Family life

How to light and edit baby pictures like a pro

Even a snap of the most adorable babe in a beautiful outfit might not result in a great picture if you don’t master some of the technical stuff, like lighting and photo editing. Follow our experts’ advice for the most professional-looking pictures.

How to light and edit baby pictures like a pro

Photo: Nicole Duplantis

If you want amazing, Insta-worthy pictures of your baby, you should probably learn some technical skills. Read on for the basics on lighting and photo editing.

What's the best light for baby pictures?

Getting the lighting right is crucial for a good baby picture. But you don’t need to buy an expensive kit—you just need a little know-how. When taking snaps at home, begin by turning off the interior lights and open your blinds or curtains. If possible, set up in front of a large window (patio doors are ideal) in the early morning or late afternoon to get the best light.

On bright, sunny days, sheer curtains can diffuse direct sunlight so it’s less harsh. If you notice strong shadows falling across the baby when you look at your phone screen, try putting something white, like a piece of foam core, on the shadow side of your baby, or even have someone hold up a white towel or blanket. This will bounce the light toward baby’s face and soften any shadows. Also, be sure to position your lying baby with their head toward the window so the light flows from the top of their crown to their feet, says Shelly Ferguson, a newborn and maternity photographer based in Oshawa, Ont. “Having the light come from the other direction will cause ‘ghoulish lighting,’ like when you put a flashlight under your chin,” she explains. Angle sitting or standing tots at about 45 degrees to, or directly facing, the window. “The closer you are to the window, the more light will wrap around your baby,” says Ferguson.

Taking pictures outside during a family party or a trip to the park, can be a little trickier. If you’re outdoors midday, head for the shade to get the best photos. Or, if it’s a planned picture (say, a cute shot of your baby in their bathing suit on the cottage dock), opt for early morning or in the evening, when the sun is low. This light has a warmer quality to it—just keep the sun to your baby’s back to avoid squinting eyes.

How to edit your photos

Some basic photo editing will push even a good photo to the next level. Amy Parsons, a photographer in Charlottetown, recommends beginning with cropping. You can crop your photo to remove something distracting from the background, or try changing the feel by zooming in on your baby. Now, on to lighting. In the edit functions of your phone’s camera, you can adjust the exposure, highlights and shadows. Not sure how to sharpen a not-quite-perfect shot? “If you happen to snap some pictures in the sun and there are hot spots, or areas that are blown out, hit Highlights and drag those down, then pull the shadows up for a more even tone,” explains Parsons. “If you are taking photos at sunset, they might have a more orange or yellow quality. Use the white balance function to take the yellow tone down,” she says. Next, add your filters, but don’t go overboard, warns Parsons. “You still want your baby to look like your baby,” she says. If you’re posting a baby picture to social media, you can use the filters in Instagram, for example, but for a more professional look, consider downloading an editing program with a wider range of filter possibilities. “They tend to be less harsh and really enhance your photo,” she says. Try one of these editing apps: A Colour Story, Pictapgo, Vsco and Snapseed.

How to store baby pictures

How you save and store pictures comes down to personal taste, but there are some methods recommended by the pros. You may want to archive your baby photos in a file-sharing program so your family can easily access them. “I’ve been putting all of my favourites of my son in a Dropbox folder so my husband and I can share them easily,” says Toronto baby photographer Scarlet O’Neill. Backing them up to an external hard drive or to the Cloud is very important, in case something happens to your phone or computer. “I also upload my family photos to Flickr, for easy access to the high-quality versions,” says Alyssa Kellert, a family and birth photographer in the Vancouver area.

Whatever you do, don’t just leave your photos in a digital archive, say the pros. They all suggest printing your faves as you go. For one thing, we don’t know how reliable this technology will be 20 years from now. Plus, you should be enjoying them! Parsons recommends apps like Chatbooks that will send you books of your favourited photos every month with little effort on your part. “We have all of our memories tucked away on our phones, but nobody sees them, and that’s a shame,” she says. “Print them—love them!”


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Karen Robock is a writer, editor and mom of two whose work has appeared in dozens of publications in Canada and the U.S., including Prevention, Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, and The Toronto Star. Once upon a time, Karen was even the managing editor of Today’s Parent. She lives in Toronto with her husband, school-age daughters, and their two dogs.