Whatever her age, your baby is about to become a celebrity this Christmas. Yes, whether she’s staring at the tree’s twinkly lights, putting her first bit of mince pie in her little mouth, or bouncing on Granny’s knee, she’ll be photographed more often than the biggest of Hollywood stars!
Your baby’s first Christmases are special, and capturing every moment is second nature when you’ve got your phone to hand. But rather than just keeping your pictures on your phone to look at as soon as she’s gone to bed (yes, we all do that!), why not do something special with them?
With a little bit of planning you can make some lasting mementos with your Christmas pics, and even turn some into Christmas presents for the family – win, win! Don’t worry, you don’t need any specialist photography skills, or to turn your toy-strewn living room into a studio; rather, our simple ideas are all easily manageable on a relaxing day at home – so get creating! We spoke to professional photographer of bumps, babies and families, Jeni Lowe who is also a mum of one.
In front of your Christmas wreath
Nothing heralds ‘it’s Christmaaaaaaaaas’ like the moment you pop your Christmas wreath on your front door. Mark the occasion by getting a photo of you – yes, you! – holding your baby, standing in front of the wreath-bedecked door. ‘I suggest simplicity for this shot – you just need the door, the wreath and your baby,’ says professional photographer Jeni Lowe. ‘Stand to one side of the wreath or, if you have a doorstep, have your photograph taken with you sitting down comfortably, but with a straight back.
Natural lighting is perfect, but avoid midday sun – aim for early morning or evening light. Try to time it so you’re in the shade – even a cloudy day creates a “softbox” effect [a diffused, even light] for skin tones – and avoid using your camera flash or looking directly towards the sun, as you may squint.’ The great thing about this shot is you don’t need any props and, similarly, you should keep your clothing simple. ‘Jeans, a plain neutral-toned jumper and maybe a pop of colour from a scarf or hat is ideal,’ says Jeni. ‘Or swap the plain top for a Christmas jumper and style with jeans. But keep it to that – don’t go overboard!’
The best chance of getting a Christmassy pic of your baby looking happy is by taking the shot somewhere relaxing – such as your bed! First, set the scene. ‘Keep the backdrop simple and the focus on your baby – stick to a plain white or neutral sheet or throw for your bed,’ says Jeni.
While it might be tempting to pop some fairy lights on your headboard, Jeni says they can be a pain technically, so instead decorate with a garland. ‘Ideally, your baby should be facing towards the window light with the garland in the background. If your baby can sit unaided, pop her safely into the middle of the bed and shoot from near the window, without obstructing your light. If your baby is still only tiny, then stay in the same spot, but find some height and shoot down over her, either straight on or down the nose (not up!).
Clothes-wise, you could dress your baby either in a white onesie with a little Santa hat on, or you could find a Christmas style onesie or outfit, such as red pants with a white vest or top. Your props don’t have to scream Christmas if your baby already has a Christmas outfit on – I love wooden toys for shots like this.’
Decorating the tree
Otherwise known as ‘playing with tree decorations’, this awww-inspiring pic needs just a little bit of prep. ‘A mini artificial tree is ideal for this shot, but whatever your tree choice, make sure it’s positioned near a window or doorway so you have natural light and can avoid using the flash,’ suggests Jeni.
‘You won’t get long to take this shot, so make sure you’re prepped and have the tree ready, and a choice of soft or wooden ornaments your baby can play with. With your baby sitting side-view to the tree, and the window behind you, get down to baby’s level by lying on the floor. Even if your baby is playing with the ornaments, rather than actually decorating, this is a nice gestural shot, and works especially well if your baby is sitting up unaided.
Do have an extra pair of hands ready in case your baby takes a firm hold of the tree!’ Again, when it comes to clothing, simple is best. ‘Try a plain dress, or a white shirt with jeans or corduroy trousers – add braces for extra cuteness!’ says Jeni.
Holidays are coming
A picture of you and your baby ‘preparing’ for Christmas will be one to treasure, so get your partner or a friend to take this one. ‘This could be as simple as playing with Christmas wrapping paper,’ suggests Jeni. ‘If you have a plain, painted wall in your house, then use that as your backdrop. The more neutral the colour, the better.
Again, it’s a bonus if there’s a window or patio door nearby to get some natural light. Then find some boxes to wrap to give the impression of wrapping gifts, and pop a large Santa sack in the background and a few toys nearby. Position yourself so you’re sitting on one side of the photo and you’re wrapping presents together. Dress your little one in a white, plain onesie or chequered PJs, and be sure you stick to a plain, neutral-coloured or white top.’ Alternatively, you could go all out and wear matching PJs!
Away in a manger
‘Take advantage of the daytime nap by turning it into a shoot!’ says Jeni. ‘If you already have a little Christmas outfit, then pop that on ahead of her nap, or choose colours that suggest Christmas, such as reds and whites – even a plain white vest will work. While you might usually have lots of colour in your baby’s cot, strip it back to a plain bedsheet, white if possible, just for the photograph. Once your baby’s fast asleep and dreaming, open any curtains to allow the natural light into the room.
Pop her stocking into the shot – you could hang it on the side of the cot and shoot through the sides to capture her sleepy face, with her little stocking in shot. Get down to her level and experiment with angles if shooting through the cot sides. Alternatively, pop some Christmas decorations into the shot and shoot overhead when she’s asleep on her back – there’s nothing cuter than a sleeping baby! Remember to never leave your baby sleeping unattended with any accessories in her cot, and not to rush it – parents have more time to take these photographs than studio photographers, so enjoy it!’
Create a bauble
Imagine seeing your little one putting her baby photo on the Christmas tree, year after year – yes, even when she’s 18! ‘My favourite personalised bauble is one with a photo hanging inside, but you can also get ceramic photo-printed versions too, which are just as fab!’ says Jeni.
Cosy up with a cushion
Cuddle your ‘baby’ long after she’s gone to bed by turning your photos into a comfy cushion! ‘You could get this out every year alongside the Christmas decorations,’ says Jeni.
‘If you manage to do some form of personalised printing each year, imagine the memories you’ll have by the time she’s older!’ Asda has a range of printed Christmas cushion designs that can incorporate your little one’s pic – including Penguin, Reindeer, Santa and Snowflake – or imagine her delight when she sees her face on a sequin reveal cushion.
Nail your partner’s Christmas present by transferring one of your photos onto an aluminium card. Every parent loves to carry a pic of their baby in their wallet, but while usual printed pics can get tatty, an aluminium photo wallet card makes a lasting memento.
Create clever art
A personalised paper cut – decorative paper that’s been laser cut into a design – can elevate your Christmas photograph. ‘There are some very talented folk on Etsy who create designs around a photograph,’ says Jeni. Search for ‘laser cut portrait’. ‘These make great gifts once framed. Or you could keep yours on show all year around, or just have it as a decoration that you get out every Christmas.’
Yes, it’s a classic, and for good reason! ‘Show off all your photography efforts by sending friends and family a personalised card,’ says Jeni. ‘They’ll not rush to throw that card away, and Nanny can pop it into an album each year!’ Optimalprint has 33 different designs to choose from.