Let me start off by saying I am not a photographer. I have a nice camera (a Nikon D3200) but I'm really just learning to use it. I've had no photography classes or training. I've read one book that I definitely recommend called The Ultimate Photography Book for Bloggers by Anko Levai but other than that I'm just stumbling along and picking things up along the way. I feel confident enough to share this post with you despite my lack of photography know-how because I'm willing to bet that there are moms out there just like me that want to take a few good looking pictures of their kids without spending a bunch of money on a photographer. My baby just turned one and I wanted to take pictures of her to frame and put up on the wall, but money is tight and I just didn't have it in me to pay a photographer. Well, here's how I did my very own baby photo shoot, by myself, in my house, with a three year old running around at the same time.
1. PICK YOUR LOCATION. You want to take pictures where you will have a lot of natural light. Look around your house and pay attention to where you get the most light and what time of day you get lots of beautiful sunshine in that room. Take note of how long you will have that sunshine. That will be your time frame for taking beautiful bright pictures. Just a note, I've noticed that you don't want your pictures directly in the bright sunlight but off to the side and in the shade a little. When they are directly in the sunbeam they come out too bright and unnatural.
3. SET UP YOUR BACKDROP. I love bright white pictures so I used my white bed sheets as my backdrop. That's right, I didn't have to buy anything, I just pulled out my sheets and ironed out some wrinkles and then draped it over the changing table and just like that I had an instant backdrop! I had her sit on the fitted sheet. I didn't care so much about wrinkles with that one because I wanted it to have a lazy, relaxed look and it didn't show much anyway.
4. MAKE SURE BABY IS FED AND HAPPY. Before I started, I made sure baby was fed, changed, and happy and that it wasn't right before a nap that she would be cranky. Believe me, that baby will not want to be still for long, so anything you can do to make sure that she won't be cranky will save you time and tears. Have your backdrop set up before hand so that when she's happy you can get right to work.
5. GIVE YOUR KIDS SOMETHING TO DO. Taking pictures of a baby is hard enough but I knew entertaining my three year old at the same time was going to be impossible. I waited till my three year old was playing alone with her toys to sneak away with the baby for pictures and when she came in looking for us, I gave her a job and told her to be my "photographer helper." I gave her a white poster board to hold up and direct the light and told her to make baby laugh and smile. Well, she got bored with that soon anyway and went back to her toys but it was good to have something for her to do to help instead of having her whining and interrupting our precious sunlight time.
6. PLAY WITH YOUR CAMERA SETTINGS. This is really optional. If you don't feel comfortable playing with the settings then just leave it on auto and go with that. I've just started to feel like I can play around with this. I turn the camera on M for "manual" and then move the little dial to turn the aperture up and down. The aperture determines how much light gets into the photo so I like to have my aperture around a 4 (low numbers are brighter). I play around with it until I get the brightness that I want.
6. KEEP YOUR CAMERA ON. This is one I learned the hard way. So many perfect moments were lost because I finally got her positioned, had her smile, and then missed it because I'd switched the camera off when I moved her. Keep it on and around your neck so you can take pictures the instant it happens. Take more than one picture too because you never know which one will turn out the best.
6. BE PATIENT. This was probably the hardest part of the whole thing. The reality is you can't really control how your pictures will turn out. You can try your very best to make her smile but she might just look at you or be more interested in the carpet or try to crawl away from you. The best pictures are candid ones anyway. Give her something to play with and take pictures of that. For me, it was the rose. I only got a few good ones because she got bored with that real fast. Then I resorted to funny faces, farting noises, silly songs, and peek-a-boo to try to get her to stay still and smile. She did keep trying to crawl away from me but I would sit her back down, do something silly to make her stay still, take pictures like crazy, and then start all over when she tried to wiggle away again. The other thing is when she is done, she is DONE. Do not try to force it because you will just make her scream and cry and you wont get any pictures worth saving. Try to stay calm and not sound frustrated when she won't be still because I think babies pick up on that. Instead, try to make it like a game and when she's done, praise her for doing such a great job.
7. EDIT YOUR PHOTOS. I always touch up my photos in a free editing website called Picmonkey. I start by moving up the Brightness and Highlights, slightly move down the Shadows and then play with the Contrast. I Sharpen, then resize and then Sharpen again. That's my process but I think everyone has their own preferences.