This time 6 years ago, I was pregnant with our oldest daughter and researching countless items for our registry.
Baby shopping was so much fun!
One of the top things on my wish list was a set of month-by-month stickers to put on Kate’s onesie to photograph and document her growth throughout her first year.
Like many momtogs, the birth of my firstborn is what sparked my desire to learn about photography, so her monthly baby pictures were also a signpost of my progression. By month 12, I realized I needed to open the window to get some light into the room rather than using the overhead light. Not even kidding.
Here are my three girls when each was 4 months old. It’s so fun to compare these side-by-side!
I’d love to share some tips I’ve discovered along the way, and I’ve got some beautiful monthly baby photos from some of our talented CMPros to share with you as well.
1. Safety first
Start by choosing a safe surface on which to pose your baby. I started out using a rocking chair with Kate, and then I felt stuck using it for Caroline and Abby so that my photos would be consistent.
I don’t know if you know this, but rocking chairs… well, they rock. And while that may be fine for your 1-month-old who doesn’t budge, it doesn’t work so well with an 8 month old learning to pull up. If you go the rocking chair route, I would suggest having another adult around who can act as a spotter.
Use a wide angle lens. A 35mm lens is an excellent choice. It allows you to remain at arms-length to your tiny subject for safety (and tickles!), and distortion isn’t noticeable.
Decide where you’re going to shoot baby’s portrait series, and watch the light in that room throughout the day. When is the light coming in too strongly? Is there a better time when it is more diffused? I would suggest finding a time of day when the room is bright, but the sun is not pouring in harshly through the windows. Hopefully this doesn’t coincide with nap time!
Do your set up before putting baby in place. If you need to gather props or adjust blinds, do that ahead of time.
Get your camera settings ready just before you bring baby on the scene. Most babies won’t like being confined to their spot for long! The clock starts ticking the second you plop them in place, so be sure to have everything ready to go. Boost that ISO if needed so that your aperture can be closed down and your shutter speed can be fast enough for wiggly babies. Focus is easy to lock on a newborn, but not so much for a one year old!
Now that you’ve found when the light is best, try to stick with that approximate time of day from here on out. I know for my current series of Abby, I aim to shoot in her nursery around 11am, if possible. I know that later is fine, but any earlier and the sun will be much too strong. By using consistent light, your photo series will have a more consistent look.
Be sure to keep a consistent position each month as well. Think about how you fill the frame with your chair or on the bed and try to compose your picture the same way each time.
For my monthly Abby shots right now, I keep my back to her closet door, angle her chair parallel to the window, and compose the shot so that I center the chair in the frame without cutting off the arm rests. I also make sure to keep my angle the same. I try to shoot straight on rather than from above or below. Keep everything consistent so that as you look at baby’s one year progression, the noticeable change across the months is the growth of your baby.
After you get that “money shot” of baby for your month-by-month progression series, change it up! Shoot from above, take close ups of those round cheeks or long lashes, and ask older babies to show you their tricks like clapping or waving. Include favorite lovies or toys.
Take a video of your baby in their photo spot. Those coos and giggles are fun to have alongside the still images!
5. Go with the flow
You will probably not take the photos exactly on time every month, especially if this isn’t your first baby! Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to hopefully get the shot in on time. But even if you are a few days late (or even a lot of days late!), snag the shot when you can so that your series doesn’t have a missing month. Keep going!
Babies do baby things. Like spit up. Like not look. Like not leave that monthly sticker on for even one single second. While it may not be the shot you were envisioning, sometimes those are the ones you look back on most fondly.