High fives and hip bumps to you soul mama . . . you’re determined to take pictures of your new baby once a month to show off how much he/she is changing that first year. You rock!
You’ve pinned! You’ve Etsy’d! You’ve bought STICKERS! You’re all warm and fuzzy that your Little Precious Precious is going to blow up your Facebook with likes and comments and then . . .
. . . .and then a few months later, you’re all “Ack it has been a month already?! Forget the cute novelty chalkboard lets just print something on computer paper and lay Little Precious Precious on a blanket, and call it a day!”
Except you’ve got this nagging irritation that these pictures kind of suck. Oh! I mean, Little Precious Precious is totally adorable . . . blurry and covered in office supplies but totally adorable.
Let me see if I can help a sista’ out here.
10 Easy Steps to Better Monthly Baby Photos
1. Have a Helper Nearby.
Looking through a camera creates tunnel vision and having two hands working that iPhone doesn’t leave any open for, you know, catching the baby. This isn’t one you should skip. Always have someone just off camera that can jingle keys, catch a slumping baby, and fetch you your Evian.
2. Use a Window for Light.
Find a window in your house that gets the most sunlight and position your set up in front of that window leaving only enough room for you to sit in between the two.
- If you have white sheer curtains (the ideal) then pull up the blinds and pull the sheers in front of the window to diffuse the light coming through.
- If you don’t have white sheer curtains then adjust your blinds so the light is allowed in but doesn’t create shadows.
- If you have regular curtains or colored sheer curtains or blinds then consider hanging a white sheet over the window (not doubled over, you want the light to get through just not be as harsh)
- In all cases, make sure there aren’t any shadows on the chair.
You’ve just created a giant studio light using the sun as your light source and the sheer curtain as a diffuser. There is no short cut here. There is no “oh but this chair is in the corner by the window and I won’t have to move it, isn’t that good enough?”. This even spread of natural light is going to completely transform your picture so just do it.
3. Avoid Laying Down Poses
For this project avoid any pose where you’re straddling your child (and trying to keep your shoes out of the picture). Here is why:
- Less risk of dropping your camera on your baby.
- It can distort how a baby looks because you’re never able to be truly 100% above them.
- It can throw off your camera’s auto focus when wiggly feet close to the lens are detected by the focus sensors rather than the face (creating in-focus feet and slightly out of focus faces).
- Your best light is out that window, not in the ceiling and we want the light on their face.
- This one is a little harder to explain but see if it makes sense to you. The position of being over the baby makes the viewer hover over your child with you and you’ve created a visual statement of power without even knowing it. It is like the picture was taken by God . . . and not in the “aww YAY Photos By God!” kind of way but the scarier all-powerful “you’re just an ant” version.
4. Use Pillows to Help Them Sit Up
Use pillows hidden behind your backdrop as props to hold Little Precious Precious in position. In general you want to arrange the pillows behind him in a cocoon to hold him up straight, head supported, and leaning backwards as little as possible. A tall pillow behind the head will help keep the head supported.
5. Keep the Background Simple.
While baby blankets and sheets are always covered in adorable prints – they’re also very busy and crowded.
- Make your background as neutral as possible.
- We used a simple white receiving blanket on a khaki glider for this shot and it is perfect. Stick with what you already own.
- If you want to have a solid backdrop just extend the blanket over the back of the chair (not tucked in but hanging loose) and shoot close in. You’ll need a large blanket and may need a wider sitting area like a couch.
6. Shoot at Baby’s Eye Level.
Can you tell the difference between the picture on the left and the picture on the right? The picture on the left is what we’re going for.
- For the picture on the left I am sitting in front of the glider with my back to the windows. The baby and chair fill most of the frame and we’re on eye level with him. This is the photo equivalent of having someone walk up to you and hold a baby right in front of your face . . . there is no where else to look except right in to his eyes. We’re on his level and he is the star of our shot.
- For the picture on the right I am standing in front of the glider with my back to the windows. Notice our background is more cluttered and he seems to take up much less of the photo. This is the photo equivalent of walking in to a daycare and looking down at kids playing on the floor – cute, but typical.
7. Choose Settings to Avoid Motion Blur.
Are blurry hands and feet killing your shot? This is due to a slower than necessary shutter speed. It is really simple to fix and here is how:
- If you’re using a flash in your pictures then stop. Most cameras are have a 1/60th of a second shutter speed when the flash is used. Unfortunately, to freeze those wiggly feet you need to be at about 1/200th of a second (here is the reminder for us non-Math types that 1/200th of a second is FASTER than 1/60th). Ready for some good news? If you’re following tip #2 you should have plenty of light to not have to use your flash.
- Set your camera to sports mode. Why does this work? Because your camera understands that in sports mode you’re trying to freeze quick action and need to have as much shutter speed as possible. It also understands that the flash won’t do the trick and turns that off for you.
- If you’ve tried sports mode and you’re still getting blur from wiggles in your picture then you need to increase the amount of light in the shot. Turn on overhead lights, move to a brighter window, or wait until a brighter time of day.
8. Pick the Right Props.
You know what is more difficult that posing a wiggly baby? Posing a wiggly baby with a floppy stuffed giraffe. Mad props to those who can prop their props (someone save me from myself…) but the best props are going to be rigid, durable, easy to hold and easy to sit up on their own. I love the chalkboard idea that Becky used for our shoot with Parker. Props are great because they give a sense of size and growth so don’t get rid of them all together – just choose wisely.
9. Keep It Simple.
Seriously, keep it simple. Find a set up that works for you and re-create it every time.
- For this shoot I brought nothing with me except my camera. I found a spot with good lighting, put a glider in front of it, hid a pillow behind a white blanket, made him comfortable and started taking pictures.
- The entire shoot including set up took 20 minutes.
- Free yourself from unrealistic expectations. Remember what you’re doing. You’re creating a visual memory of how much your new baby is growing . . . not starting an Etsy shop for novelty baby outfits. Keep it simple or it’ll be hard to stick with it.
10. It’s Not the Camera.
I pulled out my regular point and shoot camera for this last shot so you’ll believe me . . . it is NOT THE CAMERA that makes these pictures look better it is good lighting, smart positioning, and keeping it simple. You can TOTALLY do this.
Do you have questions?
Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to help.
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