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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check out more examples of newborn photo sessions here!
About the Photographer and 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!