Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Contemporary Baby Pictures

Tips to create a great studio experience for child and infant portraits

Because kid photography is currently a more casual, home snap shot scenario, new parents can be very concerned about studio comfort, safety and experience.

This is true especially of first time moms and dads. Your job as photographer is to patiently explain what will happen and how best to prepare. Your clients probably won’t know simple, intuitive things like making sure baby has a snack before the sitting, or that clothing pulled over a tiny head in unfamiliar surroundings can easily cause tears. Warmth and cleanliness must be assured. I find that infants with or without parents are more easily and satisfactorily photographed in a controlled environment, whether you do this in a brick and mortar studio, your home studio or set up a mini studio in that of your client. I let the planned sitting style dictate place and approach for one year and up.
"People are nervous about you handling their precious bundle, and you must prove yourself worthy of trust. Women photographers easily do this by relating experiences or anecdotes getting their own kids in front of the camera." 

Privacy of the photo sitting experience is something everyone values. And your props need not be elaborate, because expression is what you're selling.

Madona & Sleeping Child Portrait
No phone, doorbells, assistants coming in and out. “Shush” quiet for sleeping and nursing babies changes to fun and sometimes noisily upbeat for older children. Kid songs, silly jokes, making faces, dancing are all important parts to keep young energy going. I still don’t know why that old ploy of blowing bubbles works so well - but it does. So do gentle tickle feathers on long sticks. Favorite tip: I keep yards of feather-light, white tule fabric to wind up in nests for babies. Older children dance with it, hide under it and generally have tremendous fun with this cheap, reusable netting.

Tule fabric excites expression from a child

Constant source lighting makes for calmer, more intimate portrait sessions than flash.

We all want flash power for crispness and higher ƒ-stops, particularly for closeups. Even if you use a short telephoto lens, you are working at very close range for kids, simply because they’re small. You need lots of depth of field, because babies tend to flop their heads around and you don’t want out of focus disappointment. The other problem is the need for a fast shutter speed, because expressions are usually fleeting. Motion blur is not an option. But that flash pop noise can scare children, wake a sleeping infant or simply destroy an intimate mood. “Hot” lights are a viable, less expensive way to go, but over a longer, varied session they are a pain. They don’t always have rheostats for variable power output, so you have to physically move them and be careful not to touch hot parts. Try commercial studio LED panels or multi-tube fluorescents; they’re the modern solution.

A big part of first class studio experience is the style and clothing consultation.

Adults, unguided, will make mistakes about clothing. Outfits should be plain and simple- though a ruffly peignoir or blouse can be lovely and romantic. This is very traditional, but plain clothing will always emphasize the faces. Today’s fashionable plaids and florals inevitably distract the eye from expressions. Later on these outfits will be historic, but dated, kind of like old Norman Rockwell drawings of kids and families from the 40‘s and 50’s. Plain clothing goes for baby too. I’ll make a couple of snaps of a gift outfit (grandma sent a blue onesie with red trains all over it) and give these files to the client gratis to satisfy the giver - and then we move on to classic style. The best classic is, of course, no clothing at all. I love this for parents as well, but these days I find clients are less open to nudes. From the photographer’s stand point the nude group will be harder to do tastefully. 

Clothing and composition draw the eye to faces 

Even the display of the final portrait is an essential matter for pre-sitting consultation where you must lead your client toward greatest enjoyment of their investment.

If your client is excited about the nude direction, find out if they plan to hang the portrait in their bedroom where it can be as edgy as you like, or in a more public part of the house which will dictate a more discrete composition. I find it works best to display a nude, either baby or family, by itself, definitely not in a miscellaneous group on a family history, travel or wedding wall.

Color or Black&White portrait versions bring out different feelings 
Hand printed black and white giclée is a great way to go, and has the added benefit of eliminating colors when clients don’t bring optimal clothing in spite of consultation. It’s smart and fashionable, a real conversation starter, which means people who see and like your work in your client’s home will ask for your website and phone. Great advertising. But in today’s market, a beautifully matted and framed black and white can run into more investment than may be comfortable for clients. For best business approach, you want them to come back more often, rather than blow the entire budget one time, and then not return for 10 years - or maybe never. This is where contemporary canvases (that need no framing) may be your best answer. Many labs make them - but you know my favorite The Giclée Factory for quality, color tone and price. They simply never fail - but that’s because they know all kinds of fine art and how best to reproduce it.

by : Sara Frances