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Milestone Photo Shoots

by Brooke Tasovac (follow)
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Milestone shoots can be so much fun to do and more and more people are choosing to do these to share news about exciting events happening in their lives. Maybe you’ve thought about doing one yourself or been asked to do one for friends. They needn’t be expensive, with a little ingenuity and some careful planning, they will be photos that will be treasured for years to come.

Here are some popular milestone shoot ideas:

Gender Reveal & Pregnancy Announcements

Probably the most popular types of styled shoots, pregnancy announcement and gender reveal photos are cute and memorable. The best part is, they’re super simple to achieve.

There are so many clever and creative ways people have announced their pregnancies on social media and a quick look at Pinterest will help to get you inspired. If a baby is being born at a particular time of year, the shoot could be themed around this, for example a Christmas baby or Valentines Day baby. You can incorporate the baby’s ultrasound photo or show off the mum to be's baby bump or get older siblings involved.


To share if you're having a boy or girl, have your expectant parents hold up a pair of baby boy or girl shoes. Get crafty with coloured balloons, confetti, paint or cupcakes iced in pink or blue. For an extra twist, photograph the parents with their family as they find out the gender together, taking a series of images that capture the expressions and reactions of everyone in the final moment.

Engagement Announcement

Engagement announcements are usually a surprise for family and friends, so it can be really fun to accompany them with nice photos. While this type of styled shoot is not a new one by any means, I’ve seen some very unique, yet effective ideas for getting the message across, such as having your couple hold up wooden block letters to spell out “love” or the date of the wedding.

A quick search on the internet will yield plenty of results for his and hers mugs, pillows, towels, you name it! It could be a cute idea to have your couple drinking from a Mr. and Mrs. coffee cup (just make sure that the bride to be is using her left hand to show off the ring, like in the photo below).


Pose your couple with her wrapping her arms around him, allowing the ring to sit at the front of the shot. Use shallow depth of field if necessary.

Proposals are becoming another milestone that people want to photograph, especially if the proposal is very elaborate or taking place in a special location.

Trash The Dress

This trend is being embraced by modern brides who’ve purchased, rather than rented, their wedding dresses and aren’t too sentimental about keeping them to gather dust in a closet. Trash the Dress shoots have grown surprisingly crafty over the years. Have your bride (or both bride and groom) engage in a paint or chalk war. Send them running through the mud or diving into the ocean. Or let them splatter each other with cake and wine.


Double check that you have everything you’re going to need during the shoot ready to go, especially camera equipment and props. Remember, once you begin trashing the dress, you can’t start again.

Cake Smash

Typically organised for a baby’s first birthday, cake smash parties are good, messy, fun and guarantee lots of smiles, are becoming very popular, often offered as a package with newborn photography.

This type of shoot works especially well following a theme or colour palette. Make sure there is plenty of good lighting where you’re shooting as high key lighting works best against baby’s soft skin and will really make colours pop. A neutral wall in your home with lots of nearby natural window light is perfect. Alternatively use a flash with bounced light.

If you’re not fond of the idea of allowing your baby to eat sugar and preservatives, there are plenty of “cake smash” alternatives. Watermelons are a messy but healthy option, or consider swapping icing for a mixture of naturally sweetened cream cheese or yoghurt.


Ensure you have a nice clean backdrop and set up your props in advance. What until baby is in a good mood after a nap, then plonk them down and capture whatever uninterrupted mess ensues. The key to success for this type of shoot is keeping it candid.

First day Of School/Back To School

The first day of primary school and each year afterwards is a chance to take on a long term photography project that literally shows children growing up in every frame. These days, parents are growing increasingly cunning in their schemes to capture first day feelings and emotions, rather than just standard photos of children in their uniforms.

You won’t have a lot of time to prepare your photo shoot on the morning of, so you may want to get everything set up the night before. Use simple propping such as balloons or chalk drawings, or have your kids hold up a chalk board, alphabet blocks, bunting or sign to commemorate the special day. Use a backdrop that is clean and free from distraction – the garden, playground or front steps, for example. If you want to incorporate more props, you could use a stack of books, pretend glasses,a globe or even a little desk.


Tips To Make Your Shoot Look Professional

Avoid background distractions and isolate your subject or theme.
Shoot during the late afternoon when there is still plenty of nice natural light, but it isn’t too strong.
When shooting indoors, use a flash and bounce the light off of a ceiling or wall to soften it.
Use a lens with a focal length of 50mm or longer when shooting portraits to prevent distortion.
Set your aperture number between f4-f8 for soft background blur, whilst keeping your subject/s in focus.
You may find it easiest to use aperture priority mode for subjects that aren’t in motion. For Trash the Dress or Cake Smash shoots where your subjects are likely to be moving, you may wish to use shutter priority mode, and set your shutter to at least 1/200th. This way you will ensure that your images are free from motion blur.

How To Do A Styled Shoot On A Budget

You’d be surprised by how many props and materials you can use from around the house. Old crates, chairs and tables are great for posing on. Coloured sheets, lace curtains or tablecloths can be used for backdrops, and decorations such as balloons or streamers left over from parties add some embellishment.

Finally, if you want very specific props, research companies that have props for hire rather than buying them.

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