How to Take Better Photos of Babies in 2019

To bastardise Tolstoy, “Happy babies are all alike; every unhappy baby is unhappy in his or her own way.”

Smiling baby photos are dull.  Boring.  Common.  There are billions of smiling baby photos in the world, and, for the most part, they are indistinguishable.  Professional photographers go through huge efforts to get a photo of babies smiling which, while we’re perhaps hardwired to appreciate when a baby smiles, is honestly a once-in-a-blue-moon event that doesn’t reflect the day-to-day existence of any family that I have spoken to or know of.

Babies crying, though, are more common, more relatable, and far more rare in photographs.  More than that: a photo of a baby crying is interesting.  When a baby is crying, something important is happening.  They are distinguishing between the state of the world now and how they want it to be.  They are uncomfortable, and are doing what they can to change their situation.  A baby with a smile?  Vacuous.  Inane.  Smiling babies aren’t going to change the world; they’re going to remain in a picture frame that nobody save for their grandparents will ever pay attention to.  A crying baby can turn every adult in fifty feet into a docile servant; a smiling baby might get smiles in return, but they won’t move people to act.

In short: if you want to take a better photo of a baby, catch them doing what they do hourly.  Photograph them crying their eyes out.

I’m sure that eventually, when Daniel is able to smile, I’ll take photos of him with a huge grin on his face.  But I’ll take far more photos where he’s trying to change the world outside of his small field of vision, because that’s the kind of child I want to raise, and he’ll only do that by communicating in the best way he knows how.


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