Helping Clients Understand The
“7 Ages of Childhood”

As a professional photographer, the single most repeated lament that I have heard from clients over the years—even in the era of easy-to-use amateur cameras—is “I wish I had more portraits of my child growing up.”

Mindful of this issue, over 50 years ago, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) developed a program to help parents recognize the most important milestones that should be professionally photographed to insure that a child’s development is documented as he or she grows from a tiny infant through young adulthood. Called “The 7 Ages of Childhood,” PPA revitalized the program in the mid-1990’s, and today many professionals still use these guidelines, which were suggested with the help of child-development specialists who took into consideration the physical, psychological and emotional changes that occur during childhood.

The message of this PPA program is clear: “Someday the child you hold now will want to tell your grandchild what it was like when he or she was growing up. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have a beautiful album of priceless images of that childhood, created by a sensitive professional who knows how to interpret and preserve these precious moments.”

“The 7 Ages of Childhood” has served me well in my business and also in reminding me to create more than my usual family snapshots to capture the key milestones of Lucas, my only grandson, who was born in 2001. As a proud grandmother, I’ve chosen his portraits to present the various “Ages” along with the program’s description of each developmental stage.

Newborn Through Year 1 — Baby’s First Year
At no time in your child’s life will physical changes occur so rapidly. In what seems like the blink of an eye, a tiny, helpless bundle is transformed into an active, robust and inquisitive youngster. Once the baby arrives, it’s wise to contact your photographer right away to plan these important sessions, as those changes already are happening!

Unlike the rest of the individual-session “7 Ages,” PPA suggests that infants be photographed at least 3 times during the first year. My choice was newborn, 6 months, and shortly after 12 months, when Lucas could walk and sit unassisted.

My dear friend and exceptional artist, Helen Yancy, turned my favorite
newborn session image into a timeless watercolor portrait
through the use of Corel Painter.
Helen lives and works in Plymouth, MI.

For the 6-month session, I decided to include my daughter, Julie, in the portrait
to allow me to have more freedom in creating a variety of poses
to capture Lucas’s emerging baby personality.

I waited until Lucas was almost 14-months old to finish his “first-year” sessions. I wanted to make sure that he was completely confident as a walker and had begun to react to my camera-room silliness in order to assure a happy expression.

When I look back on these three portrait sessions, they truly confirm why it’s important to take the time to capture these priceless days of change.

2-years old — Tiny Traveler

Here one minute and gone the next! Around the second birthday a major milestone is achieved. Your toddler now responds to reason, humor, and action. Totally unpredictable. . . loveable, shy, rowdy, or reserved . . . but always adorable and always on the move!


3-years old — Little Discoverer
Most 3-year olds have discovered how to entertain themselves. Their world is filled with portrait opportunities that capture the mystery and fantasy that are so much a part of these joyful days of discovery and make-believe that fade so soon.


4- to 5-years old — Eager Searcher

The 4th and 5th years are among the cutest, most engaging ages for little boys and girls . . . the ability to speak and reason grow stronger every day. Searching for their place in the world, they have already developed personal interests, likes and dislikes. Their individuality of character and action should be portrayed before the baby teeth are lost and replaced by permanent ones . . . forever altering the endearing look of early childhood.

6_Lucas_h&s_b&w copy

6- to 8-years old — Young Learner

Between the ages of 6 and 8, the snaggly-tooth period ends and permanent teeth emerge to change facial contours. A developing mind reveals a more mature, inquiring look. Now off to school and making their way in the world . . . there is so much to learn! Portraits made at this age help to confirm a child’s positive self image.


9- to 12-years old — Budding Explorer
From the ages of 9 to 12, the child is preparing to enter the teenage years . . . when physical, emotional, and attitude changes occur. The little person you have known so well is about to become a more complex and less-dependent young person. Peer acceptance is now important, and portraits can capture the child’s sense of style and expanding horizons.

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13- to 15-years old — Young Teen
Ages 13 through 15 are the early teenage years. A kind of dress rehearsal for adulthood, these years begin to erase the memories of childhood. The boy is almost a man . . . in his interests, his attitudes, and thinking. They are often carefree years, yet ones that anticipate the challenges of adulthood on the horizon. The young woman has begun to blossom into womanhood. Still a lifetime of growing and learning ahead . . . but never again a child.


What’s Next?
The image of Lucas flying his kite at the Delaware shore was made when he was 13. He just turned 15 this spring, and reviewing the images for this post reminds me that I should do another portrait of Lucas before it’s time for his high school senior portraits, which will be here much sooner than his family members would like. How grateful we all are to have this record of his journey through childhood. They are happy memories for us today and I hope that someday he will enjoy them with his own family: That would make me a very happy great-grammy!

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