Smile for the Birdie: Your Baby’s First Photos

By: Pamela Brill

With the holidays right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about sending out cards to family and friends. What better way to say "Season's Greetings" than with a photo of the new addition to your family?

If you haven't already had a professional photo taken of your baby, this is the perfect excuse to set up a session. But before you book the first photographer you found on the Web, follow these helpful tips to make your first professional photo session a tear-free one.

Deciding Factors

When making a special purchase, there are plenty of considerations—both personal and practical—that can impact your choice in a professional photographer. Jennifer Vacca, owner of Zoot Shoot Photographers in Commack, N.Y., advises finding out how long a particular photographer has been in business. "It also helps to get referrals from a few friends or acquaintances," she adds to narrow your search.

Location is another concern. Do you prefer studio shots or something more candid? "You'll be hanging these portraits on your walls, and sharing them with grandparents and other relatives," says Michael Kormos, a photographer based in Forest Hills, N.Y. "Make sure the photographer you choose photographs in the style you like, so review their photo gallery in detail."

While price may be important consideration for cost-conscious consumers, don't make it the end-all, be-all. Just because Sears is offering a great deal on its holiday photo packages, cost shouldn't make or break your final decision. "There are many photographers just starting out who will offer you amazing deals, so be sure you review their work beforehand and ensure they will have adequate experience dealing with children."

And because custom-made holiday cards require additional time, plan on booking a photographer as early as possible. "The first week in December would be typically the latest you would schedule your session," recommends Vacca.

Photo Do's and Don'ts

Once you've settled on a photographer and made an appointment, it helps to make certain preparations in advance of your child's session.  "Schedule your appointment around your child's nap and feeding times—when they are rested and happiest," offers Vacca. "Try to bring as few people with you as possible, as too many family members can become overwhelming to your child. They can become very distracted."

Dress your child in a style that befits the setting, and bring an extra outfit—especially if you'll be photographing outdoors. "Kids can get messy quickly," observes Kormos. And if your little one is having difficulty cooperating, feel free to pitch in if the photographer asks for your assistance. "As a parent, you know your child best, and a photographer will certainly appreciate a hand," he adds.

However, it's important for parents to know the difference between offering help and overstepping their bounds. "Don't micromanage your child," says Kormos. "If their hair is frizzy or they're sucking on their thumb, the photographer will let you know."

And try not to be overbearing once the session has gotten underway.  "If there are particular photos you'd like, be sure to tell the photographer in the beginning [of the shoot]," he adds. The best place to stand is out of the spotlight: either next to or behind the photographer. "That way, your child's attention is directed to one area—the camera."

Makings of a Smooth Session

Advance planning does not guarantee a perfect photograph, as any parent of a young child knows. Perhaps one of the most important things to remember—one that is within your control—is maintaining your own composure. "Don't forget that kids can pick up on their parents' feelings, so remember to relax before the session," says Vacca. "Sometimes children have a little anxiety, but most often we can get past that and have a great time."

"A good photographer will know how to bring out your child's true personality," says Kormos. "It is that—above all else—that you want to remember."