Children / baby photography portraits are always a joy and pleasure for me.
And I don't even have children of my own. I can imagine how much more joy and pleasure it will bring to parents.
I hope the images presented here will inspire parents and photographers alike to become better at baby and children photography.
For successful children / baby photography portraits, two things are essential – luck and patience.
Luck enabled me to photograph this boy at a street parade in New York. He was bursting with energy and enthusiasm and I so happened to be nearby with a camera ready.
In the same way, I was lucky to take the above picture before the baby scuttled away!
You will not likely get great pictures if, like most parents (or aunts, uncles, other relatives and friends) you simply point the camera and shoot without much thought.
I feel it such a waste that the majority of children and baby photography portraits are taken this way.
Likewise, it usually does not work if you try to pose the baby or child by urging him / her to look at the camera and smile. Few children are natural models who will actually do that.
One exception is this child, photographed at the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in February 2004. She seems so natural, you would not believe she was surrounded by phographers with big cameras and some with camera flashes.
Most children would refuse to look at the camera (she was looking at another camera). Or if they do, they would stiffen up and put on an expressionless face. Again, what a waste!
Another natural model was this girl with her dog, photographed about a month ago at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. I was photographing orchids when I spotted her some distance but, oh well, she cycled off.
Later she came round and actually stopped to pose – looking almost directly into the camera – long enough for me to take this picture.
If I had known she was going to give me enough time, I would have photographed her from a lower angle.
It is generally better to take children / baby photography portraits from their level rather than from adult eye level.
Just be aware that the background will change when you stoop or kneel down, and avoid a cluttered background (unless that is what you want to show).
While some children love to have their pictures taken, I dreaded being photographed when I was young (and even now). I remember when I was seven, my eldest brother got married and I had to be in the family portrait. I was totally nervous about having to pose for a photograph.
I was also afraid (not merely shy, but, for some silly reason, afraid) to stand close to the bride. In the end, I had to switch places with one of my brothers. The result was that my brother, being taller than I, ended up blocking the lower half of my mother's face, since my mother was rather short. The photograph was “ruined’ because of me.
I share this incident because the memory of it just came up as I write this.
Good professional portrait photographers always emphasise the importance of taking time and making effort to set their subjects at ease. In the case of children and baby photography portraits, however, this is not always possible or practical.
For children and baby photography portraits, probably the best approach is to just let them be. Leave them alone as they play their games and get absorbed in their own little worlds.
You, the photographer, just sit nearby and watch. It helps to have a telephoto zoom lens, so that you can be farther away. Most of my children / baby photography portraits were taken with my 75-300 zoom or, previously, the 70-210 zoom.
Observe. Be patient. Be prepared. The moment you catch a nice expression, quickly snap that photograph.
This was what I did when I spent the Chinese New Year holidays with some friends at a golf resort in Johor, Malaysia, in 2004. I don't play golf and the weather was rainy. There wasn't much to do except take pictures of the children having fun at the swimming pool (after I had my fun in the water) and at the pool shower.
I count myself lucky to have captured these two children engaged in a less active game at Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. There was a strong wind blowing, which is why the girl's skirt was lifted.
Another favourite child photography portrait of mine is of this hilltribe girl in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My ex-wife had earlier filmed her on video and she was so engrossed – and amused – looking at herself through the viewfinder of the video camera that I could go up real close to take this picture.
That same Thailand trip in 1983 yielded another favourite child photography portrait – of this boy at a hilltribe village near the “Golden Triangle” called Black Lahu.
He had four cigarettes on him, the three shown in the picture plus another on his other ear.
After I took photographs of him, he gestured to ask me for money and I gestured back to indicate that I did not have any, for I had run out of small change. He got angry, threw stones at me and wanted to beat me with a stick!
One of my friends liked this picture so much, he bought a print to hang in his office. Thankfully he did. My original slide got badly damaged and this picture was heavily touched up with Adobe Photoshop. I have borrowed the picture back to have it scanned.
Moreover, the challenges of photographing pets are similar to those of children / baby photography portraits – it is not easy to pose them! I spent an entire roll of film just to get this picture.
It's far from perfect. The colors seem washed out and one of my friends thought the original picture was under-exposed and that I had gone too far in trying to lighten it.
In fact, the washed out effect was due to the back-lighting from the evening sun. The dogs were running all over and there was no way I could “pose” them in a position where the light was better. (2007 update: Finally, again with some luck, I managed to improve the color and lighting through just one simple click on Photoshop! The version shown here looks at least 20 times better than the original)
So if you think it is tough taking children and baby photography portraits, try getting your dogs to pose when they are excitedly fetching a (fake) bone!
Of course, there will be times when pets are less active – like when they need a drink. Seize those moments.
I hope you enjoyed this section of Art Photograph Gallery and that it inspires you to take better children / baby photography portraits.