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Say Cheese!
A few years ago, in the course of my work, I was excited to participate in a baby-model photo shoot. But it turns out that photographing babies is nothing like shooting Gisele or Heidi Klum for a fashion magazine—the babies made even the most temperamental model seem easy to work with! We’d call in lots of babies for each photo session, hoping that at least a few of them would be smiling and cooperative. And trying to ensure the babies were kept happy involved a large cast; besides the moms and photographers there were assistants, stylists, and even professional baby wranglers.

But when it came time to get a good photo of my own son, it was just me and my baby—my husband was unfortunately useless when it came to photography. While the pros were going for the perfect portrait, my photos were more documentary style. I wanted to remember my son at every stage, especially all those wonderful “firsts.”

Eventually I realized that my best shots came from doing exactly the opposite of what the professionals did on the magazine cover shoots. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Forget the tech and don’t even bother to fool with filters or lenses. Go for the most automatic setup possible on a light camera you can carry with you. Your cell phone is fine.

Use natural lighting, since photoflashes can startle babies into tears. Best: indirect natural light like near a western-facing window in the morning.

Instead of scheduling photo sessions, use your baby’s mood as a guide. Think about when your baby is most content, like after a nap or feeding.

Don’t try to set up poses; go for natural shots. Nothing’s cuter than a baby with crazy messed-up hair, or pumpkin puree smeared on chubby cheeks.

And some tips the pros would approve of:

Get down to your baby’s level to take the picture rather than shooting from above.

Keep it simple if you want to try styling your shot with a cute outfit and a bit of hairstyling. The same goes for props. You want the focus of the photo to be the baby, not a frilly outfit or colorful prop. Similarly, keep the frame tightly focused on the baby so you don’t get too much background in the picture.

If you can enlist a willing Dad, friend, or grandma, go for it. They can help get baby’s attention—and smiles—with singing, games of peek-a-boo, toys, rattles, and funny faces.

Don’t agonize over each shot; take lots of photos to maximize your chance of capturing the perfect toothless grin.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t make taking photos a huge part of your day with the baby. Keep photo sessions short—put down the camera or phone and just enjoy your together time. Later, when baby is asleep, you can play around and edit the photos you’ve taken. Then you can share them for your friends to ooh and aah over. And when holiday time comes around and you want a more formal, posed family shot, go to your local photo studio or the mall and leave it to the pros!
Beth Weinhouse