As a family photographer, I am often asked what age is best to schedule a newborn photo session. There's no right age for everyone as it depends on a couple of personal factors, particularly what style of photography you want for your newborn photo shoot. All babies and their temperaments are different, and one baby may be easier going than another regardless of age. But generally speaking, the age of your new babe will be insightful as to what sort of photos we can easily capture together.
When I schedule a newborn session with you, I note your due date in my calendar and block the date 3 weeks after that. I leave room in my schedule to make adjustments to the date because we all know babies come when they want to, not necessarily on their due date. From there, we can adjust the session date once your baby is actually born.
Babies less than 2 weeks old: posed newborn photography
There’s a lot of commentary out there about the best time to schedule newborn photos being in the first two weeks or 10 days of your baby’s life. You should know that those comments are specifically made when referring to posed newborn photography. You know the kind of photos where the baby is nicely curled up sleeping in “womb-like” poses, looking adorable with props and delicious backdrops. The reason that posed newborn photographers recommend scheduling a session in the first two weeks is because of the biological fact that newborns sleep about 20 hours a day in the first two weeks. In other words, there is never an easier time to get those cute curled up poses than in babe’s first two weeks of life. You can certainly schedule a posed newborn photography session after two weeks, but things start to get more difficult as babe is awake more and becomes less amenable to being posed. But I don't do posed newborn photography - so read on...
Babies more than 2 weeks old: lifestyle photography
My style of photography is termed “lifestyle photography”. It lies somewhere between documentary photography (completely candid photography in which the photographer gives no direction) to portraiture (in which the photographer exerts a significant amount of control). That means I capture real life moment and events with my lens, but there may have been some direction from me to get things to that point.
If you’re familiar with my work, you know I don’t do posed newborn photography. So the idea that my photos are best scheduled in the first two weeks isn’t true. I’m happy to schedule a newborn photo session at any time (including in the first 2 weeks).
With all that said, my experience is that 3 – 6 weeks after birth is an ideal time frame for several reasons. Firstly, the family has had some time to adjust to the new little babe gracing their world and tend to be a bit more comfortable with their little one and their surroundings. The family is therefore generally more comfortable in front of my lens. Secondly, mamas who have had to undergo c-sections or have had a difficult birth tend to be further down the path to recovery a few weeks post-birth. And last, but far from least, I can usually get a photo of your little one with his or her eyes open. By the time your babe is 3 – 6 weeks old, your babe will usually be both awake and asleep for some of our session, and my clients love it when I can give them a photo of their babe with his or her eyes open (see examples below). Additionally, if your baby is both awake and asleep for portions of the session, I can capture a wider variety of images and more genuine interactions with the new babe.
In sum, I will take newborn photos at any age and I think it’s important not to get too hung up on age and just focus on when you feel comfortable getting professional photos taken. Regardless of the age that newborn photos are taken, I think it is important to keep your eye on the prize: that regardless of your babe’s age, your family will walk away from the session with beautiful images that you can treasure forever.
Krystil McDowall is an Orange County family photographer. If you're interested in viewing more of my work, check out my portfolio or contact me so we can discuss documenting some memories together. I also publish my images on my Instagram feed and would love for you to follow along.