My Little Mr. turned 6 months old this week! He has grown so fast, his rosy, pudgy, melt-your-heart face hardly resembles the frail 7lbs 4oz infant he was just a few short months ago. If you’re a mom you know what I mean. They weren’t joking when they said it goes too fast! Which is why capturing every unique growth spurt is so incredibly important… and expensive. A typical infant session ranges these days between $200-$400!! I don’t know about you, but that’s wayyy too much to be dropping on photos every three months. There must be a better way. And there is! Enter, DIY pro-looking baby photos. And the best part? They’re free!
I am not a professional photographer. Nope, not even close. Although I’ve always enjoyed photography and would lovvvvve to take a class someday, this is not an area in which I have expertise. But I am good at critical thinking. So I put my little bit of DIY knowledge acquired from some Pinterest stalking and my brain together and voila! Baby pictures! For FREE!
Here’s what you’ll need to set up:
- 2-3 backdrops – sheets, blankets, curtains, a bare wall – anything with a print or a texture that will compliment the colors you’re using in your props and gives you the look you want to achieve.
- 2-3 outfits – let’s not get over-ambitious, this is a baby. You may only use one outfit but have a few options nearby in case your child is miraculously super cooperative!
- 2-3 props – are you catching on? Start small and simple: a favorite stuffed animal, a cute hat, and a pair of shoes.
- 1-2 feature props – I used my very homemade, very sad looking 1/2 Birthday Cake and a refinished Victorian mirror for mine.
- Bright area – the brightest spot in my house is my dining room, so I slid my table over directly next to the windows so they were level.
- Baby seat/baby holder – I used our Bumbo (it matched the theme perfectly!) and my daughter! She sat on the table behind him with a blanket draped over her and held him from under the blanket. She’s a good sport. 🙂
- Decent camera – I did use my Cannon EOS Rebel T3 for these pictures, but I could have easily used my iPhone 5’s camera. When you have a well-lit area and are taking close-proximity shots, you will probably be just as pleased with your smart phone’s camera.
- 20-30 minutes – I kid you not, this was 30 minutes tops from start to finish… and I took 400+ pictures! When you have all your supplies nearby and a happy baby, just click away and you’re sure to get several really good ones.
This is pretty straight forward: once you have your supplies and a happy baby, go for it. If you’re using Pinterest for inspiration, make sure you have it open nearby so you can reference different poses you want to try.
Amateur photography tip: Always test your light beforehand so you know what you’re working with. I shot all of my photos in Auto Mode on my camera because I knew I wouldn’t have the time between shots to manually readjust. I was very pleased with how good they turned out for being on auto!
I was first introduced to PicMonkey when I read a tutorial on how to make awesome blog images (see post here). Ever since I’ve been addicted. FYI, this post is not sponsored in anyway, I just LOVE this program! I have upgraded and use PicMonkey Royal, but you don’t need to pay for the upgrade to still have some awesome editing tools. To prove that point, I’ve used the free version of PicMonkey in this tutorial.
1. Open up your photo in PicMonkey editor and crop it. Don’t crop excessively into your picture to get rid of eye-sores like mine here – we can get rid of that later without sacrificing the quality of the photo.
2. Scroll down from the ‘Crop’ feature to the ‘Exposure’ feature and increase the brightness. You can see how that helps fade the ‘boo-boos’ but you can still tell they’re there. To get rid of them completely, crank up the ‘Highlights’ and lower the ‘Contrast’. Play with it until you get a look you’re satisfied with.
3. Now to get those eyes nice and bright (if you’re a Royal PicMonkey user you can use their amazing Eye Brightening feature), click on the magic wand to open up the special effects menu. Scroll down and find the ‘Spotlight’ feature and center it right on the eyes. You can only use one Spotlight per photo so I make mine larger to include both eyes. Adjust the size, then fade out the edges so it’s not a harsh contrast with the rest of the face. Then slide the fade way down so you can’t tell where the focal starts and ends. It is very mild, but it will help brighten up those eyes, and it’s free!
4. If you’re still not completely satisfied with your picture, try using the ‘Boost’ feature under the special effects menu. This will be way too extreme, but if you fade it almost completely out it may add a nice touch.
5. Save and enjoy! I watermark all of my photos (click on the butterfly icon and then select the ‘Your Own’ option at the top of the menu to import your own watermark to place on your photo), but if you’re using it only for personal use, you’re done!
For Backdrop Fixes:
I had some major backdrop issues. Like I said, I’m no professional! I figured as long as my backdrops were bigger than my baby I’d be fine. I wasn’t. Especially using the mirror, I found I was totally out of my league! But that’s ok because I was able to find some really easy editing solutions to fix my mess-ups!
- Open your photo in PicMonkey editor (or any other editor) and crop it to your desired size. Save and close your photo.
- Open it again in Paint (or your computer’s generic paint program) and use the color selector tool as a ‘clone’ feature. Select the brush type and brush size and get crackin’! This is very tedious, as you will most likely have to select and reselect your color to stay authentic in your clone colors. This is a very good fix for small mess-ups like you see here. I haven’t attempted it on a larger scale.
Option 2: (Depending on the size of the space, this option may be easier for you.)
- Open your photo in PicMonkey editor and crop to desired size.
- Zoom way in on your ‘mess-up’ and click on the butterfly tool bar to open Geometric shapes. Find the shape that is most appropriate to use as a ‘fill in’. Using as many shapes as you need to, fill in the space. You can also rotate them by using the rotator at the top of the shape. Once you have it all filled in, use the color selection tool to select the appropriate color from the surroundings. I chose in this case to use white since I knew I wanted it to be a washed out background. This is what I call ‘block cloning’. So much faster for small spaces if you don’t have a professional editing program. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still tedious, but so rewarding!
- Always wait to adjust your Exposure settings until you’ve finished your cloning so that the entire picture will be effected.
- Follow the steps for adjusting Exposure above to lighten the background and fade out your ‘block cloning’ job.
- Continue editing your photo as desired (filters, effects, etc.)
- Save and enjoy!
Other Editing Options
There are a zillion editing combos you can use in the free version of PicMonkey. One of my favorite free features is the ‘Frost’ option under special effects. This gives you a frosty ‘frame’ that you can customize to suite your photo (intensity, size, color, etc.). See how I used it to disguise some block cloning I did on this photo? Love it.
Once you’ve played around with PicMonkey a little you’ll get so excited with the potential. If you do decide to upgrade to the Royal version you won’t regret it! It’s a lot cheaper than a professional editing program and so user friendly. I’m especially smitten with their gorgeous interface! Perfect for a blogging newbie like me. If I ever write Blogging for Dummies PicMonkey will be one of the essentials, for sure! But even if you’re only using your photos for your own personal use, everyone loves beautiful pictures! And ‘free’ is a lot less than the going photo session rate. 🙂