I was playing around recently with shooting inside (my house) with my off camera flash. Once I perfect this technique, I’m excited about the flexibility I’ll have, particularly for newborn/baby sessions. This little “shoot” was very impromptu and because of this, there are several factors “wrong” with this picture. They’re very basic things that would’ve been easy to change that would’ve made a HUGE difference, that would’ve made it look more like a “portrait” than a “snapshot”. They’re things that most people wouldn’t think about so hopefully pointing them out will help you improve your family’s snapshots.
1) Clothes- he’s wearing a pampers diapers that has elmo and friends all over it. I tried to make it less blatant with photoshop, but it’s still distracting to the eye. It’s so important how you dress your children when you shoot them. Pay attention to this detail! If you want them clothes-less, at least put an all white diaper on (or diaper cover). If you put clothes on, make sure they’re nice looking. Even if they’re casual, make sure they’re not wrinkly and they fit nicely.
2) Location- he couldn’t have been on a worse blanket for this shoot. Though it is special to me b/c my grandma made it for my wedding gift, it’s not the best choice for pictures b/c it’s busy. I should’ve put him on the wood floor or a solid blanket (tan maybe). Pay attention to where you shoot. If you’re outside, don’t shoot in front of your water hose but rather your red brick wall or bushes (assuming they’re nice looking:).
3) Lighting- the key to good light is direction and strength. You don’t want light casting raccoon shadows on the face so shooting outside at high noon is out (direction). If you do shoot at high noon, at least make sure it’s on a cloudy day then at least the “strength” is weak so the shadows will at least be less harsh. The simplest way to get good light is shooting in your house by a window or on your porch and just make sure your child’s face is facing the window/light. You could use an on camera flash, but that light is flat and usually causes a shadow like you see on his shoulder. The light on his face is beautiful and but the shadow cast on his shoulder makes this look snapshot-ish. I’m not sure yet how to fix that but the best bet for you is if possible to use window light (it’s very soft and doesn’t cause these harsh shadows) instead of your on-camera flash.
I personally love this picture b/c it’s my sweet little angel but I probably won’t be displaying it on my walls or on my website. However, had these two elements been different, I would definitely have put it in his “portrait” baby book.