Have you ever seen one of those "Pinterest-inspired vs. Reality" photo comparisons where a well-intended mom (or dad) saw an image on Pinterest that she wanted to replicate and it went horribly wrong? Unless you're a professional photographer, chances are that the photos you take of your new baby are likely to suffer the same fate. Yes, the first year of your baby's life is so much fun to watch. The first year is even more fun to photograph and with today's seven tips, we hope you'll be even better prepared to capture every single moment!
#1 Be Prepared
It goes without saying to have your camera ready (batteries, memory cards, etc) and know how to use it. You also need to have your camera easily accessible, so when a moment presents itself, you're ready to shoot. But, let's take a step back. While you are STILL PREGNANT, start gathering any props, clothing or accessories you may want to use to photograph your baby. This applies whether you or someone else will be photographing your baby and is not limited to newborn photos. Once your baby arrives, the first few weeks of their life will be exhausting, so you want to be mentally prepared.
#2 Tell the Story
The first year is full of "firsts" that are worth being photographed. Tell the story of your child's life through photos. Grab your camera when your baby does something new. First bath, first smiles and laughs, first time eating food, sitting up, crawling, etc. If you have a video camera, use that too. Remember that having a baby is not just about creating a beautiful photo album. Just as it's important to capture memories, it's even more important to create memories with your family. So, after you've snapped a few shots, put the camera down.
Many professional photographers will offer some sort of "Watch Me Grow" package, capturing a baby at key developmental points during their first year and beyond. You can do the same. Between 3 and 4 months, babies can often lay on their belly and lift their heads. Between 6 and 7 months, babies are sitting up on their own. Between 9 and 10 months, many babies are pulling up and standing with support or at least crawling. Finally, some babies are walking by their first birthday. Pay attention to where your baby is developmentally and coordinate any "planned" photo shoots around that developmental milestone.
#4 Seasons and Holidays
Seasons and holidays offer wonderful inspiration for photographing babies. Use them, along with your baby's birth date to make photographing your baby a part of your monthly routine. In addition to photo albums, a great way to memorialize each month is through the use of a first year photo calendar. Another idea you may have seen floating around is to take a photo of your baby in a chair beside a stuffed animal (or wearing a white onesie laying on blanket) each month to document how much he or she has changed each month. At the end of the year, you can put them into a collage.
Most parents don't plan to photograph their baby crying, but poorly timed photos can increase your chances of an unhappy baby (and mama). Pay attention to your baby's natural rhythm and try to plan any "photo shoots" during times where your baby is more likely to be in a good mood, such as after eating or nap time. This means that during nap time, do whatever you need to do to get ready (if you're able and not holding your sleeping baby). Don't rush your baby into photos. Also recognize when your baby has had enough. When your baby starts fussing, put the camera away.
Many of the photos you'll take of your baby during the first year will be in and around your home. With that in mind, you need to become very familiar with the light at various times and in various rooms within your house. If you're not sure how to get started, take a walk around your house when no one else is home (or when your baby is asleep). Open the blinds, curtains and doors. Take an object with you and test the light with your camera in each location. Once you know how to find the best light in your home, you'll feel more confident when photographing your baby. The key is to have enough light that you don't need a flash.
#7 Focus, Aperture and Shutter Speed
We're going to spend a lot more time discussing the technical aspects of photography over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, keep it simple. Focus on your baby's eyes and keep your shutter speed above 1/160 to avoid motion blur (even better, above 1/250). The older your baby gets, the more important shutter speed will become. In fact, you may wish to experiment shooting in shutter priority mode. For creamy soft backgrounds, use a wide aperture (low in number such as f/2.8 or as low as your lens is capable).