Your baby's first birthday is something you'll want to remember forever, but paying a professional photographer to attend your child's birthday party may be a bit more money than you'd like to spend. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get both posed and candid shots on your own to mark the occasion.
Ideas for Backdrops
If you want a portrait look for your child's first birthday photos, there are many inexpensive backdrops you can create yourself at home. The following backdrops will provide the perfect setting for a posed photo.
The Number One
One simple backdrop idea is to place a single or multiples of the number "one" on a blank wall. You'll want to ensure that the number is just a bit taller than your baby when he is sitting up. The last thing you want is a photo with the number chopped off because it is yards taller than your child.
Start by deciding what type of material you want to make your number out of. You could fashion the number "one" out of:
- Aluminum foil
- Colored poster board
- Tissue paper
- Paper plates
- Party hats
Then, create a number one using the items you've chosen. The best way to secure the items to the wall is with sticky tack. This will prevent damage to the wall, especially if you decide to use several number ones as your backdrop.
Alternately, you could also place the number on a large piece of foam board. To secure the board to the wall, you can place a small nail in the center of the board at the very top, or use Command Strips or sticky tack to secure the corners of the board to the wall. Then pose your child in front of or near the number and start taking photos.
Another posing option is to lay the board flat on the floor, lay your baby on her back and take pictures from above her. This can create another pose that is unique and gives an entirely different look than the sitting poses.
If it is a nice day outside, simply hanging pastel streamers down from a low tree branch can create a unique backdrop that is outdoorsy and whimsical. If the background is for a boy, use baby blue, pale green and yellow streamers. If the backdrop is for a girl, use the palest pinks and lilacs you can find, mixed with cream-colored streamers.
Start by measuring how much streamer you need to reach from the tree branch to the ground. Add four inches to allow enough room to tie the streamer to the tree branch, then cut out enough streamers to cover about two feet in width. Not all the streamer pieces need to be exactly the same length, however. You can vary them a bit if you prefer a more staggered look. Tie each streamer to the branch, alternating colors until you have about a two-foot-wide section of streamers.
Place your child in front of the streamers with props of your choice and snap away. If there is a slight breeze, this can create a particularly fun look as the streamers sway and move with the wind. If your child is standing, a small chair makes a good prop for him to hold onto while you take some standing poses.
Your local party supply store should have different sizes and colors of doilies. These can make a simple and cute backdrop for one-year-old birthday photos.
You will need:
- A two-foot by two-foot sheet of plain colored wrapping paper
- At least one large doily that is at least 12 inches
- A cutout of the number one that is around nine inches tall.
Some color combinations that work well with the wrapping paper and the doily to create contrast include:
- Red and white
- Black and white
- Hot pink and white
- Navy blue and light blue
- Pale pink and deep purple
Try to choose colors that will make the doily pop. You will also want the number one to contrast with the doily, so you can simply choose a number in the same color as the wrapping paper (or cut one from the same roll), or you can choose a contrasting color you think works well.
Start by using sticky tack to place the wrapping paper on a wall. The paper should be positioned at the bottom of the wall.
Next, tape or stick the doily on top of the wrapping paper. You may want to sit your baby in front of the wall for a moment to get the correct position. The doily should be centered behind the child, but you want to position it so you can see the number one clearly and so that the doily isn't blocked by your child's head.
Finally, tape or glue the number on top of the doily. Although a centered number looks good, you can play around with the placement a bit. Just make sure the number is visible in the finished photo. Sit the baby back in front of the wall and take photos from several angles, so that you can highlight both your child and the pretty backdrop.
First Birthday Props
A great backdrop can make a plain picture pop, but for a true first birthday masterpiece you'll want to add some props that show off this milestone in your child's life. Each of the props listed below includes ideas for getting fun shots that will mark the moment.
- Cake: An obvious choice for a first birthday photo shot prop is a cake. There are a few options here. One is to give your child a smash cake and be ready to capture photos through every messy stage. This will work best if you've already taken some other photos while your child is still clean. You could also simply place the cake to the side and hope your child doesn't get into it, request a fake cake from your cake maker (made of styrofoam), or place a very small cupcake in the photo.
- Chalkboard: A small chalkboard that is about 12-inches square or smaller can add a lot of fun to a photo shoot with your little one. You can write different sayings on the board in different chalk colors, such as "Happy Birthday" or the child's name. The child can hold the chalkboard or you can prop it up somewhere in the background.
- Calendar: A large, executive calendar is the perfect size for your little angel to sit on. Use a red marker to circle your child's birthday and sit her on the calendar to the side of the date you want in the picture. Stand on a chair or stepping stool and call to your child to get her to look up and then take her picture. You may also want to give her a brightly wrapped present or a favorite toy to hold.
- Basket: A large wicker laundry basket can make a great prop for your photo. Line the basket with a colorful blanket, allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Sit your child in the basket. You should be able to see from her waist up. If not, you may want to line the bottom of the basket with some towels or a blanket to add height. Attach a couple of helium filled balloons to the basket handles. Snap photos of your child looking at the camera as well as gazing at the balloons above her head.
- Letters: Create a photo montage by giving your child the letter "O" to hold as you snap her photo. Next, hand her the letter "N," take a photo, and finally do the same with the letter "E." When you have the photos printed, you'll have three photos that, when placed side by side on a wall or in a frame, spell out the number "one." Paper mache letters can be purchased at craft supply stores and painted in the color of your choice. They are lightweight and inexpensive.
- Party Hats: If your child will tolerate wearing a hat, you can find party hats with the number "1" or that say "happy birthday" at your local party supply store. You'll also find tiaras, cowboy hats and may other themed party items perfect for a first birthday. After getting the shot with your child wearing the hat, you can also get some fun images of her taking the hat off.
Getting the Best Candid Shots
While you can take posed photos at any time, getting the perfect candid shots can be a challenge even for seasoned photographers. When it comes to first birthdays, you have one chance to get those special moments. First, you'll want to know what moments to look for, such as:
- Mom and Dad helping the baby walk.
- The birthday girl's first taste of cake.
- That moment she smashes her face into the cake.
- Any moment where the child gives a smile of pure joy, perhaps when she sees Grandma or Mom or someone gives her a kiss on the cheek.
- The gift the birthday child loves and her reaction to it.
- When she goes for the wrapping paper or box and ignores the commercial toys.
Keep a watchful eye and you'll know which moments are the special ones and be able to snap them quickly. Remember to keep your camera close to your body to reduce wobble and use good photography basics to get a clear picture. If your camera has an automated setting, you may want to use this for candid shots since taking the time to get all the settings just right may mean that the moment passes by before you can capture it on film.
In addition, it can be fun to pass out disposable cameras to guests and ask them to snap their favorite candid moments and turn in the cameras at the end of the party. One person simply can't be everywhere at once to capture each special moment. While the disposable camera photos won't be as high in quality as photos taken with a Digital SLR camera, you may still get a few candid shots that you love for a small investment.
Consider Your Child and Your Surroundings
Sometimes the best props and backdrops stem from what your child loves. If your little girl loves to play with a stuffed giraffe, a simple photo of her in her party dress clutching her favorite toy can mean more to you as a family than any posed photo.
Take the time to look inside and outside your home. Do you have any naturally beautiful backdrops? Perhaps there is an old door on your barn that would make a pretty backdrop, or a bunch of irises in bloom that you can sit your child in front of. Look through your camera lens and see the world around you and you'll be sure to come up with a backdrop that meets the occasion perfectly.