Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

What’s the best age to photograph your baby?

30Jun

A helpful guide to deciding when to book a professional baby photoshoot

In the whirlwind months after welcoming your new small person into the world, it can be hard to think of anything beyond nappies, milk and sleep.

If you’re considering professional baby photography, deciding who will do it and when can be difficult, especially with so many other things to keep on top of.

For many, it’s something they only do once so the timing of these precious portraits is worth thinking about carefully.

There are so many milestones in their first year. Would you like photographs of those irreplaceable first few days? Or maybe you’d prefer to wait until your baby is smiling or sitting up?

Here’s a handy guide about the different types of pictures you can expect at different ages. It’s designed to help you make an informed decision about the best age to photograph your baby, ensuring you get images you’ll cherish forever.

Newborn: welcome to the world.

The popularity of newborn baby photography has risen hugely over the last decade. Increasingly, this is the time that families will hire a photographer to create beautiful and timeless images of these wonderful first few days.

The early moments fly by in a sea of euphoria and sleep deprivation. Having pictures you can look back on, a reminder of how tiny your child once was, is priceless. Even a week later, they’ll have grown so much.

Newborn photoshoots might capture those elusive first attempts at a smile or the milk-drunk sleep of your wonderfully contented baby.  They will record the moments between you, as parents, as you look at your baby and see what you’ve created.

These are magic moments. When I finish a newborn shoot, I’m almost on a high from the love in the room. It’s incredible.

Have you considered what style you prefer? There are several different approaches to newborn photography. For me, it’s all about keeping it natural.

Instead of props, elaborate posing or hours spent on Photoshop post-shoot, I simply photograph your baby as they are: a tiny human being held close by their loving parents. No worrying whether their fingers are placed “just so”, no precision poses in unnatural positions.

These pictures will hold so many memories. When photographs are taken in your home, you can remember life as it was lived in these momentous early days. If the weather is kind, you can photograph your first visit to the local park together, a park which will become a family favourite over the years.

Newborn pictures are best taken within the first fortnight, when your baby is tiny and new. The best photographers will ensure sessions are relaxing and enjoyable for everyone, working around baby’s needs. They can often involve hour-long feeds but for me, this isn’t a problem. I only do one session a day so there’s never any rush.

Because the window for newborn sessions is so short, it’s best to book a date before your baby is born. Days 4-6 are perfect. If your bundle of joy arrives early or late, it should be easy to reschedule with your photographer. I always aim to accommodate changes while baby decides on their arrival date.

If you’re unable to arrange a session before the 3-4-week mark, it’s best to wait a little longer before hiring a professional photographer.

Aged 12-16 weeks: the first smiles.

If you’d like pictures when your baby is still very small but more alert than during a newborn shoot – during which all some do is snooze – then 12-16 weeks can be a fantastic choice.

Working around their naps, whether regular or erratic, we can capture those magical first smiles and the mesmerising sparkle in their eyes.

When you’re thinking about the best age to photograph your baby, I recommend waiting until your little one can hold their head up steadily when lying on their tummy. This provides so many more photographic opportunities as they don’t need to lie on their backs or be held. Children develop neck strength at different rates but between 12 and 16 weeks is usually about right for a photo shoot.

This is such a lovely age, still tiny babies but full of personality.

With me, these sessions are relaxed and follow a story-telling approach: your family in your home and your favourite places, doing all the things that you love to do.  You might have a favourite chair you like to nurse in, or a favourite game to play on your bed.  These are the everyday things to record in your pictures, the things you will want to remember.

Beautiful black and white pictures mean the images will be timeless: your child will be proud to share them when they reach their teenage years.  Real moments, real expressions and real interactions that will make you smile and make you laugh.  This is what it’s all about.

I guarantee that the pictures will bring you joy.

Aged 6-8 months: sitting up straight.

Quite simply, this age is a photographer’s dream: a happy, smiling baby sitting up but not yet on the move.  I have a real soft spot for this time.

It’s a wonderful age to photograph and, interestingly, before newborn photography became popular this was the most common age to photograph babies.

There are so many photographic opportunities once your baby is sitting up and you can get amazing variety in your pictures. Your little one is still very much a ‘baby’ with squidgy limbs and glorious baby snuggles. Once they’re on their feet, things will change so quickly!

Natural, relaxed sessions will capture all their favourite things: splashing in the bath, rolling on your bed, playing with a favourite toy.

Splitting the time in two, half indoors and half outdoors, separated by a morning nap, will produce very different types of picture from each location.

Indoors you can see how little they are with tiny toes and fingers on display (or being grabbed and nibbled, it’s so cute when little ones discover their toes for the first time).  Outdoors you can see their curiosity about the world around them, marvelling at dogs in the park or revelling in the ultimate joy that a swing can bring.

 

Aged one. Happy Birthday!

Twelve months have passed by and your baby is ready to celebrate their first birthday.

These shoots are all about love, laughter and fun. Their personality and sense of humour shines through.

At this age your baby will probably be on the move, crawling, shuffling around on their bottom or even taking tentative first steps.  It’s a whirlwind of activity and such fun to photograph.

Allowing your baby to nap when they need to will ensure they’re bright and happy for their whole session. Focusing on everything you love to do together, singing a favourite song, reading a favourite book, will create beautiful pictures that you can print in an album or hang on the wall and enjoy every day.

If your baby loves the swings or feeding the ducks, venturing outside will add an extra dimension to your images. I find the inquisitive nature of babies fascinating. They want to get out and explore the world around them, finding leaves to examine or clapping in delight at bubbles.  It’s such a delightful age and passes quickly into the world of an energetic toddler, keeping you on your toes as they run around.

Older siblings: everyone’s welcome.

I’m a huge believer in the more the merrier when it comes to family photoshoots.  As one of four children myself, I love photographing the interactions of siblings and I find this fascinating when photographing babies with their older siblings.

I love to photograph the looks of excitement as a toddler gets to cuddle their newborn brother and sister. The slightly nervous looks are also worthy of record. It’s a huge transition for them so it’s amazing to look back on these early days of their relationships. From first moments to best friends, it’s a magical progression to document.

Multiple photoshoots: baby’s first year

If you’re struggling to choose the best age to photograph your baby, you can record your baby’s first year at multiple sessions. It’s an incredible investment for the future.

You’ll look back at the series of images and marvel: were they really that small? Look at his little teeth coming through! She didn’t go anywhere without that teddy!

It’s an incredible gift to give your child that you’ll all treasure for ever.

Annual photoshoots: capture every year

Annual photoshoots can also be a wonderful habit to get into, so why not start now?

It takes some planning and is an investment but it’s something you’ll never regret. Over time, you’ll build up the most beautiful set of pictures for your children.  Pictures from before their memories began, pictures of their first year and their second, pictures of the people and places that have made them who they are. Pictures you’ll treasure for ever.

Inspired? Browse through my images of babies from newborn to one-year-old at www.helenbartlett.co.uk

I’ve been a specialist baby and family photographer since 2003 working all over London, throughout the UK and in Europe.  Over that time, I’ve photographed thousands of families, many of them multiple times and built a thriving business based around my beautiful, natural style of photography. My family photography has been published all over the world and I’m the only family photographer in Europe to be an ambassador for Canon.  You know you’re in safe hands if you choose me to photograph your family. You’ll have the very best pictures of you and your baby that you can treasure for many years to come.