Some photographers have strict rules for when they choose to photograph newborns. Others will photograph an eight-week-old and consider it under the banner of a "newborn session." Some photographers will even photograph the birth or come to your hospital as soon as your baby arrives. So what are newborn photos exactly, when should you schedule them, and when's the ideal time to take them?
These photos were taken when baby was a little over three weeks old. I captured her in her crib, on the rocking chair, on the couch, and in her parents' arms. She was awake for most of the session and eventually fell asleep in mom's arms. Retouching was done to remove acne spots, and I loved having her awake for a portion of the session.
What is a Newborn Session?
A newborn session is different from birth photography and photos taken in the hospital (commonly referred to as a Fresh 48 Session, i.e. photos taken within the first 48 hours of baby's life). The majority of newborn photos are taken between 6-12 days old. Some newborn photos are taken as old as 3-4 weeks. I'd consider anything taken within the first month of baby's life to be true newborn photos.
NOTE: If you are wanting photos taken while you're still in the hospital, then you'll want to hire either a birth photographer for labor & delivery coverage or a photographer who offers Fresh 48 sessions. I do offer Birth Photography and Fresh 48 sessions!
Choose a Flexible Photographer
I recommend first choosing a photographer who is willing to be flexible on timing. Choose someone who isn't overbooked and can roll with whatever happens. Maybe you end up having an unplanned c-section and need an extra week to recover. Or maybe you're an emotional wreck (this was me when I had my first). And you'd rather wait a couple extra weeks so you can enjoy having the photos taken. And what if you deliver early!? (Also me with both kids). There's really little planning when it comes to newborn photography.
Choose a photographer who will prioritize your physical and mental health over her ideal time window. I have my clients reserve a time window and take on a limited number of newborn clients each month to maintain flexibility.
Scheduling Your Session
Your photographer will want to know when you baby is expected to make his debut. Typically when hiring a Newborn Photographer, she will mark your due date on her calendar. But since only something like 5% of babies are actually born on their due dates (me being one of them), you'll let her know when your baby arrives (this can be as simple as a one-word text from the hospital or a one-liner email once you're settled in at home). Your newborn photographer will then let you know her availability and you can choose your date and time.
Again, a good newborn photographer won't schedule your session date before your baby arrives. Or at the very least, would only loosely pencil in a session date with the intention of adjusting it as needed. I recommend steering clear of any newborn photographer who's prioritizing knowing logistics upfront over helping reduce the stress for you.
These photos were taken when baby was a little over a week old. She slept for almost the entire session, but we did get a few minutes of her awake at the start of the session. She was too young to get those "wide-eyed wonder" shots. However, having her sleepy was great for the swaddled shots.
Early Newborn Photos
When I say early, I mean in the 6-10 days old range. I'm not talking about birth photography or a Fresh 48 Session.
Pros: Babies this age sleep a lot, so getting those sweet slumber photos will likely be easier. They are at their tiniest, so cuteness levels will be off the charts. This is also when you'll most likely be in more of a postpartum haze, so documenting those blurry moments can help jog your memory later on.
Cons: You will likely not be sleeping at all, so there's a good chance you'll be overwhelmed and crazy tired. You'll likely still be recovering and might be sore. Your uterus will be shrinking a crazy amount each day, and it won't be shrunk all the way at this point. I only mention this because it can be a con for some people. I personally think that post-baby bump is beautiful, but maybe there's a certain outfit you want to squeeze into or maybe pregnancy was rough and you don't want to look even a little bit pregnant anymore.
Older Newborn Photos
Here I'm talking about photos in the range of 3-4+ weeks. Anything older than that and I wouldn't really consider it a newborn session, though an in-home lifestyle session with an older baby is another option!
Pros: You'll have had longer to recover. Your uterus will be smaller. (Because let's be real here, these photos are about your new love, but they're also about you. And how you feel about your body matters.) Baby will likely give you some eye contact, meaning you can get those wide-eyed wonder shots.
Cons: It may be harder to get baby to sleep, especially since there will be a lot going on for baby (but a good photographer will be patient and will still be able to capture some sleeping shots if you want them). Baby might have some acne. Your photographer should let you know if this is something she is willing to touch up. My policy is I will remove anything that won't be present in two weeks. (Oh and by all means, I don't have to remove any blemishes if you want an ultra-natural look.)
Photos taken at three weeks old. Both babies had a little bit of acne. My approach to touching up acne is not to remove everything but anything that's distracting to the overall image (i.e. large blemishes, flakey skin, red spots, etc.).
So When is the Best Time for Newborn Photos?
Here's the kicker: Ideal timing for newborn photos will depend on the mom & baby. If it were me, for a single child birth, a smooth, on-time delivery, and an average recovery. I'd plan to have my newborn photos taken at about two weeks old. This would give me slightly more time to recover while still getting photos of my new sweet babe in her tiniest state.
My disclaimer on this: Timing does matter...but only so much! There's really no wrong answer when it comes to photographing your baby. Listen to your body. Don't fret if you find you're not up for it right away. It's okay to wait. Photos taken when your baby is 3-4 weeks old might be slightly different (or maybe not, depending on the baby), but they will be just as incredible. One of my all-time favorite newborn sessions was of a baby who was three weeks old.
These photos were taken of baby when he was a little over two weeks old. Since he was born three weeks early, he was still only six pounds or so and quite tiny and sleepy! He only woke up towards the end of the session after some nursing photos.
A Note about Premies & Twins
The timelines talked about in this post will be different for premature babies and multiple births. For premature babies and twins, newborn photos can be taken when they are older, sometimes much older. These babies will look like a typical newborn much later.
A Note about C-Sections
If you're planning to have a c-section or are concerned about what will happen if you need to have one, communicate with your photographer about your concerns. Be sure to hire one who runs her sessions in a parent-led and baby-led manner. This type of photographer will not have a problem with being flexible and waiting to see how you feel. She'll also roll with the baby's mood and will photograph you in whatever position is most comfortable. A baby-led photographer will not rely on specific, predetermined poses, but will prioritize your baby's safety and your comfort when capturing those heart-melting shots.
Start Planning Your Newborn Photo Shoot
I recommend booking your newborn photographer at least a month before your due date to ensure availability. If you like my work and are interested in having me capture your family and new baby, here's how you can book with me:
Contact Minneapolis Newborn Photographer
I provide newborn photography all over the Twin Cities metro. I'm a baby-led newborn photographer. I focus on lifestyle and documentary-style photography, and I would describe my style as bright, natural, creamy, warm, candid, and detail-oriented. Click here to view some of my work.
Head to the Contact page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call me at 612.599.8349.