Knowing what the best time to schedule a photography session for your newborn has a lot to do with what kind of newborn/baby images you actually want from the photo session (and hopefully not what the photographer says you should want). It's also helpful to know what services are available when it comes to newborn photography.
This isn't about me telling you when you should schedule your newborn photo session with ME. In fact, I don't offer birth or posed baby photography at all. I think it's important for you to know the options, and the pros and cons of each... so you can decide what is right for YOU.
When to schedule your newborn photography session...
Birth Photography is a fairly specialized. Being present to capture the birth of your baby requires the photographer to be on call for about a month (much like a doula)... so you have to find your photographer and set things up while you're still pregnant. This is a documentary way of photographing your newborn baby and your family, before, during labor, and after giving birth. Your photographer will have to know how to be stealthy as to not distract from the birthing process, take great photos regardless of the situation, and also be supportive and understanding (once again, kind of like a doula!). These photos are usually brutally honest and 100% genuine. This is for you if you'd like to document the super-important event of your baby entering into this world in a way that you obviously can't do yourself.
- You get everyone done at once! No need to worry about baby photos after the fact.
- You have someone capture the most amazing moment in baby's life.
- You can get those Birth Announcements done and out as quickly as you like.
- It's more expensive than you would expect, since the photographer has to be on call and the sessions can run long.
- You probably won't look your best (hey, you're doing really hard work here).
- It's a very specific style and very much a documentary approach.
Right After Birth
If you're looking for the beautifully posed sleeping baby photos of your little peanut, you will want to schedule a photo session for right after you have your baby. Each photographer has their own preferred timing, but usually you're aiming for your baby to be 6-10 days old. This is when your baby is still super sleepy, squishy, and quite flexible. Your baby will be swaddled, styled, and photographed while peacefully sleeping to achieve that currently-popular artistic look. You can find a photographer who has their own studio, or have someone come to your home. There are photographers who use a slew of baby props. Others prefer a simpler look or use items you have in your home. The world is your oyster for this one, just be sure to reach out to the photographer way ahead of time.. yes, while you're still pregnant (especially if he/she is reputable and popular in the area). It is also incredibly important to hire a photographer who is experienced and trained in baby safety and knows how to handle newborns, since he/she will be posing your precious little baby.
- You get beautiful artistic photos of your newborn.
- Your can get those Birth Announcements out fairly soon after birth.
- You can schedule your session during the week since everyone is on parental leave.
- You only get about a week to recover from birth before the session.
- The focus is usually solely on the baby.
- Sessions usually run long. Expect 3-4 hours as you'll be waiting for your baby to settle down, sleep, and get comfortable with a pose.
At 3-4 weeks
As you settle into being a Mom, your baby will start spending more time being awake and interacting with you instead of sleeping. Your newborn will probably spend the entire photo session at 3-4 weeks with her eyes wide open (simply because things are pretty exciting) and that's why this is the perfect time for a lifestyle or documentary in-home photo session.
If you want to capture your baby's life in a beautiful way, and still maintain a truly meaningful and authentic style to the imagery, this is for you. Waiting a bit longer allows you and your baby to get used to each other. The family visits are usually quieting down. You're starting to get the hang of this whole thing, and you're feeling a bit more like your old self, physically. Having someone come in and photograph your newborn at this time is more about capturing the family as a whole (at least that's how I like to approach it) and less about the baby by herself. And it's all about convenience. You're essentially just doing what you normally do, except there's someone with a camera making sure you never forget those precious moments together. These images will mean so much to your baby as she grows up, because not only will she see herself as a newborn, but she will also have a beautiful record of her Mom and Dad when her life was just beginning.
- You get sufficient time to recover after birth and you will be feeling a lot better about your physical appearance.
- The focus will be on capturing the family and the interaction between baby and parents.
- Things would have started to calm down in terms of visitors and family obligations.
- Older siblings will be getting over their jealousy of the new baby at this point.
- A shorter session at 1-2 hours, since baby is happy being held by parents.
- You will probably not be able to get those posed sleeping baby images at this point.
- Your Birth Announcements will be going out at least a month after birth.
- Baby acne might be making an appearance right around now (make sure your Photographer can retouch it out).
Any time after that
The newborn stage is the first 3 months of your baby's life. So hey, if you had a hard delivery and are struggling with postpartum depression only to realize that your baby is 2 months old and you have no decent photos of you guys together, it's not the end of the world to schedule a professional photo session a bit on the later side. Things happen. Life gets in the way. And you know what, contacting a photographer and scheduling a session might not be your priority when you have a newborn to take care of.
So I will be the first to say this - it's totally OKAY to not think about this ahead of time. It's perfectly fine if it doesn't even occur to you that photos are important until you're out of the weeds of that first month. And you shouldn't feel guilty about not reaching out to a photographer when you were still pregnant, because now it's "too late".
Seriously, babies look pretty much the same for the first month. Yes, they grow. And yes, it's so amazing to see them so tiny right after they're born. But your child will not grow up to ask why you didn't get professional photos of her when she was 1 day old, or 1 week old.. all your child will really want is to have some record of this time. Anything. And she will want to see her parents.. the love on their faces as they look at their new baby. The care they took and the protection they offered. Those images are cherished forever, whether or not they were taken by a 'professional'. But having someone who can make you feel a bit more comfortable in front of the camera, who can retouch blemishes and bruises on baby's skin, and who can style and pose Mom's changing body to look just a bit slimmer and more like her usual self, makes a huge difference.. because we all want to be remembered in the best way possible, right?
This is such an emotional topic for me. I have just a few photos of myself when my first son was born. I look absolutely awful after going through 30 hours of labor (I was so exhausted and my skin actually looked green and sickly). My parents took some pictures of me, and while I'm so grateful to have them, they are not going to be hanging on my walls anytime soon. The delivery of my second boy was even worse. I could hardly walk for about 3 weeks. I have a few photos of him when he's about a week old, but none of me with him. I made up for it by taking a few proper portraits of us together around the 4-month mark.. but I will never be able to go back and capture what we looked like during our first month together, how I remember him lying on my chest as a tiny little newborn. He will never have those images of him with his mommy. And that sucks.
I wasn't smart enough to realize that I should get those photos when I had the chance. I thought that getting images of the baby was enough. It was a record that was sufficient, I figured. But we don't grow up wanting a photo of ourselves as a newborn (although it is very fun to see). Really we want an image of the family. Of our Mom. Our Dad. We want to see our family, together. Because we need Mom and Dad to really know how little we were, how fragile, and how loved.
So this is my approach to photographing newborns...
My focus is always on the family during a newborn photo session. I don't pose the baby. I don't wait for the baby to sleep or to finish nursing. I simply photograph things are they are.. newborns as they are at their happiest.. and parents as they hold, rock, and cherish their little baby. I help with wardrobe, I find the best light, and I gently pose parents to create images that Mom will actually want to show others - images that she will be proud to pass down to her child. It's simply the most natural and meaningful way to capture this moment in time. And in the end, it really doesn't matter (at least to me) when you schedule your photo session. What matters to me is that you're in the photos with your baby.. and that you see yourself as I do, as a beautiful new mother whose life will never be the same.
If you like, you can find out more about my Newborn Photo Sessions by clicking below.