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How to Take Baby Photos That Don’t Suck

Most new parents fit into two photographic categories: Those who can take baby photos that are so adorable you want to cuddle the camera. And those who snap blurry shots with a small handheld rectangular device that occasionally rings and is frequently dropped.

I’m sadly one of the latter.  Usually I have to explain to people that, despite the photos I’m showing them, my kids don’t really have a skin disorder and a third arm.

As my July resolution (monthly re-resolutions define me) I went crawling to the talented Wendi Riggens, and begged her to elevate my untalented clicker finger. She gave me some pretty sweet advice that actually helped.  (My photos show normal appendages now!)

Let me be a pal and share with you what she shared with me…using a recipe analogy.

Why a recipe? Because I’m fluent in Recipe.  They make sense to me.  Do Step One. Follow that with Step Two, etc. etc. until a 6-layered cake magically pops up and someone cheers. So all you have to do to take baby photos that everyone will gush over is follow the simple recipe below.

Bon appetit!

Take Baby Photos That Rock #1
Begin With the End

If you wanted to make an apple pie, you wouldn’t start by pulling out boxes of macaroni and cheese.

The same thing is true when you take baby photos. The type of photo you’re shooting for (pun, intended because I’m a geek) will set the course for the rest of your steps.

Begin with the end in mind:

  • Do you want a sweet awwwww kind of photos?
  • Do you want big-smiles-and-chuckles kind of photos?
  • Do you want hilarious candid shots?
  • Do you want black and white close ups?
  • Do you want panoramic baby-in-nature shots?
  • Do you want to take baby photos based on a theme?
  • Do you want a family portrait?

Take a minute to think through the emotions and effect you want your photos to have.  Then start moving towards Step Two…

Take Baby Photos That Rock #2
Gather Your Ingredients

When I’m getting ready to make something in the kitchen, I always take a few minutes to gather all my ingredients first.  This way I can get into a good rhythm of cooking and avoid running all over searching for stuff (and burning whatever is on the stove).

Good photo shoots require the same sort of focus.  The last thing you want to do is search for a prop or light when your baby is happy, smiling and ready to go.

Figure out now, before you get your infant into position, what tools you’ll need to pull these shots off. For example…

  • If you want outdoor pictures, where specifically are you going to go? (Driving aimlessly looking for a “perfect spot” wastes valuable Happy Baby Time.  Pick it out ahead of time.)
  • Do you need a sheet or blanket as a backdrop?
  • Would a few photo props add the perfect touch?
  • What should your baby wear?
  • Do you need a tripod?
  • If your baby is a newborn, do you need a pillow or something to help her stay in position?
  • Is your camera or phone fully charged?

Take 5 minutes to really think through all you need to make your session seamlessly flow from picture to picture.

Take Baby Photos That Rock #3
Spend Time Thinking About…

Pop Quiz:  What’s the most important factor in baking?

Answer: Oven temperature. Bake a cake at 600 degrees, and you’ll burn the house down.  Not Good Eats.

Pop Quiz:  Temperature is to baking as _________ is to photography.

  1. The War of 1812
  2. Albert Einstein
  3. Donald Trump’s Ear Hair
  4. Bazinga!
  5. Lighting (as distinguished from Lightening, which would technically work, but is not advisable)

 Answer: ____  (For the love, please tell me you chose E.)

You absolutely cannot take baby photos that are worth anything if you don’t get the lighting balance right.   It is the most important factor in getting good pictures.

Take Baby Photos With These Outdoor Lighting Tricks

First of all, avoid taking baby photos directly in the sun or under a tree.  Direct sunlight creates harsh shadows and squinty eyes, while shooting under a tree canopy can create  “Dalmatian Shadows” that leave your baby spotted like a…well…Dalmatian.

Instead, try to find the outdoor lighting sweet spot.

  1. Use the Golden Hour, when the sun is just above the horizon, about an hour or so before sunset.  Position your baby with the sun behind him, and a “holy glow” will infuse the photos.
  2. If the sun is nice and high in the sky, place your baby in a solid shade area with the sunlight coming behind you (the photographer).  The light will bathe him in soft shadows without hurting his eyes (since he’s sitting in shade).
Be careful with lighting! Or this could be the result…. PSYCHO BABY!

Take Baby Photos With These Indoor Lighting Tricks

Shooting inside is a lot harder than taking baby photos outside.  Oftentimes bright flashes and harsh shade-less lamps can turn your sweet cutie pie into—GOOD HEAVENS WHAT IS THAT!

Prevent accidents like this one:

  1. Bring in as much natural light as possible.  Open your curtains as wide as you can.
  2. Put your kids in lighter clothing.  This helps the camera focus and will reflect more of the natural light.
  3. Dress yourself in a white shirt.  Every little bit of soft reflection helps!
  4. Diffuse the camera flash by placing a tissue or thin piece of paper over the flash.  This will spread the beam of light, making it less harsh and giving softer shadows.

Take Baby Photos That Rock #4
Consider Your Opinionated Baby

Despite all your careful measuring and planning, there is one teeny tiny ingredient that can destroy all your efforts.

Your baby.

You know, the cute little thing smiling at you. The one with the opinions. If she decides she’s not interested in letting you take baby photos today, you’re not going to be taking any baby photos today.

Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to hedge your bets against that tiny diaper-clad time bomb.

  1. Choose a time of day your baby is usually the happiest.  Usually that’s early/mid-morning.
  2. Take the photo right after feeding time.  Unless your baby has reflux…in that case, reverse!
  3. Change your baby’s diaper.  It’s hard to smile when you’re sitting in a squishy bag of poo.
  4. Keep your baby warm.  Crank up the heat and add a space heater if you have too.  You may be sweaty, but your baby will be more comfortable, especially if you’re doing naked newborn shots.
  5. Move quickly.  Set the camera on “continuous shot” (most phones also have that option).   Don’t get hung up on the “perfect” shot or the “perfect” smile.  Shoot now, look over later.

It should be FUN to take baby photos.  If you’re getting frustrated, set the camera aside and do something else.  Likewise, remember that when your baby is done, she’s going to be DONE.  Accept her decision with calmness, you can always shoot again later!

One of the most popular seasons of life to steal some sweet baby photos is the first birthday party! Julie has some more great photography tips for that first birthday photo shoot. Check them out.

Take Baby Photos That Rock #5
Bask and Brag

You took some seriously sweet photos, all by your big-girl self!  Well done! BRAG, honey.  Post that photo on our Mighty Moms Club Facebook page. Let others compliment all your hard work!

Better yet, take your new talents to a whole new level and get started on a beautiful bound photo book. Why not make this a new “Year in Review” Christmas tradition for the grandparents?

Not only will they LOVE a collection of photos to look through, your child will love how cute he looks in all the photos.


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6 thoughts on “How to Take Baby Photos That Don’t Suck

  1. Wow, Wendy’s Once Upon a Time photos kind of rocked my world… not sure where this will take me. Good advice all around, Heather!

    1. Thanks Danielle! Aren’t those pictures so gorgeous! I would love her to do some family photos for us. Perhaps this year? *fingers crossed*

  2. I like to hunt, fish and hit softballs…and I’m a baby expert…pause. Wait no. This post had me literally laughing outside of my body-but also offered up some tips that my wife was excited to start using (The tip about reducing flash wash out was gold! Gold Jerry, Gold!!). So despite my shortcomings/smaller brain, you got through-keep the knowledgeable humor coming.

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