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Baby pictures (02/01/2004)
By Tom Hirsch

Unless you're an obstetrician with ultrasound equipment, the first baby pictures you will probably take will be in the hospital nursery. To get the best shots, hold the camera up to the nursery window with the lens touching the glass. This will prevent reflections of the other doting parents.

Also, because of the reflecting glass, turn off the flash. In order to avoid camera shake (remember, you're nervous because of the new baby and all), use an ISO 400 speed or faster film, or the fastest shutter speed setting on a digital camera. If you're shooting 35mm, there are some excellent films available in the ISO 1000 to ISO 3200 range. Check the camera manual to find out if your camera will handle that fast a film. These films might be hard to find for APS photographers.

It's also a good idea to use the camera's telephoto lens. If a nurse will bring the baby to about three to five feet from the glass, all the better. But remember to focus very carefully on the baby. At that close a range, if the camera is focused anyplace else, the baby's face will be out of focus.

By the way, until the baby becomes a toddler, try to avoid using flash indoors. The soft, rounded, delicate features will come through much better if you can use available light. Window light is ideal.

When photographing the baby, place him or her on a white blanket if possible. At least, avoid strong colors, including bright green grass, because color casts can be reflected into the baby's face, giving very eerie results.

Up until about six weeks of age, it's possible to get a baby to smile briefly; and if you're ready with the camera, you can often get a few nice shots. But beginning at about six weeks, babies begin to respond to outside influences, such as rattles and mobiles. Now picture taking begins to get fun. As the baby starts reacting to different stimuli, you can usually get a variety of facial expressions. Taking pictures while the child plays with a colorful toy will add another dimension to the pictures.

The main events in a baby's day include feeding, bathing, play and sleep. Capturing all of these at various stages of the baby's young life can result in an interesting picture story that will be cherished through the years.

In all your baby photography, look for angles that could give the best results. At times it will be appropriate to shoot down; other times an eye-level approach will be better; and there will be times when you will want to shoot from a low angle so you can look up into the baby's face.

When a baby reaches the age of about nine months, he or she is no longer an infant. Photographically, this can be both good and bad. Bad because the baby is responding to a wider and wider world. He or she becomes very unpredictable; you never know what the next move will be. Good because the baby is developing a more unique personality, becoming an individual, full of curiosity, who is very photogenic in whatever he or she is doing.

When photographing children of any age, always treat them as individuals. Just because one child photographed well in a given situation at a given age is no assurance that another will be as photogenic or comfortable under similar circumstances. The differences are what make baby photography fun and interesting.

Taking good baby pictures with a digital camera can be a little more difficult than with a 35mm or APS camera because of the lag time effect. When the shutter release is pressed, there is a brief period of time when the camera is focusing and making exposure adjustments. You can compensate for this by pressing down halfway on the shutter release in anticipation of taking a prize-winning photo of the baby. During this time, the camera will go through its setting cycle, and be ready for the shot. You can take the picture you want at the appropriate time, with no shutter delay.

Be sure to have your camera ready for all of the baby's unpredictable moments. After all, they're only young once. 


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