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How to Make the Most of Baby’s Portrait Sitting

10 Tips that will yield the best professional photos without all the drama

By Alisa Murray

The prospect of taking baby photos can be a little daunting. For one, babies are very unpredictable, and then there’s the whole question of whether you should shoot them with clothes on (albeit safer) or clothes off! When is the best time to shoot them, anyway? Well, after specializing in maternity and baby portraits for 16 years, I’ve learned a few simple tricks to make sure that everything goes well.

Do your research early and find a photographer that shoots in your style and meshes well with your family’s personality. Too often clients call me and show up with an iphone full of images they like that does not relate at all to my work. Any great artist can copy a style, but it is way cooler for us as artists to be trusted in our own style to capture your baby uniquely for just you. My clients book multiple sessions with me to document the developmental stages of their baby, and your relationship is important.

Ask the photographer about special packages and printing rights. Most top photographers do not sell cd’s of their work and would much rather have artistic say so in the finished pieces of art in your home. There’s a huge range out there in the world of baby photography, with many people posing as professionals with little or no credibility.

Timing is everything with babies. They have to be shot around nap times and never within a few days of having had their shots!

Mothers always bring food and way more than what is normally required in a regular day of being a baby. Because the baby is in a different environment he or she tends to go to food as a source of comfort. The best policy is to be safe and have extra on hand.

It is highly recommended that you bring familiar items from home, such as a favorite rattle or a stuffed animal and, of course, the pacifier!

Plan with your portrait artist to have plenty of time. I, for one, shoot until I get the shots, and so no baby is on a schedule to perform per se. It is usually a great start to plan at least an hour to shoot and then another hour to actually see and select the images.

I have also found that the primary caregiver in older babies is instrumental in getting the shots. The baby recognizes and trusts that special person, and the images will almost always be easier to get and more genuine if they can participate in the session.

Appropriate wardrobe planning is important so that the baby is not frustrated. Too many outfit changes will lead to a very angry child. My rule is that the age of the child should dictate the number of changes. For example, three-month-old babies can handle three sets, six-month-olds can handle six… the older a baby gets the more they can do. Then, as a general rule, it starts all over again: one-year-olds need to do only a few, and we all know there’s a reason why they call the twos terrible! I promise they’ll let you know when they have had enough!

The previous advice leads to this next one: pick the order of your outfits beginning with your favorite to make sure that you get the ones you most love. This requires a little planning but is well worth it in the long run. I personally know what I can get developmentally at every age and stage because, well, this is what I do… so ask your artist for any suggestions they might have. For example, I shoot specific poses during a baby’s life for a reason. Primarily the reason is that I know what I will never be able to get certain poses again as the baby gets bigger and more independent.

The most important thing of all is to take as many pictures as you possible can! Hire a pro to capture the hard stuff and daily take a ton of candids. Babies grow up too fast to let their toothless grins and sparkling eyes go one day without capturing them! I have always told my clients throughout the years to shoot around me in between their sessions. You can never have too many pictures, and the more you shoot, the better your own images will become.

Alisa Murray is a nationally recognized portrait artist and award-winning columnist. Her studio opened in 1998 and she specializes in maternity, baby and childhood portraiture. www.alisamurray.com

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