"Watch me grow" Baby's first year photo project ~ iwatchthemgrow.com

Watch Me Grow Baby’s First Year Photo Project

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If you’re expecting or have a newborn, this baby’s first year photo project is for you! This easy photography project uses just one photo per month to show the crazy growth and changes your baby will have in their first year. It’s easy for a new mom to accomplish, and is such a great way to document your baby’s first year!

At the end of the project, the photos would make an amazing collage canvas or a collage frame, and are perfect for your baby’s photo book too.

Baby's first year photo project - see how to do it yourself plus some great tips!

Baby’s First Year Photo Project

This “Watch Me Grow” baby’s first year photo project is made by taking your baby’s photo each month of their first year, in virtually the same location and style. That way, the only thing that is really changed in each photo is your baby, and the change is the focus of the photos.

There are two key ingredients for this project to work:

1. Keep the setting the same in every picture. You can place your baby on a chair, a blanket, or whatever you think will work for all 12 months consistently.

2. Include a consistent something to provide a reference of scale, a comparison point for your baby’s growth. If your baby will be on the floor, or something too large to be a scale reference itself (bed, couch) then include a prop as a scale reference. This could be a special stuffy, a bottle, a framed photo or whatever you decide.

With these two factors, the only change between each picture is the change in your baby.

I came up with the idea to use a pillow on the floor as a simple setup to place my baby on, and provide a reference of scale.


I tried to put my baby in a wooden rocking chair with the first monthly photo, but she wasn’t having it, and it dawned on me to put her on a pillow instead, which worked out brilliantly!

I didn’t have to worry about her being uncomfortable or falling off, but as she became more mobile, it got harder to get her to stay on the pillow long enough for me to back up and take a picture.

Monthly photo collage for baby's first year, how to do it yourself plus some great tips!

Sometimes it took some distraction and patience but we got it done! So I think a pillow on the floor would work for anyone wanting to do this baby’s first year photo project.

How to choose your scene:

1. Lighting is SO important! Try to find an empty wall space near a big bright window. You may have to move some furniture to create this, but make sure it will be easy and not become a chore.

2. You might be able to use the back of your couch as a background, or drape a blanket over the side of your baby’s crib for a backdrop. Walk around your home during the daylight to find just the right spot.

How to take the monthly photos:

Every month on or close to your baby’s monthly “birthday”:

1. Check your last month’s photos for a reminder of the scene and angles you used.

2. Prepare the scene:

  • Set the scene with the same backdrop and scale reference.
  • Open the curtain to let in lots of light, making sure there is no direct sunlight on the photo scene. Turn off interior lights.

3. Prepare your camera:

  • Make sure the battery and memory card are good to go.
  • Get your camera settings ready. DO NOT USE FLASH (unless you have an external flash that can be angled away for indirect lighting). The regular on-camera flash will create harsh shadows against the wall, give flat lighting, and look very amateur.

4. Prepare your baby:

  • Only do this with a happy baby. Don’t attempt a photo session when she/he is sick/teething/hungry/tired just because it’s the monthly birthday. You can always do it a day or two ahead or after the birthday without it ruining your photo project.
    • Make sure your baby isn’t tired.
    • Feed your baby.
  • Strip him/her down to the diaper, change it if it’s wet.

5. Place your baby in the scene and back up for your wide shots.

  • Try to take photos from the same angle and distance every month.
  • Take a bunch of wide shots until you know you have a few keepers.

I took at least one tall “portrait” shot of my baby on the pillow with plenty of blank wall space above her. This was so that I could place text in the empty space of the photo, including her measurements, developments, and interesting tidbits for that month.

Monthly photo with stats for baby's first year, how to do it yourself plus some great tips!

6. Move in closer.

  • If your baby is still happy, move in for some closer pictures. Focus in on different features of your baby and move around to get different angles.

I tried to get as many other angles and expressions as possible, so those could go as a collage next to each monthly update photo in her photo book. And this way I knew that if it was a hectic month and I didn’t manage to take many good photos, I would at least have these 🙂

Monthly photo collage for baby's first year, how to do it yourself plus some great tips!

7. Backup your pictures to your computer or hard drive soon after taking them.

8. Write down as much as you can think of for developmental information, milestones, quirky habits, character etc. Make note of measurements, physical achievements, sleep habits, eating, personality, and whatever else will warm your heart to remember later.

9. If you tend to forget, write down your photo days. I wrote in my planner on every monthly birthday: “__ months old! To do: take measurements, take monthly picture.” Write it on your calendar, schedule the task on your phone — whatever helps to remind you.

More Baby’s First Year Monthly Photo Ideas:

  • Use a plain white pillow to help reflect the light onto your baby and create a bright, clean look.
  • Use a different colored patterned pillow case for each month for a colorful and fun collage.
  • If you use cloth diapers, it would be fun to use a different colored diaper for each month.
  • If you use disposables, you could buy a white diaper cover in 3 or 4 sizes to use for a clean and timeless look, or you could buy colorful diaper covers and switch it up each month.

Whew, that felt like a lot of information and tips, but you know what? This project is actually really easy to do! I think the hardest part is deciding the setup in the beginning, then you just have to stick to it and copy what you already did. It’s just one day each month and it really is worth the effort because you will be amazed with the final result!

Good luck with the project, and enjoy the wonderful first year with your baby!


Courtney shares party inspiration, DIYs, and free printables on her blog, and designs art and party printables for her Shop. She loves Farmhouse home décor, photography and movies.

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  • […] This post is a tutorial for making pretend Polaroids in Photoshop, but if you like the baby photos I used check out my post with tips for making your own “Watch me grow” baby’s first year photo project. […]

  • Mike Brown January 29, 2024 at 9:18 pm

    This is fantastic! I’ve been looking for unique birthday gift ideas, and this DIY project seems perfect. Can’t wait to try it out for my niece’s first birthday!

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