Want to know how to make drool look good? Get a grin from a sore-gummed baby? Or capture a professional-grade portrait of that adorable one-toothed smile? Read on. You might not think of a teething baby as being the most photogenic subject, but in a couple of years you’ll be happy to have a visual document of these challenging days. We asked Ana Schechter, a New York City based professional children’s photographer, to tell us some of her techniques.
Make the most of drool. Drool is a plus in Schechter’s book. “A little drool coming off the chin is kind of cute,” she says. “It’s a slice of this exact moment in your baby’s life, and you’ll want to remember it.” Because wet patches on shirts don’t look too good in photos, if there’s excessive drool, try shooting your baby naked.
Don’t forget the hand-in-mouth photos, as well as pictures of your baby chewing on her teethers. In fact, why not try as series of shots featuring all the things that your baby puts in her mouth and chews on: her fist, dad’s fingers, all those teethers, the corner of the blanket…
That unhappy face? Take photos of your baby crying as well as happy – the most authentic shots are the ones that will best remind you of this stage.
After the Tooth Erupts
Your baby’s tiny first tooth is hiding in his mouth. How best to showcase it?
Make sure that toothy grin is in focus. One simple way is to be on your baby’s level when you shoot; either lie down on your stomach or sit cross-legged on the floor. This way, you avoid the distorted ‘neckless’ look that can result when you shoot down on your subject.”
Lighting is key. Schechter advises against using a flash, which can add a harsh, fluorescent look to your pics, and says to opt for natural sunlight whenever possible. For indoor shots, face away from or perpendicular to the biggest window you have so the sun streams down in front of you and onto your baby. “The light will splash across your baby’s face beautifully,” she says. If you’re shooting outside on a sunny day, do it in a shady spot. You can also avoid any glaring, too-bright shots by taking your pics between 8 and 10 in the morning, or after 4 p.m.
Get that one-toothed smile Baby isn’t showing you his pearly white (or both of them)? Here’s how to encourage the revealing grin:
- Find an assistant (bigger sibs are perfect for the job) to play peek-a-boo with the baby; have your helper “peek” out from behind you as you shoot so the baby will be looking toward your camera.
- Ask your helper to coo, laugh, or dance a jig behind you, or dangle a toy above your head while you shoot. “
- Try toys – anything that makes noise, but especially anything that crinkles. “That sound is a winner,” Schechter says.
Be patient, but be persistent Take lots of pics. Since digital cameras on automatic have a slight delay between when you press the button and when the shutter actually opens, go with the manual option if your camera has one. And avoid checking your work after every click! Just keep shooting. “If you keep taking pictures for even five minutes longer than you think you should have to,” Schechter says, “you’ll catch a spontaneous moment – something unexpected and fun.”