There’s something so satisfying about putting together a collage of monthly milestone photographs. How can you not love comparing chubby infant cheeks and chunky 6 month baby thighs to the longer limbs of that same child as a 12 month old? Seeing how each month, the baby got bigger and more independent; laughing at how that grouchy frown and joyful grin are still recognizable from beginning to end of year. After choosing to go the normal “baby on a blanket” route for my firstborn, I decided to let Aido monthly portraits take a more lifestyle direction – especially since I’ve spent the last year working on my 365 project! The result? A smashingly lovely hodgepodge of vibrant portraits. Monthly milestone photographs of Baby Two complete, I’ve decided to share a few insider tips on how to capture better photographers of your wee wiggler, whether you decide to go the posed or unposed route. Got that camera ready?
5 Tips to Capturing Better Monthly Milestone Photographs
1. Decide what sort of images you’d like to capture. Will these portraits be taken on-the-go with a documentary spin? Would you like to carefully pose your child on the floor or in their favorite chair? Do you want the baby to be the only person in the photograph, or will someone hold the baby? Consider whether you’ll have access to the spot you choose throughout the entire year and if this matters to you. Also keep in mind that you’ll likely have less and less energy to do something incredibly complicated the further along in the year you get. I once decided to take a photograph of Vincas and myself in front of different walls around the city every month…want to guess how long that resolution lasted? Using a blanket as the background for my firstborn’s monthly baby photographs proved ideal for tired and postpartum me because it meant I could take it anywhere and avoid looking at the actual (potentially messy) room we were in. If you’re using a blanket, using one that’s a little stiffer and flatter will be easier than one that thin and fluffy. The handmade quilt below proved a fantastic choice because it didn’t wrinkle easily. I also used it on wood floors, which helped keep it flat even when Povi rolled around a lot. Try to frame the photograph in a consistent manner if you want all the photographs to look similar. I tried to always get just an inch or so of the border within the photograph and always keep to the same angle.
2. Consider the light. I learned quickly when Povi was a baby that there was only one spot in our entire apartment that got decent natural light and that the photograph had to be taken between 9-11 in the morning in order for the light to be flattering. Any time after that and it got too dark. (which becomes an especially big problem once baby is moving a lot. The darker your surroundings, the more likely you’ll get motion blur.) You can see that the first few photographs in the collage below came out with slightly deeper shadows (especially the first photograph, which was taken by my amazing newborn photographer on a very cloudy day – I loved this first photograph so much that I decided to keep using that background for all the rest!). If you want all the photos to look similar, choose a specific time of day and type of lighting and stick with it. Natural lighting will be your BFF for beautiful skin tones – especially if you’re using your camera phone. Go ahead and turn off all the overhead lights and corner lamps and try not to block the window light with your body. If your home lacks natural light and you need to be outside, choose a shady area – preferably not under a tree, otherwise there’s a solid chance you’ll be working with a lot of reflected green tones.
2. Get that angle right. If you decide to have baby on the ground for the photographs, try angling the photograph from above the baby’s head. In other words, try to shoot down his nose instead of up his neck. (see the left and right comparison photographs below with Aidas acting as my extremely unwilling model. He knows he’s 13 months old and shouldn’t have to play this game anymore 😉 While roly-poly chins are fun, shooting straight up his chin will make his face look abnormally chubby and his eyes will look unnaturally small. I found standing with one foot on either side of the baby’s hips to be a good position for taking the photograph. This had the added benefit of helping keep him in place once he learned to roll. If he was particularly squirmy, I’d gently hold him in place with one of my feet while I prepared to take the photograph then let go just as I hit the shutter button.
3. Choose outfits that don’t overwhelm. In Povi’s milestone portraits above, I didn’t always do the best job of following this advice. Be very aware that onesies with words on them usually mean people are looking at the words before they see the baby. Also, this will date the images much sooner. (especially specific cartoon characters and company logos). This isn’t ALL bad – if you like the idea of documenting what sort of clothes your kiddo wears normally (or for special occasions – see below!), than go for it! If you want images that’ll focus completely on his face and not his clothing? Maybe consider putting baby in solid, neutral colored onesies. Want more chub to show? Go for just a plain onesie and diaper. Do you have a baby who spits up constantly? My go-to plan with my refluxy kid was to layer him before the photograph with an extra sweater (when it was cold) and bib and slowly peel the layers off in between the photographs.
4. Let the emotions show. I always think it’s more interesting to have a good variety of facial expressions and expressed emotions. Give yourself a solid chunk of time to play around and see what you get. If you’re using a camera phone, use the burst feature to capture photos really quickly. If you’re using a real camera, make sure its set to continuous mode. Recruit other family members to stand over your shoulder and make goofy faces – just make sure they’re peeking out RIGHT over your shoulder, otherwise you’ll just get a lot of pictures of your child looking away. Pets also work really well for getting babies to giggle! By yourself in the house? I’ve totally resorted to holding toys in my mouth and shaking them in a goofy way while the camera is up so I can photograph and entertain at the same time. Did I look ridiculous? Absolutely. Did I get amazing smiles? Fo’ sure.
5. Just have fun! Missed a month? I’ve been there. Can you guess which two photos in Povi’s collage were actually only taken a week apart? Neither can I. 😉
Hope this helps!