Photographers go beyond the cheese

Story by Randi Jo Gause

  • Kelly Moon Photography Kelly Moon Photography
  • Grossl Photography Grossl Photography
  • Grossl Photography Grossl Photography
  • Grossl Photography Grossl Photography
  • Photo Arts by Janna Photo Arts by Janna

Is there anything more precious than a beautiful baby? That toothless grin, those tiny little fingers, that itty bitty nose – every parent wants to remember every wee detail. And there’s no better way than a portrait of your baby.

When it comes to baby photography, today’s parents are choosier than ever. They’re looking for relaxed, more natural portraits, and the kinds of shots seen in fashion magazines and art galleries – far from a fake backdrop in a department store.

Hiring the right professional won’t be a decision that you regret. Professional baby photographers know that snapping a great photo of your little bundle isn’t quite as simple as “say cheese!” It takes patience, skill, adaptability – and quite often, employing some very creative techniques.

Fortunately, our local experts offer advice on how to choose a photographer, and tips and tricks for how to best capture that angel face now – for memory-making photos that will last long after the innocence fades.

Snap Decision

Choosing a baby photographer can be a tough choice with all the available resources, so if you really want to find the perfect fit, do your homework. Search online, ask friends and family for suggestions and meet with several photographers to get a feel for how their personal style and experience aligns with what you want.

Not only are you looking for a photographer that offers great portraits, you are looking for a person that loves babies. Look for one with years of experience photographing children – one with the right skills to get little ones comfortable in front of the camera.

“Consequently, the photographer has to know how to encourage the child to demonstrate the desired behavior or expression, and know how to patiently anticipate and capture that expression at just the right moment,” explains Janna Maile of Photo Arts.

On that same note, make sure your photographer has a proven track record for patience, and that your appointment is scheduled to allow for interruptions. “Babies and toddlers need to work at their pace and need many breaks and your professional photographer should be willing to slow down and work at your child’s pace,” says Kelly Moon, owner of Kelly Moon Photography.

Strike a Pose

If you have a particular style of photography or a specific shot in mind, discuss them with your photographer before the shoot to ensure that you’re on the same page. When choosing a style, consider your home décor, around which the photos will likely be displayed. Your baby’s personality subtleties, or cherished keepsakes/props are also things to consider when seeking inspiration for your photos. “If there is a favorite toy or family heirloom that would add a special memory, those are always encouraged in my portraits,” adds Moon.

Otherwise, check out online photo galleries or baby books for creative ideas for poses, props and backdrops. Ideally, your photographer will have extensive experience in photographing newborns, and can offer many suggestions. Whatever you do, remember to be open to the array of possibilities – many times, the most cherished photos are those impromptu shots that capture you and your baby in the moment.

Maile recalls photographing a 9-month old who began to pee while he was propped upon a sheepskin blanket. With utter amazement, he looked down and proceeded to put his hands in the stream of liquid while the parents broke into hysterics. In the meantime Maile captured some incredible shots with an impromptu facial expression.

Typically, the most emotive photographs are those with the baby in their parents’ arms. “By doing so, you can capture a connection with the parent, convey love and closeness by embraces and eye contact, as well as using skin to skin contact as a nice visual effect,” says Maile.

As the child gets older, the poses can become more versatile. “At six to eight months – before they can crawl – is one of my favorite times to photograph babies because they can sit by themselves and smile in their cute little outfits, or simply be naked and comfortable on a sheepskin rug,” Maile explains.

Whatever the style or theme, the unique appeal of baby photography is that the subject is unaware he/she is being photographed.

“For me it is capturing a spontaneous, genuine, or humorous expression that truly reflects who that child is, and causes the viewer to react emotionally to it,” says Maile.

Angel Face

If you want to avoid having whine with your “say cheese,” don’t overdo it with your baby.

“Parents often want their photos to be special and buy dressy outfits and when they review the photos wonder why it’s not representative of their child,” explains Moon. When it comes to babies, less is often more, and being in a comfortable outfit in a safe, relaxing environment often elicits the most natural expressions.

Be proactive prior to the photo shoot by making your baby as relaxed and comfortable as possible. “I encourage parents to make sure we are photographing their child at a time of day when they are their best or happiest, and to make sure they have had enough sleep, are dry and have eaten recently. It is all very simple and basic,” says Maile.

With young children, treat your studio visit like a routine trip to the grocery store, notes Tasha Grossl of Grossl Photography. “Be careful not to over-prepare them. The best expressions happen when children forget they’re being photographed, when no pressure is placed on them to ‘perform.’”

The memories captured by photographs will last a lifetime. For a newborn, it’s the beginning of many memories to come. “Our infants are so precious, and are only ‘children’ for such a relatively short time in comparison to their whole lives, so I encourage parents to enjoy them thoroughly, and document every new developmental stage that you can,” says Maile.