When I became pregnant last year I knew there was one thing I had to buy. Not a crib or a car seat or even a receiving blanket for taking baby home from the hospital. (Well, yes, I did need all of those things, but that goes without saying.) What I really needed was a camera.
The first year of a baby’s life is full of moments that every parent is yearning to capture. I’m not just talking generic, start-of-life highlights like your newborn’s first bath, first smile, or major holidays. I’m thinking more about all the good stuff that isn’t a posed photo from a major occasion. These are the images that you’ll hold in your mind’s eye for years to come.
Knowing nothing about photography, but knowing enough about wanting to capture human experience, here are my top eight moments to snap in your child’s first year of life. I was able to get most of them myself but they say kids are tough to photograph for a reason!
1. Other people taking pictures of the baby: This seems like a weird place to start but have you ever stopped to watch friends or family take photos of your precious peanut? It’s a cool perspective to capture if you can show them lining up your sleeping babe in their viewfinder. One of my favorite photos from my baby’s baptism is of her great aunt aiming an iPhone at her.
2. Recognizing herself in the mirror: It’s amazing to get a permanent, photographic glimpse of that “Will wonders never cease?!” expression on your little one when she finds her own reflection. And it’s equally cool if you can show her discovering her shadow. This happened for my daughter on her changing table one night.
3. Crying or throwing a fit: Might as well take advantage of a less-than-fun moment by snapping a funny pic of your sweet cherub hitting those high notes. All the better if his fists are balled up in protest! I vowed to take a photo of my girl next to a stuffed elephant every week for her first year. Of course, she usually hates this weekly ritual and has plenty of red-faced expressions for me to snap.
4. Wearing something of yours: This could mean something you donned as a baby (hello, smocked dresses from 1985!), or your glasses that he just learned how to pull off your face. I love the idea of baby holding onto a piece of you when you photograph him.
5. Interacting with your pet: Supervised puppy kisses or kitty-cat high-fives are a must-have if you consider your furry friend part of your family. I’m not in favor of throwing a newborn in the crook of a puppy’s arm (no matter how much you trust your pet, you can never be too safe) but I do believe in some closely managed cuteness for the camera.
6. Making a total mess: There’s something about being in a high chair in front of a bowl of mush that makes babies want to throw like a ball player. Make sure your camera battery is charged!
7. Digging around shoulder-deep in his toy bin: Once your tiny guy can sit up, he’ll want to help himself to his toys of course. It’s sort of like seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat when you first successfully capture your baby playing alone. What’s he doing? Oh that little stinker found his favorite ball at the bottom of the toy bin!
8. Applying sunscreen for the first time: Needless to say, it’s a comedy of errors worthy of Kodak. And if it’s winter, consider what it looks like when you get your darling doll stuffed into cold-weather gear. Just point and shoot at the ridiculousness of it all.
Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer living in Westchester, NY. She had her first child, a daughter named Rowan, last summer. Find her at whitneycharris.com.