Submitted by Danny G., Seattle, WA
Your babies are due, your wife is telling you that she wants nice baby pictures and every baby photographer is (a) overpriced and (b) booked. What's a Daddy to do?
Well if you are a daddy with an obsession for consumer electronics and a high school photography class under your belt (class not required, just pick up a good beginner/intermediate SLR photography book), you can take your own pictures. You will have to be willing to make an investment roughly the size of a couple of professional photo shoots (what you get is unlimited shoots instead of a couple).
What you need:
Here's the important thing: you can get last years camera, just make sure it is compatible with this years lenses. You can pick up a decent Nikon or canon SLR online for a few hundred bucks. Get the body only and buy your lens(es) separately, the kit lenses are NOT up to the task. (Note: I shoot a Canon XSI)
If you've had a photography class or have looked through your brand new photography book, you've heard the term "depth of field" (Dof). Low depth of field yields more interesting backgrounds. This is why you did not buy the kit lens! The nifty fifty is a lens which does not zoom, it is a fixed focal length (50mm). The benefits are an extremely low Dof (f/1.8) and an extremely low price (around $100). This lens is a great way to get started. Here is an example of a Nifty Fifty:
The pop up on flash is crap! Get a good "B" brand flash which has a high guide number and is compatible with your camera's ttl metering system. Vivitar makes a good flash for around $100. When indoors you can point the flash at the ceiling and get a MUCH better effect than if you were to use the pop up flash. Here is the flash I use:
Get as large as you can afford, but get a good brand. The Extreme III is a great card. An example of the card:
Get a bag that's large enough for all of your stuff plus a couple of extra lenses.
Photo Editing Software
Get gimp. There is no reason to spend the cash for Photoshop when gimp is available for free at http://www.gimp.org/. Most of the time you will want to just crop and adjust contrast/brightness. When the situation calls for it though, you can adjust color curves, sharpen the photo, add filters, and apply really cool effects.
Yeah, now were getting a little more advanced. Radio triggers allow you to move your flash from the hot shoe on your camera to a location across the room wirelessly. So you can have the light coming from the sides, above, or behind. The sky is the limit. They range from $30 on eBay if you’re feeling adventurous (they work for me) or you can spend a few hundred dollars on a really snazzy set. For some really good information about off-camera flash photography visit http://strobist.blogspot.com.
A photography umbrella kit won't set you back that much and you can create some really cool effects. With an umbrella and radio triggers you can really get creative with the light in your photos.
Wide Zoom Lens
If you feel like you need more flexibility with your focal length, I suggest going wide angle. When photographing babies it is difficult to justify anything bigger than 70mm. The only advice I offer when buying any lens is to get the lowest f-stop (Dof) you can afford. I have been known to save for months to buy an f/2.8 lens when I could have bought an f/3.5 lens in a week.
How to make it interesting:
Instead of just taking pictures from the same distance away all the time, try taking a picture of just your baby's foot, hand, or nose. There is a whole new world of photography within 20 inches of your subject.
Get on your child's level. By sitting or lying down you can see the world like she sees it and it will add a lot more drama to your shots.
Get Help and Feedback
Few websites claiming to be "photo communities" actually are. The one that I found did fit that bill though was Flickr. On top of great photos and discussions, there are actually great photographers there. You can contact them, ask for advice and submit your work to different Flickr groups for feedback. For an example you can take a look at my account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32774226@N08/
I do not get paid for mentioning products. I have personally used every product mentioned in this post.