Your baby will change so much during the first year. Being able to document these changes – through monthly baby photos – as they take place is priceless.
In this post, I’ll share six practical steps on how to take monthly baby photos during your little one’s first year of life. Here is an overview of the steps we will cover:
- Decide which room you will photograph your baby each month
- Decide where to place your baby
- Decide which prop you’re going to use (if any)
- Choose what your baby will wear
- Keep in mind the light
- Keep in mind the composition
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Who did I write this post for?
This blog post is ideal for moms who want to take non-snapshot monthly baby photos. If you’re happy with snapshots, then this blog post is not for you. But, if you want to take beautiful, more professional-looking monthly photos, then read along.
You can take your photos with your phone, a point-and-shoot, or your DSLR. But make sure to use the same camera every month.
Part I: The steps to take at the beginning of your monthly baby photos project
The following steps are the ones you have to decide only ONCE before your start your baby monthly photos project. Once you decide those, you should keep them exactly the same each month to ensure the consistency in your images when you put all photos together once your baby turns one.
Step 1: Decide which room you will photograph your baby each month
To ensure the uniformity of your photos, you want to choose one place in your home where you can take the photos each month. And use that spot every single time.
Here is what to keep in mind when choosing which room:
- Your main priority is to choose a room with lots of natural light. That is, large and/or multiple windows.
- If possible, choose a room that also has white walls. Avoid any room with colored walls as they will cast their color on your baby’s skin. For example, the walls in my dining room, where I take lots of photos of my son, have a lovely pastel, aqua color. The problem is: these walls makes my toddler’s skin look a bit blueish because their color is reflected on his skin.
So, for my monthly baby photos, my room of choice was our master bedroom because it has two large windows and white walls AND white furniture. Win-win!
Step 2: Decide where to place your baby + use neutral colors
Where to place your baby
Here are some ideas for where to place your baby:
- The floor on top of a blanket or milestone blanket
- Your bed
- Baby’s crib
- On a parent’s arms
Most monthly baby photos I see are of the baby laying on the ground. But as you can see from this list, you can explore other options. You can have him or her be seated too. As long as there is some back support, and you have the help of someone during the process.
What background to use
Next, choose the background color your will use. That is, the bedsheet, blanket, or clothes you will be wearing as your go-to backdrop. Things to keep in mind:
- Use a background with neutral color: a beige, grey, or my favorite – plain white
- If you want to add color, you can opt for a soft pastel color. But keep in mind that a pastel color might cast a color on your baby’s skin as we talked about before. So, in doubt, stick to white or neutral and you’re good to go!
- If you background has patterns, then you need to dress your baby in clothing with solid colors – a white onesie/vest is the easiest and most classic option.
A mistake I see again and again on Instagram photos is to place the baby on a blanket with lots of colors and patterns. This makes for a very BUSY background and photo overall. Keeping a neutral background will help the viewer’s eyes to go straight to the most important part of the photo – your lovely baby!
Pro-tip for blankets: if you want to add an extra element of interest in your photos, you can opt for a blanket that has texture. Our eyes love texture in photos, plus it adds an element of depth.
Step 3: Decide which prop you’re going to use for your monthly baby photos
The general idea is to include some sort of indication of your baby’s age or milestone to showcase growth.
However, you can certainly choose to keep things SIMPLE and skip this part altogether and just take monthly portraits instead, which you can learn in this FREE course. Once you do the yearly collage, the images will easily show your baby’s growth throughout the year without the need for any specific props.
A few options for you:
- Milestone blanket: I love these from Little Unicorn as they are more unique than the regular photo blankets you can find
- Milestone cards: I like this set because it does not only include the monthly numbers but also a variety of big developmental milestones
- Felt letter board. You can read in this blog post what to write on your board.
- A bunny from Liewood (they do not sell the bunny I have anymore). I purchased a soft bunny that was bigger than my baby so I could see my baby growing in relation to its size. As I wanted to add some décor to our nursery, I purchased a soft toy that would pair well with his room.
- These adorable soft animals from cuddle + kind. The company supports a great cause! But be sure to order it in advance as it is shipped from the US. This was actually my first option, but I wasn’t going to get it on time to my baby’s first month photos. So I went with the bunny instead.
Part 2: The steps to take every month
The steps below are the ones you need to take every month when you do your monthly baby photos. These might change from time to time. But keep in mind that the final result will be a collage of all the 12 photos. So it is important to keep things as consistent as possible.
Step 1: Decide what your baby will wear
The tips here can be applied to any photoshoot you do with your baby or for your professional family photos:
- Solid color: To make sure the attention is on your baby, and not your baby’s outfit, I recommend choosing an outfit with a solid color. That is, no patterns. Or, patterns that are very soft and sublet. I also recommend to avoid large logos, writings and drawings as they are distracting.
- Neutral, pastel or muted tones: I love soft tones to soften the overall look of an image. If you prefer to have a pop of color, earthy tones are a great option. But keep in mind the background you choose. That is, if you chose a white background, then maybe dress your baby in another color, otherwise the image might look washed out.
- Patterns: you can still dress your baby in an outfit with patterns. But, try to stick to pastel or muted tones. Also, try to mix it up throughout the months: outfit with patterns and neutral outfits. Once you put all of the images together in a collage, it will make a huge difference to the final look.
Remember: the final images will be a 12-photo collage. So, it is important to think of them as one final photo versus individual photos.
Want to make the images even more meaningful? Choose that one favorite outfit you love. Or, an outfit that was a gift.
Step 2: Place your baby properly in relation to the light
Light is everything in photography. I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Using the light properly is the one element that will make your monthly baby photos go from looking like a snapshot to like a professional collection.
Your main goal here is simple: it is to have your baby be well illuminated! That is, you want your baby’s face to have beautiful, soft light on it. You can take a deep dive in this FREE course on taking baby photos.
Here are some practical tips:
Tip 1: Open all of the windows to let as much light in as possible
You need the room where you’ll take your monthly baby photos to have enough light. Also, turn off any light. All you need is natural light in the room.
Tip 2: Photograph when the light in the room is soft
That is, there should be no direct sunlight coming through the window. If it is a sunny day, an easy option is to photograph around midday when the sun is up high in the sky. This way, it won’t be coming through in any room of your home.
Tip 3: Position your baby properly in relation to the light
Because this topic is more extensive, I share about it in details in this FREE baby photos course that will teach you all my secrets to photographing in good light.
Step 3: Keep an eye on the composition
A couple of introductory tips:
Tip 1: Do not crop your baby’s limbs with your how you compose your photo
Do not leave the fingers, hands, or feet out of the photo or cropped in the middle. It just looks off.
If you choose to photograph your baby laying on the ground, you’ll probably need to step on a chair or stool. So you can have enough distance from the camera/phone and your baby to include all of your baby’s body in the photo. Or, crop at your baby’s tight.
Tip 2: Angle the camera/phone parallel to your baby
Another mistake that I see often is how parents angle the camera/phone in relation to the baby. They photograph from an odd angle, so it looks like the baby is falling off from the image. So, for these monthly photos, you want to angle the camera/phone parallel to your baby.
This topic also requires a deeper dive than a blog post. So, to learn all the basics about good composition, I recommend signing up for the FREE baby photos course.
A few bonus tips on how to take monthly baby photos
Enlist help when doing your monthly baby photos
Especially when your baby starts to move, it will be safer and easier to have someone else helping out with the setup.
I always took the monthly baby photos with my husband’s help. It became a special day out of the month for us. However, this meant that we did not take the photos on our baby’s actual monthly birthday. Instead, we always took our photos on the weekend. So both of us had free time to do it together.
The behind-the-scene photos are the best, so make sure to take photos of those too
I love love LOVE the photos that I took of my baby trying to escape by crawling while my husband chased after him. Or, the moments when my baby was trying to get the letters out of the board, and my husband had to put them back on again. These photos mean a lot.
Keep things organized
Create a folder on your phone or computer and organize the photos during each month. Especially if your goal is to print your photos later on, you’ll need to have them organized in one place.
Plus, make sure to choose your one favorite each month (versus choosing the after your 12-month project ends). By choosing your one favorite each month, your work will be much faster and you’ll be saving yourself some time (and feeling overwhelmed) down the road.
Should my baby look into the camera or not?
Well, it is up to you.
Some actually advise that, for these monthly photos, you should not have anyone with you. Like this, your baby will not get distracted by looking at them versus looking straight into the camera.
My personal preference was to keep things natural. So I still love the fact that in many of the photos my baby was not looking into the camera, but he was looking to my husband instead.
Phew, you made it to the end!
I know that there is a lot of information to digest. I also know that it might feel overwhelming to follow all of these tips at first. But, don’t feel that you need to get everything right from the start. Just make improvements along the way.
Here is what I recommend: you like this post, just bookmark it or save it in Pinterest to use it as a reference, and re-read it from time to time.
Taking action today
I invite you to take 5-10 minutes and already make those decisions. You only need to decide all of this once. And then you’re good to go!
- Step 1: Decide where you want to photograph your baby each month
- Step 2: Decide where to place your baby
- Step 3: Decide which prop you’re going to use (if any)
What are the alternatives to milestone monthly baby photos?
When I originally wrote this blog post, I only had one child. As busy and sleep-deprived as I was, I still managed to keep up with this photo project. Now that my son is 3, he LOVES to see his photo collage!
When my second son was born, I decided to do the same. Except that… well, I ‘failed’! Caring for a newborn and a nearly-turned 2-year-old was much more overwhelming than I expected it was going to be.
So, yes, I had to skip the monthly baby photos as I describe in this post.
Do you feel overwhelmed with taking monthly baby photos?
There is another way around these monthly baby photos: simply commit to taking non-snapshot images of daily life on a monthly basis. Then, you can put them together in a 12-month-collage. These images won’t look as aesthetically “consistent” . But the images will still be meaningful.
Here is a blog post I wrote on taking meaningful monthly photos of your baby.
What to do next?
Do you have a newborn baby and like lifestyle, candid newborn photos? You’ll enjoy reading this blog post about the reasons why I do not pose newborn babies.
If you’d like to learn how to take beautiful photos of your baby, learn more about this FREE course here.