I’ll open with some advice for all the parents: you don’t have to wait until summer to have great portraits of your newborn or toddler.
While we may think of summer as the best time to have shots taken, be sure not to overlook other opportunities throughout the year. Arranging a shoot in winter might not sound ideal but I want to show how you can make the most of every month.
I’m not speaking solely from a technical perspective; I’m speaking from a practical one too. Living on an island of variable weather means we have to be prepared for summer to last only two weeks. In April.
Learning to work with the seasons and applying just a little bit of forward planning can help you achieve a wonderful range of photographs of your son or daughter throughout the year.
So to help with your planning I’ve sketched out how to utilise every month of the year and give you some ideas for creative portrait sessions all year round.
January to February
Don’t fret: it’s not all short days and hibernating indoors. The low hanging sun at this time of year means terrific light for long periods of the day. When the sun emerges, wrap up your toddler and head out for some frosty portraits.
For newborns who are perhaps too young for the outdoors just yet, this is a great time for indoor portraits using that wonderful natural light. Meanwhile, the flat light that comes with more overcast days can make for effective indoor black and white shots.
Still need convincing? Think mittens, hats, scarves, visible breath, and yes, maybe even snowfall.
March to April
Believe it or not, these days it tends to get milder earlier. By now the daffodils will be out and the blossom has arrived (and probably gone). This makes it a great time for injecting colour into your portraits.
Consider an Easter shoot too. Whether your child is 4 weeks or 4 years old, it is very simple to set up this theme with props, inside and out.
If there is one portrait to have taken in May, it’s at your nearest bluebell wood. It is an iconic image of an English spring. Plan for an early morning or late evening shoot and have your child wear clothes with plenty of white and light colours to contrast with the blue and green blanket of your surrounds.
The bluebell season tends to be quite short so keep an eye on local websites to determine the best time to visit. Forward planning is required but the rewards are worth it.
June to July
With a bit of luck we should now be enjoying the summer. The immediate benefits are the most obvious so make the most of the (hopefully!) good weather and plan some locations for outdoor portraits.
Parks, beaches, rivers, forests, fields, local landmarks – even your own back-garden. There are plenty of options to choose from for outdoor portraits. Finding spots that mean something personal to you will add intimacy to the shot.
But don’t neglect indoor shoots either. That wonderful, golden light you get with our summer evenings is ideal for creative indoor portraits. Think of light streaming through curtains and high-key, minimalist photos.
One venue that is often overlooked is lavender farms. These are great venues for a day out so time your visit right when it is in full bloom and you have an expansive and colourful Provence-style landscape to shoot against.
I’ve singled out the summer month of August for one reason: the harvest. Keep an eye on this as it has a tendency to creep up on you and be gone in a flash.
There is something nostalgic and romantic about hay bales and tall, golden fields of wheat. Bales are excellent props, even for younger children, and coupled with that end of summer light it makes for an excellent combination.
September to October
One of my personal favourite times of the year for portraits. Head to your local woods and indulge in the splashes of browns, reds, yellows, and oranges. There is a terrific pallet of colour to work with, unlike at any other time of the year.
Autumnal leafs and conkers are some of nature’s finest props. They can be used creatively and I find they work particularly well with newborns and abstract, close-up shots of toes, fingers, feet and hands.
November is one of the harder months to work with. The weather can be miserable. But don’t be deterred. Instead, embrace the rain. Don the jacket and wellies and seek out puddles. Children love them and so long as you don’t mind the clean-up operation later, there are plenty of opportunities for capturing splashes, droplets, and reflections.
Don’t fancy getting wet? Then it’s a good time for a studio shoot!
If you have the time amid all the holiday preparations then arrange a Christmas themed shoot. Personally I advocate staying at home at this time of year. Shooting portraits in your own home, with your decorations, your tree, and your fire as the backdrop, adds a personal touch that simply can’t be beaten.
For newborns, the abundance of available props makes it a great time of the year for shots even if they are just days old. From stockings and presents to crackers and baby Santa outfits, there’s something about this holiday that makes it perfect for your newborn shoot.