Newborn photography is a unique genre that requires a specific skillset outside of creativity and technical proficiency. In particular, one of the most important skills a newborn photographer can have is the ability to sooth, calm and care for a newborn baby. An awake and fussy baby can make the newborn photo session challenging and can prolong the duration. This is why timing is so important. In short, the best time to do a newborn photoshoot is within 5 to 10 days of birth. And in regards to the time of day, the best time is typically whenever the baby is at his or her best – not too sleepy and not too fussy. We’ll dive into the details in the article below.
Note: This article was originally written in 2016 and updated in 2022 with more tips and better imagery.
Video Tips for Newborn Photography Timing
We have a quick two minute tip for you on when is the best time to schedule a newborn session and why. Check out the video or read the article below to learn more. The following information is from our Newborn Photography Workshop inside of SLR Lounge Premium.
Within the 1st 14 days of birth
Just like the golden hour during the day, there is a golden time to shoot newborn photos. Newborns are easiest to work with within the first 14 days of being born. During this period, they are sleeping the majority of the time, and this makes it very easy to get them into poses without causing them too much discomfort. In addition, because the newborn hasn’t been out of the womb for a long period, they are typically more “malleable” for lack of a better word. Essentially, from being scrunched up in the womb, they are more flexible making it easier to move from pose to pose without causing any discomfort.
Note: These, of course, are just “general tips and rules of thumb” based on our experience. Of course, every newborn is going to vary. Some may be jaundiced for several weeks while others may not have any. Some may have flakey skin, but no baby acne. Point being, if you can catch newborns within this window (whether it be 5, 10 or 14 days), the shoots generally go smoother and require less work in post production. Communicate with mom and see when she thinks would be the ideal time for her newborn as each case can differ.
If you plan a newborn shoot within the first 14 days keep in mind that the mom may still be recovering, so unless she’s feeling up to it be sure to let her relax during the shoot.
3 Reasons to Shoot Within the First 5 Days of Magic
The 5 days of magic is the most ideal time to shoot because it gives mom some time to rest, and the baby’s skin is in the best condition. In general, we have found that the best window during the first 14 days to shoot newborn photos is between 5-10 days after birth. Sometimes our window may be more towards the 2-week mark, but generally, our 5 days of magic are going to be within 1-2 weeks of birth. I call this period the 5 days of magic for these three reasons.
1. No Umbilical Cord
After 5-7 days there is a good chance that the newborn’s umbilical cord will have fallen off, so you won’t have to compromise poses to try to hide the cord. However, in general, it can take anywhere between 1-3 weeks for the stump to fall off, so if it hasn’t, then you may want to Photoshop out any unpleasant bits of dried blood or scabs in the stump that aren’t concealed by the pose. Here, Ellie is right around 10 days and her stump has been off for several days already, but don’t freak out if your newborn still has her stump, it is normal.
2. No (or Less) Jaundice and Acne
During that magic window, the baby should be doing quite well and hopefully is mostly clear of any early set Jaundice. Again, this is a general rule, and circumstances will vary. Also, within that first 2 weeks, the baby should also be mostly clear of any baby acne which typically occurs 2 weeks after birth and can last a few months. Because of that shooting in this time window can save you a lot of time tweaking the colors to correct skin tones or spending unnecessary time fixing blemishes.
3. Mom Recovered
Can you imagine giving birth and then having to go home to a photo shoot? Being a guy, it’s tough to imagine, but I can sympathize. Shooting at least 5 days after childbirth gives mom some time to recover. Newborn shoots are tiring and can take hours, and when you leave the mom still has the newborn to take care of. Make sure to be considerate of the time you’re shooting in, and the mother will appreciate it immensely.
So in conclusion, you can shoot newborn photos up to 8 weeks after birth. But we recommend shooting within the first 14 days, and if you can help it, within 5-10 days of birth.