I am obsessed about photography. Well, let’s put it this way, I am obsessed about photographing by little man. One of the things that gives me nightmares is that one day I will wake up to forget the world I live in. Or maybe I don’t trust my memory too well. There are snatches from my own life, moments, faces and places that I don’t remember. And the one thing that I don’t want to forget is my son’s childhood and my journey as a mother. One of the reasons why I write this blog is to remember the story of our lives. And photographs play a close ally.
I was about two months away from my delivery when I got my Nikon D30 and I went on and on, how this would mean that we would have terrific pictures with the baby. In my head, I was convinced that a SLR would make my baby more photogenic! Yeah, right! And I promised that by the time the baby arrived I would have brushed up my photography skills. At least I met some of it. I indulged in some experimental clicks and then the camera was liberally used during one of my baby showers where my brother turned photographer.
The SLR met my son when he was two days old and from then till now, they’ve fallen in love with each other. It is my theory that photographing children makes a parent more patient and observant. On the other hand, it makes a star out of the kid. I started photographing my son when he was barely a week old. Those wrinkled eyelids barely opened at the click of the shutter. He didn’t understand what all the fuss was about a pose. He didn’t care that his mother was trying to store forever the early days of his life in a picture. He didn’t know he had to learn to emote, respond and communicate with the lens to make himself the perfect subject. But he learnt!
And as a parent-turned-excited-photographer, here are a few things that I have learnt along the way:
a) The New Baby: A new born is hardly responsive. So don’t expect your day old baby to turn and say cheese! Instead, wait for those fully awake and alert moments of the day. New babies need a lot of light, and it’s a good practice to expose them to natural surroundings. Needless to say, as much as Vitamin C is beneficial to them, it is as good for photography. Babies at this early stage have slow movements. However, they twitch, curl and like with photography elsewhere, talking to the subject always helps. Speak to your baby and look for signs of connection. Most of the pictures will have your baby lying down; feel free to let him/her have a feel of your face…at this time they love the feel of your skin and trust me, so will you! At the same time, the cheek to cheek pictures come out beautiful. Tiny feet and curled fingers make for great pictures too.
b) The Infant: A baby moves into infancy after the 3rd month. Chances are that your baby by now has learnt to hold his head up straight. Once the baby learns to hold his head up, he’d like to see more of the world. Try resting the baby’s back on your lap, and let him see the world around. The gleam in his eye as something catches his eye, or a toy that he’s just learnt to hold in his tiny fingers, or a sound that he has learnt to respond to, make for great reaction shots. Encourage him to interact with new toys. Around the same time, they will learn to turn over…make sure you don’t miss out this landmark. Play games with them; they’ll soon learn to smile, make noises and yes even laugh out loud. While you playact and make your babies smile, these games make for great pictures! I enjoyed photographing my son during massage and bath times.
c) The Toddler: This is the most fun stage and in fact by now chances are that your baby would have learnt to interact with the camera. I started showing my son his pictures from when he was around 4 months old. As he grew to recognise himself, he waited for our photography sessions. He’s learnt to pout, flash his dimples, pose, and turn and hold a moment till I click. By the time he learnt to crawl he’d quickly scamper towards me to see how the picture turned out! Now that V is a jumpy, active and ‘always-on-the-move’, there are very few still moments. If he is in the middle of play, I quickly sneak in to take a picture. Sometimes I engage him with a book, toy or activity so that I can get those perfectly crafted shots. At other times, I have to beg and plead and cajole him to take a picture. He enjoys the camera and he knows it’s there for a reason.
You don’t need a super quick and high-end camera for your baby. I use my phone camera to the hilt and since it’s the most handy at most times, I’ve learnt to get some great shots! I shoot a lot with my son when is with his father. They are the best play buddies I have seen. To watch a 31 year old play with his year old son and quite become his age, is something beyond this world. They make faces, throw pillows at each other, play hide and seek, pretend to eat each other’s noses and catch imaginary lizards with aplomb! Much of this makes for great photography.
I have learnt to observe my child’s moods. There are those times in the day when he is watchful and quiet. These moments make for great mood shots. He is often busy playing with his toys and he’d not bother about the lens looking at him. Then there are those times when he is at his naughtiest, trying a new prank or trick with his father – the baap-beta pictures are my favourite. I’ve also taken a lot many pictures of my son with other family members – both sets of grandparents, his uncles and aunts, etc.
I prefer natural pictures as opposed to the ‘posing’ kinds. I am also not fond the flash and I always try and play around with the aperture and natural light as far as possible. A flash can also be a tad distracting for the child. Sometimes I like editing my pictures, for effects, colour correction, borders and texts. On my phone I use Aviary and I am just getting to use Fotor now. Besides, I love Instagram as a photo-sharing network. Photography is all about a moment, a story that you want to remember for all your life. And when it comes to photographing babies who grow up too fast, there is never a dull moment! Today I have close to 5000 pictures (or more) and photography remains an obsession. Whatever be the number, each of our photographs is special, because there is a memory attached to each of them.
Do you have any tips on how to photograph kids?