When is the best time to schedule your newborn session? Let these photos of newborns at different ages help you decide!
The most common question I get as a newborn photographer is from mamas wondering when is the best time to schedule newborn photos.
Honestly, this comes down to two factors: if you absolutely want sleeping baby photos and when you’re feeling up to photos.
For mamas who are dreaming of beautiful photos of a peacefully sleeping newborn, I suggest scheduling within the first two weeks for the best shot at getting these photos. As any experienced mama knows, babies rarely do what we want them to, when we want them to, but a full tummy and a cozy swaddle often bring on very heavy eyelids that babies just can’t fight!
If you’re either totally fine with photos of baby awake or indifferent about whether baby sleeps, you can schedule any time!
The next factor that influences when I suggest scheduling newborn photos is how you’re feeling after birth.
Recovering from having a baby, no matter which way you deliver, is smooth sailing for some women and harder for others. Add to that the adjustment to getting much less sleep than you’re used to, on top of learning to breastfeed or bottle feed, and it’s easily two or three weeks post-delivery when you’re up for having photos taken. In fact, the sweet spot for most of my clients is about three to three-and-a-half weeks after birth.
While you’re adjusting to life as a mama, baby is changing daily. They have that fresh newborn look for about six weeks, which is when their little faces start filling out and overnight it seems like you have a baby instead of a newborn!
If you’re still on the fence about when to schedule your newborn photos, here’s a quick peek at exactly how babies photograph from birth through three months old.
A newborn at 24 hours old
Meet Arabella and Cade, sweet boy-girl twins who are just 24 hours old! This session is from before COVID-19, and these sweet babies are probably in pre-school now!
Twins are so much fun to photograph, especially when they lay next to each other. They’re so used to being close together from mama’s womb, and these two were constantly reaching for or touching their sibling.
Mama and dad were tired, yet joyful, and the babies were mostly peaceful for the entire newborn session.
A newborn at 48 hours old
This handsome little man is two days old, and mama is doing well after a c-section! The biggest difference in 24 and 48 hours is first-time mamas are typically a little more comfortable with breastfeeding. This means baby might settle easier and sleep longer. They are almost always asleep for the entire session at this point.
A newborn at one week old
Here’s August Maxwell at exactly seven days old! His mama delivered a few days early and was totally ready for newborn photos just one week after he was born – and four days after being discharged from the hospital! She and her husband, Scott, wanted to capture everything about their precious little guy as soon as possible. Auggie slept for the entire newborn session, and handled outfit and diaper changes like a champ.
A newborn at two weeks old
Wade is two weeks old here, and mama did everything she could to help him fall asleep because she was set on sleeping baby photos! This precious guy had other plans, and showed off his beautiful blue eyes for his hour-long photo session. The only time he made a peep was for a quick diaper change; otherwise, he was calm and watchful – and very interested in my camera! Babies can see the flash (although it’s never, ever pointed toward them) and they can even hear the quiet click of my shutter. This makes it easy to capture amazing moments of them looking directly at me!
At this age, babies probably have their days and nights mixed up, but they can sense a different energy on the day of your photo session. You’re probably a little anxious about getting yourselves and baby ready for photos, and your tiny love can pick up that. This usually means baby is more awake than usual, and it’s not uncommon for them to nurse more frequently and for a longer period of time on the day of your photos.
If you want breastfeeding photos, this is a great opportunity to capture such a special moment between you and baby. If you’d prefer to nurse privately, I’ll step out and wait till baby is ready to resume photos.
A newborn at three weeks old
Typically this is when I can start seeing the biggest difference in how newborn photograph. At three weeks, their sweet cheeks are starting to fill out and they are gaining weight all over, too. This is when some parents might see baby acne and cradle cap, two totally normal aspects of the newborn stage – both are easy to remove during the editing process.
First-time parents have fallen into a routine by about three weeks; breastfeeding is usually a little easier, and parents feel more confident with diaper and outfit changes. Baby will likely be awake for at least part of the photo session. Emma was awake for about the first hour, and then fell asleep for the last few moments after mama nursed.
A newborn at four weeks old
Scarlett is four-and-a-half weeks old here, and it’s easy to see that she’s looking a little less like a brand new baby. Her face is more filled out and her eyes are more focused. She was awake for about 90 percent of the photo session, and finally slept for the last few moments. Mama was thrilled we got a mix of awake and sleeping photos, once Scarlett was swaddled and ready to sleep.
Some parents still see baby acne at this point, and baby may have lost some newborn hair. Some tolerate outfit changes well, while others are unhappy about it. It’s a little more challenging at this point to get photos with headbands and bonnets if baby doesn’t like them.
A newborn at five weeks old
This is Summit, one of my absolutely adorable nephews! My sister-in-law, Kelsey, initally wanted newborn photos a little earlier than five weeks after birth, but he came sooner than expected and I couldn’t adjust my flight to Lubbock to see him sooner (although I was dying to meet him!).
In the end, Kelsey was grateful for the extra time before the session because her confidence as a mama grew each week. By the time I was there for photos, everything about parenting felt a little easier: breastfeeding, bathing, changing and soothing. Kelsey was able to enjoy herself because her initial (super common) new-mama anxiousness had lessened.
Most babies are awake for the entire one hour session by this age, but Summit was so sweet and took a little nap for us!
A newborn at six weeks old
Here’s sweet Storie at six weeks old! Her mama, Amanda, intended to have newborn photos taken much sooner, but it took a longer than she thought it would to adjust to motherhood. That is so common! I was glad Amanda and Hector waited to schedule photos until they could enjoy this time with Storie. Babies are absolutely precious at any stage!
Storie was content snuggled with mama and in my Moses basket for her newborn photos. This sweet girl was awake for entire in-home newborn session, and we stopped a couple of times when she got hungry. At this age, you’ll see more facial expressions from your little love, and many babies have found their fingers by this point, too!
If you compare Storie’s little face to that of a baby at a few days – two weeks old, you can see a huge difference. In fact, even Amanda said she could tell Storie was looking less and less like her newborn photos every day!
A newborn at seven weeks old
Meet Aubrey, the first baby for Jessica and Josh. Mama contacted me about five weeks after Aubrey arrived to set up newborn photos. Jessica didn’t think she’d want them done until her daughter arrived, and then the fog of the newborn stage took over! That’s why sweet Aubrey is a little older for these photos.
Aubrey was sleeping peacefully when I arrived for this in-home newborn session and she slept for about half of it. It took some time to get her settled for photos, which is common for babies at this age. It absolutely never bothers me when babies cry – I’ve survived the newborn stage three times with my own girls – but I know it’s stressful for mamas. Jessica patiently nursed, burped, rocked and walked with Aubrey till she fell asleep again, and that’s how we wrapped up the last bit of this newborn session.
At this point, babies are usually too big for many of my newborn outfits and some of my swaddles. I keep the neutral ivory swaddle you see here for bigger, older babies because it always photographs well. As you can see, Aubrey’s cheeks are totally filled out and she’s looking more like a two-month-old baby than a newborn.
A newborn at eight weeks old
Lisa and Ross never dreamed their son would be eight weeks old for newborn photos, but an unexpected c-section and challenging recovery period delayed the photos a bit. Lisa knew it was so important that she feel like celebrating her son, and I’m thankful she took the extra time to heal and rest. She’s still in a belly binder for her photo session, but it’s often easy to hide them in long, flowy dresses. You can’t tell she’s wearing it for any of her photos!
Dustin is 100 percent in the baby stage for his newborn session – he shows the beginnings of little smiles and interacts with the camera and his parents! I loved capturing the photos of him in his crib, intently focused on my lens. His blue eyes are amazing! When I photographed his one-year photo session, I could see so much of his new baby face even at a year old. Had I photographed him earlier, within a week or two at birth, those similarities would have been harder to see.
A baby at three months old!
Jameson is a precious chunky monkey at three months old! He is the fourth baby for this sweet family, and mama Christa was a little later scheduling newborn photos as she adjusted to life with a new baby. Jameson was so much fun to photograph as he smiled and giggled at me – the differences between a brand new baby and a three-month-old couldn’t be more obvious.
At 12 weeks, this is the latest I ever photograph newborns because they’re technically babies at this point. Baby sessions that show off their personalities (and thigh rolls!) are a better choice. Babies don’t always like being swaddled by this stage, and it’s usually harder to get them to sleep.
Usually, babies who are three months old for newborn sessions were in the NICU for an extended time or mama may have had health/recovery issues that prevented her from scheduling photos earlier. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case with Jameson – everyone was happy and oh, so happy to have him here!
So, when is the best time to schedule newborn photos?!
Most of my clients schedule around three-and-a-half weeks after birth.
I recommend a full tummy and a cozy swaddle for all babies – especially if mama wants sleepy photos! It’s also a big help if you can invite a friend or family member over to help you get ready on the morning of your photos. I love to photograph new grandparents with their grandbabies, and I usually work with them first so that I can focus on you and your family for the majority of the session.
Also, new parents and babies are often tired by the time we’re wrapping up; you’re both ready to change into comfy clothes and squeeze in a nap! With grandparent photos taken care of first, we can end the session whenever you, hubby and baby are ready.
This is a very quick list of photos you absolutely want during your newborn session! My newborn session photo galleries typically feature 120+ edited photos and you get to pick your favorites! My must-have shot list features many more photos than are listed here; this is just a sample of what your session would include!
Family with baby looking at baby
Family with baby, looking at the camera
Dad standing with baby
Dad seated with baby
Mom standing with baby
Mom seated with baby
Baby in Moses basket
Baby with siblings or pets