When I was asked to guest blog for Lifecake offering my top tips for capturing baby’s first year, the first thing I did was go back and look at my own photos of my two children. What immediately struck me was how much I loved going back to see my old images (and videos), and also which of these images I now hold most dear and why.
My children are 8 and 11 now (at times they feel like teenagers!) and I first picked up a decent digital camera between having my son and daughter, in 2009. I had always loved taking photos but had no real experience and just wanted to take some better quality images of my second born. The ones I have of my son are taken on my old compact camera, or a very low quality camera phone (on my Blackberry, remember those?). So let’s just say, even with my Mum goggles on, I can see a real difference in quality. As soon as my first DSLR arrived this ignited my passion for taking better images of my children and I decided to enrol on a local beginners photography course.
Seven years later and I am now a full-time professional family photographer. Whilst writing this blog I had coincidentally just asked mums, dads and fellow photographers what their most precious photos were, and what they wished they had more of. I had asked as I want to make sure that I integrate as many of these moments into my newborn photo shoots. So the stars aligned, and I hope this insight inspires you to create more memories for your family!
1. Mums wish they were more present in the images
This was the one constant from EVERYONE I spoke to. Let’s be honest, straight after having a baby we aren’t feeling our most glamorous selves, but the biggest regret Mums had was that they didn’t appear in the photos. The wish list included images of them feeding, and their son or daughter asleep on their chest.
I remember not feeling my best after having my first child BUT when I looked back on these photos I was pleasantly surprised! Firstly, as this was 11 years ago I look young. Secondly, I don’t really look at myself, I am just transported back to how I felt at the time. I remember often falling asleep on the sofa with my son after a long night of zero sleep! I was also lucky enough to capture his first smile (although it was probably just wind as he was only a couple of weeks old).
These images were shot on an old compact camera and an old Blackberry mobile before I had my first DSLR. I am so pleased I have them, but wish I had taken them on a camera that created bigger files so I could print them to put up on my walls.
2. Shooting wider angles so you get a sense of size
The temptation is just to take very close up photos of your babies. But a number of people also mentioned that it’s also good to take wider images (from a wider angle) so you can remember how tiny they were (they won’t stay this way for long!).
A great shot to take is the first time you put baby into their cot. Take the photo from high up so you can see how tiny they looked!
One of the Mums I spoke to all suggested including your favourite soft toys in the image – this will give you context when you look back on the photos as to how tiny they were.
3. Create more legacy photos with family members
I remember being so incredibly excited to introduce our parents to their first grandchild. They both came to the hospital and I managed to take photos both times. My Mum and dad are pretty camera-shy so this was a rare opportunity (I guess they were distracted by the new arrivals).
As the years have passed, I have tried my best to keep taking photos with my parents (the kids’ grandparents) and their great grandparents. My children have been incredibly lucky to know both sets of great-grandparents and when I started practicing with my first DSLR (a Canon 450d) this was one of the first images I took. None of the kids are looking the right way and the lighting is questionable, but my children have a photo that they can look back on to remember their amazing great gran and grandad who have now sadly passed.
4. Create moving memories – use video as much as you can!
Alongside taking as many great quality photos as you can, parents also mentioned the importance of video to me. This is something I have really come around to recently having been backpacking with my family around Thailand. As you can imagine, being a professional photographer I took a LOT of images on my smaller travel camera (a Canon GX 1 Mark II), but I also took a couple of hours of video footage. I have some of the Thailand images up on my wall, but what my kids love to look at best is the hour video of our holiday. Seeing real footage instantly transports you back to that place and how you felt – it also brings it to life for other people.
Whilst looking back at photos of my babies first year I came across this mobile phone video of my daughter at 9 months – I remember she had a terrible cold at the time and only my son could make her laugh. This video is priceless to me now.
5. Invest in a decent camera so you can create even greater images and print them
Like I mentioned, a couple of months after I had my second child I purchased my first DSLR and these were the first images I took over that period.
The biggest difference was the clarity and how well they printed. I started taking photos of the kids and giving them as gifts to the grandparents, which they loved. I was able to capture my daughter at bath time, playing at home, and learning to push her little bike in a way that I wasn’t really able to with my son on my older compact camera.
In the last couple of years, I have made sure I create photo books every 6 months rather than just keeping all my files digitally. I love to look back at them, as do the kids, and I often find they have taken them out of the cupboard themselves to remember favourite holidays and when they were at infant school.
6. Consider doing an online or in-person beginners photography course
My final tip is to consider taking a beginners photography course so you can learn to use your camera out of automatic mode. I wanted to be able to pick my camera up quickly and feel confident enough with the settings that I could easily take photos of my kids. I also found learning about light a revelation, and it’s something that I now teach to both beginner and professional photographers.
You can do this in person, or you can read up on the subject online – for example there are some great blogs already featured on the Lifecake blog to start learning how to take more control of your camera.
I am passionate about photography and how, with today’s amazing quality digital cameras, you can document your family for years to come. I hope these insights and tips inspire you to take even more photos.
Here is one final image that I took yesterday of my daughter and a friend’s dog – how quickly they grow!
And if you’re looking for camera recommendations, check the Lifecake blog here.