Ah, infants… they can be so adorable, yet so challenging. With each month, they change so fast! That means there is a different set of rules for each phase of the first 12 months of a baby’s life. Photographing infants can be such a fun and rewarding niche of photography, as long as you know what to expect.
I tend to shoot more with a photojournalistic/lifestyle style of photography, so that is where my tips for photographing infants is based. However, even if you shoot with a different style, these tips are about the infants in general, no matter what your shooting style. It will help you be prepared no matter what!
Obviously, every infant is different, but the tips you will read below will help to prepare you for each month throughout a baby’s first year.
This is one of the most challenging ages for photographing infants. They cannot be put to sleep or wrapped up like when they are newborns. Infants at this age are jerky and have difficulty controlling their movement. Smiles are hard to come by, unless you get a really happy 3-month-old.
At this stage, laying them on their backs, while photographing them from above is a really good place to start. You can photograph their little details, too, like their feet and hands, if they’ll stay still long enough for you. I like to place them next to a large window or light source on a nice rug or blanket. You can also play around with where you photograph them, from the top, bottom, side, etc.
Depending on the baby, you could place them propped up on their stomachs. Many 3-month-olds are very capable of pushing themselves up for a short period of time. It helps to have them on some kind of elevated surface, like a chair or a table (with a parent or assistant spotting of course!), so you can shoot straight on to the infant.
Finally, another go-to position, especially if the baby is cranky, is to have mom or dad hold the baby. They can either have the infant sit up in their arms, facing you. Or, they can put the baby over their shoulders.
Basically, you want to do what you can to keep the baby happy at this stage. But then again, I’m always up for a good crying photo. 🙂 It shows their personality, and it’s a great memory from a milestone session.
This stage is by far much more fun and should be much easier than the previous stage to photograph. While it can still be challenging photographing infants, I rather enjoy this phase. 4-6 month-olds are happier and smile much more and are probably not yet mobile. And, there are lots of options for poses and positions. Laying on their backs is just as good here as it was when they were younger. The only issue you will run into is if you have a roller. Then you just have to be quick and find a way to distract the infant long enough to capture what you need.
Then again, you can just roll with it… get it? Roll with it? Haha! Nevermind… 🙂
Another classic position for this stage is propping up the baby to sitting or if they can, sit them up on their own. I find that babies sitting up are the happiest! They suddenly have a new perspective on the world vs. laying down and looking up at everything. Finally, they can face everyone straight forward.
If the infant is unable to sit up on their own (a 4-month-old usually doesn’t have the ability to sit), the tummy position is a fantastic option. By this stage, the infant should be plenty comfortable pushing himself or herself up for a period of time.
And, if all else fails, this is another great stage for Mom or Dad to hold the infant. No only is the infant secure, he or she is probably going to be happiest in a parent’s arms. As you can see from the image above, it’s hard not to get a smile in this pose.
Photographing infants at this age can be both fun and challenging, depending on the infant. Most are crawling by this stage, so dealing with a mobile infant while trying to take photos may get tricky. There are some ways to try and keep them in one place, though. If you have a couch or a chair (make sure a parent or an assistant is close by to spot!), that can work most of the time to keep a mobile infant from moving around too much.Another trick for photographing infants at this stage is to have them stand up along a stool, chair, couch, wall, tree, etc. They are starting to explore their independence at this stage, so allowing them to stand up on their own will get a few smiles for the camera. Having mom or dad hold onto the infants hands while standing is another cute photo opportunity!
Finally, don’t forget while photographing infants at this stage is to mix it up and get creative. At any time when you have a mobile infant, you want to go with what they are giving you.
Keeping them happy will make for happy photos! Singing songs and asking mom and dad what the infant likes is also helpful. Again, this stage should be fairly easy. Even if they are mobile, they typically aren’t very fast.
This is probably one of the most common ages for photographing infants. It’s the iconic transition from being a baby/infant to toddlerhood. This is also the stage where their personality really starts to show. Most are very mobile, even though they may not be walking just yet. If you haven’t been around an 11-month-old who is an expert crawler, they can move much faster than you would expect!
Honestly, I don’t go into these sessions with much of an agenda. You obviously want to capture what you would normally capture during a session, however you are dealing with a much more vocal and active subject than during the newborn stage. While both can be challenging, they are challenging in very different ways.
I still rely on the same tricks that I had in earlier stages, like giving them a fun place to sit or stand while holding onto something. Holding onto Mom and Dad’s hands to help stand or walk is also a great way to get some smiles. I love to sing songs, especially “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Most infants have heard the song, and they love to clap along! It gives them something to do and makes for some cute and interactive photos. 🙂
One of my favorite types of photos at this stage is showing the infant “toddling.” If you have a walker for your session, you have to capture this milestone! Just like with crawling, toddling evolves over time, to become more of a walk that resembles what children and adults do.
Since infants tend to favor their parents over me (I don’t know why… it’s just the way it always it… 😉 ), I like to just have them walk to a parent off the frame of the camera. In the photo below, Mom was kneeling just to the right of my camera. While the infant isn’t looking directly at me, it is still a great photo of her smiling, showing her toddling over to her mother. You can of course have a parent stand next to or behind you, but in this case, the infant was not very fond of me. Ha! In fact, the only want to get her to smile was to have her not look at me.
And, when all else fails, just pull out some toys and see what you can capture. I mean, who doesn’t love some good toys?! Be flexible and go with what the infant is giving you. Sometimes those are the best images, when they are at ease and having fun.
That ALL being said, I will end with this: while I have given tips and shown what I would do for these stages, you need to follow your own style. Photography is an art, and with any type of art, a photographer’s work is their own. 5 different photographers will photograph a situation 5 different ways. Basically, use list this as a guideline and use it as a prep for photographing infants, not necessarily the only way to do it.
The important thing to remember is, at the end of the day, you just want to make sure the infant had a good experience, and hopefully had fun. While most will probably not remember you the next time they come in for a photo session, they at least won’t have a negative feeling about it!