In planning for your session, remember first and foremost that your session should be a fun, relaxed time. Your feelings during the session will show in your expression and thus in the final images. And especially when it comes to children, who are very intuitive souls, they will feel stressed if you are stressed. They will take their cues from you. If you are smiling genuinely, relaxed in your posture, and even laughing, they will be, too. And that will give us the most natural expressions and allow their joyful spirit to shine beautifully in their portraits.
Clients often ask my advice on what to wear. I have a whole page of suggestions for you here!
IMPORTANT! For all sessions involving children or babies, please limit the number of non-photographed family that will be present. If older children will be photographed with a newborn or infant sibling, it is a good idea to have an adult present who can care for the child in another room until it is her turn to be in the pictures. The primary goal overall is to limit the distractions for the children during the session. Nana may be your child’s favorite person in the world, and while that can sometimes elicit some great smiles, it can also sometimes create a crying toddler who just wants to be in Nana’s arms rather than having her portrait made.
Following are some specific tips for whatever type of portrait session you will be having.
In a maternity session, we are not only focusing on your body’s gorgeous shape, but also on your anticipation of your child’s birth. We will be striving to capture your emotions, even your sense of hope and excitement to meet your new son or daughter. Your relationship as husband and wife about to welcome to your child will be an important part of the portraits, so please make sure Hubby can join us!
As you plan for your session, please let me know how much skin you are comfortable showing. Some mothers are comfortable with and prefer partial nudity in their portraits. Others prefer not to show any skin. Most are somewhere in between those two. Your comfort level and preference are my guides, whatever those may be.
Most maternity mini-sessions will last about 30-40 minutes.
We have probably scheduled your newborn session as a tentative date close to your due date. Whenever possible, it is best to photograph your baby in his first ten days of life, when he is still nice and sleepy and curled up. After about 14 days old, babies learn that they can stretch and wiggle, making posing much more difficult. They also might break out with baby acne or other normal splotches on their skin which can be difficult to retouch with natural-looking results.
Please call me as soon as your baby is born if we need to reschedule our appointment. I always leave some wiggle room in my schedule for this. I have even had parents email me from the hospital to tell me when they’d be home! The earliest I’ve photographed a baby (besides my own) is 3 days old … it’s never too early! If you are nursing, the baby will probably enjoy his session more after your milk has come in and his tummy can stay full longer. Usually this is between 5-10 days after birth.
Most of your baby’s portraits will be done in just a diaper or less, so please warm up the house well the day of the session. I will also bring with me a small space heater and lots of blankets. A warm baby is an happy baby.
I realize it’s not always easy to plan a newborn’s schedule. If possible, please try to keep him awake a little while before our session, and plan to feed him just before I arrive. A nice full tummy will help him enjoy our session more. It is wonderful if we can capture images of him both alert and asleep during our session, but if I have to choose between the two, sleeping is my preference. Those are the images that symbolize this time in his life best … sweet, innocent, peaceful.
You may think you don’t want your portrait made at just a few days post-partum, but please consider it! I have never had a mother regret being in her newborn’s portraits. The time is so fleeting, and there is so much about your love for your baby that we can capture in the images. You’ll just be in a few, and I think you will be happy that you are. Wear a dark top (black is perfect) and put on a little makeup to help yourself feel a little perked up. I would very much like Daddy to be in the images as well.
Most newborn sessions last at least 2 hours. I am happy to take breaks as needed for diaper changes and feedings. The key to a successful newborn session is patience. We will keep things slow and calm to help the baby feel safe.
Baby’s First Year
Your baby changes so much in that first year! Whether you have planned a single session for a specific time, or you have purchased a Milestones Plan to capture her first year in multiple sessions, I encourage you to plan your sessions by your baby’s milestones rather than by her chronological age. If we schedule a session ahead of time but you find that she has not quite reached the developmental age by that time, I am happy to reschedule. (Please do your best to give me a few weeks’ notice.)
Here are the milestones of the first year you might consider capturing in portraits:
- The Newborn stage – Baby’s first 10 days. See the Newborn section above for more info.
- Holding up her head – about 4 months. When placed on her tummy, Baby can hold her head up well to look around. She is probably very playful and smiley at this age, and will make good eye contact with Mommy or the camera.
- Sitting Up – about 6-8 months. Baby should be sitting with minimal support or sitting independently. She can told a small rattle or stuffed animal, and she is very interactive. This is a FUN age!
- Standing/Cruising/Walking – about 10-14 months. Baby’s new skill gives us lots of new posing options, and she is so cute as she eagerly explores the world. And of course, her first birthday is a wonderful time to capture memories of who she is at this magical age. If Baby is fully mobile, we won’t try too hard for any specific posing or settings because we will probably just end up frustrating her and ourselves. We’ll just let her run and explore and I’ll follow with my camera to capture her on the go.
In scheduling her session, I have found that the best time is after her morning nap and a snack. Please don’t plan to adjust her naps that day because I have seen that backfire on our session many times. If we need to tweak your session time for a shift in nap schedule the couple weeks before our session, just let me know. Most sessions in Baby’s first year will last about an hour. She will let us know when she is tired of being a supermodel.
From the ages of 18 to 36 months, as you well know I’m sure, children are BUSY! This can be a very challenging, but very rewarding age to photograph. This is a session that is best held outdoors, whether in your yard, your front porch, or a local park. Plan to bring a change of clothes in case the little one finds some dirt to play with. Bring a couple favorite (and hopefully photogenic) toys if we need to give him something to hold his attention for a moment. A favorite bear, some toy trains, a fascinating book, etc.
This is an age where it is especially critical to stay relaxed! Children this age are really tuned to their parent’s moods, and they will feel your stress no matter how much you try to hide it. Before our session, gear yourself up to be very jovial, silly, and animated. A giggling toddler makes a beautiful portrait!
From the age of 4 all the way to 14, children often try much to hard to “smile.” You know that grin … you’ve seen it in your own photos of them, or your child’s school portraits. My son tries so hard for the perfect smile that he ends up with squinted eyes, a wrinkled nose, and a painfully stiff mouth, bottom lip pulled down to show his teeth … a smile that looks anything but natural.
The key for children this age is to get them talking and relaxing. This is a session where a parents involvement is hugely helpful. You know your child best. You can help me immensely by keeping the conversation going, and even getting your son or daughter laughing, to give us a natural expression. Don’t prep them too much before the session because it can just raise their anxiety. But with that said, if your child would enjoy a special lunch treat or trip the playground after the session, I certainly won’t advise against a little added reward for good behavior. 🙂 Naturally, that is your choice as their parent.
The first question I always get regarding a family portrait session is “What should we wear?”
If you are a Pinterest fan, please feel free to check out my Pinterest Board where I collect ideas for Session Wardrobes.