Getting the perfect pose for a child, especially a young child can be quite tough. Often they aren’t able to hold themselves still (or even upright). Let me share with you how I made a recent portrait for a family friend.

The Backstory

I offered to photograph Robert and Bryanna’s beautiful little baby girl River. They and their family have been friends of mine for over 20 years. Robert’s parents are my son Alec’s Godparents. In fact, his father was one of the first photographers to teach me about photography. I felt the pressure to step up my game!

Unable to sit up by herself, I had her Bryanna steady River with one arm as I shot a few frames. These were our safe shots, meaning shots we knew would come out great. So far so good. Then we tried to see if River could hold herself up. After a few attempts, we agreed it wasn’t worth the chance of her getting hurt so we abandoned the idea.

With a little postproduction we solved the issue.

Three Easy Steps in Photoshop

With a few copied pixels and a little masking, the problem can be solved.

Step 1: Duplicate the background layer.

It’s good practice to duplicate the background image. Any change to the image is made on copy not the original. This gives a fallback option in case I make a mistake. You can do this by right-clicking on the layer and choosing Duplicate.

Step 2: Select a section of the photo and copy it to a layer.

Now let’s select some pixels from the photo that will work to replace the arm area.

  1. Using the Rectangular Marquee tool, select a replacement section.
  2. Copy the selection to a new layer by pressing keyboard shortcut, [PC] Ctrl + J, [Mac] Command + J.
  3. Click on the new layer and choose Edit >Transform>Flip Horizontal.
  4. Move the selection into position and press the Return or Enter key.

Step 3: Add a Layer mask and paint in the selection.

Now let’s paint back in the pixels we need.

  1. Hold the [PC] Alt Key, [Mac} Option key as you click the add layer mask icon found on the bottom of the Layers palette. This will create a new layer mask filled with Black, hiding the new replacement selection we just created.
  2. Set the foreground color to white.
  3. Use the brush tool to paint in the area you want to replace. A sift edge brush and even mixed opacities can work well to blend the two layers.

Shooting Tip

Let me mention why we took the Safe shots first. Having Bryanna’s arm in the photo holding River up and tickling her to make her react ensured we had a great shot. River felt safe. Had we started shooting without Bryanna holding her and River became scared, we risked her crying and would have lost an opportunity. The 5 minutes it took to mask away Bryanna’s arm in Photoshop was a safer choice.