Hart Tan of Tomato Photo’s philosophy of photographing children is about preserving the memories of them as they grow. “I focus a lot on their personal behaviour through observation,” he says. Sometimes, though, it’s this very behaviour that can be a hindrance to a photo shoot of an infant or toddler. With this in mind, we asked Hart to walk us through his tips for taking portrait snapshots of children, aged zero to four.
Images captured during this time generally portray newborn babies in their natural foetal position in the womb. The best time for a session is between five and 10 days after birth, when the baby stillhas a tendency to curl up naturally. Photographing babiescan test anyone’s patience – a shoot can take three to four hours, with perhaps a 40-minute window where the baby is in the right position. (They move around a lot!) Keep your own movements sure but slow to avoid startling the baby. Use minimal props: the idea is to see babies in their natural state; props can also date a photo. I find it works best to do these shoots at home, as the mother will feel more comfortable without the hassle of travelling to the studio.
This is a very cute stage when babies have all those fat rolls and chubby cheeks! There’s lots of smiling, plenty of tummy time, and a willingness to play with just about anyone. The key here is patience – plus you need to be able to act like a monkey to make them laugh. Babies generally won’t be able to sit up by themselves yet:usea bucket or Bumbo seat to help them sit upright,so you can vary the images. Limit the session to an hour, if you can; the whole idea is to get great images without stressing the baby. You could try an outdoor session first thing in the morning, but it’s still probably best to photograph them at home – babies at this age can get cranky travelling to a studio session.
This age is marked by crawling and standing up unaided, or even walking the first few steps. I love photographing children at this stage, as they are very engaging and animated. Using a natural outdoor setting gives the children space to explore and also shows how small they are in the world. Children at this age also love to do their own thing, so give them space and let them play and use their favourite toys to get in the “zone”.
Two-year-olds are very active and love to throw tantrums if they don’t get their way;we all know the expression “terrible twos”. Using reverse psychology works very well. Stay fresh and keep your tricks unpredictable so they’ll continue to engage with you.I generally plan an activity that naturally leads to the “pose” that I want. The best place to photograph a two-year-old is in their own environment, or outdoors, as they love to explore and love open space. The Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is a favourite. For those who live in a condo, the common area works very well, too. Don’t go too far from home or you might end up with an irritable child on your hands.
Children aged four tend to put on a fake smile that some parents are annoyed by. Still, so many clients tell me that they miss this stage when children grow out of it. Four-year-olds can take some instructions,so do try to give them directions on what you want them to do. Don’t challenge them, though, or they may well do the opposite of what you ask. Children tend to take on your personality at this age; so, if you want them to be active and happy, use that kind of body language. If you like moody, quiet pictures, talk slowly, walk with them and allow them to be themselves.