These days, it seems like everyone around me is having babies. Even my own wife! Well, actually, that one I knew about. But seriously, baby fever has come upon my circle of friends and a number of people have asked me the ultimate question: “When should we do baby photos?” Well, deciding when to do your family portrait session depends a lot on the kinds of photos you’re looking for. Would you rather have sleepy newborn photos, smiley baby photos, or action shots of your little rugrat on the move? Here are some guidelines for getting great kid photos at each stage.
Bun in the Oven
Maternity portraits are a popular thing to do and I personally love them. (Disclaimer: I don’t do naked-in-the-moonlight-with-a-sheet-draped-around-you-maternity-photos, but rather a more documentary and authentic style comparable to my other portraits.) It’s a very sweet and tender time of your life that you may want to remember though beautiful portraits of you and your partner. After all, it won’t be long before your family will look COMPLETELY different, so it’s kind of a treasure to have some special photos of you before you became sleep-deprived zombies. If you’re considering maternity photos, you’ll want to do them around 30-32 weeks (roughly 8 months or so). Ideally, this is when your belly is big enough to be adorable, but not so big that you’re uncomfortable or have a hard time moving around. In my experience of living with a pregnant lady, by about 34-36 weeks you don’t want a stranger photographing you anymore.
Newborn babies are the sleepiest, snuggliest, and softest during their first two weeks of life. During this time they sleep a lot and don’t move a whole lot, so we can arrange them in comfy and adorable poses. (Disclaimer: I don’t do any baby-in-flower-pot stuff. See above disclaimer regarding my documentary approach to portraiture.) After two weeks they wake up and then lie there like lumps for a few months as their little bodies begin to grow. In other words, have family portraits with your newborn done within the first 10-14 days of your baby’s arrival.
Most babies start actively smiling around four months (before that, they’re just making involuntary expressions), but they still don’t do tons of smiling until closer to month 7 or so. By month 8 they are also sitting up well, perhaps crawling a little, responding to your facial expressions, reacting to toys and music, and generally alert enough to get some amazing photographs. But beware: by 9 or 10 months, they will begin to develop a pretty strong sense of stranger anxiety, meaning that it’s much harder for them to accept having a photographer in their house and will be less cooperative during a photo shoot. For the best smiley baby photos, I recommend family portraits between 6-8 months of age.
After 1 year, most kiddos are starting to walk and run, making family photos that much more interesting, challenging, and dynamic. I love photos around the baby’s first birthday. They are smiley and active, but they don’t run as fast as bigger toddlers and are therefore easier to keep up with. They also haven’t learned their fake “photo smile” that 2-5 year olds know and give you much more authentic and real smiles. Some photographers offer a “cake smash” session where the kid gets a cake on their first birthday and goes to town with it. I don’t do sessions like that (see above disclaimers regarding authenticity) but I do think that the first birthday is a great time for a family photo shoot, and a sweet time of life to memorialize in photos.
Got more questions about planning for, scheduling, and preparing for family portraits? Give me a call or shoot over an email and I’ll be happy to help you strategize.