New parents have a lot to worry about when they bring baby home—not the least is getting a good shot of the little one to email out to family and friends. Let's face it, nobody wants to show the world a pink, shriveled face bathed in bad light.
But if you're not a professional photographer, getting a glamorous shot of your newborn is not easy. Olympus Visionary Nick Kelsh—a professional shutterbug with nine books under his belt and images that have appeared in Life, Time, BusinessWeek and National Geographic—understands your pain. Here are his 10 tips to better immortalizing your precious new addition.
- Get closer. Most amateurs never shoot a close-up and close-ups are so powerful. Fill the frame with your baby's face and leave out the lamps and furniture and all of that other visual clutter. A good close-up of a baby can be other-worldly.
- Push the button a lot. That's another way of saying take lots of pictures. The more pictures you take the luckier you get and when you're photographing babies you want to do everything to increase the luck factor.
- Experiment with the flash off. A flash on a camera is a very handy thing. It allows you to take sharp pictures in dark rooms. But it does something else, too. It ruins the mood. It's about as romantic as the headlights on your car. A picture taken with a flash is the signature look of amateur snapshots. Use it if you're shooting snapshots (don't get me wrong—I love snapshots) but if you want to take pictures that will make other people say, “Hey you're a great photographer!” turn off the flash.
- Find some beautiful light. If you want to shoot some beautiful baby portraits this may be the most important step. With your flash off, put your baby in some soft window light or the light of an open outside door. This is the light Rembrandt built a career around. If you get just how profound this tip is, you are well on your way to moving up the photographic food chain.
- Don't try to out-think your baby. Shoot pictures when they're in the mood. That's probably after a nap and after a snack. (And for that matter, that goes the photographer, too.)
- Keep your backgrounds simple. You could not possibly err on the side of too simple with this. I spend about half my time shooting pictures trying to find clean, simple backgrounds. Why is that stop sign sticking out of your baby's head?
- Take advantage of the moment. You have what every professional photographer wants—access. Store your camera in the same place all the time and always turn your camera off with the same settings. Be ready for the stuff only parents see.
- Crank up your ISO. I don't want to get too technical here, but I rarely take a picture with the ISO below 400. Do pictures get a little noisy (grainy) when the ISO is high? Sometimes. How often will get you get complaints from viewers when you've captured a great moment and there's a little noise? Never.
- Learn to file your pictures. If you can't find them you can't share them and sharing these gems is what it's all about. The birth of a baby is a great time to get photographically organized. Create a logical system on your computer that you understand and will use. Key word: use.
- Back up your pictures. If you don't have an external hard drive for your computer you need one. All of your valuable family pictures need to be in two places. I know a photographer who regularly burns his family photo greatest hits on a CD and stores it in the glove box of his car.