Since my son was born, I have been taking his photo every week to document how he has been growing and changing.
I'm not a very good photographer, so this has been a really fantastic experience for me to practice taking photos and enjoy some time one-on-one with my baby.
Step 1: Planning Considerations
When planning a weekly photo project you'll want to consider the following:
I obviously chose to take photos every week. Some people choose to do pictures once a month, once every 3 or 4 months or even daily. For me, weekly was a good balance. With my schedule, it would be hard to take pictures on the first of every month or a less frequent occurrence because it would wind up on different days of the week and I'd be likely to forget photo day. By doing a photo every Saturday, I always remember that it is photo day and I look forward to that time with my son every weekend.
Choosing to take photos every Saturday does, however, mean that I can't always take the photos in our home because we are sometimes traveling.
You could choose to have the same background in every photo or change it every week. Some people pick a setting in their home, which can provide great context, but it will obviously be a problem if you anticipate needing to take some photos away from home, as we did.
I wanted something simple, that I could replicate when we were traveling, and that I could change to go with different outfits. I decided to always take my son's picture on a cloth background, and I alternate between his various blankets and bed sheets.
One of the best parts of this project is seeing how much your child has grown. In order to really see the growth, you'll need something that remains consistent in every photo. You could use a toy or a sign, or if you are setting the photos in your home, a favourite chair.
My son surprised everyone by arriving 5 weeks early, so I didn't have much time to prepare a photo prop. When it came time to take the first picture, I looked around the room and grabbed a pair of safety goggles. I think it's the perfect recurring object for the baby of maker parents.
You'll want to number or date each photo, so you can immediately tell how old your child is. I chose to add the number of weeks in Photoshop, but you could also add them to the photo set up, by writing it on a chalkboard or sign, or giving your child something to wear with the number on it.
Marking seasons, events, milestones
I wanted my photo project to not only document my son's physical changes, but also what was happening in our lives each week. His outfits change with the seasons and I try to include references to holidays or special events (like bunny ears for Easter and a rainbow mohawk for Pride).
Step 2: Setting Up the Photos
Find a location in your home that has good natural light, like next to a south-facing window, or set up lights. You want to avoid having to use your camera's flash.
Make sure you have room to get a nice wide shot. Your baby is going to get bigger so you need to anticipate needing more space to capture him on camera!
I originally started taking my son's photos on a table next to our front window. Once he was old enough to sit up, I moved to a guest room where I could set up some photography lights.
Lay out your back drop and recurring object (for me, it's goggles).
When your baby is in a good mood, start taking pictures.
I take lots and lots of photos. For me, getting the perfect photo is mostly a matter of patience and luck. I don't mind deleting 50 photos if I mange to get a couple good ones.
Step 3: Editing the Photos
I try to keep my photo editing very minimal.
After the photo shoot, usually while my son is napping, I sort through all the photos and choose my favourites.
I open my favourite photo of the week in Photoshop and crop it. To really show his growth, I try to keep the size of the goggles consistent over a couple of weeks. In Photoshop you can use the ruler tool to measure your recurring object (in my case the goggles) and scale the image so they stay roughly the same size from one photo to the next. Alternatively, you can make the latest photo a semi-transparent layer on top of the previous photo and scale it until the recurring objects line up, before setting the opacity back to 100%.
I add the week number with the text tool and position it on the image. I sometimes change the text colour to coordinate with that week's background but I try to keep it simple.
Step 4: Final Thoughts
Some weeks are going to turn out better than others. If you are an inexperienced photographer like me, you can't hold yourself to the same standards as professionals. Think of the project as a great learning experience and try to improve your techniques week after week.
Sometimes your child might not want to cooperate, and that's ok. Do the best you can and make sure that you keep it a fun project for both of you.
Consider making something awesome with the collection of photos at the end of the year. I'm going to have photo books printed for my son's grandparents, and I'd like to make a large collage of all 52 pictures.