1. Plan your day and the photo shoot to help your baby be calm and happy.
As a mom, you should generally know your baby's schedule as well as their likes and dislikes. For example, my baby tends to be happiest in the mornings and not at all happy when she is hungry. She also hates being messed with (i.e. getting dressed and being posed). So in order to take these pictures, I set everything up before she woke up so she wouldn't have to wait.
When she woke up I changed her diaper and put her in the dress. Once she was dressed I fed her on the floor right by where I was going to take the pictures. This gave her a chance to calm down after getting dressed. Once she had eaten, I put her on the backdrop and just played with her for a while before starting to take pictures.
2. Use lots of soft lighting. Avoid harsh flash.
Normal camera flash produces a hard light from one direction. This produces crisper images, but also makes shadows with sharp edges and glare on shiny surfaces. Avoiding flash makes it more difficult to get clear pictures with a wiggly baby. However it avoids sharp contrasts in lighting and gives a more professional appearance.
For example, here are two shots taken from the same angle. The first shot was taken with standard automatic flash. It is crisper, but also has glare on her shoulder, chest, and head. The second is taken without flash. It has a softer, smoother look to it.
I chose the room in my house that got the most natural light. Thankfully the time of day when my baby was the happiest is also the time of day when the most light comes in that window. For this photo shoot I decided to just use only the natural light from the window.
There are ways to bounce or diffuse the flash that will produce a clearer image without the harshness, but that is an experiment (and hopefully tutorial) for a later day.
3. Simple backdrops are foolproof.
I'm not saying that more complicated props and backgrounds aren't good. They can make for some amazing and unique photos. However, they can also make for some crazy jumbled mess photos.
A professional photographer can take a picture of a baby surrounded by toys or twigs or anything. They know all about composition and focal lengths. They know how to make sure the baby is the center of attention no matter what else is in the picture. I don't know how to do that.
For this photo shoot, I used the back side of our comforter. I had a beanbag chair that I could drape the comforter over when I wanted to pose her in a more upright position. That's all it was and it worked wonderfully.
4. Patience. Go with the flow.
Babies are not logical. They aren't adults. They don't understand what the goal is. They don't react well to force. They are easily overwhelmed. They can't really even control their own bodily functions.
Be prepared to break for messes, diaper changes, feedings, play time, and anything else you or the little one can come up with. Just keep things set up and stay close by and you can get right back to it once you and the little one are ready again.
During this shoot my little one has recently discovered her hands and feet. She was fascinated with the dress covering her feet so she couldn't grab them any more. She kept kicking, getting the layers of her dress all messed up. I got more pictures of her all balled up and chewing on the dress than anything else. It was a far cry from the elegant, dreamy baby pictures I'd come up with in my head.
I was told once to take great pictures you just have to wait. Be natural. Let the subject forget that the camera is even there. Then you can capture the beautiful, candid, natural expressions. So I waited, I played with her a bit, I let her explore the texture of the dress. Once she was calmer, but still paying attention to the dress itself, that's when I really started shooting. Some of the best pictures came from waiting and letting her do her thing. I love the way she is interacting with the dress. I couldn't have planned or posed that. It really captures her spirit and personality.
5. Basic photo-editing can work magic.
You don't have to know how to use or even own Photoshop to get great results editing your pictures. So far I've done all my editing using Windows Live Photo Gallery which came free on my husband's laptop. I used very simple functions to adjust the colors and orientation and the results look great.