Are you pregnant and wondering when to schedule your newborn photoshoot? You’re not alone.

Even the most hard-hearted among us cannot help but swoon for a perfectly executed newborn portrait. Everyone has their favorite element – whether it’s sparkling eyes poking through tiny slits of eyelids, minute feet all covered in wrinkles, or arms and legs folded into the perfect little nest for one. Most new moms want all those beauty shots and more, but few realize that it all comes down to knowing how to schedule your newborn portraits and making sure the photographer arrives at just the right moment.

I know that expectant moms don’t need one more thing to keep track of, so here is everything you need to know about scheduling your newborn portrait session.

Washington DC Newborn Photographer Abby


The Best Time to Schedule Newborn Portraits


The First 10 Days

As a professional photographer, I recommend my clients to schedule their newborn portrait session within the first 5-10 days of their babies’ lives. During this time newborn babies make the ideal models because they are:

  • Sleepy enough to tolerate being hovered over and re-positioned
  • Free of rashes, blemishes, baby acne, and colic (which tend to develop after the first two weeks of life)
  • Able to stay curled up in “womb-like” poses in which they neatly fold their precious limbs into their chest

Falls Church photo of newborn baby with siblings by Julie Kubal

During their earliest days, babies are exhausted and tend to sleep right through the majority of the portrait session, rather than fussing for mommy every twenty minutes. That means we have more time to play with poses and snap more frames for the new parents to enjoy.

After the first 10 days of life, babies begin to stretch and awake from their hibernation. It’s nearly impossible to get them into the curled up newborn poses and they tend to have less tolerance for the photographer hovering, nudging, and positioning them.

On the other hand, the older the babies, the more wide-eyed and personable they become. By three months old, babies are starting to smile, exhibit personality, and their necks are strong enough to lift their heads up while lying on their tummies. That means it’s really up to the parents to determine what style of baby photoshoot they prefer – curly newborn with closed eyes within the first two weeks, or open eyelids and personality with an older baby. If you prefer the latter, or miss the newborn phase, I recommend waiting until about the third month to schedule your portrait session. Any time before three months is less ideal due to all the reasons mentioned above.

Washington DC newborn photographer

Newborn Feedings

As a whole, newborn sessions tend to run a bit longer than sessions for older babies and kids. Caring for a newborn requires frequent feedings, diaper changes, and soothing which take priority over taking photos. Plus changing settings, and settling into new poses also take time.


Morning & Afternoon

Given that newborns have a blatant disregard for time of day, the ideal scheduling time comes down to the photographer’s availability and the quality of natural light. Ideally sessions are scheduled during mid-morning or late-afternoon, when natural light is soft, warm, and at it’s most photo-friendly.

Washington DC newborn photography 

Special Cases


  • Hospital Stays and Early Arrivers
    There are, of course, special cases in which newborns simply don’t comply with our adult version of an ideal timeline. Sometimes their birth comes unexpectedly or their kept under close watch in the NICU long after the window of opportunity has passed. If that’s the case, don’t fret. Simply give your Washington DC newborn photographer a call and schedule as soon as possible.


  • Circumcision
    For parents planning on circumcising their son, it’s best to schedule the procedure shortly after the birth or shortly after the portrait session. It generally takes 5 days for the child to heal completely and posing a baby during that time period can cause discomfort.


  • On the Move/ Cluttered Home
    When it comes time for a newborn photography session, many of my clients fret about whether their house is clean or cluttered. Most sessions take place within your home and it’s understood that you’ve just had a baby – the mopping, dusting, and putting away is just going to have to wait. And the good news is that no one will ever know. I’m an expert at identifying key corners of your house for photography and much of what we’ll do will be in close up. So moving boxes or loose toys are the least of your worries.


How to Schedule Your Newborn Photo Session

If you or someone in your family is expecting a new arrival, it’s best to give your newborn photographer a heads up before the baby is born to ensure that 1) he/she is in town around the estimated due date and 2) he/she can accommodate another client. After the birth, pick up the phone once again to nail down the final time, date, and location of the shoot. Some photographers will establish a time/date based upon the due date, while others prefer to wait until the baby is born. In my case, I ask clients to put me on their contact list of people to notify when the baby is born. I usually receive the big group email along with all their family and friends and then make sure I get in touch with them to finalize the time and date.

Bringing a new baby into the world is an exciting, exhausting, and emotional time. Working with an experienced, professional newborn photographer allows you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your baby is in good hands and that stunning portraits are on their way.


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!



Katie Walls is unofficially known as my “business BFF,” a fellow professional photographer at Red Turtle Photography and friend who inspires me creatively, encourages me daily, and shares in the highs and lows of balancing the life of a female entrepreneur and mom. Together we practice our craft by experimenting with different kinds of photo shoots, sharing tips and triumphs, and letting it all hang out over coffee and tea.

Walls Family: A Professional Photographer Exchange

Like so many of our clients, Katie and I spend far more time behind the camera and far too little time huddled together with our families in front of the lens. Sure, as professional photographers we both love to have our fingers on the shutter button, but we also want a few family portraits that include mama. Not to mention, that as our children grow up and begin looking back on their childhood snapshots – having mom and dad equally represented in the photo books is important, particularly because there are no do-overs on these early life moments.

family photo with parents and toddler boy at Washington National Cathedral by Julie Kubal

So when Katie asked me to do a photo session swap, I knew she had stumbled upon a great idea. After years of working with local Washington DC families, we thought it would be nice to experience life on the other side of a professional photo shoot and to become the client – if even for a brief, fleeting moment. So Katie joined her family in front of the camera at the Washington National Cathedral for the shoot. Katie, her husband, Zach, and her son, Del, spent the morning with me, allowing me to capture their special family moments – photographer mom included.

Walls Family: A Professional Photographer Exchange

Katie’s son Del, just three years old, was a dream to work with. He has an adorable smile that easily emerged anytime mom or dad made a silly face in his direction. A natural ease and young age kept all self-consciousness at bay, which made for a playful session all morning. While the Walls family doesn’t have any pets, a special stuffed animal “somebunny” did make a cameo appearance in several shots – and behind the scenes to win little Del’s attention. Katie’s new family portraits were used for holiday cards and she just hung a lovely selection of them up in the hallway of her home.

Walls Family: A Professional Photographer Exchange

With Katie’s family session has wrapped, I finally had to face the pain of prepping for my own family’s shoot. Clothing, and makeup, and hairdos – oh, my! Having coached numerous clients through this process I thought I was ready for the tables to turn, but it turns out wrangling my boys into color coordination isn’t a task for the faint hearted. Not to mention that my son lives exclusively in sports pants and t-shirts, so some major bribery was necessary in order to win his cooperation.  You can check out the results of my family session on Katie’s website here.

Walls Family: A Professional Photographer Exchange
Walls Family: A Professional Photographer Exchange


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


Nothing is more horrifying than standing before a massive pile of disorganized print photos and not knowing how to make neither head nor tail of what you see before you. Should you organize them into albums? Shove them into a photo box? Or light fire to the lot and never look back again?

If your family is anything like mine, you know firsthand just how quickly printed photos can accumulate and just how difficult it is to decide how to organize print photos. Well, over the years as I’ve worked as a Washington DC family photographer, I’ve picked up a few secrets from moms who do photo organization particularly well. Here is some of what they taught me:

How to Organize Print Photos


(plus a chance to share scans of my old travel photos) ;-)


Hunt and gather

If you’re anything like the moms that I know, you have photos tucked away in every corner of the house – some are shoved into school projects, others are stacked in cabinets, stuck in boxes, and still others have yet to be developed off of that old pesky disposable camera. Now is the time to bring all of them together.

Bali_Hindu Priestess

Find a space where you can spread out

Depending on how many years of photos you have to organize, you may be able to tackle this task in as little as a few days or as long as several weeks. In either case, you need to designate a safe work space where you can spread out and be safe from stampeding children, running dogs, inclement weather and strong gusts of wind.


Take it in chunks

Photo overwhelm sets in fast and it’s easy to feel completely bogged down by the task at hand. Rather than taking on the gargantuan task of organizing decades of photos in a single afternoon, break the project down into bite-sized pieces. Do an hour a day, or only work on when you’re watching your favorite television program.


Invest in a single filing system

Whether it’s photo boxes or sleeve folders, double and triple check that your filing system is photo-safe. While it’s easy to think that printed photos are immortal, they’re actually highly delicate and can be eaten away by harmful chemicals and certain type of plastics. Anything that’s photo safe should be identified on the label. One of my favorite resources for archival photo storage is Light Impressions. I’ve also found good supplies at Archival Methods.


Have a central strategy

Once you get into the thick of things, it’s easy to get off track and forget what you’re doing in the first place.

I recommend organizing chronologically by year whenever possible and then breaking that year down into major events. Don’t worry about what month or date a particular photo was taken – that level of detail will only drive you mad. But do try to identify the year and occasion: Christmas, birthday party, graduation, etc. And also create a group of family gatherings to capture all the nondescript images shot throughout the year. You may decide to have a pet file that’s entirely separate from the year-by-year system but try to keep within a single strategy as much as possible.


Make scans

If you’re organizing a series of family photo albums, attempting to distribute photos to family members, or simply trying to get your photo cabinet into shape – you may find that you need to make duplicates or scans of some of your best work.

Scanning print photos into digital images not only makes it possible to protect portraits from wear and tear, it also makes it easy to share images with family and friends. Scan, save, and email – just make sure you’re following your digital photo organization tools that I shared last week.


Enlist helpers

If your children are a bit older, having a helper can cut the task in half. Not to mention that pawing through piles of family photos can spark great conversations and bring back memories that one or both of you may have forgotten.

Old Woman and Boy Squatting

Don’t be afraid to throw away

This is the hardest tip of all. For whatever reason, we get caught up in thinking that these glossy photo printouts are all family heirlooms – when the truth is some shots simply aren’t worthy of sticking around. It’s easy to let go of shots that are out of focus, blurry, or covered by giant thumb protruding across the lens cap. But it’s also OK to toss the photos that just aren’t any good – where no one is looking at the camera, where nothing is of interest, or when you simply have another (better) photo of the same thing. Release yourself from the crippling photo guilt and break through the clutter by only keeping the cream of the crop. Focus on quality over quantity and your resulting photo collection will be not only easier to manage but lots more enjoyable to look at.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for organizing printed photos? Share your secrets with me in the comments section below!

Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


Digital photos may not take up much space on your family’s hard drive, but I’m willing to bet they are a significant inducer of headaches every time you click over to that pesky “My photos file” on your family computer. I’m no fortune-teller, but I would predict with some confidence that that particular file has become a bit of a photography black hole – where all photos go and no one comes out of. Am I right? A few weeks back I featured on this blog my photoshoot with organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company and she recently held a webinar on organizing your digital life. This got me thinking about digital photos in particular and how this is one area of organization that I know many of my own clients struggle with.

photo of organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal by Julie Kubal

No, I’m not here to photo-shame you, but I can offer some easy tips for bringing order to your digital photo files. Here is what I recommend:

How to Organize Digital Photos


Step 1: Create a gathering place

The first step in creating a clean slate is to clean up the mess that already exists. That means, gathering together all your photo files into one place. Now, if the very mention of that idea brings tears to your eyes you can also approach it with baby steps: organize one hard drive, then download files from the camera, then collect images off of USB drives and cell phones etc. That’s a perfectly valid approach. Just know that eventually all your family photos should reside in the same place.

Washington DC family photograph

Step 2: Create a filing hierarchy

The subject matter and nature of your digital photos will ultimately determine how you organize them. Unless you exclusively photograph specific subject matter – food, landscapes, buildings, etc. – I recommend creating a chronological filing system. Here’s how to do that:

  • Create a folder for each year.
  • Within that year, create a folder for each month as well as a series of subject folders that identify certain themes.
    • Far too often people get hung up on their own perfectionism, “I wasn’t sure exactly what month I took that picture, so I didn’t file it at all…” Forget about 100% accuracy, all you’re trying to do is leave a bread crumb trail that you can follow back to find the image you need. After all, it’s far more likely that you’ll be searching for “Jimmy’s first day of school” versus “September 19th, 2010″
    • Subject folders can include things like family gatherings, friends outings, holidays, celebrations, vacations, pets, and a file for each family member’s miscellaneous portraits.
  • If you’re like me and have so many photos that they can’t easily be divided by subject matter and you already have them organized by date, you can also try adding an identifying keyword to the folder.
  • If you have multiple family members taking and storing photos on the same hard drive you can simply add their initials to the beginning of the folder name.
  • I organize my folder date by photographer’s initials, year, month, day, keyword (initials_YYMMDD_keyword). For example, the folder with the photo below from a weekend trip in 2012 is labeled: JK_120407_Cape_Charles


Step 3: Get backed up and stay that way

Once a file is deleted or corrupted it is often gone for good. That is why the one critical principle to backing up photos is to always – ALWAYS – have your images in a two places at once. Better yet, make it three and have one of those two places offsite from your home. That protects you from wind, rain, and hardware havoc of all kinds. You should invest in an external hard drive or use a cloud storage system (though cloud storage is often extremely limited in the amount of free space you can access), or both!


Step 4: Create a download regimen 

Now that you’ve successfully brought order to the your digital photo chaos, it’s time to put yourself on a plan – a structured regimen that will ensure you never again allow your photo file organization to go awry again. The first step to establishing an organized photo regimen is to take into account all your photo-taking devices (cameras, smart phones, tablets etc.), have your designated photo gathering place, and be honest about how often you can actually sit down and do a strategic “camera dump.” Photo files become living nightmares because we allow months upon years upon decades of files to fester in a virtual pig pen. If however, we take an hour or so every couple weeks to download and organize them, we can avoid having to dig ourselves out of a disorganized hole far less often. If you’re ready to get on a digital photo regimen, here are the questions you need to answer:

  • What devices do I need to download from?
  • Where will I download to?
  • How frequently will I do a universal download?
    • Weekly?
    • Biweekly?
    • Monthly?
    • Bimonthly?
  • Is this a task I need to do myself, or is it something that I can delegate to my spouse/ children?
  • Am I equipped to create a new backup after every download session?
    • If not, go back to Step 4 and set yourself up with a backup system.

Whatever regimen you decide to stick to – whether it be biweekly or monthly camera downloads – make sure you’re being realistic.  Nothing is more disheartening than setting yourself up for a task that is impossible to complete from the outset.


Step 5: Enjoy your digital photos

This is the step that no one focuses on yet I think it is probably the most important one. It takes a lot of courage to clean up your digital photo mess and it takes a lot of dedication to stick to a download regimen, but the thing that makes it all worth it is the joy (yes – joy!) that comes from being able to actually use your photos rather than hiding from them in shame. Need a picture of your kid’s first birthday party? Click. A portrait of grandma and grandpa for a school project? Click, click.

Your filing system should be intuitive, easy to access, and consistent throughout the years so that the next time you need to hunt down a particular picture, you know exactly where to look.

By the way, if you’re ready to tackle another organizing challenge, Rachel is hosting another webinar tomorrow, April 1st at 12pm EST titled “Taking Power Over Your Paper.” I’m looking forward to getting her help with this very subject in my own office very soon!


Have you tried to organize your digital files before? What is one strategy that worked well for you? Have a questions? Tell me in the comments section below!


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


Finding a quality photographer for your family photos can feel like a long, confusing, search in the dark. You’ll have to wade through dozens of websites and photo portfolios as you struggle to communicate what you’re looking for and to identify what sets any one family photographer apart from the rest. Here are five steps to finding the right family photographer for you:

Step 1: Pinpoint your location

Unless you’ve got a trip coming up or are willing to pay a photographer’s travel expenses, chances are you’re in the market for a family photographer that lives in or near your city/town/neighborhood. So, how can you find a quality family photographer in your area? I recommend starting with a simple Google search for something along the lines of “Washington DC family photographer” or “family portraits in Washington DC.” You can also check out google places – an excellent tool to help you hone in on local businesses and professionals near you.


Step 2: Know your style

Non-photography buffs often struggle to describe what a photographer’s style is or they fail to recognize its importance all together. Well, I’m here to tell you – if you want to fall in love with your family portraits, style is the most important thing to focus on. In many ways, family photographers are like chefs – they each specialize in a different cuisine. Some cook up dramatized, heavily retouched images while others focus on soft, natural, documentary style portraits. And while the photographer may be able to imitate a different cuisine, he or she is never going to be quite as good as someone who specializes exclusively in the style that you’re hungry for.

photograph of family with sisters in Chevy Chase, MD by Julie Kubal

Step 3: Know your photographer

After you’ve defined and identified the style of photography you enjoy, look through a few online portfolios of local photographers who exhibit that style. Visit their Facebook page, explore their website galleries, and ask for samples of their work if you can’t find any examples online.


Step 4: Consider the cost

Quality family photography is an investment, which I first wrote about in a blog post back in 2009 – there’s just no getting around that. But settling for a family photographer because it’s the only one you can afford is a terrible investment to buy into. Why? Because paying money for a portrait you don’t love and wouldn’t hang up in your living room is nothing more than a sour memory and a waste of your time and money. Choose a photographer that your truly value and trust, then ask yourself what your family portraits are really worth to you and how you could find a way to make the investment. I also encourage my clients to keep in mind total value – rather than simply the session price. What is your takeaway value? How much of the photographer’s time do you have? Is there editing involved? How much will they assist you in making your final image selections and advise you on how to display the finished product?

Creative Ways to Display Photos in the Home - Julie Kubal Photography photo wall display in home

Step 5: Make contact

Once you’ve narrowed down the search to 2-4 photographers, it’s time to make personal contact. Call or email the prospective photographer and take some time to speak with them personally. Before you describe exactly what you want and what you’re looking for – ask questions of them. Invite them to tell you about their businesses, how they would describe their work/style, what sets them apart from the competition etc. And only after they’ve described themselves should you tell them exactly what you’re looking for. Taking this approach forces the photographer to be more transparent and authentic, rather than simply telling you everything you want to hear. Ask questions, share ideas, and be open about your wants and concerns. The right family photographer will take the time to walk you through the process and make sure you’re confident that you’ll receive a quality product.

If you’re looking for a Washington DC family photographer, I’m glad you stumbled across this webpage and I’d love for us to do business together – but most importantly I want you to make an informed choice that is right for your family. Finding the right family photographer can be an incredibly gratifying process, and one that hopefully ends with you falling in love with your family portraits. You can find additional information about custom photography and questions to ask prospective photographers on this comprehensive website about the subject.


Have any questions about how to choose the right family photographer for you? Write to me in the comments section below and I’d be happy to help you in any way I can!

Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


Whether you’re an amateur photographer, a seasoned professional, or a mom who snaps away with a camera from time to time, you probably know that proper photography lighting is crucial. Too much light and your images are washed out, too little and you’re left with nothing but shadows. Few factors influence a photoshoot more than light and few factors influence lighting more than the time of day.

So how can you choose the perfect time of day for your outdoor photoshoot? Here are some tips to get you started:


Photography Lighting Tips: Choosing the time of day

Remember the Golden Hour of Photography

In the business, we photographers talk a lot about something called the “the golden hour.” And while that sounds likes some mystical moment lifted out of a Tolkien epic, really it’s nothing more than a time of day that provides excellent lighting for photography. The Golden Hour actually happens twice every day – it is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before the sun disappears beneath the horizon.  Depending on the season, this golden window of opportunity may be slightly more or slightly less than 60 minutes. However, regardless of how long it lasts it almost always offers ideal photography conditions. Why? Because the sun is low in the sky and a soft, diffused light illuminates the outdoors. So rather than a glaring midday sun, you have a warm glow that produces low contrast.

photograph of little girl in front of brick wall

Avoid High Noon

If the Golden Hour is photography-friendly, than midday hours are a photographer’s kryptonite. Shadows are dark and harsh, and images are wrought with high contrast and are at risk for overexposure. Rather than shooting when the sun is at its peak point in the sky, schedule your shoot a few hours before or after so that you can take advantage of a slightly softer illumination.

Be patient and wait for the right light.

This final tip isn’t really a luxury that most professional photographers can afford, but if you’re out in the field shooting on your own then a few more hours may not be a problem. In the case of outdoor photography, conditions are constantly changing. So if you find yourself with bad photography lighting, wait for more ideal conditions rather than trying to force a photoshoot to happen. While waiting around might sound like a terrific waste of time, you’d be surprised just how quickly light changes – particularly during the early morning and late afternoon. Even a wispy cloud floating in front of the sun can provide the light adjustment you were looking for.

child photographer Washington DC

In addition to the time of day, there are lots of other factors that influence when to schedule a portrait session or photoshoot. Factors like weather, season, availability of the photographer, availability of the clients, and whether or not the timeframe interferes with a little one’s naptime. As a Washington DC family photographer, I like to work closely with my clients to make recommendations and ensure that we pick a time – and place – that works for everyone.

Have you heard of the Golden Hour before, or do you have another favorite time of day to shoot? Tell me in the comments below!

Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


There are moments in my business when I get that “full circle feeling” and my experience with the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington is certainly one of them.

Seven years ago, just weeks after my son was born I was having difficulties breastfeeding and found myself sitting down with Pat Shelley, founder of the center and lactation consultant to new moms. Upon Pat’s suggestion, I joined a weekly support group at the center where I met with many other like-minded moms. The group continued for several months and the women I met became my friends and my first group of clients when I later launched my family photography business.

During that time, I also met Linsey Silver, graphic designer and current board member at the center. Linsey and I crossed paths in the support group and quickly discovered a shared desire to give back to this center that had helped us both immeasurably. She offered her graphic design prowess, I contributed my photography skills, and together we redesigned the center’s website. A few years later, Linsey approached me about decorating their new classroom space with my photography and I donated several large prints which still grace the walls there.

Breastfeeding Center classroom Breastfeeding Center classroom

Over the past several years, they’ve added many more staff members and are offering more services than ever before. While they’ve steadily upgraded their website again, the needed staff’s photos to go along with the site’s new fresh look. Thanks to our longstanding relationship, I was invited to take new professional headshots of their staff.

So, at the end of February I gathered together with the center’s team members and snapped away new portraits of each one. By the end of the afternoon, everyone’s cheeks were tired of smiling and everyone had a new headshot – from the lactation consultants, to the class instructors and the board members. This is an exceptional team of individuals, all providing much needed support and guidance to breastfeeding moms (and dads too). And while there are many new faces that have been added in the last seven years, the spirit of the team and the mission has remained very much in tact since the days I joined my first mom support group. Here’s a sample of the images and you can check out the rest on the center’s website.

headshot of staff member at Breastfeeding Center headshot of staff member at Breastfeeding Center headshot of staff member at Breastfeeding Center headshot of staff member at Breastfeeding Center

In the upcoming months, that “full circle feeling” will continue as I will be taking photos of their breastfeeding classes, which will be displayed on their website and in promotional materials. But that’s not the only collaborative project we have on the calendar. Here’s what’s coming up:

  • Two upcoming Snap Happy classes hosted at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington on July 11th from 1-3 PM and on the Feb. 13th from 1-3 PM
  • A big giveaway at the end of the year to help promote the center’s end-of-year fundraising efforts (stay tuned for more details)
  • The publication of lots of useful photo-related content that will be targeted to new moms and published on Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington Facebook Page

As any new mom can attest to, navigating the first months of motherhood and the challenges of breastfeeding can be an overwhelming time. My experience at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington and the women I met there made a big difference in my life and donating my photography to them has been a pleasure and a small way of making a difference to a service I cannot recommend highly enough.

Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.

About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!



Preparing for your family’s photoshoot can be a hectic time, particularly for moms who are responsible for wrangling kids, dressing spouses, and somehow getting everyone to the shoot on time. Thankfully, over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of families and I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way. Here is a simple guide for how to prepare for a family photoshoot walk you through the time leading up to the big day!

Potomac child and family photographer

Family Photoshoot Preparation Timeline

Two Months Before

  • Book your session
    My schedule fills up fast so if you’re interested in reserving a time, be sure to contact me well in advance!

Washington DC child and kid photography by Julie Kubal

One Month Before

  • Pick a location
    Where would you like the session to take place? In your family home? At a local park? Do you prefer natural or urban locations? Give me a call and we can discuss the possibilities for your shoot.
  • Be sun smart
    Avoid sun burns and uneven tan lines that can distract from your portraits.


One Week Before

  • Primp
    You’ll want the family looking it’s finest, so it’s not too early to start taking care of grooming (nails, eyebrows, teeth whitening, shaving etc. ). Facials and haircuts are best taken care of one week before.
  • Polish
    If we’ll be shooting at your family home, give the space a nice clean and polish. Remove any excessive clutter and begin scouting out where you’d like to shoot.
  • Map it out
    If we’ll be rendezvousing at my back yard, a local park, or an urban location, be sure you know how to arrive.
  • Finalize the family’s wardrobe
    It’s not necessary to bring multiple outfits, but you will certainly want to give some thought to a cohesive family look and color scheme.
  • Choose Props
    Props can be a great way to express personality and a shared interest. You may decide to bring along a book to read to the kids, a special blanket to sit on, a family pet, or a family heirloom.
  • Finalize any props that you’d like to use in your shoot.
  • *If shooting at home – Prepare the location.


24 Hours Before

  • Be wrinkle-free
    Wash and iron the family’s wardrobe the night before. Better yet, avoid clothing that wrinkles easily or requires constant straightening.
  • Pack a snack
    Chances are you won’t need it, but nothing can be more challenging than a child who is on a hunger strike during a photoshoot. Pack a granola bar, or some crackers that can tide them over if the need strikes.
  • Take Care
    Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and avoid salty foods and alcohol if possible.
  • Get Zzzzz’s
    Ensuring a good night’s rest will keep you all looking and feeling your best.
  • The emergency pack
    If you’re particularly nervous about the elements, it’s never a bad idea to have a few survival items on hand. Pack a small bag of the following: bobby pins, hair clips, chapstick, makeup.


The Day of

  • Make dad shave
    Dads should have a fresh shave or trim, use a new razor, and be sure to apply a moisturizing after-shave lotion. This will limit bumps and redness while still showing off his best features.
  • Eat!
    You may be tempted to skip a meal before your shoot, but that’s not a great idea! You and the kids will be more focused and have more energy if you have a little something in your stomach.
  • Get in naptime
    If your children are still of napping age, don’t be tempted to skip the nap! Qe will either schedule your session well before nap time or just after nap time.
  • Give a heads-up if something comes up
    In the event that something unexpected happens and you are going to arrive late, please give me a call so that we can make arrangements.
  • Relax and have fun!
    Now that all the planning and preparation is behind you, it’s time to breath a sigh of relief and let me lead you from here. It’s my job to make you and your family look their best so trust that you’re in good hands and that together we’ll create some beautiful portraits.

What are your favorite tips for how to prepare for a family photoshoot? Tell me in the comments below and share your knowledge with other moms in the same boat!


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.

About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


Before the winter months drove us all indoors, I had the pleasure of meeting up with the Poole kids for a sun-filled photo session in the backyard of my home, which is one of this Washington DC family photographer’s favorite backdrops.  Mea, age 4, and her brother Parrish, age 4, are fraternal twins and over the years this duo has certainly hit their stride when it comes to photo shoots.

I first photographed Mea and Parrish as newborns and our paths have crossed intermittently over the years as the need for holiday portraits and family photos arose from time to time. This year, Meg, mother of this adorable pair, was on a similar mission. To quote the note I received from her in my inbox, “I have always loved your work in the past, and I would love both candids and posed. Just nothing too cheesy and we will be thrilled.” That’s exactly the kind of request I love to receive.

The Poole Family  I Washington DC Family Photographer

As a Washington DC family photographer, I know the balancing act that accompanies ever photo session – a pinch more candid, a touch less posed, a little more movement, but everyone hold still for just a moment. It’s a balancing act that changes with every family, with every child’s energy level, and with varying moods present in the room – no to mention the east coast weather that keeps everyone on their toes. And it’s a balancing act that excites and energizes me, so when Meg booked another holiday session I was more than excited to reunite with this beautiful family.

The Poole Family  I Washington DC Family Photographer

One of my favorites moments of the session was when little Parrish, who like most little kids his age hardly stops moving long enough to freeze the action for a photograph, walked up to my white picket fence and struck the cutest pose. He gently leaned against the fence, braced his weight against his right elbow, tipped his head to the side and showed off his pearly whites in an all too easy smile. It was divine. And in all my experience as a Washington DC family photographer, these playful moments have become some of my favorites throughout the years. Child photographers have to be careful to direct and observe in just the right quantities, so as not to disturb the easygoing nature of non-self-conscious kids. But every so often, I encounter someone who is willing to play along with me, to “work it” and lean into the camera in a new way and I have to be ready for those moments too.

I love catching up with this family whenever they’re ready for fresh photos and it is an honor being able to document how their children have grown since the time they were newborns. I hope we have lots more magic moments ahead of us.

The Poole Family  I Washington DC Family Photographer


The Poole Family  I Washington DC Family Photographer

Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


As camera technology improves we become more and more dependent on auto settings that presumably do all the heavy lifting for us. They prevent red eye, recognize people’s faces, and compensate for lighting extremes. But the moment those easy-click settings fail us and we’re faced with missing an excellent shot – that’s when we realize that we really need the skills to take charge of the situation.

Today I want to share with you some of my favorite photography lighting insights that will teach you about how light works and how you can use it to create stunning homemade family portraits.

Rule #1: Light travels in a straight path

In every image below, see if you can identify the direction of the light source. You can usually tell where the light is coming from by observing the direction of the shadow that is cast or by checking out the light reflected in the eyes of any people in the picture. Try this little game out any time you’re looking at photographs you love, and you’ll start becoming an expert on light sources in well-executed photographs.

Washington DC and Northern Virginia baby photographer

Rule #2: A subject receives less light as the light source is moved farther away.

Common sense, right? But it’s because there are fewer light rays on a direct path to the subject. Keep in mind that doubling the distance between light source and subject reduces the amount of light the subject receives by 25%! This baby in the image below (my son!) is illuminated by a very narrow stream of light coming through a distant skylight.

Washington DC baby photographer Julie Kubal

Rule #3: The larger the light source (relative to your subject) the softer the light.

Smaller light sources (relative to your subject) produce more contrast and harder light. In this example the little boy is being lit by a large window directly in front of him (behind me).


Rule #4: In portraiture, soft lighting is the people’s choice.

Professional photographers achieve this look by using secondary light sources, reflectors, and bounce techniques.

Baltimore baby photography by Julie Kubal

Rule #5: Be wary of clear skies.

Bright, cloudless days are not a photographer’s friend – though the kids certainly love it! Strong, uninterrupted light – like the light we have on a clear sunny day – causes harsh shadows and cause people to squint into the camera. Clouds diffuse the light, filtering it down while still preserving that warm, rich light that only natural lighting can provide. Now that’s a silver lining, isn’t it? 


Rule #6: Keep the light source on the sidelines.

Direct lighting (or flat lighting, as it’s sometimes called) can be harsh and unnatural looking – just think about your last ID card photo shoot – it probably felt like more of a mugshot than anything else. Try positioning your subject so that the light source is slightly off to the side and splashing the subject with gentle rays. Placing your subject next to a window is an easy way to achieve side lighting as I did with this little girl in the image below.

children's photography in Chevy Chase, MD by Julie Kubal

Rule #7: Avoid being lit from behind.

When the light source is placed behind the subject, the detail goes down the drain and all that remains is a silhouette cloaked in shadow. This can be a fun effect to play with, but most of the time backlighting is something to avoid if possible. In this photo, I intentionally used the silhouette effect to showoff this mom’s pregnant belly.

silhouette photo of pregnant woman

Rule #8: Only use the flash to fill.

Most people think that low light automatically calls for turning on the flash, but that’s not necessarily the case. A camera’s flash should never be the only light source, as images will be unbalanced and grainy. However, if your subject is lit from behind (standing in front of a window, for example) a flash can fill in the details that back lighting would have left out.

Tyler4_01Rule #9: Use a steady hand in dim light.

Low light scenarios require your camera to have a longer shutter speed and wider aperture, so that more light can be let in. Because your camera’s shutter must stay open longer, you’ll need remain as still as possible or risk producing a blurry image. Steady your arm on a fixed object or use a tripod. This doesn’t work very well on a moving subject, but it’s a great technique to use on a sleeping baby. ;-)


Rule #10: Become an obsessive observer.

Light behaves in predictable ways, yet still can be quite surprising. Pay attention to how light interacts with water, smoke, fog, snow, how it changes throughout the year and the day. You’ll begin to recognize different lighting scenarios and will be able to plan family portrait shoots with stunning results.


Now it’s time to go out and get practicing! I’d love to see what you’re creating so share your photos in the comments section below. Or if you have any questions regarding tips for photography lighting, please feel free to ask!


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.


About the Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!


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