Babies are my favorite photo subjects- well, up until they can move fast. I think I’d have more success photographing bird poop than a mobile toddler.
But, from birth through 6 months old, there are SO many fun and creative photo opportunities that don’t require props or tutus or a professional. It’s a great time to practice, flex, and grow those photography skills because they let you dress them up, and they mostly lay or sit where you put them.
Wallace is 6 months old, and I thought it would be fun to go back through all the pictures I got of him- both with my DSLR and my iPhone- and talk a bit about how you could take the same concept of each picture and make it work for you and your baby. In theory, you should be able to pull this off no matter what kind of camera you have.
If you give birth in a hospital, at some point they bring the baby incubator in the delivery room. I didn’t have a birth photographer on hand this time around, but I did manage to get a few shots that I really cherish from that day. The first is an empty incubator, warming as I labored.
Hours later, from the comfort of my bed as I recovered, I snapped this of Wallace’s first bath.
Such a sweet side by side comparison- in and out, before and after.
That newborn head
Usually there aren’t a ton of pictures of me with the kids… except when I give birth to them. Then there are a plethora of sweaty, naked pictures of me with a slimy baby atop my rapidly deflating midsection. Such treasure! That’s why I made sure to take a minute to request the camera from my husband (after my midwife was done stitching me up), to take advantage of this sweet view and be sure there were plenty of pictures of him in there, too.
Fingers, toes, fatty neck rolls- get close, and capture these tiny little bits. The only real “rule” to keep in mind is lighting is everything. Don’t try this in a dark room.
Okay, now forget that rule. So much of life with a tiny baby are the quiet moments in the dark rooms, white noise shooshing through a speaker, fan on, the smell of freshly laundered swaddling blankets and, let’s be honest, curdling milk at times, too.
It’s basically impossible to get a picture in a totally dark room, though, so here’s where you strategically use lamps. The photo above is in a dark room, shot from above with my iPhone while a lamp is on from the right of the frame. I liked how the shadow fell across half of his nose. The picture wouldn’t have had the same impact if his face was turned the other way.
Here’s another example of getting creative with lighting in a dark room, using the lamp to illuminate my subjects softly from behind.
Fitting into family life
Whether it’s sitting in on family homework with the big kids, napping as you do laundry, or sleeping in your arms as you binge watch Netflix, capture baby “in the wild.” Don’t stress about mess! It tells the story.
On a beautiful play mat or blanket
We had a perfectly fine play mat still hanging around from the other 3 when I had Wallace, but then I found this one by SkipHop and I LOVED the colors and knew it would photograph beautifully. So, this is what Santa brought Wallace when he was just 4 days old- by way of Amazon overnight shipping.
As you can see, it’s been a well-loved place to lay and play. You don’t have to invest in an expensive play mat, but find a blanket with soft/muted colors that photograph well in your space and keep it near where you and baby hang out a lot. It will look so much better in the background than most carpet.
The hard day
You’re not just documenting your baby’s life, you’re documenting yours, too. I mean, I think you should be. I’m a firm believer in not being able to appreciate the highs in life unless we acknowledge the lows. Capture the moments you are stressed and overwhelmed every now and then. I can’t promise you’ll look back and cherish those times, but I think those are memories worth saving. Parenthood is hard, and that’s our truth.
Trip to Target
Hollar! LOLOL. Ok, doesn’t have to be Target next to LaCroix because maybe you’re not as basic as I am, but I’m just saying the bright colors and the lighting is perfection.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what that MOST PERFECT LITTLE BABY HAMMOCK is (and you should be because it’s INCREDIBLE), it’s by Binxy Baby. You can get it from their website or on Amazon. LIFE. CHANGER.
When they start to notice you
Around 5 months old, Wallace became obsessed with me. He couldn’t take his eyes off of me, especially if I was talking. I have a few really sweet short videos of me talking to the camera and him just watching me like the heart-eyes emoji.
This is way better than the pictures of us all covered in birth sweat and goo in the delivery room.
Baby airplane phase commences
Once baby is strong enough to hold their head up for a while, and they are working on those core muscles, this will be the beginning of hours of fun. I have a tutorial here where I walk through exactly how I took and edited this pic.
Swaddles are so dang cute these days. I did a whole swaddle comparison post earlier this year, and the pictures turned out to be some of my very favorite of Wallace at that stage.
All that you need is a solid color sheet- I really recommend white- a well-lit room, and a sleeping or happily awake baby. (The swaddle Wallace is rocking above is by NuRoo.)
Whether it’s to assist in taking a mom/baby selfie, or entertaining baby- a mirror is a super useful thing and provides a lot of photo opps.
I especially love using the large wall mirrors at pediatrician appointments. Note- it may look like baby is unsupervised and about to fall off the table BUT PICTURES LIE and he’s being spotting. Cropping is powerful.
Swinging bare feet
I think it’s natural for all of us to capture baby’s first swing from above- at our eye level. I have several adorable shots like that. But my favorite swing shots are from right at swing bottom level, perfectly catching those chubby piggy toes.
It just occurred to me that not everyone lives where their kids only have to wear shoes and/or socks 3 months out of the year, but I bet little bundled feet are just as cute.
Bright eyes and tummy time
As baby starts to master hanging out on their belly, take advantage of their head strength and inquisitive looks. Lay a blanket on the floor in front of a window on a bright day. (Note that it’s best if the sun is not streaming directly into the window.) Place baby on belly at a 45 degree angle to the window (face toward the light) and delight at the beautiful “catch lights” that will illuminate their eyes.
I know the logical place to capture pictures of baby’s first food is while they are strapped in their high chair while another adult assists them. And those are fine! Do capture those. But before that, be sure to capture a still life of their first meal.
And then get in real close and capture all that messy, drooly fun with the entire frame.
I hope these photo ideas inspire you to capture the beautiful and the real moments with your babies! I’d love if you’d share this with anyone you think would find it useful, and follow along with Wallace and me on the @BabyRabies Instagram.