We’re taking Isla’s first birthday photos next Friday, which is sort of crazy as she just celebrated her 11 month-iversary on Monday. However, I wanted to use the photos at her first birthday party, and we’re going to be gone for the two weeks leading up to her big day… so we’re doing them a little early! We’re having Paige of Awake Photography take them for us, as I love her pictures! She took our little Petrovic family Christmas photos, our Semple family photos and pictures for my stroller fitness post.

I’m also super excited, as last night, I booked a flight to Oklahoma City for a quick two day trip to visit one of my bestest friends, Kirby, and her adorable daughter Lillian (of course, Brett too)! One of my favorite photographers, Jessa Kae, is doing 50 shoots in 50 states in 50 days (how cool is that??), and Lillian is having her first birthday photos taken on June 16, so we’re going to join in for some ‘two generations of best friends’ photos. We’ve been talking about these forever now, and I’m beyond excited for them!

I love looking at first birthday photo shoots, although many of the ones on Pinterest are a bit too cheesy for my liking (see suggestion #9). Therefore, as I’ve done my research and prepped for Isla’s photos, I thought I’d share some tips for how to take beautiful and fun first birthday photos.

Do you have any other tips you could add?


1. Choose the best time of day for your baby. Although shooting during the ‘golden hour’ (around 7pm) is definitely the prettiest for lighting, Isla goes to bed at 6:30pm, so we opt for early morning shoots. After a full night of sleep, Isla is definitely most chirpy during this time. Make sure to specify what time of day you want to take the photos when you’re trying to pick a date with your photographer.

2. Pack multiple outfits. Isla will have two outfits to wear on Friday, but I’ll pack a third just in case something happens (blowouts are a real risk!). Try not to be too attached to any one outfit, and make at least one as neutral as possible. Sasha and I will only wear one outfit, so but I’ve got to coordinate those with her two different outfits. Solid colors work for men’s shirts and women’s dresses, especially if baby is in a print. The same works if your baby and husband are in solids – you can be a little more playful with what you choose to wear.

3. Bake a cake (or cupcake)! Cake smashes can be a hit or miss, but they are worth the try. I personally think a cupcake is a smart idea for this, as cakes can be pricey and likely won’t get eaten by anyone. Babies are small, so cupcakes seem more appropriate and are cute. See if you can get the icing to color-coordinate with your baby’s outfit (or diaper cover, depending on what you choose to do).

4. Get in front of the camera too. I know some parents choose not to be in their baby’s first birthday photos, but I recommend you take the opportunity to have some family pictures taken. If you don’t want to hire someone, you and your spouse can rotate who is in the picture or even use a tripod! If you’re new to the area and don’t know who to hire, I would use Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book and narrow down to your city. I know they are technically wedding photographers, but you’ll find most take family pictures too!

5. Add a pop of color (balloons, streamers, etc.)! #9 below touches on props (and limiting them!), but I think it’s important to have a pop of color in these pictures. I am very much so a neutral person (our house is light yellows and muted grays), but I suggest incorporating some bright color into the photos to make it ‘kiddy.’ You can find fun colorful items at Shop Sweet Lulu, like balloons, garlands, and confetti. That store is seriously amazing.

6. Bring a blanket or something to sit on. Once you have your outfits and props figured out, pick a blanket with a color that compliments them. I love the throw blankets at Biscuit Home, which are the perfect size and brightly colored. You can also get pretty neutral ones at Target (this one would be great).

7. Pick a unique location. I’m seriously obsessed with Beckam’s first birthday shoot with Jessa Kae – they took the photos with a ton of balloons in front of the Up! inspired house in Utah (photos here). Parks are definitely easy places to shoot (and I love them!), but if there is somewhere fun and colorful in your city, look into that. Houston has a big park downtown called Discovery Green, with lots of bright walls (like this one), which would be a fun backdrop for a first birthday shoot.

8. Bring a friend. This is huge. For our Christmas photos, my mom came with us to stand behind our photographer, Paige, and make funny faces and noises to help Isla smile. When we took my family’s photos, we didn’t have anyone, so Isla wasn’t smiling in any of the big group pictures. Ask around to see if any family or friends can tag along to help!

9. Keep props at a minimum. It takes one Pinterest search for “Baby First Birthday Photos” to know exactly what I mean by “cheesy” pictures. Baskets, signs, frames, etc. When it comes to setup, I ask myself, “What would Kate do?” The Duchess of Cambridge would never put sweet Prince George or Princess Charlotte in a basket. I think small things like chairs, balloons, blankets, etc. are fine and totally add to a photo shoot, but I recommend you keep it simple, as these will make for more timeless photos. Also, if your baby loves a certain book or toy, bring that!

10. Act natural and have fun! Remember not to stress too much – these are first birthday photographs after all. Enjoy yourself and have fun with your little one. Make them laugh! And laugh too! Try to ignore the photographer as much as possible and just be in the moment.

I’m sharing some of my favorite first birthday photos / photo shoots below.

fe421e7eb2abd2186a5ad3c1034a6c39Photo credit: Jessica McCravy Studios

fb67b1a0aac47ce33c33dc1a21587691download (1) downloadPhoto credit: Stephanie Sunderland Photography

2013-07-18_0007Photo credit: EE Photography

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.52.03 AMPhoto credit: Blair Nicole Photography

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 3.18.58 PMPhoto credit: Jen Gagliardi Photography

boys-birthday-shirtcody-beckam-birthdayPhoto credit: Jessa Kae featured on Hello Fashion

DSC_0799 DSC_0783Photo credit: Snapshots & My Thoughts


  1. Adorable!! and all great tips. I don’t love over the top photoshoots either, I actually don’t love studio photography very much… it’s just not really my style, I love the idea of a more lifestyle approach. We paid for Scarlett’s first bday photos, I did her second birthday ones and if we have another babe I will be doing it all. Photographer’s are so expensive, I plan to only pay for family photo’s in the future 🙂

  2. This is great! And these tips are definitely for toddler stages too. 😉 You are such a great photographer yourself, my dear!

  3. GORGEOUS photos and awesome tips, thank you. I love the idea for adding in pops of color. I also love the tip for being simplistic and not overdoing the props. Simple looks 10x more gorgeous than an over done photo. Pinning this!

  4. Great tips!!! I did my own photos for Palmer’s 2nd birthday. I’m not a fabulous photographer (if you can even call me that) but they turned it super cute and showed off her personality exactly. Can’t wait to see Isla’s photos!!!

Leave a Reply