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I have been crying all week as I keep thinking about how my babies are turning one year old THIS WEEK! Where did the time go? I feel like it was just a few months ago when I was holding them in the NICU, praying they would be coming home soon.
When the Goof turned one we paid our talented photographer friend to do some pictures of him and our family. Well this year I am short on time and we are just not wanting to spend the money. (Remember our financial goals I keep talking about?) So, since I used to do photography in the past (did you know that about me?) and I still have my DSLR camera, I decided, I would do the pictures myself. So today, I am going to share with you how I set up our backdrop and props- so you can do this at home as well. I may even share a few of the pictures, but full disclosure, I haven’t edited them all.
Gather Your Supplies First
Decide what you want your pictures to look like. I knew I wanted to do a couple different “sets” with the twins (which by the way, would mean taking pictures in a few “sessions” through out the day). After looking at some inspiration from a google image search, I decided that I wanted to do cake smash pictures with an all white backdrop and then I wanted to do pictures with some other fun props separately in different outfits.
I used this photo backdrop/bulletin board paper (affiliate link) but I actually found it at Michael’s or our local party store when I was looking for something to use for blog pictures. I also made a banner out of paper found in a clearance bin at Michael’s and some twine. The Dr Seuss signs were in the dollar bin at Target. I actually ended up opting for poster paint instead of using the clamps. I also used a white sheet, balloons (which I ended up removing) and finally a vinyl floor cover which I found for under $3 in the fabric section at Walmart. I also used some wood crates I got on sale at Michael’s.
Plan Where To Do The Photos & When
There are two important things you need to think about when planning when and where to do your photos.
The Where– Pick a spot in your home that has a big window and lots of natural light and shoot across from it. I cleared out our dining room because it has windows on three different walls, so the lighting is AWESOME! Also plan an area where you have plenty of room to get down on the floor in front of your kiddos. I also suggest thinking about the cleanup, especially if you are doing cake smash pictures. Even though most of the mess will stay on the vinyl, there is always the chance it could get on your floors so don’t pick a room with brand new white carpet in it.
The When– You have to take two things into consideration here- lighting and when your child will be happiest. We chose to start our first part around 9:30 am and then let the babies nap and have lunch while I changed out the backdrop and then we did the cake smash pictures. I suggest doing cake smash pictures last for the fact of the mess. Our babies both needed baths right after.
Set Up Your Backdrop
I got my first backdrop set up the night before. I didn’t want to be trying to quickly set it up after breakfast. I ended up having to use a second backdrop and line them up to make sure my area could fit both babies so I was glad I did it the night before when I would not be rushed. I got down and shot the setup a couple times from the floor to see if I liked how it looked, and I did the same thing again in the morning. In the morning I also made sure my camera settings were how I wanted them. If you are not comfortable going off of an auto mode, be sure to choose portrait or full auto with no flash. If you have an extremely active child I would maybe even try out the sports mode. I personally use manual modes. If you want to get away from auto, practice well before hand if you are not comfortable with manual mode already.
TIP: Be prepared to change your backdrop set up. My babies started trying to eat the sign, were diving off the crates, etc. Eventually we worked our way all the way down to just the paper backdrop.
Bring in your little one(s) and start shooting. Take pictures a ton. Make sure you are at their level for some pictures, but feel free to take some from above with them looking up, or from all different angles. Shoot A LOT! A lot of pictures may end up blurry or with blinks, especially with active little ones, but if you keep shooting you will get some good ones.
TIP: If you have someone come in to help get babies attention, make sure they are at the same level as you (or where you want baby to look). Otherwise you won’t ever have a good picture of baby looking towards the camera.
Be sure to let your little one have fun and explore. Also be flexible. If you need to remove part of the backdrop, take breaks, or even let them play or eat. It is extremely important to be flexible and not focus on getting that “perfect picture.”
Also, parents, do not try and teach your kids to tilt their heads and put their head on their shoulder. Back when I did photography this was my biggest pet peeve. Kids who had been taught to pose in this annoying, unnatural position and I couldn’t break them of it during the session…okay, end rant.
On To The Cake Smash!
While my babies were napping after their first set of pictures, I took down the first backdrop/set and set up for the cake smash. While we were doing the first set, I had the sheet in the drying on high to get out wrinkles. You could iron it, but let’s be honest, if you have a one year old (or two) what are the chances you have time to iron it. I also had picked up balloons and the cakes the night before so I got everything set up.
TIP: Look at cake smash pictures online to get inspiration for backdrops, outfits, and even the kind of cake you want.
This was my original set up. I taped the queen size white flat sheet to the walls, placed the vinyl over it (getting out as many of the creases as I could) and I had something to hold it all down on the sides (the crates from the first set, as well as other heavy items). I put balloons in the back, but ended up taking them out because the babies liked them more than the cakes. I placed the cakes down and then we got ready to get the babies in their. Once again, check your camera settings and that you like the way the pictures look before bringing in baby.
TIP: Whipped Cream frosting will let the babies play with it more than buttercream and will have that fluffy, fun look in photos.
Once you put the babies down, start shooting. Don’t expect amazing photos at first, but it is fun to get that first reaction to the cake. One of our babies was like “CAAAAAKE!!!!” and the other was like “NO, not cake!” If you want a really good comparison of how they reacted, you can check out the shots from my phone I posted on instagram HERE. Either way, keep shooting. In fact, some of my favorite photos are those where our little Baby P (on the right in the photo above) was crying or yelling. Even with all of the crying and screaming, he still gave us a few cute looks and I even have a few with smiles. (The above photo is a bit blurry on Baby A’s side but I just love Baby P’s expression in it)
Afterwards, the vinyl can easily be rolled up and tossed, or you can try cleaning it off and saving it, but with two, that ended up not being an option for me.
Once you are done taking photographs, you can load up the pictures and start editing. If you aren’t comfortable with editing, try watching some YouTube videos to learn how to edit photos a little bit so you can get a finished photo you love.
In the end, if you have no photography experience or if your pictures are super important to you and you want an amazing end product, search for a photographer with an amazing portfolio that you love. But, if you are comfortable with the camera, and okay giving it a try on your own, you might be surprised what you can do with a little practice.
Have you ever taken your kids’ photos? How did it go?