Photographing Baby Clothes for Family History

Now that you have organized your personal or family heritage memorabilia and have learned about light boxes and seamless backdrops, we can continue improving our photos.
Over the last year, I have enjoyed taking photos of the artifacts of my ancestors. I have shown you a few things of my own personal history (clothing, stuffed animals, a costume hat, and a sorority paddle to name a few). Although secret my objective for photographing my stuff was to declutter my home, I say it’s practice for the more important historical objects!
When my husband said I could photograph ‘his stuff’, I was super excited. I had new objects and their challenges. One of the things in the collection his mother preserved for him was two hand-knitted sweaters and a pair of booties.
Instead of using a lightbox, I used my seamless backdrop set up. The baby sweater would not fit inside my lightbox. So, my mini photo studio works best in the living room. The room has a large window that faces south. The best times of day to photograph where I live in the middle morning or early evening. My living room table is the right height when slid over to touch this window wall. It serves as a platform for my objects so that I’m the right height to work.
On top of the white muslin, I placed a blue baby blanket. The blanket was not used because it belonged to my hubby. I wanted a soft background in baby boy blue to complement and set off the soft white yarn. A baby blanket fit the bill.
The sweater was placed directly on the blanket. With the sun shining from the left side, a white foam board opposite the window to bounce light back onto the sweater. With the camera on a tripod, I used a low ISO setting (think old film camera speeds) I shot in AV mode.
How to photograph baby layette
Photographing a baby layette

(f/4.5; exposure 1/6, ISO 100, exp bias +0.7, 13 mm focal length,
Center Weight Average metering mode, Manual white balance)
 From what I’ve learned AV mode is best used for portrait and still life photography. This setting can help control the depth of field in your photographs. Basically, blurring out the background and focusing on the object you are featuring. Pretty cool stuff.
I took photos of a second sweater using the same setup and similar settings.
How to photograph baby clothes
Photograph of a baby sweater
(f/4.5; exposure 1/6, ISO 100, exp bias +0.7, 10 mm focal length,
Center Weight Average metering mode, Manual white balance)
I am really pleased with these photos. You can see the detail of the sweaters and booties. The colors are soft and natural.

Lessons Learned

In reviewing the photos now, I am analyzing them with ‘how do I improve’ eyes. I think I should have lined up the camera so that it was looking straight down on the objects. Or, I should have angled the top of the sweaters up and photographed that way. I’m not certain how that would have affected the detail in the handmade items. It will be something to try when I have another hand-made item.
The story behind the objects and another take-home lesson…
These sweaters were made by my husband’s relatives. The only question is, who? That is still difficult to say, but one of them could have been made by his Grandma Marion. Despite not remembering who made them, I love knowing that my honey did wear these wonderful items as a babe.
Unfortunately, I mixed things up a bit. The booties belong to the sweater that is photographed alone. The sweater with the booties should have been photographed by itself. Take home lesson, find out if the grouping you want to photograph is correct. If you can’t, photograph how you want. Never assume anything!
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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