What to photograph when photographing babies? Because, well, they don’t do a lot, do they? How to capture something interesting when all they do is lie there / sleep and feed?
HOLD THAT THOUGHT.
When I became a mum, I realised one thing – for a little creature who didn’t do much, my daughter surely changed the world around her. The life that me and my husband knew before had changed irrevocably and fundamentally and our lives filled with new routines and activities we never did before. New, baby related objects and decorations appeared in our house. Our families got drawn closer and closer and started forming relationships with this little person, still not quite consciously aware of what was happening around her.
I spent hours watching this little person grow and change in front of my eyes, marvelling at her soft skin, delicate features, the curl of what little hair she had at the back of her neck, the irresistibly gorgeous little baby fingers and toes. I watched her when she was awake and when she slept, the picture of all that is good and peaceful in the world.
Why am I telling you all this in an article about photography?
Because that fundamentally is the answer to the question posed above.
Great, powerful photography, the kind that pulls on your heartstrings is about a lot more than making something look pretty. It’s about evoking an emotion, telling a story, bringing a different world, a different perspective closer to the photo viewer.
The ‘story’ of your new baby is one that tells us who they are (or are becoming) and what they look like (cutsey hats optional) but also how they change the world around them, how they change you as the parent, what new they brought into your life that wasn’t there before.
In years to come a picture of your child’s first bedroom and them peacefully sleeping in it will bring a wave of memories and emotions that the same action, taken out of context will not.
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Here are some suggestions you may want to keep in mind when you next reach for your camera (illustrated by images by our wonderful students and ex students: Johanna Shannon-Little, Claudia Rambach, Amber Wilson, Nik Hood, Kat Elle, Katy Rutherford, Trudy Davy, Claire Tzialli, Sarah Oldmeadow, Emma Rodriguez, Caroline Davies)
1) A baby through the parent’s eyes:
Nobody looks at your baby and sees it the way you do. You don’t just look at it, you notice the way the eyelashes curl, the way their nose wrinkles when they laugh, the little fuzz on their heads, the way their tiny hands fit into yours – you know what I mean. Think about how you can capture these. Zoom in on them and bring them front and central ( ideally you want shallow depth of field to set them against some blurry background or foreground). Document the bigger picture and the detail – perhaps you could repeat the same image weekly or monthly to notice how your baby changes?
2) Living with a new baby:
So much has changed in your life and in your living space with the arrival of your baby. Not all of it is maybe the Elle Deco standard you had once proudly aspired to, but all tells a story of your new life. The nursery, the baby paraphenalia, the baby toys and decorations – even a washing line with tiny baby outfits tells a story of your new family. Does your baby have a new sleeping companion? A toy they’re becoming inseparable from?
3) Baby routines and activities
Remember your old life, before the baby, when a bath just meant a relaxing soak with bubbles and candles and the occasional trashy mag? No? Me neither. My point is, with your new baby, lots of new routines came into your life – some will be short lived, others will continue on till toddlerdom and even beyond. Bathtime, nursing, bedtime, walks in the park – all of this is new and special and a real sign of your life now. Get it on camera.
4) New relationships
Your baby may be too young to realise it, but he / she will start start forming relationships with your extended family and friends from the outset. Their grandparents will coo over them and feel as deep a love for them as they did for you. Your friends and extended family will become your baby’s extended support network and are just an important a fixture in their lives. All of these people – bonding with your child, caring for your child, adorably gazing at your child are there for you to capture.
5) You and your baby
You mustn’t forget about this key element of your baby’s life – yourself. We often hide behind a camera but kids love to see you in photos with them and yo should be visible and you should memorise that part of your baby’s life. Pass on the camera to someone else and get in on the action!
All the images in this post were produced by our current and past students.