Hoping to snap that perfect “first Christmas” shot on your phone this year? Capturing a wow photo—even in the middle of holiday chaos—is easier than you think. We’ve rounded up the best tips our photographer pals have passed along for shooting newborns and babies. With five minutes and a little forethought, we promise you can get that sweet and festive shot to mark year one.
Set Up Near the Window
While it’s tempting to plunk your baby in front of the fireplace or the tree, you’ll get the best photos wherever your home is drenched in indirect daylight. (All those perfect details of your baby—their complexion, rolls, and toes—will come through beautifully.) “There are instances where I have to move furniture to achieve the lighting I’d like, or even stick to one well-lit room for the entire shoot,” says photographer Haley Johnson. (So if you have to drag the tree or velvet chair across the room, it might be worth it.) Sun coming in hard? A sheer window panel or white sheet can diffuse any shadows or harsh light.
Nix the Clutter
Your Christmas décor deserves to be documented, but for shots of baby, think simple and close-up. Try filling the frame with baby (and even getting down on the ground so you’re eye-level), and keep the background clean. Have your little sit or lay on a white comforter or on top of a piece of shiny wrapping paper. Maybe they’re holding (chewing) on an ornament—or maybe they’re just swaddled in a soft blanket. Either way, a minimalist backdrop will keep the focus on your babe.
Hand Someone Else the Camera
Don’t forget to hop in a few shots—even if they’re just of you trying to change a diaper while preserving your Christmas outfit. “I tend to take a lot of outtakes when no one is posing and everyone is just drowning in the new-parent hustle, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten an email months or even years later thanking me for a shot that was taken when no one realized the camera was out,” says photographer Belle Augusta. (If anything, your future teenager will appreciate the chance to laugh at your hair and clothes in 15 years.)
Snap an Activity
Babies look especially cute when they’re concentrating on a toy, chewing on their foot, and yes—tearing up all the wrapping paper. For little babies, try blowing bubbles or shaking a rattle above your head to elicit some genuine smiles, says photographer Maria Ponce.
Shoot on a Full Belly
“I think the most important tip for photographing a newborn is to be sure you do it right after a feeding when they are full and happy. They often doze off after eating too which can make for those sweet sleeping shots,” says photographer Katie Kett. Pro tip: make sure you’ve had something to eat, too. Celebrating your first Christmas with a baby takes all the energy.