Spring has sprung, and you know what that means: family portrait season is just around the corner. I’m going to use the next few posts to give you, dear readers, some tips on making the most of your family photo session. First up: beautiful, squishy, perfect babies.
I’ve decided to rename my “Mondays for Mamas” post series “Family Fridays.” It’s way better, right? I’ve just been thinking about how not every family has a mama at all, or perhaps they do but she’s not the one planning the photos, and I just want to be inclusive. So, here we go.
1. Plan for a longer shoot.
Mini sessions are extremely popular because they’re inexpensive, but they are also only 20 minutes long and are scheduled back-to-back with very little flexibility. If your baby decides they are hungry, or tired, or flat out uninterested during that 20 minutes, you’re out of luck. This is why for newborns and babies, I recommend booking a full regular photo session. Most baby shoots take at least an hour, sometimes up to 3 or 4 for newborns. It’s worth it to take our time, make your baby comfortable, and allow time for feeding, dozing, and playing as needed. (Once you pass 12 months, definitely go for the mini.)
2. It’s okay if your newborn sleeps.
Most of the adorable, curled-up newborn photos you see online right now have one thing in common: the baby isn’t even awake. Newborns sleep a lot, and we want to capture that lovely sleepy period in the photos. While your baby is asleep, the photographer may gently arrange him/her into a specific pose.
3. You DO need to be in the photos.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard parents say, “No photos of us, please.” Um, NO WAY! The parents need to be in at least one photo with their children. You are a part of their life and a part of their memories. It’s okay if you don’t look perfect; just get in there. For newborns in particular, I actually prefer that parents be in a majority of the photos, just cuddling and nuzzling and playing with their babies.
4. Don’t overdress.
Newborns and babies are adorable in just their own skin, or perhaps a simple white onesie. I find that doing multiple outfit changes aggravates them, and bulky clothes tend to hide the simple beauty underneath. It honestly takes a few months before babies look really good in clothes… until they can sit up on their own, they just kind of look squashy and wrinkled. Until that point, go minimal. Let’s see those squishy thigh rolls and cute diaper covers. For mom and dad, plan a simple, solid colored shirt to wear while you hold the baby. (Actually, let’s be real: plan for 3, because he/she is going to spit up on you at some point.) Matching — or even coordinating — outfits are not required. I think it’s much more important for everyone to look like themselves.
5. Be aware of the magic ages/stages.
There are a lot of family portrait photographers who want to sell a set of portraits every 3 months, no matter what. After living through two kids of my own and failing to book that many sessions (and seriously, I couldn’t afford that many photos even if I wanted to), I no longer think this is the way to go. There are a few “magic” ages/stages that make photography work best, and that show enough change in your child to really justify the expense of a new shoot. I recommend doing a portrait session when your baby is a newborn, when they’re sitting up on their own (around 6 months), around a year or when they start walking (but before they start running away), and then around age 3… when they’re old enough to follow directions and respond to extrinsic motivators (a.k.a. bribes). You might notice I left out a whole 2-ish years there… yep. From 18-months to about age 3, kids are extremely cute, and also extremely unpredictable. If you want professional photos of the toddler period, go for a documentary approach or a mini-session instead of a full regular portrait shoot.
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