With all the excitement that comes with having a baby, it’s no wonder most parents have a camera with them at all times. Whether it’s a quick snap with their iPhone or toting around the family DSLR, parents recognize the importance of documenting the growth of their children. It is also important to have a professional take your child’s photos occasionally through out their childhood. I can’t count how many parents have told me, in the middle of a session, how excited they are to actually be in a photo with their child. Unfortunately, because someone has to be taking the picture, that person generally gets left out of the photos. Not only that, but having a professional there to document the key times in your child’s life will ensure that nothing is missed and you will have beautiful images that will last a lifetime. Children are only children for a short while, once they are grown all you will have to remind you of that time are your memories and photographs.
Okay, so it is understood that hiring a professional to photograph your child is important, so when is the best time to do that?
One of the most exciting and important photo ops for your little one comes before they ever take a breath. The amazing miracle of your changing body should be documented from the first moment you see that little bump. Once you start nearing the end of your pregnancy, usually around 30-36 weeks, you will want to hire a professional to capture your beautiful, round bump. Most photographers, including myself, offer packages that combine a maternity and newborn session. Speaking as a mother and a photographer, this is not a time you want to leave un-photographed. These images are absolutely breath-taking.
The newborn session is a crucial and, in my opinion, the most important session of your child’s life. Think about it, if you already have children, you know how fast babies grow. Just in the first few weeks of life they go from sleeping 90% of the day to having wakeful periods more and more often. The key to a successful newborn session is to make sure it is held during the first 10 days of life. I know this is not always achievable, and it is possible to get some amazing photos of your new little baby after that time period. From my experience, babies are much more snuggly and sleepy during these first few days and therefore less prone to waking while being moved and posed. Remember, this is a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity for your little one. So don’t wait until you have your baby to schedule this session. You can call your photographer and have him or her pencil in your due date. Then just have your spouse or a family member call once you have delivered to set up the appointment. That way your photographer will be well prepared to photograph your baby.
For the rest of a child’s first year I like to take the milestone approach to booking sessions. Rather than scheduling a session right at 3 months just for the sake of having a 3 month session, think of it as scheduling a milestone session. At about 3-4 months a baby will be holding their head up very steadily. This makes for great images of your baby laying on their belly looking up at the camera. Also, at this age your baby will be smiling and even giggling a little. It is great to be able to capture all these new things that your little one has achieved. So if your baby is 3 months old and isn’t quite there yet, wait a couple weeks to have the session to be certain that your photographer will be able to capture these images for you.
At 6-8 months babies start sitting up on their own. This is such a great age to photograph (one of my favorites) because they are sitting on their own, but not yet crawling. This equates to a variety of happy little baby poses with none of the chasing that happens when they start crawling. Again, if you get to 6 months and your baby isn’t quite sitting up unassisted, wait until they are ready. Just make sure to book the session before the crawling starts or you have reached a whole new milestone.
At around 1 year of age, babies will be walking. Some may hit this milestone a little earlier, but I like to use the one year mark as sort of a dual purpose session. Capturing your now-toddler strutting their stuff and celebrating the close of the first year of their life is a memorable and *fun* photo session. Of course, like with the other milestone sessions, if your child turns one and still isn’t walking well, just hold off a couple weeks. There is no rule that says the one year session has to be held on their birthday. You want to book when you can get the best possible images.
Beyond the Baby Years
So, with the help of your photographer, you have successfully documented the first year, now what? I don’t have a real formula for children’s photographs after the first year. I simply suggest that you have your child photographed once a year after their first year. Some families schedule birthday sessions each year for each of their children. Others go for a annual holiday session or a specific season like summer on the beach or fall in the park. You need to choose what will work best for your family and your budget. The important part is that you continue to document your children as they grow.