And those coveted heart warming giggles too.
I am so incredibly flattered Sara asked me to contribute to this series. Mostly because I wait for these posts with baited breath for all the tips and tricks I can add to my 'novice mommy photographer' arsenal. I got my "big girl"(read: DSLR) camera on Black Friday 2011, a Canon Rebel T2i. I was just shy of 4 months pregnant with my daughter Ashlynn and considered it my Christmas, Birthday (Jan 1st), and Halfway through Pregnancy present to myself. I bought a 50mm (nifty fifty) f/1.8 prime lens the following summer a few months after my daughter was born. I have never taken a photography class, only reading a handful of tutorials found via pinterest or posts like Sara has been sharing. So no professional status here, I'm just a mom who over documents her kids - just like you!
As for my current ability, I generally shoot in Av mode, especially now with my toddler on the move. I can never get the settings changed quickly enough and prefer to take as many pictures as I can to find a few gems than I can edit lighting, rather than take the perfect photo... which would most likely be of the back of her head.
I did however, hone my manual shooting skills when she was baby. She was my first child and she didn't move. I would play around with the camera settings, moving her room to room, and bask in the 500 pictures I would take of her that day. I'm still far from a professional, but I learned about my camera, lighting, back button focus, ISO, and shutter speed in the process. If anything, it was an excuse to make sure I was picking up my camera instead of waiting for holidays or special occasions.
A true "first born" child with the thick baby photo book to prove it.
Of course there were lots of other inspirations on Pinterest - baby in chair or crib, baby next to a teddy bear or lovey to show physical growth, baby in front of a chalkboard wall, you name it. I actually got really ambitious and tried to add monthly photos to our weekly ones and planned to document her from laying baby, to sitting, to standing in front of her dark blue gray nursery wall with balloons to correspond to her monthly age.
After the second month I gave up, turned out I didn't have proper light or timing. The one space in her room where I could stage the shot had the best light from 7-9am in the morning. As it got later, the crib would cast a shadow (left above) and there wasn't any other ample wall space for the photo to be staged elsewhere in the room. Since I would purchase the balloons during business hours, I'd have to wait until the following morning to take the photo to get that prime light. By then, the balloons would be falling to the ground (middle above). By the second month I was still having way too many issues and just hadn't planned it properly so I threw in the towel (right above). It was a good effort, but lesson learned and I'm glad I already had good thing going with the weekly photos. Not to mention we sold our house when she was 8 months old so I would have had to find a new wall to shoot in front of and there is no way 12 balloons would have fit in the space between the crib and closet. Hindsight is 20/20.
Tip: If pregnant, test shoot a teddy bear around the house. Find a chair, wall, space on the floor that gets great light (how many of these photography for moms post can emphasis the use of light? if you learn anything let it be that!) and shoot some test shots with any props you will be using while getting to know your camera in the manual setting. A chalkboard, iPad, blocks... and I'm totally loving these new monthly printables from Caravan Shoppe. Figure out where you'll place them in the frame and try to think ahead to when your baby isn't immobile anymore - meaning, when they might focus the whole photoshoot on grabbing anything within their reach or rolling, crawling, and walking away!
I would be lying to say was I wasn't a bit relieved when my daughter turned one and I was able to stop the weekly photo nonsense. She was too old and too mobile to put up with it and it was becoming a chore trying to make sure we were home on Wednesday at 10am to get the best photo! And yes, I was that obsessive about it. I believe there were only two weeks we didn't take the picture on Wednesday morning and that was because of holidays.
Tip: Consider when you will take the photos. Monthly vs Weekly? Are you a working mom? It might be best to aim for taking them on the weekend instead of the day of the week your child was born. And don't forget to consider the seasons. The light and best time of day to shoot changed as we went from Summer to Winter and back.
Also, take in consideration the time of day and your child's moods. It's unlikely you can plan that far advance, especially if pregnant with your first child. But waiting until after a nap or feeding instead of squeezing it in before hand when the child is on the verge of meltdown is generally helpful. And while a crying baby photo is always a winner in my book, it's generally not the best parenting tactic to allow your baby to cry in hunger while you fuss about white balance.
Tip: Find a distraction to keep them where you want them. In her weekly photos as a baby, to keep her from rolling and crawling away, I'd place things in her hands. Hair bows or smaller (non-choking hazard) toys that wouldn't take away focus if visible in the shot. If I was able to take it away after a few minutes and shoot her looking at me, score, if it not oh well. Generally, it would at least get her to lay still for a few photos as opposed to just resisting from the start.