by Susan Hawkins

There's no easy way to prevent it - babies grow up so fast. Every moment is a memory we want to keep forever, or at least until they marry and we can embarrass them with an adorable engagement party video of "the way they were". The video camera has become as much a necessity for new parents as a crib, high chair and disposable diapers. Not everyone is Steven Spielberg, but here are a few tips for making the most of your video production efforts when capturing meaningful events in your baby's or toddler's life. 

Prepare Your Video Camera. Before you start shooting, turn OFF the date and time stamping, because they distract from the overall image. Also turn OFF the recording or "tally" light - babies will stop whatever they're doing to stare at the pretty red light. Oh, and make sure you have a tape in the camera.

Let There Be Light. Lighting is critical to good video, so choose a bright environment. If baby's about to take those first steps in the living room, open the curtains, turn on every light and start shooting. Natural light is always a good source if there's enough of it. Light coming through open windows will produce a softer, more soothing tone, but only if there's sufficient light on the action. If your shot looks dark in the viewfinder, add some light to your subject.

Vary the View. Remember that family and friends will be watching these records of baby's life. You want your images to be engaging. Begin with a WIDE shot to establish where baby is - nursery, living room, kitchen, bathroom. Hold the shot steady at least ten seconds. Then push in for a MEDIUM WIDE SHOT - baby in the crib, baby crawling on the carpet, baby eating cheerios in the high chair, baby in the tub. Next, go in for the CLOSE-UP. Show that adorable face! You can even push in further for an EXTREME CLOSE-UP. Let's see that mouth covered with spaghetti sauce! Vary your angles, too. Take profiles, low-angle or high-angle shots, and be frugal with your pans and zooms as creative elements. Depending on where the baby is, get on the same level from time to time instead of always shooting overhead. If there are other people in the room, get a few shots of them, too.

Make an Idiot of Yourself - Sometimes.
 When baby is doing something worth capturing, grab your camera and be as unobtrusive as possible so the baby's action continues undisturbed. But sometimes you want to create reactions. To coax those adorable emotions, you know what it takes - your own funny faces and baby-voices saying ridiculous things. Shake a favorite squeaky toy next to the camera while you shoot. This becomes infinitely easier if you have an "associate producer" nearby (ie. Mommy or Daddy - whoever is not operating the camera) to handle the "prompting." 

Family photos and videos are priceless, allowing us to relive the most precious and important moments of our lives.  A touch of skill makes all the difference in the world.