Updated: Mar 9, 2020
In an ideal world, we would all have our babies professionally captured every month to document all of their growth and progress through stunning photos. A huge part of the reason I chose to specialize in portrait photography was so that I could have tons of beautiful images of my own children at every stage...and I'm convinced they're some of the most photographed children in the world! If you don't happen to be a professional photographer yourself, however, you may not have room in your budget to have your babies professionally photographed every month. If possible, I recommend hiring a skilled photographer for the major first year milestones: newborn, roller (3-5 months), sitter (6-9 months) and first birthday.
I'm going to share which two stages are the absolute BEST to have professionally photographed but, first, let's take a look at what each of these stages looks like!
Newborn photos are precious keepsakes. The photos are perfect to display in your little one’s nursery, enjoy in an heirloom quality album, use in birth announcements, and introduce your new little one to friends around the world via social media. Newborn images capture how tiny they were when they came into the world! The newborn stage is generally recommended to be captured within the first two weeks after birth. You can certainly get beautiful photos of an older newborn (I have many times!) but as a general rule of thumb, babies become more and more alert and awake and less flexible and floppy as they get older. If you are looking for newborn pictures that really capture their tiny newness and involve detailed posing and the use of adorable pint sized props, I recommend having them done in the first couple of weeks. Seriously though, don't fret if your little one is here already and is "older!" A skilled photographer can still get you some amazing newborn-style shots even if your little one is outside of that two week window. A couple of the newborns pictured below were a month or older at the time of their session!
At this 3-5 month stage babies are filling out and getting super chubby and smiley! They can lift their heads up when placed on their bellies and they love making eye contact. They can laugh out loud and their little personalities are really starting to shine through! They cannot sit up unassisted so posing is generally limited to placing them on their backs, bellies, or sitting up in a bucket or basket for support. Some overachievers can sit in the tripod pose with a spotter nearby. Their happy time between feedings and naps is generally pretty short so photo sessions must move quickly and take place right after a nap and feeding so they're at their best. I love it when they snooze a little during the photo shoot and we can get a couple of sleepy, lightly posed shots!
During this 6-9 month stage your little one will start sitting up unassisted, allowing us to get more variety than just back and belly poses. Many can stand while holding on to a chair as well! We can dress them up adorably and see all of those sweet outfits clearly as they show off those new skills. Babies usually reach peak chubbiness before they begin to crawl and those thigh rolls and dimply knuckles are the CUTEST! They're generally super personable at this stage and we can coax smiles out of them more easily than any other baby stage. Added bonus: they're not very mobile yet so we can photograph them without chasing them down!
Your baby's first year is coming to an end! Celebrating with a photo session is a great way to capture their final days as a tiny baby while you prepare to enter toddlerhood (pictures are really challenging then!). Babies approaching their first birthday are generally expert crawlers and many can walk as well. Photographing these cuties can be a workout as they love to explore! Most sessions for this stage will include a cake smash, though it's always fun to incorporate a favorite food instead of cake. Some fun cake-free smashes I've done in the past included spaghetti, pancakes, donuts, and tacos! You never know how your baby is going to respond to their first taste of cake (some devour it while others hate it!) but it's so fun to see how they react and we will capture the whole experience on camera! All of my first birthday sessions include a traditional (cake free) setup and a cake smash setup followed by a warm bubble bath! If the baby is still feeling cooperative we end with some shots of them snuggled up in a cute bath robe or towel and finally with them curled up in their favorite pj's. We get a ton of variety and capture so much personality!
I truly love capturing ALL of these stages. Each one is so unique and your little one will change dramatically from one to the other. It is such a pleasure for me to get to see your little one grow!
What if you were only able choose two of those stages to have professionally captured though? Which two should you choose?
While I truly believe you will never regret saving, budgeting, and making it a priority to have all of the above milestones captured through high quality photos, I understand that professional photography is a luxury and four sessions in one year may be out of reach for some families. If you simply have to narrow it down to two sessions for your baby's first year the choice is easy! Ask just about any baby photographer, based on their years of experience, and here's what they'll tell you without missing a beat: the newborn stage and the sitter stage.
The sleepy, floppy newborn stage only lasts about a month. Even if you have five kids, that's only five months out of your entire life that you will get to experience that sweet, snuggly stage. It goes by SO. FAST. While it is really a truly wonderful stage that just about every mom longs to relive when her babies are grown, when you're in the midst of it, it can be a blur of sleepless nights, diaper changes, and overwhelming hormones. Having your little one captured while they're still so tiny will help freeze that stage so you can enjoy it forever! This is a stage that an amateur simply cannot adequately photograph. It is an extremely specialized niche in photography that requires lots of experience (with posing, working with and soothing babies, lighting, editing, etc.) to capture well, not to mention the carefully curated collection of special outfits, layers, bonnets, headbands, furs, blankets, beds, buckets, baskets, backdrops, etc. that go into each newborn session. Another thing to consider is that newborn babies have all sorts of crazy skin issues--peeling, flakey skin; jaundice; baby acne; scratches; and newborn redness to name a few. Many of my newborn parents worry when their baby's skin is acting up before pictures but I always assure them not to worry about it for a second. A skilled professional photographer can reduce these issues when editing so that all you'll see is your perfect little cherub and not a peeling Oompa Loompa. This stage is simply a MUST to hire an experienced professional photographer that specializes in newborns.
So the newborn stage is obvious, but why the sitter stage? Because it is the absolute BEST time to photograph your baby. Seriously. As mentioned above, sitters are adorably rolly and chubby. They respond well to attention, smile easily, and are comfortable around strangers. They can finally sit up well so that cute beds, chairs, bowls, crates, etc. can be incorporated into the setups (no more awkwardly propping them up!). Their beautiful, sweet outfits can be shown off (I provide gorgeous, often handmade, boutique outfits for all of my newborn and sitter sessions!). They're awake and happy for longer stretches, allowing for more outfit changes and setups. Most importantly, they're immobile so they stay put for pictures! I cannot stress how much that last point makes a difference! Once they're crawling and walking, snapping an in-focus photo before they've escaped becomes quite a challenge! While a newborn session can last anywhere from 2-4 hours, a sitter session can generally be done in 45 minutes and still result in good variety. If all that weren't enough to convince you that this stage is a must for professional pictures, all returning Bella Rose Portraits clients get a special deal on their sitter session too...just one more reason to love it!
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