Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Portraits and your child: the best ages

When we brought home our older daughter, my husband and I made a commitment to get portraits taken of her every month to document her growth. We went to the mall and got our free session and free 8x10 and made sure we had each month documented, and on good months, we bought some extra photos to share with relatives.

From my own experiences--first as a parent, and later as a photographer--I came to learn that there were better ages to get portraits done, and that they don't always coincide with the times that you're most likely to want portraits (like their first birthday). And when you're investing in custom portraiture, it's not like my first year of monthly photos from the mall--you want to be able to have a nice collection of photos from your session, and so you don't do them as frequently and you want to try to do them when your child is in a better stage for portraits.

So I have put together some recommendations for good stages to capture in custom portraiture.


The best time to start your child's portrait collection is before he or she is born. Artful maternity portraits are not only a wonderful memory of this special time in your life, but also are a great addition to the baby's scrapbook or baby book.

Newborn portraits are best in the child's first two weeks. During this period the baby is still very sleepy, and is easy to pose, and most likely to be very cooperative during the session. The images that you get in this newborn session are likely to be of a sleepy baby. Sometimes you can get little angelic sleepy smiles, or wide eyes, but these type of portraits are meant to serve as a reminder of just how tiny your newborn was. Bare skin is best for these type of portraits, so no need to plan the wardrobe.


In the first year, the best times to come for baby portraits are at 4 months, 7 months, and 11 months. At 4 months, babies are very responsive to their parents, and will offer genuine smiles and fun expressions. They can be propped up in a basket, or lay on their stomach in a "tummy time" position. Fun hats work well at this age, and be sure that whatever you dress the baby in doesn't bunch up too much around the neck.

7-month-olds are generally sitting on their own and very happy subjects. Before they start crawling, they are very easy to work with, and you can get some of the best baby portraits at this age. It's still young enough to do bare skin portraits, especially if you would like to capture the baby rolls.

I usually recommend doing a baby's first birthday portraits a little early, like around 11 months, so you can catch them when they're standing but not yet walking. This is a great age to put an adorable dress on a baby girls, since she will be standing for the first time in her portraits.


Walkers up to around age 2 1/2 are a tough group to photograph. They can be the cutest subjects in portraits, but they always have their own agenda. For this age, I recommend trying outdoor sessions, where the child can feel more comfortable and I can capture some of the child's real personality.

Preschoolers/Younger Elementary Students

Preschoolers and children in the early elementary ages are among the easiest to work with in terms of photo sessions. The most important thing I find in this age group is for the parent to be confident and positive about the session, and then it rubs off on the child. They also do well in outdoor sessions, and outdoor portraits are a nice alternative to the school pictures that they get every year.


Since most school-age children get school photos taken each year, custom portraiture isn't as popular in this age group. However, it's nice to do sessions with teenagers where you can get siblings together and family portraits before the children go off to college.

For seniors, although most schools have an official photographer for yearbook shots, many choose to get more natural or unique senior portraits with a custom photographer. These sessions can be lots of fun, and really bring out the true personality of the teenager much more than a quick studio session.

I think the most important thing is just to make sure that when you look back at your child's childhood, that you feel like you're been able to capture the memories that you want to remember. I hope my guide will be a little helpful in helping you make that happen :)


Karen said...

Great guide, Emily - and you hit it right on.

Jennifer August said...

This is really helpful and I have already passed it around :)