I'm not a professional or even an amateur photographer; I'm just a mom with a "vintage" DSLR who wants to take serviceable pictures of her baby. I do know that good lighting can mask a plethora of photography mistakes. I propped baby up in front of a large floor-to-ceiling window to grab as much light as possible:
We started taking pictures as soon as we woke up in the morning. Scribble is most chipper then, plus the light in my house is prettiest in the morning. The only challenge with this set-up was shooting in the small space between the baby and the window without creating shadows on my subject! This meant I had to try some unconventional angles.
All the posing tuckered Scribs out, so after about an hour and a half of shooting, he was more than ready for his mid-morning nap!
In this set of pictures I used a white sheet as my backdrop, because I didn't want the background to compete with the Christmas lights I was also including in the picture. But other times I have used heirloom quilts, tablecloths with a cute pattern, and receiving blankets as backdrops. I used a boppy to prop baby in a lounging position, and some oversized pillows to add body under the sheet behind him. I wanted photos that were cheerful and edging on kitschy. I think (hope!) the twinkle lights paired against the plain background communicated fun without becoming saccharine.
I've practiced my photography a lot more since baby was born. One thing I have noticed is that some angles produce "dead eyes," ones without catchlights or glimmer. Now I try to create catchlights when I am taking pictures. (Because no-one wants a zombie baby!) To avoid a dead eye, make sure your baby is looking into a light source when you are shooting, and don't block the light with your body!
I also challenge myself to get closer to my subject. My most boring pictures are ones where I am shooting far above or away from Scribble. Sometimes zoom can help, but I usually opt to get closer unless my physical presence will affect the moment I am trying to capture.
I can already see so many flaws in these photos. But I was working with an overcast day, a limited amount of time, and a squirmy baby who wanted only to grasp at Christmas lights. My kid's safety and my sanity were more important than a perfectly composed picture. If you are a beginning photographer hoping to capture some snaps, just remember that your kid is adorable and will carry the photo as long as you make him or her its sole focus.
For cheap and easy post-processing/editing, I use the wonderful (and FREE!) program Paint.NET. This is an open source version of Photoshop. I am not a photo editing guru; I use Paint.NET for basic exposure (brightness/contrast/curves) and color adjustments. I know more can be done with this program, but for a beginner like me, that is plenty! If you want to design your own card layout, I suggest this open source and free version of Adobe InDesign: Scribus.
What are you doing for holiday cards? Are you using your holiday snaps for any other projects? I really need some cool photo gift ideas!