So happy for you, Mae!
Caitlin now has 4 top teeth (can't remember if I mentioned that) and just tonight started pulling up to standing. She spent the weekend swimming in a lake and boating and is definitely an up-north kind of girl!
As for taking photos off auto, what kind of camera do you have? Can you adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO? Here are a few tips on the technical side, then a few on the artistic side:
* Shoot in aperture mode. The lower that number, the less depth-of-field you'll have in focus, so you can get great portraits with the smeared, buttery background.
* Buy a 50mm f1.8 prime lens for great portrait shots. For either Canon or Nikon you can get one for around $100 and you'll be amazed at the difference between that and whatever kit lens probably came with your camera.
* Keep your ISO as low as possible, but dial it up for shooting in low light if necessary.
* Look at the shutter speed that your camera is using when you're in aperture mode. If it's a number that is smaller than your lens length, use a tripod or open the aperture or up the ISO. So, for example, if you've got your 50mm prime lens on and your aperture setting requires a 1/20 second shutter speed for proper exposure, that's too slow for you to take without shake if you're holding the camera in your hand. Open the aperture to get at least as fast as 1/50 second.
* Avoid using the on-camera flash, since it makes people appear pretty dull and lifeless. It can work for a fill flash if you're shooting in bright sunlight and the sun is behind your subject, but don't use it in low light if you can avoid it.
And artistic tips:
* Position your subject so that you can see the little white square of "catch light" in their eyes. Standing between the light source and your subject is good.
* Get on your subject's level - so sit or lie down on the ground to photograph babies.
* Or get well above them and look down. Or do both.
* Fill the frame with your subject unless the point of the photo is to show off the setting. Way too many photos include too much of the surroundings and you can barely make out the subject.
* And most importantly, think about what story you want to tell when composing your photograph, and who the audience for that story is.
And for those of us who don't shoot enough to have a gut feel for timing, and especially when shooting children, don't be afraid to take lots of photos and throw away the vast majority of them. DSLR camera usually have a rapid-shoot mode that can take several shots per second. This is good when you can't count on a child holding a facial expression, or when you're going for an action shot. Just be sure to cull the photos viciously and immediately - going back to sort them later is something you're not likely to find the time for.