10 first birthday pictures you should capture

  • glittery birthday party hat by Kristin Dokoza

Your baby is turning one.

This is a huge milestone for them and you! Here are 10 tips and shots that will help you document that very special day.

And as a side note, I used mostly my Canon 35 f/1.4 L lens on these images.

1. Party prep

You have spent hours thinking about colors, a theme, and all the little details for the party. Don’t forget to capture them. The cake and any other little tabletop decorations should get photographed. Having these images are also a nice way to add visual interest to a photo book or keepsake from the party. I recommend spending a few minutes capturing these details before your guests arrive.

birthday cupcakes by Kristin Dokoza
party table with balloons by Kristin Dokoza
elephant mask for birthday party by Kristin Dokoza
glittery birthday party hat by Kristin Dokoza

2. Your guests

Take some time to walk around and observe the party. Your guests are there to help you celebrate. You could either ask groups of people to pose for you, or step back and capture unplanned moments. This is also a great time to get some portraits of your little one’s friends. A cute idea would be to include pictures from the party when you send out thank you notes.

son sitting on moms lap by Kristin Dokoza
child holding parent hand by Kristin Dokoza

3. The gifts!

I especially love to find a handwritten note from guests. I think having these images are not only a nice reminder of the day, but having their name photographed also adds a little personalized touch to the day.

stack of birthday presents by Kristin Dokoza

4. Find the light

Many times party venues have overhead fluorescent lighting. This can wreak havoc on your white balance. Don’t be afraid to set up styled shots by using available natural light. Play with your aperture. By shooting wide open, f/1.8 or f/2.0 you can create a sense of depth and the background will become an added texture to the composition.

photo of birthday cupcakes by Kristin Dokoza
birthday cake for one year old by Kristin Dokoza

5. The cake!

This is the finale to your party. Birthday cake is the best! Don’t forget to get all the detail shots before singing Happy Birthday to your little one.

birthday girl with cake by Kristin Dokoza
happy birthday candles by Kristin Dokoza

6. Happy Birthday to you

I adore everyone gathering around and singing Happy Birthday. If you can, pass the camera off to a friend or family member. This can be a great time to get a family shot. It’s fun to catch the making a wish, and blowing out the candle. Most toddlers don’t have that concept down yet, but that doesn’t stop their loved ones from helping to make sure their wish comes true.

play-do mess by Kristin Dokoza

7. Let them eat cake!

Oh, there is nothing cuter than a little one year old digging their hands into the cake and frosting. If it gets in their hair? Even better.

child eating birthday cake by Kristin Dokoza
happy birthday girl covered in cake by Kristin Dokoza

8. Get in close

I’ll spend a few minutes with the guest of honor and just capture their little hands, messy mouths and their reactions to the cake. Sometimes they love it, sometimes they are not quite sure what to think. Either way, their faces and expressions are priceless.

cake covered fingers by Kristin Dokoza
boy eating birthday cake by Kristin Dokoza
birthday boy with cake by Kristin Dokoza

9. You were there too

If you don’t remember to get all of these shots, of course while being the hostess with the mostess. You must remember to hand over your camera and get in the picture with your Birthday baby.

mom hugging birthday girl by Kristin Dokoza
birthday girl with family by Kristin Dokoza

10. The clean up

The party mess is never fun, but it can be a fun idea to photograph the aftermath. Not to mention it can be a task to try and get photos of all the party activities. Before cleaning up, this is your chance to walk around the space to see if there are any photos that would help tell the story of how the day went.

play-do mess by Kristin Dokoza
birthday party favors by Kristin Dokoza

I know it can be exhausting trying to entertain your guests, and make sure your child is having a fun time. Of course we all want the photos to remember the special day, but it is most important to be in the moment and just enjoy your sweet baby turning one.

Your baby is turning one. This is a huge milestone for them and you! Learn how to photograph their first birthday with these helpful tips.

Giveaway Update! (this giveaway is now closed)

Congratulations to Ali who said, “These are adorable! Great tips!” Email us to claim your prize your generous prize from Click magazine.

About the Author:

Kristin is a child and family photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, known for her unique abilities in capturing light and mood. She believes in the wonder of connection, laughter and love in everyone.


  1. Kim Mar 17 2015 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Fav childhood bday memorie – well its kinda funny to me but i sent everyone home except 2 frends from my party cause they were being mean. And my 2 friends and i had a blast that night watching movies and playing games.

  2. missy Mar 17 2015 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Such great tips! My daughter turned one 2 months ago and I still can’t believe it. I think I got all of the images you suggested :).

  3. Melissa Mar 17 2015 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    My dad used to send me flowers or balloons every year in school. It made me feel so special. Great tips!

  4. Erin Mar 17 2015 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Oh how I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again.

  5. Bethany Mar 17 2015 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    My 15th birthday I will cherish forever because it was the day my husband and I had our first kiss <3 15 years later, still together with 3 kids and 2 dogs in tow! 🙂

  6. Kathy Mar 17 2015 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I wish I had a chance to do this with my own kids! Grandkids, perhaps??

  7. Charlotte Mar 17 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Favorite childhood birthday memory? Waking up to balloons and presents in the living room! My mom never got helium balloons, but taped the regular kind up around the living room, and tied them to the chandelier in the kitchen. Good memories 🙂

  8. Mackenzie Reynolds Mar 17 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Playing Girl Talk with my friends when I was about 9 or 10 and I told my younger brother he couldn’t pay because it was for girls only. 5 minutes later he came out to the living room where my easter sunday dress and bonnet.

  9. Ophelia Mar 17 2015 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    These photos are wonderful! I wish I could go back and do this but photography didn’t find me until later. I’m more than making up for it with subsequent birthdays 🙂

  10. Heidi G Mar 17 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    My mom was a grade school teacher so she always had such fun games for all of the kids to play at each of my parties. 🙂

  11. Nicole S. Mar 17 2015 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    These are such great tips, Kristin! I wish I’d had these in mind for my son’s 1st birthday. But there’s always next year!

  12. meg Mar 17 2015 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    clean up is a great idea to photograph.

  13. Melissa Mar 17 2015 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    These are great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Rachel F. Mar 17 2015 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    My favorite childhood birthday memory is a roller skating party. Nothing more fun than skating to the chicken dance and playing arcade games that eat your money. 🙂

  15. Amber D. Mar 17 2015 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    My favorite memory is watching my Dad and uncle put on a fireworks show (My birthday is July 4th). 🙂

  16. Karen L Mar 17 2015 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    The only party I can remember is one with fairy wings when I was turning 10, or maybe it was before that, but I remember fairy wings 🙂
    These are great tips, I must remember the details 🙂

  17. Ally Mar 17 2015 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Love the idea of capturing the mess too! Great tips!

  18. Michele Kendzie Mar 17 2015 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I loved it when my birthday fell on Thanksgiving so I had lots of relatives over and a big feast. 😛

  19. jenny waller Mar 17 2015 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    this is just in time… i have a party coming up for my niece! thanks for sharing the tips!

  20. Natalie Mar 17 2015 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    One of my favorite childhood birthday memories was my mom making me a Barbie cake with the doll in the middle and the cake built up around her. 🙂 I thought it was pretty nifty.

  21. Yan Mar 17 2015 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Great tips!!

  22. Christine b Mar 17 2015 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Birthday party at Mcdonald’s playland when we were little…thought hamburglur (sp?) was so cool!!

  23. Tracy Mar 17 2015 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Each year my mom would make a homemade birthday cake better than the year before. They were ALL so wonderful.

  24. Lisa Benemelis Mar 18 2015 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Wonderful article, Kristin. Thank you for all the tips!!

  25. Cindy Mar 18 2015 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Thanks! My son turns one in May! I’m so excited!

  26. Tara Vanderheyden Mar 18 2015 at 1:18 am - Reply

    Just in time….my daughter is just about 11 months old. Let the planning begin. …and then end with your tips. Thank you

  27. Better-photography Mar 18 2015 at 6:31 am - Reply

    Great tips! And the photos are so sweet!

  28. Ali Mar 18 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    These are adorable! Great tips!

  29. Lynette Mar 18 2015 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    We always did birthdays at the pool, all three of us siblings together. Awesome memories!

    • Lynette Mar 18 2015 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      And literally tomorrow I’m buying our first really decent camera. It’s a Canon EOS Rebel T5? I think. We’re still learning!

  30. Kathleen Mar 18 2015 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    These tips are great! My favorite birthday memory is baking my birthday cake with my mom. She would let me decorate it and everything!

  31. Megan Mar 18 2015 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Love the detail shots! Those are the things I often overlook, but are great for telling the whole story!

  32. Catherine Mar 18 2015 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    These are great tips thank you. My favourite birthday memory would have to be choosing what cake I wanted out of the cake book. I chose a heart cake with heart meringues with sprinkles on them. My Dad for many years kept the heart template used for the meringues in his wallet which makes me smile knowing he did this. 🙂

  33. Emily Hamson Mar 19 2015 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Oh I love all these tips!
    My favorite birthday memory is also my earliest. It was the big 3, and my parents woke me up with a beautiful cake and a lovely rendition of happy birthday. It was awesome!

  34. Ellen Mar 19 2015 at 9:55 am - Reply

    No specific memory, but the unveiling of the cake was always great fun!

  35. Tammy Bilodeau Mar 19 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Great tips, I need to work on getting in the pictures just like you’ve mentioned, Thanks!

  36. Julie Mar 19 2015 at 11:49 am - Reply

    So glad I read this! Am saving it in my favorites, as my daughter will be 1 in August. Such beautiful pictures! Absolutely love that hat if anyone know where I can find one! 🙂

  37. Lisa Stegmeyer Mar 19 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great tips! We often get so caught up in taking care of the party that we overlook getting some quality photos from the event. We often end up getting “snapshots” of things that happened and they appear to be an afterthought. I hope your tips motivate parents to put in a little more effort at capturing the party and the memories.

  38. Leslie Mar 19 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Maybe not a good one but I am often reminded of the time I hid under the table during the singing of “Happy Birthday!” 🙂

  39. Michelle Mar 19 2015 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Great tips!!! It is always hard to get great birthday pictures and still be able to join in on the fun!

  40. Michelle Mar 19 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Oops forgot to add my memory!!! Bobbing for apples was always something to look forward too!!!

  41. Megan Mar 19 2015 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    I forgot to add my birthday memory too! It would have to be my 4th birthday party. It was super simple (just in our backyard with some neighborhood friends, and we played musical chairs), but I remember so much about it, even down to who came. Funny how sometimes the simplest things can mean so much. 🙂

  42. Jamie Mar 19 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Hmm, as a Christmas baby, my favorite birthday was probably the one we celebrated in June for my half birthday since my friends were actually able to attend. 🙂

  43. Pam Mar 19 2015 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Cute article! Great idea to capture the aftermath 🙂

  44. Judy Mar 19 2015 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    What great tips! Thanks 🙂

  45. Debbie Mar 20 2015 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Great tips! I don’t really have a favorite birthday memory (bad memory) but will be using all of these tips so my girls can remember more of theirs!

  46. Sandy Thelen Mar 20 2015 at 9:57 am - Reply

    My favorite birthday memory is from the year I turned 12, and I got the exact new outfit I’d been hoping for from my grandparents!

  47. Nikki R. Mar 20 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Great post!

  48. Ebony Mar 20 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Love the idea of capturing cleanup 🙂

  49. Annie Mar 20 2015 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Such great ideas! I could have used this last year. 🙂

  50. Julie Mar 20 2015 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Favorite childhood birthday: my birthday is in May, and one year, it was so warm I got to have a picnic outside with all of my friends on my birthday. We were all dressed up to the nines, it would have been a dream to photograph 🙂

  51. kim Mar 20 2015 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    my mom made me a special strawberry shortcake cake (she actually drew a picture of the doll on top of the cake)

  52. Liz Jul 18 2015 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Quarters wrapped up in wax paper and hidden in cake. Not sure if that is a healthy idea but it was definitely memorable.

  53. Melissa Aug 08 2016 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Fav bday memory is my daughters first. I had planned out a beautiful winter wonderland themed cake for her Jan bday Everyone has sung happy birthday and the top tier is given to our daughter just for her. She won’t even place a finger on it. Not one nibble taken. No Finger poke or lick. She cries instead.
    What does my princess want? Birthday banana What a princess lol

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