Birthday Photo Traditions

On Thursday we celebrated our son’s 8th birthday. As we’ve added children to our family, 3 in all, these birthdays seem to sneak up on us even faster.

When the actual day comes, I’m usually scurrying around running errands…picking up the cake, blowing up balloons,  counting up RSVPs and wrapping gifts. But at some point..usually after I tuck my birthday boy or girl in bed, my mind drifts back to the day they were born…and the blur of days since.

Sometimes I pull out the pictures and start flipping through the years, the memories, the cakes and the candles that carried us all to today. It’s those times that I’m most thankful for the photos.

I think my favorite shot is always the “blowing out the candles” one. There’s something about the glow of the candles on their face (getting brighter as we add more each year) and the glint in their eyes right before they take a big puff (and slobber all over the cake).

If I snap the photo at just the right time, I can catch a hopeful look on their face as they silently make a wish.

So I’ve been thinking about birthday photo traditions. As children grow and there are no more cute cake smashes or Pinterest themed parties, it can be easy to gloss over the pictures…but don’t. Take a little time to make a birthday photo tradition.

Here are a few ideas for birthday photo traditions:

  • Take a picture of your child in the same position or location every year.
  • Have them hold a number balloon….use a blank wall so that the focus is squarely on your him/her and not a busy background. It also looks nicer when you put them all side by side.
  • Photograph your child standing next to a growth chart to show how tall they are.
  • Take a picture of them holding the same object every year. (Ex. We have a handprint birthday platter that we made when my son was one.)
  • Take the same shot (ex. Blowing out the candles) every single year and then put them together to see the progression.
  • Take a picture of your child wearing the same adult sized t-shirt each year and watch as they magically grow into it.

One of my very favorite ways to document a birthday is to make a photo story.  

First, choose one particular time of day that you’ll document: the morning routine, after school, bedtime, etc. 

Keep your camera on you through the entire time and snap photos….photos of things that are so mundane to you at the time: your son brushing his teeth, tying his shoes, slurping milk from a cereal bowl. (Warning: There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself teary eyed with a glass of wine and these pictures about 5 years from now.)

Take wide shots and close ups. Try to be a fly on the wall and fight the urge to ask him to smile or pose. Document just a small part of his day and then put them together into a collage or an album as a photo story. 

Here’s one of my favorites from the last day my son was 3. 

There are so many ways to make birthday photos fun...the key is to be consistent. I know that your to-do list is long on a birthday week, and if you have several kids…whew! I feel ya, mom! It can be hard to add another thing to your plate.

But I’d say these photos are more important than the perfect cake or that DIY balloon arch…or even the gifts. 


I’d say that photos are all you have left at the end of the day.

The cake will be eaten. The balloons deflated…the toys eventually discarded or broken.

But you’ll have that photo….if you just remember to take it. 

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