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Busy Mommy Guide: 6 Easy Tips to take Better Baby Photos

Do you want to know the secrets to taking better baby photos?  Hire a professional!!  I’m just kidding.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to hire a professional to do a beautiful studio photoshoot of your baby once in a while, but it’s not something you can do every month.  All the other times, you’re the one who has to capture all those amazing moments and all the small wonderful changes your baby is going through.  So guess what my fellow mommy?  It’s not tough enough already that you have to constantly change diapers, feed baby, clean the house, cook for your family and carry your baby until your arms want to fall off (not to mention that you are doing all that on pretty much little to no sleep); you are also now tasked with capturing beautiful images of your baby as they are growing so that you can look back and cherish them for years to come!  Easy peasy right?  NOOO!  You and your little bundle of joy are both tired and hungry and the house is a mess, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is spending time to setup and take nice photos of your baby.

As a mommy of a 3 year old and speaking with fellow parents, one of the biggest regrets parents have is that they didn’t take more photos so they can look back and marvel at all the amazing changes that their baby went through in the first couple years of their life.  We are all guilty of looking through our friend’s Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest feeds and seeing those amazing photos of their babies that people are posting, and that slight pang of guilt hits.  But being armed with a 5 year old rusty point & shoot and a smartphone camera we don't use often, and a house that doesn't have a single clean space, you feel inadequate to take nice photos.  So why bother right?  Well, don't give up hope just yet!!  

Here are some very realistic and easy tips to help normal busy mommies take beautiful photos even if they have little or no photographing experience.  These simple tips are quick and easy and they'll help you capture beautiful images of little ones no matter how busy or tired we feel!  And most importantly, taking photos should be a fun time for you and your baby and I hope reading this will help make photo-time a great bonding time for you and your dear little one!  

Tip #1: Get close and personal.

Want your shots to look more professional with one very simple tip? Get much closer to your little one when you are taking photos!

  • When you are up close, there will be less distractions in the photos.  Have a messy house?  That’s ok, just take nice close-up photos and the focus will be on your little one and their emotions and their beautiful face rather than the leftover pizza boxes from two nights ago that’s still sitting on the coffee table.  Hey, you’re a new parent, you’re allowed to have a messy house!
  • Fill the entire frame of the photo!  Don’t leave a lot of empty space and your images will suddenly look more professional.  A lot of people who are just starting photography feel the need to fit the entire subject into the photo or they feel the need to add props or fancy clothing to make a photo interesting.  Sometimes the best photos are the ones that have no distractions except your beautiful baby and those little features.  The picture above was taken in our very very messy bedroom with no props, no special lighting or any fancy clothes.  It's just a simple picture of our daughter Madelyn with no distractions, and all the focus is on her eyes and her little features.
  • And it’s all in the details!  Those beautiful eyes, the long eyelashes, that little smile, the tiny toes.  When you get in close, you get to capture and see all these great details.

 

Tip #2: Lighting lighting lighting

If you ask any professional photographer, they will all tell you that the most important aspect of taking a stunning photograph is lighting.  But what does this actually mean and how can it help our every day photos?    

Here are some simple tips on how to get great light and take the stunning photos even at home:

Take photos near a big window during the day. 

This gives you beautiful light and you will get a beautiful catchlight shine in your little ones eyes.  Don’t know what a catchlight is?  In the picture above, do you see the bright reflection in the baby's eyes that make it look like her eyes are gleaming and sparkling?  That’s a catchlight caused by the reflection of the window light in her eyes.  Another advantage of shooting near a window during the day?  It’ll be the brightest spot in your house, so you will get much sharper photos!  The number one of cause of blurry photos is not having enough light so just remember, the brighter the room you're in or the close you are to a nice bright and big window, the sharper your photos will be.

Don’t take photos in direct sunlight

When taking photos near a big window, we need to be careful if it's a very sunny day and direct sunlight is shining through.  If the sun is shining through and directly on your baby, it creates harsh shadows which does not look good on anyone, especially babies.  So the important key is to place your little one as close to a big window as you can without being directly in the sunlight/sunbeams.  If there is too much sun coming in through the window, use the blinds to help limit the light so it brightens up the room without sunbeams causing harsh shadows.

Clouds and shade is your friend

What if you're taking photos outdoors in your backyard or at the park?  Remember what we said about direct sunlight and the harsh contrasts and shadows it creates?  It’s hard to prevent when you’re out at the beach or at the park.  To take the best photos, find times when it’s cloudy (or go during sunset) or find some shade before taking your photos and you’ll see instant improvement in your photos.  

 

Tip #3: Be patient and don't force a shot

As much as you want your little one to be your number one model, your little one doesn’t know or understand what it means to be a little model.  Trying to get your little baby into a difficult pose that you found on Pinterest will only cause frustration for both you and your little one.   

Instead, try and create a fun environment, keep your camera around and wait for beautiful moments to unfold naturally while you’re playing with them.  Let them be silly.  Let them play however they want.  Find a great spot with good lighting (remember the big windows!), play and engage with them and then have your camera ready to capture all the giggles, smiles and funny faces!


Those cheeky little moments that you capture when you’re letting your kid be a kid are the ones you’ll really cherish as it shows their unique personality!


 

Tip #4: Learn how to make simple tweaks to your photos

This doesn’t not mean learning a complex program like photoshop and spending hours in front of the computer.  You can do simple edits in seconds that can make a huge difference right on your phone or camera.  If you want to keep it very simple, there are only 2 settings you need to worry about: “Brightness” and “Contrast”.  

One of the reasons why pro’s photos look bright and clean is because they are able to adjust the photos to make skin tone look natural.  The technology of the auto-mode in cameras and phones these days are pretty amazing, but one thing that they don’t do very well is to get the lighting of skin tone correct.  Most of the time, it’s too dark, especially if your background is bright.  Here's a simple example:

Before editing, the photo looks too dark because the background is so bright.  This makes Madelyn too dark and you lose the details of her hair, face, and that cute little drool on the corner of her mouth.  We can easily fix this by making a simple edit of increasing the brightness.  It’s ok if the background looks a little too bright after you make the adjustments.  It’ll help create the bright and clean look that a lot of pro’s go for especially in magazine photoshoots.  

Here's how we make the simple edit: on your phone, select your photo and click edit and find your way to the brightness/light settings and play with the slider bar and brighten up the photo until the skin tones look natural.  Sometimes this will make the photo look a bit washed out, so to add some pop, find the contrast settings and increase it until the photo looks good to you, save your photo and then you're all done!  Once you've figured out how to do it once, it'll only take you seconds to make this small change that'll have a huge improvement to all your photos!  If you have any trouble with this tip and want me to talk about it a bit more with specific examples, let me know in the comments and I'll put together a new blog on how to make simple tweaks on iphone, android phone and other cameras! 

 

Tip #5: Be Creative and try new things!

Every rule is made to be broken.  The beauty of having digital cameras is you can take as many photos as you want and see instantly what works and what doesn’t.  Be brave and try new and creative things and you'll be surprised at how much fun you can have.  Try shooting from way up high, trying shooting while lying down on your back, try shooting super close up and try all sorts of weird angles!  Being adventurous is one of the fun parts of photography and you get to explore your artistic side. 

We can also be creative and make things fun for your little one too!  About to clean the floor or table anyways?  Give your little one a cupcake and let them make a mess!  They'll have a blast and you'll capture some really fun pictures.  About to bake something?  Give your little one the utensils and let them pretend to be a master chef!  Being creative and finding new exciting environments will be fun for both of you and make photo-time a great bonding time while capturing beautiful and funny moments that you'll cherish for years to come.

While you're being adventurous, some of the photos might not turn out as you imagined, but no worries!  It is so easy to delete it afterwards.  The beauty is that once in a while, you’ll come up with something so stunning and amazing that you will even surprise yourself!  And this is how you improve your photography eye and take photos that you'll be super proud of.

 

Tip #6: No studio?  No problem!

Want to take photos but don't have a studio or even a clean corner to use?  No problem!  The photos below were not taken in a studio and didn't require any special lighting.  They were all taken in my very ordinary bedroom on my bed with nothing but natural light coming in from the window.  The only setup it took was the 2 seconds to sweep the sheets and clothes off the bed!


 

 

Let’s take all that we learned in tips 1-5 and create a setup that requires no work and will work well on your baby at any age!

In your bedroom, open the blinds to allow as much light as possible without the actual sunbeams reaching the bed.  This will create beautiful diffused natural lighting in your room.

When you baby can’t sit yet, you can use a nice towel, soft rug or blanket and lay your little one on it as a simple backdrop. Or to keep things very simple, just use whatever bedsheets you current have on your bed.  If you're using a backdrop, put it on your bed, then lie your baby down with their back on the backdrop. Try to position your dear little one so that the top of their head is at a 45 degree angle with the biggest window, as this creates the most flattering shadows and catchlights.  Kneel or stand directly above your little one and shoot your photos nice and close so that the entire frame is filled with the backdrop you selected.  The funny title image at the top of my little Madelyn making the funny face was taken with her lying down on simple white bedsheets.  And here’s a couple more of my daughter that were taken in our bedroom using this method:



See how easy it is to create a studio look in your bedroom without even having to clean up your room?  Also, can you spot the little trick that was used in the last photo?  Our little Madelyn didn't sit very well on her own yet so in the last photo, she’s actually sitting in a Bumbo chair.  We used her dress to cover most of the chair and it looks like she’s sitting and looking right up at me!

As your baby grows, and they're able to sit or do tummy time, then sit them on the bed and bring toys and stuffies to keep them engaged and happy. Now you can choose to either shoot your little one with the window as the background (so it creates beautiful frame lighting) or you can shoot with your little one facing the window.  Here's an example of a photo I took of my hubby and Madelyn with the window as the background:


The photo taken above was taken with nothing but our bed and window. Madelyn and my husband were still wearing their PJ's, and we threw everything off our bed onto the floor and snapped this photo. Zero setup time required and notice we used our previous tips and got close and personal and filled up the frame. 

If you are shooting with your phone, make sure to tap and focus on your little one before taking the photo and if your phone supports it, increase the brightness by swiping upwards after you focus.  Now at first glance, the photo you take may still look a bit too dark.  Here’s the important next step, what we learned in tip #4 will help correct this.  Just change the brightness and increase it until the skin tone and brightness looks natural and this will correct the photo nicely.  Next, if the photo looks a bit washed out, then add a bit of contrast as described in tip #4 and voila!  A stunning, clean and beautiful looking photo of your little one!!   

 

BONUS TIP: Look and smile at the camera!

Now, all tips above sounds easy enough, but is it easy to get your baby to look and smile sweetly at the camera?  Piece of cake right?  No, I didn't think so either.

Want to know why it’s so hard to get your little one to look and smile at you?  Bring your camera, go to a mirror and take a photo of yourself and what do you see?  You either see a big black DSLR camera, point & shoot camera or smartphone blocking your face.  Does this big black piece of plastic/metal look interesting to you at all?  Well, it’s not very interesting for your little one to stare at either, that’s why it’s so hard to make a baby look at the camera and it’s even harder to make them smile genuinely at the camera.

Now there are little tricks that parents try.  Some get their spouse to come in to wave & scream, try to do a crazy song & dance, make their favourite stuffy talk and do the most ridiculous things to try and get their little one to look up and squeak out a smile.  As fun as it is to watch our husbands do this (wish I caught mine doing it on video...), the problem with this is this gets old really fast (especially for your good sport of a hubby) and even when your baby looks up, they’ll be looking at your hubby and not at your camera so you still can't get your baby to look and smile at your camera.

The other option is hold a stuffy or their favourite toy right over your camera. But the problem with that is that makes it much harder to take a good photo and keep your camera steady at the same time.  And we’re not going to even talk about trying to change your camera settings while holding that stuffy.  Now this method is fine, but if you’re a parent who wants a bit of help (is there a mommy who wouldn't appreciate a little help?), then I suggest checking out lookielookies.

The lookielookies are a little invention I created to help busy moms like me and you take better photos of their little ones and make it a fun experience for both mommy and baby. It's my dream to help mommy's everywhere capture all those wonderful and memorable moments of the first few years and make sure no mommy regrets not capturing enough images of their little one.

The lookielookies provides a cute and memorable little character for your baby to look and smile at.  Would you rather look at the cute smiley face of a lookielookie or the big black camera you’re holding?  It also has colorful flashing lights to capture and hold their attention and it frees up both your hands to take beautiful photos.  They can be easily positioned close to the camera lens so it looks like your baby is looking and smiling right at you in the photo!

The lookielookies comes in packages that include a soft and cuddly plush version of the lookielookie characters.  This not only gives your little one a new BFF to play with, it also helps them to instantly recognize and smile at the lookielookie!  

We say “lookielookie” every time before taking a photo and soon our little ones will learn to look around for the lookielookie character every time they hear us say "lookielookie!".  And as they grow up, they’ll learn to say “lookielookie” themselves and you’ll notice that the act of saying it instantly puts a smile on their face.  They’ll grow up learning that taking photos is fun!

The lookielookies have been designed meticulously to be fully adjustable and will fit every single one of your cameras and smartphones, so you don't have to worry whether it's compatible with your phone or camera.  And it's so easy to use, my little Madelyn was using it to take photos of her friends before she was 3 years old.  If you are interested in finding out a bit more, please check out our homepage at lookielookies.com 

I hope the tips I put together for you will help you take tons of beautiful photos of your baby!  Lots of love and kisses from me and my family and happy shooting!!


  • Janice from lookielookies says...

    Thanks Heather! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the tips. Stay tuned and I’ll write up some additional info and examples for contrast and brightness! =)

    On Feb 17, 2016

  • Heather says...

    This is awesome! Thank you! Any additional info and examples you can show of contrast and brightness would be so great. Thank you! :)

    On Feb 17, 2016

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