I am not a professional photographer. But with the right camera, the right lighting conditions, and the right backdrop, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be to take professional looking photos, right at home. These tips can be used for any photo occasions you may have, not just for 1st birthday photos.
You can shoot professional looking photos right at home
A few days ago I posted a tutorial for how to make a smash cake and I gave a sneak peak at Kate’s first birthday photo session. I LOVE how her first birthday pictures turned out! I shot these photos right at home, and they look even better than some of the family photos we’ve had taken by a professional photographer!
Props help distract babies from crawling away as fast
All of these photos were taken with my Nikon D5200 camera. I used a few different props – a party hat, a #1 candle, a tutu and a cake. The props that she could hold in her hands worked out really well. They gave her something to “play” with while I took the pictures and helped keep her still a few more seconds before she inevitably crawled away. I could pretty much take 5-10 photos, then she’d crawl away and my husband would have to reposition her.
Take the photos below a skylight or near a large window
All of these photos were taken in a regular (carpeted!) room in our house. Although, I specifically chose the room, because it has a skylight. So these photos were taken directly below the skylight so I’d have more direct light, since I don’t have any fancy photography lights. Shooting near a large window would work too.
Now, here is the part that no one is going to show you. The next two photographs are completely unedited so you can see how all of the photos looked before I cropped and edited them.
Photos before editing:
Tape a white bedsheet to the wall to use as a backdrop
I used a queen sized white bed sheet (I stole it from our bed minutes before the shoot, so it’s not even ironed) and I used painter’s tape to attach it to the wall and closet right below the skylight. Since this was a smash cake photo session, I also covered the area beneath the sheet with fluffy white towels to keep the icing from soaking into the carpet beneath.
My little monkey had to be repositioned regularly as she tried to crawl away, so it would probably be next to impossible to do a photo session like this without someone to help you.
We took all of these photos at about 5:00pm on a cloudy day beneath the skylight, with no additional lighting. We didn’t specifically wait for that the time of day or the weather (more daylight definitely would have helped!), that was just how it worked out. So all of my photos had the gray and dark appearance of the two photos directly above.
Now, look at the difference that a little bit of photo editing makes:
It is AMAZING what a little bit of cropping and editing does! Adjusting the brightness, contrast and saturation goes a long way to help make a photo look amazing. You can’t even tell that it’s a wrinkly sheet that came off my bed!
I took over 300 photos
And of course you’ll need tons of patience. Don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile. I took over 300 photos (babies like to move!), and there are maybe 10 to 15 keepers, and each and every one needed to be cropped and edited.
When it was all said and done, I immediately tossed the dirty sheets and towels into the washing machine (and they came out perfectly clean again even though the cake had pink icing!), and my husband put Kate directly into the bathtub. (I’m not really sure how cleanup would work for a cake smash session at an actual photography studio???)
It took a little bit of planning, and work, and frustration, but I am so happy with these first birthday pictures! They are such a cute way to remember a first birthday!