Choose the right camera
Things to consider when taking photos of babies
What to look for
Before setting out to take pictures of children and babies that aren't your own, be sure to obtain the permission of their parents. So long as they're happy for you to make their offspring your subjects there's a wide choice of cameras very well suited to the task in hand.
If you're buying a compact, then the first thing to check is whether it has a dedicated children mode, as this will take care of selecting the most common settings for you. This is usually found in the scene mode settings, so either check this portion of a manufacturer's specs list or, if you can get your hands on a camera to try it out in a shop, switch to Scene mode and scroll through the various options.
Don't immediately discard it if there's no children mode though. You can set the ideal shooting conditions manually using any camera with shutter or aperture priority modes.
Shooting without presets
The same rules apply when shooting child portraits as they do when photographing adults. You want a camera that lets you manually adjust the aperture size so you can retain a shallow depth of field that isolates them from their surroundings. The closer you can take the aperture setting to f/1, the better. Samsung's EX2F will go to f/1.4, but anything around the f/2.4 to f/3.5 mark should still achieve good results.
You should avoid using the flash when taking pictures of babies -- more to protect their eyes and avoid unsettling them than to prevent hard shadows. So if you need to take pictures in slightly darker surroundings such as nurseries or in the evening, then look for a camera that allows you to choose a higher sensitivity setting (ISO), without introducing an equally high level of noise into the result. You shouldn't need to push the camera to the max here, so don't worry too much about performance at ISO 1,600 and above. Focus on the ISO 200 to ISO 800 range instead.
Shooting sports and games
When shooting children at play, you'll want to step back. Snapping a back garden game of football or cricket requires a narrower aperture to keep more of the game in focus, so be sure your camera makes it easy for you to adjust this on the fly. Or again, resort to the scene presets on a compact and choose the Sports mode or, if it doesn't have this setting, the Landscape option.
To focus on just one player you'll need a moderate zoom so that you don't need to get too close and disturb the game. The 3x average zoom on an entry-level dSLR's bundled kit lens should be considered the bare minimum here. If you want to frame just your child's face as they track an oncoming ball, then look for something more powerful but beware of the fact that the more you zoom, the less light will reach the sensor. So again, you might need to increase the sensitivity setting or exposure compensation to keep the exposure time short (ideally 1/250th of a second or faster), and avoid any blurred results.
Make sure that whichever camera you choose makes ISO and compensation easy to tweak through direct buttons on the back or top of the chassis.
Children and baby photography wish list
- Versatile zoom lens for flexibility
- Manual aperture control
- Easy access to sensitivity and exposure compensation controls