How To Capture Lifestyle Newborn Photography

How To Capture Lifestyle Newborn Photography
Alex Pasarelu

A brand new bundle of joy has made his or her way into your life…and in a big way! You’ve had a baby, and you’re looking to capture on camera their cute baby cheeks and sleeping, smiling faces. Or maybe you’re a photographer looking to update your content portfolio and branch into newborn photography. Either way, there are basic logistics and considerations that go into shooting lifestyle newborn photography.

From creating safe environments, to capturing genuine expressions, there’s a lot that goes into creating the perfect image keepsake or birth announcement content. But not to fear, we’ve provided a complete break down of everything one should know if sitting your own baby for a lifestyle newborn photography shoot, or capturing one yourself. Read on, as we cross our t’s and dot our i’s, and divulge the logistics behind creating a flawless and effortless shoot for your client or loved one.

What’s The Right Age?

The age at which most individuals decide to capture a newborn on camera varies from person to person, and can be an often argued about discussion. While some believe newborn shots happen only after five days old, some believe that putting a newborn baby through any possible uncomfort that early is unnecessary and stressful.

We recommend waiting a little longer than that, two weeks old (otherwise known as fourteen days) is the perfect window to capture the aesthetic lifestyle newborn photography. While it preserves the true iconic nature of a beautiful newborn baby: the sleep schedule, feeding time, and overall daily routine may be a little more reliable and predictable than capturing on camera after only five to ten days. This doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with snapping photos constantly on your handheld devices throughout your babies first two weeks. It only means that the more indepth nature of an official shoot (inclusion of a new person into the home, set up, possible wardrobe changes, traveling to the studio, etc) won’t be placed upon the child too early.

Picking The Setting

On our social media accounts, we see an assortment of images popping up on our newsfeeds. Some of these include lifestyle newborn photography from family, friends, or colleagues’ pages. While some locations and settings of these shots may differ, you’ll mostly notice these photos taking place indoors. When picking the spot to photograph your newly born baby, it’s preferable to limit the shots to inside. Exposing a new baby to any unwanted sun rays would not be ideal towards the baby’s sensitive skin. Instead create a perfect setting indoors either in your own home (prefered) or a studio of a photographer you know and trust – that is close in proximity to your home.

Creating A Safe Space

Just like picking the perfect setting, creating a safe space for your new baby’s lifestyle newborn photography shoot is vital to not only collecting the best content – but for you family to feel secure during the process. Items such as sharp objects should be out of the baby’s reach (this includes props, set equipment, and camera accessories). If using a stand to elevate the newborn from the ground, this can be extremely risky if not done correctly. For added security, place the baby on a comfortable backdrop on the ground. This way you avoid any unwanted rolling, that could be extremely hazardous to the baby’s health.

Incorporating Comfort

When bringing home a newborn baby, parents and loved ones try their hardest to make sure the baby is as comfortable as possible. Money is spent on expensive crib bedding, swaddling blankets, and more. So only after fourteen days of calling this world home, a lifestyle newborn photography set should be no different. Incorporate every layer of comfort on set as you can possibly imagine. This includes, blankets and bedding on the backdrop, clothing options, even pose changes should be based primarily on the baby’s comfort.  What’s nice about waiting until two weeks to shoot, as opposed to immediately after birth, is that both the parents and the photographer are more comfortable as well.

Finding The Perfect Photographer

If you’re parents seeking the perfect photographer for your upcoming lifestyle newborn photography shoot, it’s wise to first start off by asking around. If you live around family or friends, try asking who photographed their children. Most often, referrals are the best way to find a photography you trust enough to work with your newborn baby. If you don’t know of anyone in the area, head online. By utilizing online review platforms like Yelp or Google, you’re more likely to get honest feedback. This will help you make the choice of which local newborn photographer to work with. In addition to finding the right photographer, make sure to meet with them ahead of time. This way you’ll feel more secure and comfortable when they shoot at your home or when you visit their respective studio.

Questions To Ask Your Photographer

When you go to meet your photographer ahead of time, as well as on set – feel free to openly ask as many questions as you deem necessary. While it’s rude to be critical and creatively dictating, newborn photographers know the concern and security measures parents will go through to make sure their child is safe. Not to mention you’re paying for a service, and wanting to see the best content from your images. A few questions to ask include:

  • How often do you photograph newborns?
  • Do you have experience working at temporary in-home sets
  • Do you have a preference with scheduling – when are newborns the most lively during the shoot?
  • What elements of creativity would you like to add to our lifestyle newborn photography shoot?

Questions To Ask The Parents

The same thing goes with any photographer looking to capture images of a newborn baby. To protect both yourself and the family, having every expectation met on each side with open communication is key. Whether it’s your first time photographing newborns, or a seasoned vet, there’s something new to look out for on every set. A prime example of set differences, would be parent’s comfort levels. If the child is their first, more than likely they’re going to be more protective and engaged with the overall session. If their second or third child, you may notice the tension slightly loosened. Either way, you’re going to want to set expectation in the begining with any new family. A few questions to ask before capturing content include:

  • If referred, what were things Jane Doe said she wished were improved on set (if any)? This way you’re establishing that you were good enough to be recommended but human enough to understand not everyone is perfect. It also looks like you’re always trying to improve and better your profession.
  • Do you have any preset expectations on what you’re hoping to get from the shoot?
  • How many wardrobe changes are you looking to capture?
  • Does your baby have a daily schedule we’d be interrupting with? If so, what is it (i.e. napping, feeding, etc)?

Guidance From Those Who Are Experienced

The same way we recommended finding a photographer from someone you know well, if this is your first time having a child or getting a lifestyle newborn photography shoot – start asking around. Whether from those who live around you, online reviews, testimonials, etc. Another great way is to be connected to new parents from outlets like birthing classes (such as lemaise), or at your pediatric doctor. No matter where you are, there’s always an involved community of new parents (all sharing similar situations), looking to connect with one another. Who knows, one of these new families may have just completed a lifestyle newborn photography shoot and have great recommendations or tips.

Is It Best, To Try It On Your Own?

It’s understandable, many new parents are hesitant to bring someone they’re unfamiliar with into their home. More so, someone to work with their newborn baby. So it makes sense to want to try and capture newborn photography images on your own with your own camera. Truth be told, with the way they’re making the current cameras on smartphones – it seems as though you have quality equipment in your palm. But just like a stove doesn’t create a great meal, a camera doesn’t make a great photograph. If you have an eye for creativity and feel like you can make do with a DIY lifestyle newborn photography shoot, make sure you’re also taking every safety and comfort precaution as well.

Knowing Where These Photos Are Going

Whether hung above the fireplace, or sent out as baby announcements to family and friends, it’s important to know where your imagery is going. This is not just applicable to lifestyle newborn photography, but holiday cards, engagement shoots, etc. Knowing what size output is needed, the purpose of placement, etc, all help the photographer place together their shoot. Whether implementing rule of thirds, editing platforms or using export friendly design services, there’s much more that goes into a final image and public-facing content than many think. By giving your photographer a heads up on where you plan on placing or sending the content, the better off you’ll be in the final moments.

What Lighting to Use

In any other photography shoot, you may see us break down the schematics of lighting. The pros of strobe lights, LED, and more – but when it comes to newborn photography, we’re going to hold off on those mentions. Why? Because lights have a tendency to create heat and potential uncomfortable environments. Not only is creating an unsafe environment for a newborn baby a big no-no. There’s no good content that can be salvaged from a fussy and crying baby on set. Instead, use natural light as the sole light source on set. Set up your set next to a lot of windows, and try and keep the backdrop as light as possible. Any dark colors may absorb too much light while colors like white and light grey will help reflect light giving off a brighter appearance. Additionally, try and utilize mirrors on set, this will allow you to better manipulate the natural light and create a brighter set.

Choosing The Right Wardrobe

Comfort is EVERYTHING, when capturing lifestyle newborn photography. This will allow the baby to act freely giving you more ‘happy’ content, and it will ensure that quality fabric is being used to not irritate the baby’s skin. In fact, even with the parameters of comfort there are plenty of cute, trendy, and stylish pieces to choose from when picking a piece for your baby.

These kimonos are perfect for babies who still have their umbilical cord stump in. They’re easy to take on and off, and don’t create any unnecessary friction. Plus – they’re extremely adorable and come in a wide variety of colors.

This is a special (fine) hand embroidered long all, with amazing crocheted detailing . The perfect piece for any lifestyle newborn photography shoot as it speaks to both design and comfort.

Utilizing Props

Unlike school photography photos where you’re incorporating props into a lifestyle newborn photography shoot, you’re looking more at simplistic additions to your images. In fact, as opposed to thinking of these extra details as props, they’re more like staple accessory pieces. Between mobiles, footwear, and caps, there’s a great deal of creative and comfortable props to accompany your newborn baby in their upcoming shoot. One important rule of thumb, make sure you buy your own set of props, and they’re not borrowed from the photographer. Babies are extremely susceptible to germs, so it’s vital that brand new babies receive brand new props. Below we’ve listed a few of our favorite recommendations:

This is the perfect prop, if looking to incorporate a breast feeding image into your lifestyle newborn photography shoot. Giving a layer of privacy in an accepting and comfortable way, you’re able to create this scene intimately in an friendly way.

Picking A Backdrop

More so than deciding between a canvas, or fabric backdrop, when deciding what to place behind a newborn baby something more natural should come to mind. Many people opt in for the more comfortable approach and use the baby’s crib bedding or bassinet instead. This gives you a variety of patterns and colors to play around with as the bedding can be manipulated to fit any desired aesthetic. The unspoken rule is this, complex or patterned wardrobe means a simple backdrop. A simple mono toned wardrobe means a patterned backdrop. Either way, you’re bound to have an incredibly adorable final image when contrasting between the newborn baby’s outfit and bedding.  

Managing Time Properly

Time is of the essence when it comes to photographing a newborn baby. They’re in between sleep schedules, feeding breaks, and if missed by a beat can lead to an unfortunate cry or fussy baby. As these are not the best situations for capturing phenomenal imagery, make sure to time your newborn session properly. If allocating an hour to shoot content, try setting up and taking trial images while the baby is feeding or napping. While there’s something cute about filming a sleeping baby, there’s a fine line between disturbing a baby’s sleep and capturing their sleeping moments.

Incorporating The Parent(s)

Wonderful ‘in-situation’ content can be captured with either one or both parents in lifestyle newborn photography. There are a few different ways to incorporate parents into the shot. Below we bulleted a few of our favorite lifestyle moments with newborn that incorporate either both or one parent.

  • Mom and Baby Breastfeeding – while super intimate and personal, this may be a must have on your shot list. It showcases the personal bond a mother shares with their child during the first few months. While it may be uncomfortable for some to showcase this moment in front of a photographer, talk to them to help gage the situation and if they have experience shooting breast feeding moments.
  • Both Parents Around A Bassinet or Crib – creates both dynamic and complex aspects in the image while also speaking towards the authentic nature of what it’s like to have a newborn baby in the house.
  • Holding Baby (Standing) – This is a shot photographers can have fun with, as it allows for different fluid movement you may not be able to get with a baby alone. Additionally the various poses that a parent can incorporate with their child is also quite

Incorporating The Sibling/s

Just like including parents into the lifestyle newborn photography shoot, the baby’s older brothers or sisters can also be a lovely addition to your shot list. Whether nine months older or ten years older, there is such a special bond that forms between siblings after a new baby is born and it’s magical to capture this on camera (and have images to stay with you for a lifetime). If a little bit older, the photographer may help you in staging the siblings together in a way that doesn’t put the newborn in any danger. If the sibling is still young, try a dynamic shot including one or both parents as well as the siblings.

Being Aware Of Potential Obstacles

Even with a tightly buttoned up shot list (and plenty of preparing), there are always obstacles that can happen on a photography set. Not to mention, you’re adding in an extra layer of unpredictable behavior when working with a newborn. As they can not properly communicate with you about their thoughts or feelings, you’re working in a very grey space and it may be wise to prepare for unpredicted obstacles. Some examples could be: becoming fussy in the middle of a shot, falling asleep during lifestyle shots, or wanting to be fed at different feeding times. In these moments, it’s important to remember that this is normal and the photographer (if experienced in photographing newborns) will know exactly what to do.  

Managing Expectations

With the aforementioned obstacles, it’s important to caveat that you’re setting proper expectations. To believe that you hire a photographer for an hour and get dozens of amazing shots in several wardrobe changes is being a little too enthusiastic. Realizing the nature of lifestyle newborn photography shoots, go in with one or two wardrobe choices (pending on the time allotted) and hope to get a handful of shots worth sending out to your friends and loved ones. If it helps, for one magazine advertisement about an hour goes into shooting for just one shot! That’s it. So in comparison, it doesn’t seem so far reaching.

Going In With A General Idea

Nothing sets a photographer back on schedule and creates more frustration. than someone who hasn’t done their homework before a session. Luckily, by reading this piece you’re gaining a few extra pieces of insight for your upcoming lifestyle newborn photography shoot. Having a general idea of not only expectations, but overall tone and aesthetic, will greatly help out the photographer. If you’re at a loss before the session, and wish to gain clarity, talk to your photographer – they’ll assist you in setting up the broad scope of what similar clients have gone through in the past.

Creating Sound On Set

Music is loved by all, included newborn babies. If your baby is feeling playful on set, try lightening the mood by incorporating music and sound on the set. Not only will this put you and the photographer in a fun mood, it’ll help incorporate movement on set from the newborn. While movement is relatively minimal and can range as far as extended arms and open eyes – these are vital and dynamic when it comes to photographing a newborn. Prior to the photography shoot, try out different musics on your baby – see which ones they relate and move to. This way you’re not constantly changing channels on set.

Capture Expressions

There’s nothing cuter than a smiling newborn baby, add in the chubby cheeks and drooling bubbles and you’ve got yourself an A+ quality photo. So how do we try and capture these wonderful expressions on camera during your lifestyle newborn photography shoot? The answer is to be very lucky… well that and making sure you cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Before the shoot ensure that your baby gets a good deal of sleep, and the diaper is changed before the photographer begins shooting. It also helps to have a soothing and comfortable voice on set (most likely the parents) along with a mobile that’s used over the crib.

Have Fun!

These are wonderful memories you and your baby are going to hold onto forever. But it’s also important to remember that if a shoot doesn’t go according to plan – you can always reschedule. These are the moments to enjoy the times of parenting and have a little fun!

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