as he will as he grows older. Perhaps you can offer a free family session if the session is taken before the child's second birthday. Family portraits account for our biggest sales averages. We want our clients to start their traditional family portrait early, so it becomes a habit. Many of our yearly sessions were originally baby's first-year sessions that turned new customers into loyal clients.
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