Create childhood memories to be proud of by
following the advice of OHbaby! photographer Fiona
Becoming a parent is licence to go crazy
with a camera. You'll want to capture each and every milestone of
your little one's growth, from their first cry, their first smile
to their first tooth. But ensuring you end up with photographs that
really capture the magic of childhood isn't as easy as point and
click. Here are a few tricks of the trade I've learnt along the
1 When you're out buying up
large for baby's arrival, a decent camera should be top of the
shopping list. My advice is to go into a reputable camera shop and
ask the professionals for their recommendations - don't think you
can do it all on the internet. I recommend you choose a camera with
the biggest file size you can afford, and ideally one where you can
get interchangeable lenses. A good basic lens would be something
with 28-70mm range, but if your budget allows, then invest in
another lens with up to 200mm range, allowing you to be more of an
observer and capture candid close-up shots of your kids from a
2 Get down to your child's
level, sit, kneel or lie on the ground. This gets rid of
perspective issues, where your child's head may seem enormous and
his body really small. It also means that at his eye level he is
completely engaged with you and your camera. The closer to the
action you can get the better. If you want good photographs of your
kids remember it's not the landscape you are shooting.
3 Be very conscious of the light. Find a
shaded spot, turn off your flash (even snappy-happy cameras have
this ability) and see how lovely the natural light is on your
children's faces. If you are shooting inside sit them next to a
window or just inside open French doors or ranch slider. (See
bottom picture). When you're outside in the middle of a summer's
day the sun is at its highest point in the sky, so you'll need to
be wary of the shade a hat will make on your child's face. Look at
the two framed photos below. Sure, the one in the black frame has
the nicest combination of elements (the horse, dog and child) but
it doesn't work because the girl is squinting into the sun. The
photo in the white frame is much more beautiful because the child's
eyes are open and the light is shining on her hair from
Caught on camera(photos from top to
- The background becomes less distracting when the
photographer moves to a different angle.
- A playful personality is shown off in a series of
- Babies only "slug" it for a short time so capture
the detail of their little bodies early on.
- This wee tot looks gorgeous in the natural light we
achieved by moving the chair close to the open
4 Go where the kids like to play such
as a beach, park or your own garden. Keep the activities fun and
natural, that way you will get happy, active shots of your kids
doing what they're best at - being kids. If you happen to be
photographing inside or in less of a fun environment then pull out
bubbles or balloons. Props like this always provide fantastic
shots. Make sure you also facilitate, but try not to dictate. If
children are involved in the experience they'll be more willing
5 Pay attention to the background
because if it's too busy it can really distract from the image.
(See top photo above right). If you can't escape a busy background
move yourself around so you change the angle you are shooting from.
In other words, play around with the shot. A manually adjustable
lens will really prove its worth by giving you the ability to blur
the background and still keep your subject in
6 Don't make it compulsory to
smile. Young children go through a really awkward stage when you
ask them to smile, and you end up with a grimace. Instead, be a
silent observer and try not to stage things all the time. Of
course, you wouldn't leave a child in distress, but at the same
time capturing a spontaneous cry on camera is still a moment worth
remembering. Candid photographs capture the essence of childhood
much more than a picture of a child saying "cheese".
7 When taking photographs of your
baby try to lie her on a plain rug or other piece of cloth - you
want her to be the focus not the rug. The beauty of newborns is in
the detail and they curl up and lie still for only a short time
(see third photo above right), so in those first few days take a
series of shots of their little fingers and little feet. A shot of
a baby gripping her father's hand says so much about the relative
size of this new human being.
8 Be aware of nap times and
feed times. You'll be hard pressed to get a hungry, tired or
over-stimulated child to behave for you in a picture. Children
don't have the attention span to put up with a photographer's
indecision. It's all about cracking on with it and trying to
capture the moment as they move around.
9 Further to that, if you're having
trouble getting the shot you want then move on. Mix it up and move
around yourself to see what other angles you can come up with.
Maybe shoot a series of photographs (see second lot of photos above
right). Think of inventive ways to document your child's growth.
One idea is to sit your child in the same spot once a month and
take a photo of him. At the end of a few short years you'll be able
to create a fascinating montage of images showing his growth from
baby to big kid.
10 If you are planning a more
formal shoot with your kids think about what they should wear. Keep
their clothes simple and well fitted. Really baggy clothing can
ride up and look messy. If you're doing a family group, you might
like to dress everyone in a similar colour for a sense of
11 Sometimes you won't always
have your camera with you, but chances are you'll have your phone.
Technology is moving so rapidly these days there's a real
difference between camera capabilities on each new generation of
mobile phones. That said, there are some neat tricks you can play
with by using photography applications such as Instagram (free from
iTunes) which can give your snap an antique, sepia or retro
12 Digital technology is
brilliant because you no longer need to spend money having photos
developed where heads are cut off or eyes are half-shut. The
downside, however, is that when we shoot now we have a tendency to
over-shoot, and then do nothing with the images. It's no good
having photographs sitting on a computer, you need to archive them
in two places because if your laptop is stolen or crashes you won't
have any negatives as back-up. Remember that kids get such joy from
looking through albums and seeing themselves in their younger days.
I do worry that there'll be a whole generation whose images of
childhood will be lost because their parents haven't archived them
13 You'll feel pretty pleased if
you get a good shot of birthday cake candles being blown out. If
you're inside at a daytime party, take the cake to where there's
good natural subdued light and turn off your flash. It's more
difficult to get a great shot at night-time but it can be done.
Turn most of the lights off but leave one or two lamps on for
ambient light. Turn off your flash and if you have the capability
to manually adjust your camera settings, shoot at a really slow
14 I recommend you always shoot in colour.
Afterwards you will have the ability on your computer to turn the
images to black and white, but you can't do it the other way
15 Most digital cameras have pre-set shooting
modes such as portrait, landscape, and close-ups. You'll find the
"sport" mode your best friend when you're shooting active toddlers.
It's especially great for your classic
running-through-the-sprinkler shot which is a Kiwi summer
Umbra photo frames
$38, vintage bottles $7 each all from The Garden Party.
Habana cushion cover $54 Citta Design, basket
Fiona Tomlinson has made a career out of working with
children and babies, ignoring the age-old warnings against such
foolishness. As well as private commissions for families, weddings
and pet photography, she also creates many of the beautiful images
you see in OHbaby! Magazine.
As seen in
OHbaby! magazine Issue 16: 2011
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