Caption for ptb150615.jpg: Professional portraits of newborns, like this one by Stephanie Cotta, are increasingly popular -- and can be costly.
Add another item to the pregnancy checklist: Book the glamour shots for your newborn.
It only makes sense for a generation used to displaying their curated and polished life milestones.
You've seen this pictorial story on Facebook: First comes the newly engaged couple sitting in a tree. Then comes the art-directed wedding. Then comes the baby posed in a baby sling.
There may also be professional pregnancy photos and a gender reveal along the way. But the Anne Geddes poster-worthy baby -- that's the money shot.
St. Louis-based newborn photographer Stephanie Cotta says she was one of the first to bring the idea of "newborn art" to the city back in 2010, soon after the birth of her first child. She has perfected a series of 17 poses she only uses on babies between four and 14 days old.
"I've worked it down to a science," Cotta said. The photo may involve a bucket, a blanket or beanbag, but it's the wrinkly days-old baby who makes the shot.
Three-month-olds are too late.
"When they are that old, they're not as sleepy and not as curly," she said.
Too bad, so sad, punkin.
Moms-to-be start contacting Cotta in their second trimester, because she books six to eight months out. Even if it's too late to get into her schedule, new moms and other aspiring photographers can take her "Newborn Mentoring Workshop," in which she shares the art of newborn posing. The goal is to "capture exactly how little they are in the first few weeks." About 40 percent of the clients taking her workshops are new moms with new cameras.
The camera is the new mirror. But unlike a reflection intended for personal use, this mirror is reflected to the world. It says something semipermanent about you, and a baby has become an extension of that personal brand.
Her clients typically spend between $800 and $2,500 for newborn photos.
Cotta wants to create a piece of work that will evoke, decades later, the same emotions as when the baby was born. Now, there may be a tiny bit of whitewashing required. Cotta says she edits and Photoshops all the images, and in some cases, that may involve smoothing baby skin or "addressing color issues." Sometimes newborns get little scratches or baby acne on their faces, but that's easily erased, too.
"Everything else, I leave it as they are," Cotta said.
Not everyone opts for such a stylized representation of those earliest days.
Beth Kerley, mom to a 13-month-old daughter, booked her newborn shoot near the end of her second trimester. But she didn't want the typical baby-in-a-basket shots. She hired a documentary-style baby photographer, who followed them around their house for a few hours, documenting the new parents taking care of their 3-week-old baby.
She caught images of Kerley's husband making a bottle in the kitchen and holding the baby while watching a hockey game on TV.
"We wanted something that captured how we were feeling and what we were doing at that point of our lives," Kerley said. She had no desire to sit in a studio under lights three weeks after a C-section.
While she opted for a more affordable session ($450), she understands the impulse to overspend.
"Anything associated with babies and weddings, there's a higher price tag because it's a very emotional moment. You're willing to pay more," Kerley said.
She also chose a more low-key, natural look for baby's first professional shoot, but she doesn't judge those who choose a more cultivated option.
She waited until her baby was three weeks old -- pushing the edge of that newborn photo shoot window -- because she wanted to wait until the umbilical cord stump had fallen out.
Their newborn's bellybutton looked picture-perfect.
But Kerley wouldn't be surprised if the photographer touched it up a bit.