A question I am often asked is 'how do I take great photos with my baby milestone cards?' It's a good question, because although in theory it sounds simple, the reality, like so many things involving babies, is a whole lot harder.
Alongside a baby milestone book, taking your baby's monthly milestone photo is right up there on many a new parent's to do list. Baby milestone cards are helpful little prompts to help you capture and celebrate the big moments in your little one's life. Alongside the month to month milestone cards are the ones that celebrate their developmental milestones - first smile, first time crawling, first steps and so on. Keeping a photographic record of these huge events is an amazing way to preserve these special memories.
Having your baby milestone cards is one thing, but taking great photos with them is another. Before I had a baby I hadn't anticipated how difficult photographing a child could be. When they are newborns, it's a real struggle to photograph them awake and not screaming, and as they get older and more mobile, it's a real battle is to keep them still (and not screaming!)
While I don't claim to be an expert when it comes to taking milestone photos, here are a few little things I've learnt along the way.
First things first
To get started on your milestone photography, make sure you have a set of milestone cards (may I recommend our hand lettered baby milestone cards), a camera (I only ever use my iPhone camera), and some patience (you'll probably need it!)
Happy, happy, happy
Make sure you time your photoshoot for when you and your baby are relaxed and happy. Happy memories are much nicer to look back on than stressful, aggravated ones! I found that using my baby milestone cards in the morning after having breakfast and getting changed when we were both relaxed, fed and full, and clothes were fresh and milk/food free was the best. Morning light is often nicer too. Make sure your baby is comfortable - either lying on something soft, or if they're sitting, that they're well balanced and can't fall. If they're comfortable, they're going to be happier.
Follow the light
Try and use indirect natural light wherever possible. The aim is to have enough light that you don't need to use the flash, which often does weird and wacky things to your photos. Try to position your baby so they are softly lit from the front, and avoid having sun shining in their eyes - that will never make them happy! Strong light from behind will end up giving you a silhouette effect, which isn't usually the look you'll be wanting to achieve.
Steady does it
Try to keep both your camera and your baby still - movement isn't a camera's friend. I know, I know - this is often easier said than done! It can be helpful to have a second person standing beside/behind you to distract bubs, otherwise do what you can to have them put their attention on you - singing, making silly noises, and calling their name on repeat will often do the trick. Giving them the milestone card to hold (once they're capable of gripping things) will give them something to focus on too, although that can open a whole new can of worms (more on that below).
Be selective when choosing where to take your baby milestone photos. In summer I liked to take a blanket outside and set it up in front of a tree - the natural light was perfect and the tree made a great backdrop. Wherever you decide on, try to make the background as clutter free as possible - you want your baby to be the focus, not what's happening behind them. It's best to take your photos against something relatively simple - doors, windows, toys and furniture can be distracting and the angles can make the whole photo look strange and out of proportion. Outside against greenery or a fence, inside against a plain wall, close up on a couch or in a cot/bassinet will always work best. If you don't have anywhere suitable, just grab a plain sheet (white or pale colours work best) and drape it across some furniture to create a DIY backdrop.
Get in close
Your milestone photos don't always need to include your baby in full. Especially when they're little, it can be nice to place your baby milestone card on their chest, or beside their head and zoom in nice and close from their shoulders up. Just remember that your photos don't need to be identical month to month.
Take lots of photos
This is the golden rule which applies any time you are taking photos of a baby - take lots of photos! If you take just a few you may get lucky and end up with one that's decent, but chances are they'll all be duds. But if you take more than needed, the chance of having some winners amongst them is a whole lot higher. Yes it can be a pain to go through them all after and delete the dozens that are terrible, but I still maintain it is worth it. Try shooting from different heights and angles, and mix it up with close ups and shots from further back. You might be surprised at the results.
As your baby gets older you will find you no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to taking your milestone photos. Your baby milestone cards will get grabbed, chewed, taken away, ripped and scrunched up. So you need to learn to work fast! From about seven months on my milestone cards now have at least one bite mark in them. The one year card has a whole corner missing. Most are creased and scrunched. So you need to make sure you have your shot before this happens. I found that if I got my baby all set up, got myself in position and then popped the milestone card in at the last minute it worked best. I also made sure I took the card back and put it in a safe place if I need to rearrange him or me. Don't say I didn't warn you.
The little things
Sometimes it's the little things that get overlooked. Make sure your lens is clean, your phone/camera is charged, you have your milestone cards ready, your background all set up, and you and baby are happy and relaxed.
Have fun, and good luck x