Before I went to Fotofly Academy, I believe that I could tell the difference between a good photo and a bad one. But looking back, I realize that I didn't know what it was about a given photo that made it pleasant to view. Sometimes the reasons are subconscious, and you can't put your finger on it if you don't know what you're looking for. You just know, "Hey, that looks good!" or "This is a terrible picture!" Here I will briefly explain five basic rules of newborn photography (most of which can be applied to all photography) that will make the average amateur's photos look drastically better.
Before I begin, and before you start to feel bad for the poor person whose baby photos I'm using as examples of terrible photography, let me make a little confession. All of the "before" pictures are mine! Ahh! I know. So embarrassing. That is my newborn daughter a year before I went to Fotofly Academy. Seriously. I neglected to arrange newborn photography before she was born, and I honestly thought "I can just do this myself! All you need is a cute outfit, a bow, and a pretty blanket, right?" I cannot believe I'm admitting this to the world. So I set everything up the way I thought it should be, and snapped away. Does it surprise you that I never had these printed or did anything with them? Didn't like them! At all! I didn't know what it was that I was doing wrong or why they didn't turn out the way I was imagining, I just knew it wasn't what I had in mind. Now I know why!
It does not matter how cute the outfit, bow, or backdrop is. Bad lighting will make it a bad picture. Don't even click that shutter if the light isn't correct. I don't even know what the light is in the first picture other than just plain bad. In the second picture, it is coming from my left. See it? It adds dimension and texture when it is not coming from the same direction as the camera. That's right - your pop-up flash is a bad idea. So is standing right in front of the window that is providing your light. In both cases, the light is coming from the same direction as you are, and that just isn't flattering on anyone! Find your light source, and then move the camera away from it.
Never shoot a portrait at less than 70mm, unless you're trying to distort the image on purpose for artistic reasons. I had no idea this was even a thing. Well, it turns out it most definitely is. Notice her hand in the picture on the left. Do I grow babies with hands the size of their faces? No! But shooting at 24mm will make it appear that way. Whatever is closest to the lens is going to look bigger than it really is. Now that I pointed it out, be prepared to start noticing unintentional distortion everywhere! (Cell phone cameras, anyone?) Whenever you take a picture that you want to look accurate, zoom in and back up!
Newborns are much easier to pose if they are asleep. It's easy to catch the baby asleep if he is less than a week old, which is the time frame in which I recommend doing newborn pictures. Clearly I did not know this a few years ago. Her flailing arms and darting eyes in the left picture make it look sloppy and unprofessional. When he's sleeping on the right, he is much more pliable (and cute!) and it makes for a much more professional picture. Do newborn shoots when the baby is asleep and you'll have a lot more options.
As a side note - now that you are noticing unintentional distortion, how do you like my baby's right sleeve and hand in this shot?
4. COMPOSITION/CAMERA ANGLE
Make sure you intentionally compose your image. I don't know why part of her toes are cropped off on the left. Her face and my camera aren't aligned and it's making me look up her nose, which isn't cute. It's also a horizontal picture and I keep wanting to turn my head to the left to be able to see it better. There pretty much isn't anything good about it! In contrast, in the picture on the right we aren't looking up his nose, you don't need to twist your neck to see his face, he's not distorted, he is lit correctly, and he's sleeping and posed so cute!
This was a tricky one for which to find an example, since all of the "before" pictures are so wrong in so many ways that they can't be completely salvaged with editing software. However, I will include this one to show you what the pictures can look like straight out of the camera in terms of white balance, versus one that I've color corrected on the computer. No ruddiness on his face on the right, and no more creases on his cheek from when he was sleeping against his mom right before this shot. His coloring looks accurate. Always make sure your white balance (and everything else!) is correct on your computer before you do anything with your pictures. I really like Lightroom's ability to apply edits across the board. It saves a lot of time over fiddling with each image.
Every mom takes thousands of pictures of her kids these days, newborn or not. It makes sense to know a thing or two about photography so the pictures will look their best. All of these "after" photos were taken inside clients' homes. No fancy studio needed - only a good light source! Some of these were even taken in darker rooms with my off-camera flash, but you'd never know it wasn't window light by looking at it.
When I'm at your home for your newborn shoot, I'd be more than happy to show you where the best light is for your everyday kid photography! But for major milestones, I always recommend hiring a professional. I sure wish I had!