The Novice Father: Taking photos worth keeping |

The Novice Father: Taking photos worth keeping

Kelly Coffey
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to DailyKelly Coffey

When my wife sent out the latest crop of baby pictures, she warned in the e-mail that some of the photos were so cute the viewer’s face would melt off … like at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Since our baby’s birth, my wife and I whip out the camera noticeably more. We take pictures to share with relatives and friends. We take pictures to preserve the memories.

Each family has their own iconic photos. Those photos that have lasted 50 years or more: The framed black and white, the forgotten shoebox discovery, the great-grandparents as young newlyweds.

That’s a lot of expectation to live up to, especially for me who demands professional quality photos from my amateur skills. How do I make sure I catch the photographs that will be keepers for our whole lives?

“We have hundreds and hundreds of pictures of both our children,” said Eric Mandeville of Gypsum. Mandeville has two girls, ages four and one. He and his wife have a digital camera that they always pack with them just in case a Kodak moment pops up. Thanks to the digital technology, he has no problem taking a large number of pictures. He can delete the sub-par photos right away.

If anything, the personal camera was made for times like these: A new baby, happy parents and the visiting relatives ogling over the little one. Now that the world’s gone digital, this technology seems only a more apt fit. Snap a picture. E-mail it across the world.

“The best pictures I’ve taken have been the random ones,” said Mandeville, noting it’s nearly impossible to get a good posed picture of all four of them.

I have to agree with him. Even though my newborn sits still better than Mandeville’s toddlers, the best picture of my baby is one of my wife and I together looking down at our daughter. It’s a candid shot showing an intimate family moment. That candid photo does a far better job of capturing a happy memory than any of the posed family shots we’ve collected.

Mandeville noted that most of the pictures they kept were of positive, happy memories. However, the grandmother keeps a picture in her “Grandma’s brag book” of the three-year old scribbling on her wall with a permanent marker.

Not all pictures need to be posed or of happy babies, suggested Robert Brown, an Edwards-based photographer. “It can actually be cute to have pictures of them crying,” he said.

To get some quality shots out of the bunch, Brown recommended I focus on proper lighting. I should turn off the automatic flash on my camera and put my baby in a well-lit area (but not direct sunlight). This will avoid harsh shadows, he said.

As far as aiming the camera, I should try to fill the frame with the baby, Brown said. This will help to avoid distracting backgrounds. In general it’s also best to get the baby alone in the frame so there’s not a distracting disembodied hand holding the baby, he said.

Brown likes to get down on the baby’s level to take the picture. This angle typically produces better photos than the one’s from above.

“Better than any other medium, photographs allow us to relive a moment in time that is gone,” Brown said.

That’s why we value them so much. With a baby of face-melting cuteness, I have an obligation to document her well.

Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments or questions about this column to

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