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Documenting Your Baby in a Monthly Photo Series

This post on photography tips is brought to you by your fellow photo lovers at Shutterfly. They encourage you to capture your memories and share your amazing pictures the way you want with their new Custom Path photo books.

Photographing Eleanor, and now August, in a monthly series has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. Babies grow so quickly, and I’m glad that I had the foresight to capture them as they grew up. I love it when I hear that other people have been inspired to do their own versions, and so today I’m sharing a few of my tips for getting the most out of a photo series to document your baby’s growth.

Doing these photo shoots in the same spot at the same time and on the same date hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. Were there times that I felt like skipping a day? Oh yes. Plenty of times! But now, looking back at the photos, I realized that some of those difficult shoots (we had to go somewhere, the lighting was bad, Eleanor was cranky, August was crying, etc.) were some of the most memorable for me. I intended to create a keepsake to show my kids’ growth, but I also captured memories. Look at month twenty two, for example.

That face! That was the face of a brand new big sister. (We think she’s a bit happier about the situation now.) And then of course August was crying in his first photo. But little things like that make the photos more memorable.

Each month as I photograph August, I like to compare his photo to that of his sister’s when she was the same age.

Eleanor and August, Each at Two Months Old

And now that Eleanor has turned two, I’m able to compare her first photo with her last. She grew a bit, eh?

Eleanor, From a Baby to Two Years Old

Tips for Setting Up a Photo Series to Document Your Baby

  • Determine how often you would like to shoot.

    Weekly photos would be fun, but a lot of work. Can you commit to that for an entire year (52 photos)? I found monthly photos for two years to be just right. That’s enough photos to show change, but not so many that it became an overwhelming chore.

  • Don’t slack.

    If you’re doing a photo every month on the 1st, for example, don’t slack and think that you can just get it the next day (or the day after that…). Forcing yourself to do it on the proper day will ensure that you don’t fall behind, and you may associate stronger memories with the photos (as I unexpectedly did).

  • Consistency is key.

    Find a spot that will stay as consistent as possible for the duration of your photo project. I chose the living room for Eleanor and the library for August because those rooms were already finished and not up for any major overhauls. You could also choose a fabric backdrop, the floor (a fluffy flokati rug would be cute), a giant Stendig calendar, whatever. I did allow for different flowers in the background of each photo to reference the seasons, but everything else stayed the same. Consistency puts the focus on the one changing element: your baby.

  • Keep a sense of scale.

    I chose a chair so that I could see how my kids grew into it. People often like to put a big stuffed animal in the photo, and it looks much smaller by the time you’re a year or two into the project.

  • Make it fun for your baby.

    A stuffed animal for scale is also a good idea because as your baby grows, he or she will have something to play with in the photo (which is really cute). My babies get to use the setting itself: a rocking chair. I have some great shots of Eleanor rocking like crazy, and she thought it was great fun to sit in the chair.

  • Plan ahead.

    Choose a simple outfit, and buy it in multiple sizes ahead of time. Again, this puts the focus on your baby, not the constantly changing outfits. Also, keeping it simple will help keep it timeless.

  • Make your mark.

    I made a felt pin for each of my kids, and I’ve changed the center out with the number for each month. A lot of people like to put a number right on a onesie (real or added with Photoshop), but you could also do something as simple as writing on a piece of paper. If you use the giant calendar idea, you’ve already got this tip covered.

  • Be snap happy.

    Take more photos than you think you may need, especially if you’re shooting digital. Even if you think you got the perfect photo after just a few shots, take more. I like to aim for 50-100 in each session. I made a fun timelapse video of one of my shoots, so you can see how many photos I take!

I did it! I stuck with the whole series! Now what?

You could hang the photos as decorations for your baby’s first birthday party, arrange them into a grid and make a poster, print the photos and arrange them in an album, or make a book. The photos would be appreciated by the baby’s grandparents too, so you may want to plan on making multiples of whatever you choose to do with them.

It was my intention from the beginning to create a book for Eleanor when her monthly photos were finished. I will do the same for August. I originally thought that I would use just one photo from each month for the book. However, I found that it was fun to include a few of the outtakes too, and I was grateful that I had many extra shots each month to choose from. Here’s one of Eleanor’s photos from when she was two months old that you haven’t seen yet.

Look at that hair! Awesome. That wasn’t the photo I chose for that month, but I did make sure to include it in her book.

Click here to view this photo book larger

I’m still photographing August monthly (he’ll be four months old tomorrow), but I’m also going to continue photographing Eleanor every six months. Have you done a photo series with your children, or do you plan to someday when you have kids? Please do! You’ll love having the photos to look back on.

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  • Patti
    June 7, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Monthly photo shots of your baby is such a precious idea! Then to put all those photos into a book is just fab.

  • Giulia
    June 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I do the birthday photo each year and have them in a book. It also gives a nice glimpse on how they change year to year. I also have a picture of both my kids when they are 1 week old and in the bath with me – they both looks so alike and different at the same time. I have those two framed side by side.

  • Megan
    June 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I have two series I am doing – One is a picture of the kids looking out the window at the airport every time we take a trip. There is a low bar going across the window, and they start off looking underneath, and quickly grow to looking over it. I take the picture from behind, and it’s a cool silhouette.

    For my older son, I am taking his picture every year on the first and last day of school on the porch in front of the door. I put him in the same clothes for the first and last day. It was crazy to see how much he grew in 2nd grade.

    I love your photos series too!

  • Robin @ Our Semi Organic Life
    June 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

    When me and my siblings were kids our parents did a photo project with 1 article of their old clothes. It was an annual thing since it took about 10 years for me to be able to fit somewhat normally in one of my mom’s old dresses. We kept the same outfit each year. My brothers got sport coats I got a dress. The baby ones are funny but I grew out of mine at age 15 so we stopped. I think we’ll try to continue this project if we have kids. It’s much different than the baby photo project but you can do it for much longer!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      That’s a really cute idea. I could see it being done with shoes too, though clothes are probably more comical when they’re too big!

  • kelly
    June 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

    for our son jackson, we bought a 12mo onesie and photographed him in it every month till he was a year. so in those first shots, he is a tiny little guy in this big onesie but he gradually grows into (then outgrows!) it. for me the hardest part was finding a good place to photograph him every month. now he is three and i have to fight him to take his photo.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      And yes, yet another great idea!

      I hope my kids continue to be willing subjects. ;)

  • Ashley @ Spite or Flight
    June 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Eleanor’s finished book is amazing!

  • Sarah K
    June 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for the inspiration! The photo book turned out great & I love that you included some “out-takes” for each monthly photo.

  • Heather
    June 7, 2011 at 10:59 am

    It’s terrific, and they will both love having them when they get older! I’m excited about the new Shutterfly capabilities, and can’t wait to try it out. Good for you for keeping it up!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      It was really easy to use. (Honestly, not because this post was sponsored.) I’ve made other books using InDesign, but it was kind of refreshing to just do it drag and drop style and not have to wear my graphic designer hat.

  • Shannon
    June 7, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I love reading your blog – I’ve been reading since you were pregnant with Eleanor – but I have to admit, I’m starting to get a little tired of the blog posts as advertisements for stuff.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      I understand. I do hope that isn’t all you see in this post though — I worked hard on it and it’s all information I had intended to share with you anyway.

  • Becky
    June 7, 2011 at 11:50 am

    This is wonderful! I don’t have any babies yet but I definitely want to do something similar someday. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  • Erika
    June 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    The book looks amazing. I am also planning to put together a book for my little guy in a few months (he turns 2 in August) and give it to him for a keepsake. I wish I had chosen a more simple outfit for each photo, but I ended up with striped shirts. So, it became a game to find new color combos in stripes throughout the year. They are fun photos, but for the next one I will be chosing something much more simple. I was going to use other shots too for his book, because there are so many funny ones outside of what I decided was right for that particular month. I can’t wait to see it all come together.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      I like the idea of different stripes though! Sounds cute.

  • Emily @ Awesomania
    June 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Great tips! I bet these would also work for photographing a new puppy too, although perhaps you would have to do it a little more frequently.

  • Anita
    June 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    @Shannon – at least Nicole explicitly states when a post is sponsored by a company. I bet there are several blogs that you read where the writer gets tons of free stuff that influences what they write about, yet they never reveal it. Just something to think about…

    • Shannon
      June 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Yes, that’s very true, she does.

      Not to start anything, but I actually don’t read blogs like that. When a blog I read starts to get too heavy into the freebies/reviews, giveaways and sponsored posts, I remove them from my feed. It’s the same reason why I don’t watch TV. I can’t stand the advertising. I buy things I want to buy, not because they’re being pushed by something I read/watch.

  • Shirley k
    June 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    This was a well timed post for me! I’m about to start a monthly photo shoot. Have to decide where is a good location in our house to do it. Thanks.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Try to find a spot that gets nice light. The living room (where I took Eleanor’s shots) was tricky a lot of the time.

  • Heather in WA State
    June 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    This was my experience documenting my daughter’s first year in a chair. She’s now almost 10 years old and I’m so glad I did this!

    I only took a couple shots each month, and this was pre-digital, so I had no idea if I “got the shot” until the film came back from the developer. You newer moms are so lucky now to be in the age of digital!

    Also, I did take the photos the way you did, showing much more of the room the chair was in, but for the finished project I decided to crop the images (with scissors — this was the old days!) so the focus was just on her little body.

    Hey, here’s another fun project for you! I scanned photos of our relatives as infants going back 4 generations and made a family tree of baby pictures. Check it out!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      The family tree is a great idea! It must be fun to see everyone as babies and try to pick out family traits and resemblances.

      And yes, we’re very lucky to have digital photos and technology for projects like this now.

  • Tra Wright Knox
    June 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Wow! When I think of when you started with your very first photo and now…!
    Thanks for inspiring Nicole!

  • sierra
    June 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    You inspired my monthly baby shots, Nicole! I was doing monthly photos of my daughter wearing a white onesie, sitting in my knock-off ghost chair. So cute.

    On Thursday our house was robbed and they took my camera with months 7 & 8 still on the memory card that was in the camera. I’m so bummed and annoyed with myself that I kept putting off uploading the photos that were on the camera.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      I’m glad to have inspired, but I’m sorry about the robbery. That’s awful.

  • Jessicah
    June 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    You inspired my monthly shots too! I just did monthly shots of Eleanor for the first year, and now I’m doing six month ones from here on. (But I had the foresight to take an extra set of photos in a different outfit on her six month “birthday” so I can start that series with 6 mo instead of 12!)

    I did do a different fancy dress every time, which I think is fun. We also included a rubber ducky, which the first few months just sat next to her, but then added some fun interaction in the later months!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm

      I’m always so happy to hear that other people started their own photo projects. The rubber ducky sounds like a fun touch!

  • Nicole
    June 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I actually decided to do this a bit late for my oldest daughter when I realized that I had such a quantity of photos for every single week of her first couple months. Obviously, they weren’t in the same place, with the same clothes at that point, so I just carried on with the intention of getting a good head shot every week. At the end of the year, I cropped each photo really tight, so you just saw the face and did a square collage in Picasa. This gives you an excellent view of how she changed over the year- hair growing out, teeth coming in, smiles appearing. I went out of my way to put in some photos with tears, some when she was mad and yelling. I think the way you did it is much more artistic but I was really happy with my final product and actually ended up doing exactly the same thing with my second daughter. I just want to encourage people to create a photo collage of the first year, even if they think that they can’t manage something so organized, because it is such a special treat to sit there and look at the changes. Print out a few copies of the collage and you have an amazing present for the grandparents as well!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm

      Thank you, that’s a good point. Even if you don’t do something as methodical as me (that’s just my nature), I think everyone should try some form of photo documentation. It sounds like you found the perfect fit for you and your family!

  • Rose
    June 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I’m so glad you will be doing pics of Eleanor every six months!

  • Alyssa
    June 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I love the monthly photo set you do!
    Could you tell us more about that pin that you made? I’d love to set one up for my niece who is going to be here any day! :)

  • Kerry
    June 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Great post! :) I’ve loved seeing your monthly photos of Eleanor and August… and we’re expecting our little girl in 5 weeks. I definitely plan on taking monthly photos of her, so this was helpful and got me thinking about where I will be taking them, etc! :)

  • Emmmylizzzy
    June 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I only did it for my daughter’s first year – but here’s how it turned out!

  • Lizzie
    June 7, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    LOVE Eleanor’s & August’s monthly photos!! We upped the ante and did weekly photos of Olivia in her glider with her Totoro plush. Now that she’s a year, we are doing monthly photos for the next 4 years, then we’ll put together a book and video for her.

    I adore The Lovers song too, so rad!

    Can I just say, the snarky comment about sponsored posts is ridiculous. Bloggers give us readers tons of free advice, information, design ideas and entertainment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a living. I applaud bloggers who snag reputable corporate sponsorship, I have bought a photobook from Shutterfly and it was fantastic. *Stepping off my soapbox now*

    • Shannon
      June 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      I certainly didn’t intend for it to be snarky. It was just my opinion. I thought those were allowed here, but apparently they aren’t. At least not anything that isn’t “OMG THAT’S SO AWESOME”.

      Again, sorry to have offended.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      Lizzie, very cute. I like that you marked the passage of the seasons too.

      And Shannon, no worries. I know that some people are more sensitive to advertising and sponsors than others. I try to keep that in mind while accepting and declining offers. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Ann
    June 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Cute photos! You’ll be so glad to have a book for the memories. I made one from Shutterfly for my son’s graduation and it was a HUGE hit at the reception.

  • Anna
    June 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I love your monthly photos of the kiddos. I did take monthly photos of my daughter (22mos now) but they were never in the same place/time/outfit. I wish I had done that–to see how much she changed. I have a 3 month old son today and can’t seem to get on track with putting him in the same outfit/place for his monthly photos either. I never thought about making a book with each monthly photo. But I am going to do that now! Thanks for the idea–that should unify my photos.

    I enjoy your blog greatly!

  • Aliyex
    June 8, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Thanks for the tips! I love your monthly photos and am planning to do them when my baby arrives next month (panics). Even though I have lots of other things to plan I know that this will be wonderful to look back on – seeing how Eleanor has grown is awesome. Already I’m looking around the house for a suitable corner…

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Do it! It will be a crazy, hectic time, but all the more reason to take photos. You’ll be so glad in the end.

  • shalini
    June 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I’ve loved seeing your series on Eleanor. It’s been wonderful to see her grow.

    I just completed one year of weekly photos of my baby girl. We have a fun thing that we do that if one wears new clothes on a Thursday, one gets more new clothes. So, I put Elisha in new clothes every Thursday for a year, took her photos wearing them and sent them to my immediate family that very evening, with a little update on what she had been up to in the past week. It was a great way for the entire family to keep up with her and see her grow week-by-week.

  • Coasting anon
    June 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    To be honest, your series made me feel inferior and I got frustrated every time I saw a new one. The number one piece of advice I would give someone who wants to do something is amazing as this is to have everything, and I mean EVERYTHING ready at least two weeks before having the baby…because trying to start something like this after the baby is born is no where NEAR as easy as having it all together when you still have the time for it.

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      Oh no. I don’t want to make people feel inferior at all! I think the most important thing to keep in mind if you want to take on a photo project like this, is to just commit to doing it. It doesn’t have to be in the same spot with the same outfit, with a little handmade pin, etc. Just taking the photos is a feat in itself (and so nice to look back on after the project is over).

  • Susan Hazel
    June 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I absolutely love this idea. It reminds me very much of a photography exhibit I once saw at the MoMA in New York. The photographer had photographed his wife and her three sisters every year for something like 20-25 years. They were always standing in the same position, and the viewer gets to see them age and go through pregnancies etc. So beautiful. Your children will love this someday!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      I’d like to see that. Sounds amazing.

  • Ashley @
    June 9, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Soooo cute! Eleanor and August look almost exactly the same at 2 months!! haha! ah-dorable!

  • John Valenty
    June 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Such a great idea. Something I’m sure she will love to look at when she is older.

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    December 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Inspired by your photos, I have been shooting monthly photos of my son:
    Now that he is one, I think we are going to do photos every 3 months until he is 2, and then every year with his chair. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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  • Nancy
    September 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    dear nicole,

    i l.o.v.e this post!

    i used this pic-collage on my recent post:

    i wanted to introduce your lovely idea and blog to my readers…
    i so hope u dont mind!!!

    if you mind, please let me know, and i will delete it immediately!

    by the way, i love your blog and im always looking forward new posts of you in my blogroll…

    greetings from germany

    ps. you can translate the post with the google-translater button in my sidebar… :)

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    April 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Hello! I loved this idea. Can you tell me where you got the template for the month by month photos?
    Thanks so much,

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      Thanks! I created everything myself in Photoshop.

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