by Ann Windram Published 01/02/2001
Noisy little germ bags that leak at both ends. That's how babies were once described to me. Sadly, it is frequently true. Having said that, baby photography can be fun and rewarding.
Firstly, get a good repour with the mother, or whoever is bringing the child in. Be positive and upbeat. Be ready with a set of useful answers to allay their worries. "Filled his nappy? Don't worry, the smell never shows on the photographs".
Babies come into this studio from a few hours old to just after their first birthday. (After that they are not quite "babies" in the same way.)
If you are just starting in baby photography there are one or two points to consider. If you are a female photographer, you will probably have no fear of handling someone else's little bundle of joy. If you are one of the gentlemen who are a tad terrified of them, take my word for it, they are not made of glass. (Nor for that matter, rubber; so they don't bounce if you drop them). Either do a ten second training of mother to studio assistant, or use your own female assistant. (This also covers you against all those do-gooders who think that all men holding babies must be thinking evil thoughts...they are amongst the strange folk who think all men are rapists!)
Now you are in the swing of it, heart full of determination and camera full of film, what's the best approach? This is not to teach you how to work. A lot of you are probably better photographers than I. All I can do is tell you what I do.
I used to work on the floor on the basis that the baby has nothing to fall off. However, after a visit to the doctors due to pains in my knees, (At your age Ann you should know better than to crawl all over the floor), I have moved up to a B&Q picnic table well padded with a piece of fur fabric covered by a silky "sheet". My backdrop is a John Lewis king size bed sheet in white, with matching muslin on top which is soft and easily draped to give different-looking effects.
Different props depending on whether the baby lies down, sits or stands, all help to create the final effect. Mine are nearly all white to give the "innocent baby" baby look. I have a number of white teddy bears, from ones hand made to my specification, to ones from Interflora. Everything must be washable...including the toys. ("There is no sadder sight than a washed teddy bear hanging by his ears from the washing line".....from a book of Teddy Bear quotes).
Lighting is personal choice. I just put a couple of light on the back at f8, to balance my main light. Then I have a 36" soft box right next to me which gives flat lighting. This, however, is what my customers want! I've tried using a softar on the lens but most of my customers don't like it. ("It looks out of focus".....No it doesn't. You can see every eyelash. "It hurts my eyes", no satisfactory POLITE answer to that yet found. Suggestions on a postcard...also of the polite variety, please).
I've tried everything from 6x4 to 8x6 for presentation to clients but I can't honestly say one works better than the other. The 6x4's did encourage the regular non-spenders to buy where they wouldn't have done, normally. The 8x6's on the other hand bring in more money. You have to suck it and see.
Don't be afraid to try new ideas on babies. Unless they are already crying, they never complain. The mothers also don't know that you don't do this sort of pose on a regular basis. You can always ditch the print if it doesn't work.
Always keep them warm. Babies cry if they are cold. They also cry if they are wet, hungry, or have a "full" nappy. They cry if things don't go their way....boy, do some of them have a temper! Stay calm. When Mother says, "You must have so much patience", just smile and say "Don't worry he/she is only a baby". Tear your hair out after they have left.
On a serious note, though, don't head into baby photography unless you really like babies. If you don't, then you won't get good pictures. No parent wants to see their little darling with red rimmed eyes and a runny nose. Just get yourself a degree in funny faces and silly noises. They love it. Learn all the nursery rhymes, and don't be afraid to sing quietly to them, if that's what will do it. Most of all, relax and have fun. It can be rewarding. All of must know how nice it is when you have done such a good job that the bride and groom later bring their baby to you. It's even better when the parents like your pictures so much they ask you to do their wedding.
Step into your studio and enjoy yourself.
p.s. Don't forget the tissues and the air freshener
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