What age is it best to photograph your baby or child?
I get a lot of people asking me what’s the best age for professional photos of their baby or child. My ruthless ‘Business Brain’ would love to say, “Pretty much every 3 months from when they’re 0 to 18… and I’m JUST the person to do that for you… Let’s book them all in!” Luckily for my clients, I’ve never managed to successfully grow a ruthless ‘Business Brain’ (that’s The Apprentice ruled out for me I guess…!) So instead I’ll try to give you an honest appraisal of what might work best for you and your family.
SO WHICH AGE IS BEST?
Most families would love someone to beautifully document their family every tiny step of the way. However, the reality is that most families have to be selective about when they choose to enlist the services of a professional photographer. Hence, the question I get asked a lot is, what age is best to ask you to come and take some pictures?
There’s no simple answer to this as every family is different, every child is different, and different ages are particularly ‘special’ to different people. Generally speaking, you can photograph them several times throughout their first year and get very different results each time, as they change so rapidly at this age.
After the age of one, I personally don’t see the point in having a professional photograph them more often than once a year. After the age of four, perhaps every couple of years, as the changes will be so much slower. But of course, there’s no harm in having photos taken as often as you like. Precious memories are precious memories, and there’s no limit on how often you can generate these.
YOU’LL NEVER REGRET HAVING TOO MANY PHOTOS, BUT MIGHT REGRET NOT HAVING ENOUGH
Certainly as a mum, I never feel like I could have too many wonderful photos of my children, and I’m so aware that they change constantly and every age is so fleeting. My personal bias as a photographer aside, I would say simply photograph your children as often as you are able – whether that is with your own camera or via a professional. You’ll never regret having too many wonderful pictures of your children, although you may well regret not having enough. Also, you might have lots of photos of your children… But how many do you have of you with them or of the whole family together? These pictures will become some of the most treasured possessions and heirlooms you own, things that will be joyfully passed down the generations of your family.
However, there are different advantages to photographing your family at all the various stages and each stage yields quite different types of photographs. I’ll run through these below so you can weigh them up against your own preferences and family circumstances. I’ll also explain how I personally approach each stage in terms of photography to get what I feel are the best results. Do take a look at my family photography page for information about what I offer and check out my blog for my latest family shoots and news.
(32-37 weeks pregnant)
For many women and their partners, pregnancy is such an incredibly special time – full of excitement, anticipation and joy. So, a maternity shoot is really important to them as a way to remember and capture all this. Personally I find pregnant women absolutely beautiful and so captivating to photograph. There’s something so spine-tingling about looking at that wonderful bump and thinking about the mysterious new life growing inside it and wondering what they will become. It’s also often a really special time between the couple themselves. On most maternity shoots the excitement and new-found bond between the couple is so tangible – the way they look at each other is magical.
Personally, I love keeping maternity shoots very natural. I’m not a fan of contrived poses and draping random bits of gossamer over bare bellies. To me, pregnant women are incredibly beautiful exactly as they are, and that is what I want to capture. I prefer to keep pregnant ladies in their own clothes, in positions that are comfortable and natural. Do take a look at my blog to have a look through recent maternity shoots.
HOW THE SHOOT WORKS
What I find usually works best is to spend the first half of the shoot out and about outdoors, with their partner if they want to join in (most do but occasionally couples choose to focus on just the lady). This I treat just as a normal portrait shoot – not really focusing on the bump as such, just on the couple themselves. Then we usually finish the shoot back at the couple’s home to focus more on the bump and get some more intimate photographs if they are wanted. We make use of beautiful light and lovely backgrounds in the couple’s own home. I think it’s also lovely to capture these memories in this place that will be the baby’s first home.
In terms of timing, I usually advise doing them between 32 and 37 weeks if at all possible, just so that the bump is nice and big and round, but ladies are still more mobile, active, energised and not at too much risk of going into labour! That said, I’ve done maternity shoots at 40 weeks before, and the mums still felt and looked great. It’s just about them feeling comfortable and happy really, so no problem to do it after 37 weeks if they still feel up to it!
(0-4 weeks old)
There’s nothing quite like a newborn baby. Curled up limbs, sleepy eyes, tiny wrinkled fingers and toes, papery skin… the list goes on… Delicate, hazy and still oblivious to the world, these beautiful little loves are made to crumple and floor even the most steely-hearted of us all.
If you want to capture that particular ‘newborn’ time before they start to unfurl and become less sleepy and more alert, you need to do this ideally within the first 2 weeks after they are born. However, it’s still fine to do these at 2-4 weeks as many are still relatively chilled for the majority of the day at this point. Many women book these in alongside their maternity session.
HOW THE SHOOT WORKS
Again, I prefer to keep these natural. Some newborn photographers like to ‘pose’ babies in particular positions, or dress/arrange them with cute props or outfits. Personally I think newborns are cute enough in themselves and don’t need any gimmicks. As a mum myself I’d personally prefer to remember my new baby exactly as they are in their unique home environment.
I’m not particularly excited by generic props or backgrounds that belong to the photographer and don’t have any connection to the baby themselves. (NB many people do love photos like this and there are some very talented photographers out there with this approach – I’m just not one of them!) I tend to use ‘props’ from the family’s own home – their favourite baby blankets, their bed and/or the baby’s bed, and of course the parents themselves – all part and parcel of the ‘real’ life of the baby and their family.
For newborn photos, generally speaking these will always be indoors – as they’re not yet mobile and need to be kept warm there’s little point taking babies of this age outside. Babies will also usually/mostly be asleep throughout. The photographs will mainly focus on the baby themselves – beautiful, tiny details of their little bodies and faces and of course, lots of cuddles with mum(s) and/or dad(s). It’s possible to get a variety of images by photographing the baby wrapped up / swaddled, in normal clothing and also naked or partially naked if the parents want this and it’s warm enough, as well as feeding.
YOUNGER BABY PHOTOGRAPHY
(3+ months old)
At this age, the baby will still be largely immobile but much more alert. Whereas the newborn session will see the baby snoozing peacefully, eyes mostly closed, a few months later you’ll be treated to smiles and gurgles. Babies will usually be wakeful, active and respond to and interact with their parents much more.
Generally after the newborn stage (0-4 weeks) it’s worth waiting until the baby is around 3-4 months old, so that these developmental changes have occurred and you can get more from the session. Between 1 and 3 months I’d say there probably aren’t enough changes to warrant doing another shoot. Babies at this age tend to be less settled and more fidgety than newborns, but not yet smiling and interacting as much. It’s also very common for babies to develop lots of pimples and rashes between 2 weeks and 3 months old due to hormonal changes. So photographically speaking it’s not ideal, and usually you’re much better holding on until 3-4 months.
HOW THE SHOOT WORKS
For babies of this age we’d stay in the home for the duration of the session. Again, as with newborns, since they’re not yet mobile there’s little point taking them out and about. However, if we’re treated to lovely weather then of course it’s always possible for us to pop outside into the garden so they can have a little lie down and kick their legs on the grass or a blanket on the lawn. But generally for this age, the focus is on the home environment.
Again, at this age, the baby won’t yet be sitting up, so most shots will be them lying down or being held by parents. We make use of the family’s own ‘props’ – favourite blankets and your own furniture – things that are part of the baby’s real life with you and that will form part of your memories. The photographs will be of the baby lying down, cuddling, smiling and interacting with their parents. By this age, most babies are able to support their own necks, so we can usually pop them on their stomach for some ‘tummy time’ or even in a doorway bouncer if there is one. For this younger baby shoot it’s definitely worth waiting until they can hold their own head for this reason.
OLDER BABY PHOTOGRAPHY
(6+ months old)
By 6 months old, most babies will be developing proper little characters and getting involved in all sorts of amusing mischief. By this point, most will be sitting up comfortably and starting to become more mobile. They’ll be rolling around and maybe even starting to crawl, or at least trying to! Physically they’ll have filled out more and ‘grown into’ their faces… Lovely big eyes, those beautiful chubby cheeks, a bit more hair (a LOT more hair sometimes!) and maybe even a few teeth.
There’s greater scope for different types of pictures at this age due to their increased mobility. We can still get the cuddling, smiling pictures, but can also capture them laughing, playing with toys, exploring and even eating. I love taking pictures of those grubby fingers and messy faces at dinner time and watching them enjoy their food.
HOW THE SHOOT WORKS
As with any other type of shoot, we just use props from around their home – their favourite toys, favourite blankets, mum and dad, the kitchen, the lounge, playing in their bedroom and maybe even the garden if the weather’s behaving. All of these things help to build a picture of what their life at this age is actually like – rather than using some generic ‘props’ that bear no relation to their real life.
By this age most children have lots more character and a much wider range of facial expressions, and it’s exactly this that it’s wonderful to capture… their emerging little personalities.
Toddlers are great fun to photograph. Challenging… (you just try photographing something that NEVER stops moving!)… but heaps of fun. I absolutely love taking pictures of kids this age. They’re so inquisitive, fascinated by the world around them, and full of personality and energy.
Around their first birthday, most kids will decide that knees are no longer enough and will start to make use of their feet. Photographically, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities, as it’s perfectly feasible (and advisable!) to head outdoors for a decent chunk of the shoot, and explore other places.
HOW THE SHOOT WORKS
As toddlers still do tire relatively quickly, it’s often a good idea to head outside somewhere close to home, such as a local park or similar. That way, we spend the first half of the shoot outdoors letting them have a good old romp around, then can spend the last part of the shoot back at home. There we can get some more settled pictures of them, perhaps in their room, or having lunch, or playing with their toys.
Again, favourite toys and household items can really help to preserve memories of what they liked to do at this particular moment in time – their own home provides all the ‘props’ that we need.
OLDER CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY
Once children get a little older, there are so many possibilities for photographs, and it becomes really exciting choosing ideas and locations for the shoot.
By this age, they’ll happily enjoy being out and about for the duration of the shoot, so it opens up a lot of potential for choosing some amazing locations and backdrops and turning it into an exciting day out for the family. The beach, the woods, the hills – anywhere is possible and your kids will love the adventure.
HOW THE SHOOT WORKS
By this age, most kids will have favourite activities and hobbies, and it’s great to incorporate these and base the shoot around their personality and things they enjoy doing.
Shoots with kids this age are such great fun and always a mega workout for me! Rampaging around and constant giggling are pretty much the order of the day… it’s great to get outside and make some mischief. Who doesn’t love to do that?!
So there we have it… my guide to the best age to photograph your kids, I hope it’s been helpful!
SOME FREE STUFF FOR YOU 🙂
FREE PDF: 5 TIPS FOR TAKING GREAT PHOTOS OF YOUR KIDS
A little pdf I put together containing some simple techniques to get better photos of your kids – these are relevant no matter what camera you’re using, phone, DSLR, compact, anything 🙂
FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHY E-BROCHURE
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Take care folks and enjoy those lovely families of yours!
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Manchester family photographer, for down-to-earth, adventurous, big-hearted families all across the North West, London and UK
Creative, documentary family photography in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, London
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