In the world of "digital" and baby photography boom it is easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to props. I believe that Anne Geddes has been the biggest influence in present day trends of babies in hanging props, wraps and cutesy baby critter outfits. While well established photographers and studios can work with artists and crafters to bring their visions to life, props have become widely available through Etsy and Big Cartel prop artists as well as Facebook merchants. But there is still quite a bit confusion out there for new photographers and moms setting up sessions. Before I go any further I want to note that no matter the prop, pose or vision babies SAFETY is at up most importance and neither parents nor photographer should attempt anything that can pose any chance of injury.
Most of the enchanting images have magic touch of editing involved. ( here is a quick peek on how it works Flickr )
So here comes the breakdown.
Backdrops come in variety of sizes and materials in great range of price points.
What to consider
~ size - if you are photographing close-ups, newborns, and have on-location photography business variety of soft textured fabrics, throws, and blankets will work great. If you shoot wider angles you might have to invest in a larger background.
* fabric - you should consider finish ( matte vs. shiny), wrinkle factor and patterns, canvas.
Curtain rod mounted on the wall with interchangeable linen, cotton or velvet panels can be great affordable background
* paper - you will go through rolls, especially if shooting toddlers. Always have clips to secure the rolls from unwinding and weights (books, sand bags) on unrolled corners to prevent paper bending up
* printed vinyl backdrops/floors - you have to set up lighting to prevent sheen at some angles, they will scratch if you use wooden boxes, baskets or even wear heals, but with care and variety in prints they are generally great addition to studio
* ceiling tiles - available pre-painted as well as unpainted to create your own color scheme and arrangement
*make your own - the sky is the limit. Buy canvas/drywall ( in the size that meets your needs) and paint it yourself, use reclaimed wood and create faux wall background.Even some pine planks, stained and distressed will create great one of the kind backgrounds/floors
* Digital - it may take some time and patience, but let your imagination guide you. Main thing is to pay attention to detail, although editing might be obvious ( baby sleeping on a flower petal) but it still should preserve the illusion.
Few key things to consider
~ background is just that- BACKGROUND - dont let it overpower the image. There are so many beautiful backgrounds, ant there are images where soul of the image is lost in a background
~ the further the background and shallower the depth of the field, the more focus on the subject
~ if there are to many colors distracting from subject ... convert it to black and white or blur the background
~ backgrounds can be any texture (spray painted and crumbled mesh for screen doors, grass blinds, burlap, silk or live flowers, light strands)
~ great additions to backgrounds can be floor trims ( available and affordable at the hardware stores) chandeliers, columns and flower pots and banners and garlands
~ wool - various wools are different softness.
* Merino (breed of sheep known for its soft and fine wool) is one of the softest.
* Mohair is great in loose knits and often used to show little baby toes peeking through the knit.
* Thick and thin/ hand spun yarn knits give beautiful textures and ofter are unique since wool spinning artists dye batches in unique patterns
Products (hats, wraps and cocoons) crafted from home dyed, hand spun, Merino or Mohair will be quite pricy due to high cost of wools
** note that wool needs special care and should not be washed in a washing machine**
****** Please always check with parents about potential wool allergies******
~ cotton, silk and bamboo - great natural fibers, come in variety of tones, sheen and have very low chance of allergies. Gauze is a wonderful for wrapping around baby or creating background texture (it is inexpensive and with variety of dyes available in craft stores, you can create rainbow gauze collection for your photography needs).
*** silk needs special cleaning care, cotton and bamboo can be washed in washing machine***
~ acrylic, nylon and other synthetics- synthetic fiber have come a long way and there are great yarns available in various textures and softness.
***Care depends on the yarn , but often can be washed in gentle cycle in washing machine****
Wraps, cocoons, pods and hammocks
~ When putting babies in pods or cocoons, gather your prop and stretch it over the baby. Always have help from parents and/or assistant.
~ Babies skin is very gentle and sensitive, please always check with parents for any allergies to wool or other irritants.
~ most "hanging pictures" are editing magic of composite images and baby should NEVER be suspended more than few inches above pillows, beanbags and by employing multiple assistants. There are how-tos online ( Flickr, Blogs and great resource on Facebook )
***** any kind of balancing on scales, hanging baskets, cocoons or musical instruments should involve supporting hands that can be removed in post processing. Even images when baby appears to lay across a parents shoulder, arm and palm usually has an assistant supporting baby and clever editing creates the illusion*****
Fringe Blankets and Mini Blankets/Pads
Fringe blankets and mini blankets are can be great addition of texture, wonderful for draping over baskets. Please read descriptions of fringe blankets and mini blankets to insure that sizing meets your needs. Some of them do not have a center ( center is sewn to keep fringe in place) , some have knit or crocheted center.
Oh the joy... as a photographer (Ilze Lucero Photography) and proud prop crafter ( ilzesmemories on Etsy) these little additions make the cutest images ... colors... patterns... textures and critters ... so much fun
So here are some of my favorite types
~ Critter hats
I think baby photographers favorites would be the Bunny Hat, Bear Hat , Sock Monkey Hat and Owl Hats
~ Elf / Munchin / Pixie hats
~ Chunky Thick and Thin Hats
Other options include Aviator Hats and Earflaps
Headbands and Crowns
While using headbands, rosette clips and crowns, make sure all embellishments are safely attached and since babies explore by mouth supervise them at all times