Working with Newborns

Newborn babies and babies just a few months old can be so 'floppy' that it's hard to get a good shot of the baby by themselves.  I find that if you stick Mom or Dad in the picture then you can use their bodies and hands to help support the baby and you get much better it's sweet to have a little bit of Mommy, Daddy, or a sibling showing in the picture with the little one.
Here are a few ideas for you...

Not much is sweeter than a sleeping baby...and that is usually the challenge with newborns, trying to keep them awake.  So, instead of fighting it, just take lots of pics of the baby sleeping.  These two on Mommy's shoulder are very sweet.  You can move the baby around so their face isn't too squished and then start snapping shots.  Then just crop the picture in as close as you like it.

These next 4 pictures below belong to my friend in Utah that had these pictures taken of her newborn.  She owns the rights to these pictures and is allowing me to use them on my blog.

Be patient with newborns.  It's really best to take the pics in the first few weeks since they sleep so much.  Just make sure they are fed and that you have time to spare and then lay them on a soft blanket (asleep) and then slowly arrange them how you want them.

My friend gave me a great trick to help keep those little naked babies warm...use a blow dryer to blow warm air around them (not on them) while you are positioning them...the noise will probably help keep them asleep and the warmth will keep them from moving around because they are too cold. 

When you want both faces in the picture try and keep the baby as close to the Mom's face as you can.

Here is a sweet one with a Dad and his daughter.  Sometimes you can crop out most of the adult and just have the baby as the main subject with a hint of Daddy coming in for a kiss.

Use those siblings!  They are usually suddenly interested in being in the picture now that the baby is getting so much attention.  Even if they can't hold them up as well as you would like, it still makes for a cute picture.  And if they both aren't looking...that's okay too.  Candids are fun to have of siblings.

Don't forget to take pictures of those cute little habits the babies putting their fingers or thumbs in their mouths.  You will want to remember those things doesn't always stay a habit so get a shot of it while they are doing it.

Outdoor Lighting Tips

The single most important factor in taking a good picture, in my opinion, is the makes all the difference in how the whole picture looks.  If you can help it, try to take the pictures in the morning or late afternoon/ early evening.  The sunlight isn't so harsh and you have better shade coverage.

Here is an example of good outdoor was about 5pm and the swing set was located under a tree so there wasn't sunlight directly on his face or around him. I didn't have to edit the lighting at all because it was just the right time of day.
I know you can't always pick your time of day so here is an example of a picture taken at a theme park...about mid morning on a very sunny day.  But instead of taking the shot out in the open where the sun was on them, I found a shady place off to the side where the lighting was better and no direct sunlight was on their faces.
If you can't avoid the sunlight completely then at least keep their faces in the shade as much as possible.
Okay, look at these two pictures.  In the first one the girls' faces look really dark...this is because the background light is brighter than the light where they are (because of the shade of the trees).  So, what you do is you 'force the flash'...most cameras will let you do this.  That just means that you have the flash on even though the camera is saying there is enough light.  You might have to turn the camera to another mode besides 'auto' in order for your camera to let you do this.  If you still can't figure it out, your camera manual should have a section on it.
Here's another example of the background being brighter.  The time of day wasn't late enough so I had to force the flash here to compensate for the background so that their faces would have more light on them.
Now, sometimes you want this effect.  This is a great silhouette shot of the kids.  The sky was brighter than where the kids were so this is the effect.  If your flash goes off in this would just turn your flash off for this look.


Improve Skin easy step

I'm not ashamed to cheat a little with editing features.  I love this feature that helps make the skin tone look better.  For this effect I use the "warmify" feature in the Picasa editing program (Picasa 3 is a free editing program you can download online...find a link to it on my list of posts).  Anyway, the warmify feature is under the "efffects" tab and it just makes the picture look like you used an expensive filter.  The skin tone looks warmer and the picture more professional.  Here are a few every set the first picture is the normal one and then the second one is the edited one.
I know it's not a huge difference but between cropping and using this feature a good picture can turn into a great picture...especially when printed out and framed.


Crop those pictures

I am always cropping away at all my really does do wonders to a picture.  Don't be afraid to crop out that background...sometimes you just don't need it in there and it will focus in on what you really want in the picture.

Make sure you do the right proportions if you are printing a certain size...for example, if you are using Picasa (Free editing program) to edit your pics, it will let you choose the dimensions (5x7, 8x10, etc.) and then you can zoom in or out to crop.  That way you know the pic will print exactly as you want it to...otherwise it will be cropped when it's printed and you might not like how they crop it.

Remember that you can make a horizontal image into a vertical image by cropping.  Make sure the original size is large enough so that when you crop it down you still have a large enough image to print a good quality picture. 
The background is pretty here but the real focus is on the mom's expression while looking at her baby...and you see his little face better.
Don't be afraid to crop in really close to the face...even if you crop out some of their head or face, it gives the picture a more artsy look.
Again, the focus is his little you don't see the mom tickling him to make him laugh.
The first one is good but it's hard to see their faces so cropping in some lets you keep some of the background while being able to see their faces better.
These kind of pics I always crop...the focus is the kids, so just get a little ocean and mostly kids.

Everyone looks better in B&W

In my opinion...we all look better in black and white.  Maybe that's why it is my FAVORITE.  I will admit I go a little overboard on the black and white...I have to make myself print color now and then.

To this picture...I made it black and white and cropped just a bit.  I.  Just making it black and white alone makes it look more professional.

Okay, these are the same picture, I just cropped and made the pic black and white...that is all.  Big difference huh?  It goes from cute out door picture to professional looking picture very quickly.

Same thing in this picture...just crop and make black and white.
Pictures also look more timeless in black and white.  And you can make a collage of several pictures that don't really go together...but if they are all black and white they still look great framed together or beside each other. 

Working with TEENS

Okay, I know that they'd rather be somewhere else with someone else, but if you can convince your teenager to come and take a few pictures I would get as many good ones as you can. I've noticed that if I let them pick some of the poses and settings, they are much more cooperative and you get a much better smile.

Don't forget that teenage girls are VERY picky about how they look in pics...take the time help them find a pose that looks natural yet is flattering...if you see hair that is messed up or something buldging or looking not quite right, speak up and tell them to adjust so they aren't mortified and hate you when they see the pics later...there is a good way to say things like "hey, sit up a little taller" or "pull your shirt down in the back" or "lift your chin higher"...or change the pose altogether to one that flatters her more.
I like the 'pull one knee up' look.  I think it looks relaxed and natural...sometimes you have to play around with it a few different ways....two knees, one knee, arms in different positions, etc.
Guys do not want to be put in a sissy make sure and have some masculine poses for teenage guys.  Sometimes they come up with some good ones on their own, but don't count on it.  This one is a good one (although he needs to relax his shoulders down)...or leaning against a tree is a good one for guys.  Again, it may take several adjustments to get them to look natural, each guy is different.  Keep stepping back and seeing if you need to adjust anything before you start shooting.
Here is one I like of two sisters...the swing made a good prop.
Here are several teens in one family.  I always like to have several kids doing different poses...the little ones love sitting up high.  Use the tree, prop up an arm, have them touching each other, whatever mixes things up a bit and so they don't all look too stiff and unatural.


FREE Edit Program for photos

I highly recommend Picasa is a FREE organizing and editing program for your computer. I have it and use it all the time. Just go to the link below and download Picasa 3 to your computer and begin using it to edit your photos.
Download picasa 3:

Also, I found this quick tutorial on Youtube that will give you a 5 minute rundown on some of the things Picasa can do for you...again, this is FREE.
5 minute youtube tutorial:

Candid favorite

Candids really are my favorite...maybe because I love the artsy look to them. They usually end up being the favorites of my clients too....not to mention they are the easiest to take, so don't always wait for everyone to look at the camera.
Toddlers, of course, are the hardest to get to cooperate. So, give them something to do. This little boy if fascinated with the rocks...great, snap a shot of him holding the rock.

Tell the kids to walk down the path, holding hands if they will. Then just call out their names and they will usually do this...and then you get a cute shot.

Don't always wait for everyone to look at the camera. It is sweet to capture the moments when the baby is being silly or one child is laughing at another. These will end up being your favorites.

Can't get the toddler to cooperate? Let them do what they want for a minute and tell the parents what to do to make the pic look natural and fun. The toddler could be screaming her head off...but who cares cause you can't see her face...and the pic looks great.

Some of my candids are planned and arranged to look natural and some are just pure luck. I was taking someone elses picture when I turned around and saw this scene so I started snapping a few shots.

Little girls can't resist flowers! Take advantage of that to get that little stinker to stand still for half a second!