Excerpt from Anne Geddes' autobiography, "A Labor of Love" (Andrews McMeel) used with permission.
Q: Do you have any advice on photographing babies at home?
Please, don't try to replicate any of my imagery using your own baby at home. My images are created in a careful and professional environment, with a very experienced team of people, and some can be deceptive in terms of the degree of difficulty involved. However, in order to take great images of your babies and children at home, I can give you some basic guidelines which have worked with my own personal photography over the years.
Probably the best advice I can give is to have a camera handy at all times, so your children become used to being photographed and therefore more relaxed about the process. I have literally hundreds of photographs of our girls since they were first born, and I am still photographing them today even though they are now in their twenties. Our favorite gifts to each other these days are our own personal images.
From the moment a baby is born, and particularly in the first few months, they change so quickly. You might not think so at the time, but believe me, you'll soon forget how tiny they were as newborns. Of course, right at the time when you should be taking lots of photographs, your life has become more hectic than ever and photography probably takes a back seat to just getting through each day. Even though you are busy (a huge understatement if you have a newborn in the house), it is so important to take as many photographs as you can. Particularly now that digital cameras are so affordable, it is inexpensive and fun to take as many photographs as you like, without the added expense of developing and printing of film. Here's what I'd recommend:
-Always have your camera on hand and your battery charged. If this sounds like obvious advice, sometimes I fall into the trap of a camera with a flat battery.
-Most of all, relax and have fun with your photography.
-Aim to keep your images as simple as possible. A simple image will invariably have the most impact.
-Be aware of your light source. The best times to photograph outside in natural light are early morning and late afternoon, when the light is softer and more flattering.
-Try to use elements of scale in the image, such as hands or everyday objects. Newborn babies grow very quickly and within even a few weeks can look quite different.
-Don't use flash unless it is absolutely necessary (and by that I mean that you are surrounded by complete darkness. Even then, try to go without). I virtually never use the flash on the camera that I carry with me everywhere. On-camera flash in the wrong hands can be a creative crime and some people are addicted. Last year, Kel and I were on vacation at a beach resort. Every afternoon I would sit on the beach to watch (and photograph) the sunset. Mother Nature puts on the most spectacular free shows every evening at this time; her color combinations are sometimes unexpected but always astounding-sunsets should be a "flash-free" environment. A young couple had just been married and were having wedding photographs taken at the water's edge. Behold, the beautiful young bride in a gorgeous flowing lace gown, her long wavy hair cascading around her shoulders, and the most subtle and flattering golden light was everywhere around them. (I feel a poem coming on . . .) The two wedding photographers they had hired for the occasion proceeded to pose them in every cheesy traditional wedding pose imaginable and every image was taken with full-on camera flash, which would have totally obliterated any semblance of the beautiful natural light. I was so tempted to just run down there and say, "Excuse me, but can I have five minutes with my camera . . ." but of course I didn't.
-Always be aware of what is happening in the background of your photograph when you are composing your image. The background is often overlooked, resulting in trees or poles growing out of heads-one of the most common problems associated with amateur photography. Try to keep your background as simple as possible.
-Avoid asking your children to pose for photographs, or that's exactly what they'll do. Just let them be themselves and you'll love the image even more.
-Don't be too precious with your camera. Buy one that's easy to use and relatively inexpensive, and let your children become familiar with photography by taking photographs of each other. It's far simpler now with the advent of digital photography-you can easily delete the less than successful ones.
-Most of us use digital cameras these days, so beware of deleting images too soon after you have shot them-give yourself a few days and then revisit them. If you still feel the same way, then go ahead and delete. But you may change your mind about something that you thought was insignificant at the time . . . I know I have.
-Try not to use cell phones to record your children's lives, or anyone's lives for that matter. Call me old-fashioned, but cell phones are for making telephone calls. The file sizes at the moment are far too small to reproduce or enlarge to any extent. Better to invest in a relatively inexpensive, small digital camera.
-When photographing babies and small children, try to get down to their eye level. It will help you to see from their perspective. o The simple little everyday moments are the most precious of all. Don't just bring out the camera for special occasions.
-You can never, ever take too many photographs of your children. Try to surround yourself with small, framed images of family and friends. I have hundreds of images, on every surface of my home, and I love revisiting them constantly.
-Try to include yourself as often as possible in images with your children, because when they are older they'll also be very interested in how you looked at the time. This, of course, will leave you wide open to ridicule for your fashion sense when they were small. There is no protection against this; it's inevitable. Barring unforeseen circumstances, your children will know you for longer as adults than they did as children, and vice versa. You only have one chance to record your lives together when they were small, and you will never regret any photograph that you take, whether it has significant artistic merit or not.
Special thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and Anne Geddes for providing our studio audience with a copy of "A Labor of Love: An Autobiography."