Photographing your child monthly for the first year:

It seems like the first year of a child’s life happens in an blurry flash of an instant. So much happens in 12 months it’s hard to even wrap you mind around how much they change. Finn is my last baby and I find my self savoring his every move. With both Lilly and Finn I committed myself to photographing them every month for their first year. I try to weigh and measure them, whenever possible and put it on a piece of paper to include in a few shots. For the record, I am terrible at filling out baby books. This my way of redeeming myself. I think this photo session lasted about 15 minutes. Have everything near by that you might need, so that you don’t waste valuable happy time finding stuff. After all this isn’t a full blown photo session, it’s about capturing a slice of what they are up to and who they are in the moment. Sometimes that means grabbing a few crying photos and calling it a wrap. Today we got lucky and everyone made my job easy.

I try to keep the photo-shoot simple. I don’t worry about clothes, or props. (Don’t try to shove your child in a flower pot every month. They will definitely retaliate in their teen years, and will most likely hate gardening). I get my baby in their diaper, and plop them on a black velvet backdrop. Black velvet absorbs light, so it doesn’t distract from my child. You can find black velvet at any fabric store. I like mine long enough to tack to my ceiling (if you look up in my house there are tons of holes everywhere). My point in saying this is, you don’t need to be a photographer to do this. You don’t need fancy backgrounds or stands, and if a background seems like too much trouble, bag it. If you can find a room in your house that has great light, that is all that matters. I took these photos in my dining room. It takes a little furniture moving, but it’s worth it for the western light exposure. I also only shoot with daylight. Everything you see here is light from my window. I didn’t set up studio lights or even use a reflector.

Finn was really loving the measuring tape today, so I let him have it. If you child has a lovey or something special to them include it in the photos. The toys your children are interested in tell a story too, so don’t hessitate to include them.

I also try my best to time the shoot after they have been fed, napped and have a fresh diaper on. Smiles come easier and everyone has a good time. A few of my goals during the session are to capture what they are up to (sitting, crawling, eating, etc), with a variety of emotions, and expressions. Finn usually tells me when we are done, and then we stop… after I take a picture of him being sad, or growling in this case.

If you have other children, its nice to give them a moment in the spotlight too. I know if I didn’t invite Lilly over for her special photo time, her feelings would be hurt. Sometimes she says no, which is fine with me too.

Have fun: sing songs, get silly, make animal noises. Basically anything (including making a fool of yourself) to keep your child’s attention. My Favorite part of photographing children is capturing their unique personality, so whatever they do, I capture.

Lilly is my queen of silly. If a funny thing is happening, she wants in.

Move around. In school this was called stalking your subject. Shoot straight on, from above, lay on the ground, go to the left then right, up close and far away. Keep your little one guessing what their silly Mommy is up to. Then move them. Get cute little shots of their back, their chubby fat rolls, profile, toes, and hair (especially the eye of the storm, if they have one). I also keep my effects in post production to a minimum. The only thing I did here is turn them to black and white. Most computers have a basic photo editing program on them that will do this for you. I like keeping them black and white, because I feel that it cuts through any distraction gets straight to the heart of the emotion, or expression.

I don’t remove scabs, scars, or anything of the sort in post. . I really feel that it is important to give my children’s battle wounds a starring role as well. After all they all tell a story and have a lesson in them. I didn’t remove the gash on Lilly’s head from the tea party photo-shoot, or for any others. She got that scab from bouncing off the couch and onto the coffee table. She was just being like a crazy Monkey trying to make Finn laugh. She learned that the ground is a safer place to jump, and that Mommy and Daddy give really good advice. No jumping on the bed or couch, even though it is super fun. My goal isn’t to make my kids look great, but to capture them in a way that is honest and true. After all this is how I will remember them.

I hope you give this a shot. You will never be sad about the pictures you’ve taken, but you might be about the ones you don’t.

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Sarah - October 10, 2010 - 7:21 pm

Ashley – I love how your philosophy on photography is actually your philosophy on life. Its no wonder we’re drawn to your work. Its because we’re actually drawn to you. 🙂

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