The biggest appeal of lifestyle photography lies in capturing the beauty and authenticity of real life. It’s a style we see a lot among our Click Love Grow graduates.
That’s why, when we decided to write a guide on how to shoot a lifestyle newborn photography session, we didn’t need to look too far for inspiration.
We’ve been drooling over her newborn baby photos over in our graduate’s group, so she was a natural choice to collaborate with on this lifestyle newborn session preparation guide!
A huge benefit of lifestyle photography is that you don’t have to spend the whole time posing people and thinking of things for them to do. It’s more about guidance.
For example, what happens when all the family members are sitting in bed together?
Inevitably a little person might sneak in for a cuddle, kids will start jumping, and the parents will start laughing (or telling them off!).
My job during a lifestyle newborn photography session is to simply capture it all.
There are many questions that parents might have regarding a newborn session. “What is a lifestyle newborn session?” or “What age should newborn photos be taken?” are among the most common ones I hear.
That’s why, before a lifestyle photography session with a newborn, I explain to the new parents how this type of session takes place. I will repeat this one more time once I arrive at the family’s home.
I remind the new mom that there is no formal posing, just guidance and I tell them not to worry about smiling at the camera. I also advise them that if they’re not sure what to do, to just look at their baby and play together.
For lifestyle newborn photos you want to go with the flow as much as possible, but always ensure you get multiple combinations of people.
So there’s mom with the baby, dad with the baby, both parents with the baby, big brother or sister and even the family pet. And of course the whole family together!
As a professional lifestyle photographer you should always ask your clients if there’s anything specific they would like to be captured, and if possible, try to focus on that early on so that you don’t forget.
Don’t be afraid to bump the ISO and embrace the grain. You can always convert to black & white which is really forgiving on grain.
Don’t get fixated on posing. The beauty of a lifestyle photography session with a newborn is that it allows things to evolve naturally.
For example, when breastfeeding in the nursery, the siblings may be coming in and out, and they may even have a tantrum. Don’t try to direct or redirect them during those instances, just capture what’s really happening.
During a photo session keep chatting with the family – it will help them feel more relaxed.
You can get a tonne of variety by simply shooting from lots of different perspectives. This enables the family to stay in the same position for a longer time.
Stand up and shoot down, kneel down and shoot up, shoot from all sides, and even from behind peeking down on them.
Light is the biggest challenge for newborn lifestyle photography.
I personally consider flat light to be the worst to shoot in because the lack of shadows offers no depth. In those situations, I try to find some shadows near a window in order to create some depth for the photo.
I also shoot from above a lot, especially when the light is not great (I’m always standing on people’s furniture – but I ask first!).
Shoot from all different angles, and try to find the room/area with the best, most interesting light and surroundings, and guide your family towards that area. You can also use the window coverings to create an interesting light. For example you can open heavy drapes just a touch for a sliver of light to enter, for a more interesting lighting situation.
Sometimes dads or kids don’t want to be part of the photo session. In this situation, – you just have to go with it.
Explain your process, be friendly, and don’t force anything. Shoot whoever and whatever your able to – often they’ll end up warming up as they realise lifestyle photography is a very relaxed style of session.
Take detailed shots of the baby crying and some shots of the mum settling the baby. Continue trying different angles and perspectives for variation.
Make sure the parents know it’s okay for this to happen so that they don’t get stressed.
When shooting newborns in tight spaces, once again, just shoot at different angles.
Stand on the bed or sofa to get top down shots, shoot from down low, shoot from outside of the room peeking in.
Try to shoot in rooms which are important to the family. The main areas I usually choose for lifestyle newborn photos are the living room, the nursery or the master bedroom. The bed is such a great place for this style of newborn photography, not least because it’s literally comfortable for them.
In the case of siblings, young children love being on their parents bed so you’ll always get some great interactions and expressions.
I also love shooting in the nursery because it’s the perfect backdrop for newborn photos, and it also showcases their first bedroom in photos, for the sake of prosperity!
For this lifestyle newborn photography session, the family had a beautiful old leather sofa which had been passed down from the dad’s grandfather, and he had vivid memories of him jumping on the sofa when he was a child.
So given its special meaning, I made sure to use it in some of their photos.
When I first arrive at a client’s home, I take an opportunity to check out the light in various rooms.
If the light is really bad in my usual preferred rooms (living, nursery and parent’s bedroom) I might avoid one of those rooms, or just choose a different location.
I usually like to look for dynamic light – I quite like shadows as opposed to flat light. So I’m not afraid of a rainy day, as long as there is some form of natural light coming through the windows or doors.
Related: Creative Ways with Natural Light
If the baby has siblings, take the opportunity to capture them in the frame whenever you can. If they’re in a good mood at the start, just start shooting them on the spot, young children typically have a very small window and you don’t want to miss it!
This is a classic shot and oh so special… make sure to capture them for mum and dad because those little feet grow way too fast!
I might suggest going into the toy room with the siblings, so that they can continue to play together (especially if they’re reluctant subjects!). That’s how I capture the older brothers’ interactions with the newest family addition.
Seize any opportunity to photograph siblings with the new baby. The beauty of shooting newborn family photos is that it doesn’t need to be posed.
You want to capture them in this way.
I usually like to get some shots of the baby on dad’s lap or with the baby’s head in his hands as it really emphasises the size of the baby at that point in his or her life.
Move around behind them and shoot down on them.
Pose dad with the baby resting on his chest. Have him place his hand under the baby’s bottom kissing the baby’s head, and shoot from the side.
Turn the baby around so she’s facing towards you and shoot straight on.
Among the lifestyle newborn photography tips and tricks is to catch the intimacy between mother and baby during breastfeeding.
If mum is comfortable, I like to offer breastfeeding shots, as usually a baby needs to be fed at some point during a newborn photography session.
Show context by taking wide photos that include the environment. Peeking through the doorway is perfect for breastfeeding photos as it so easily conveys the intimacy.
I also like to get some of baby laying nuzzled into mum’s chest, tummy to tummy.
Remember to vary your framing and perspectives to get a bigger variety of shots. Close ups show off detail and connection while wide shots allow the environment to tell a story.
Another option when doing newborn shots is to ask mum to lay on the bed with her head in her hands, and then place the baby as close to her face as possible. They just naturally interact, and I’m there to capture it all.
There are so many varied shots you can get from this one pose.
You can have them snuggle with their baby on a bed, sofa, or the floor. In particular, the parent’s bed is a perfect location as it lends itself really well to a lifestyle newborn photography session.
Therefore, whatever you do, I can’t state it enough… vary your angles, perspectives, position and framing to get a huge variety of shots from just one pose.
Sit them next to each other with legs outstretched, and place the baby on one of their laps. Stand above and behind them, and shoot down – it’s a great way to get mum and dad looking down onto their little baby.
Everyday moments present many opportunities for a newborn lifestyle maternity photo session and these photos can become very special to the parents once their baby outgrowns these newborn routines.
Therefore, don’t miss out on moments such as changing the diapers, wrapping the baby, bathing, dressing, feeding, settling or placing the baby in the crib for a nap.
For beautiful lifestyle newborn photography, use your own creative eye to look around for those meaningful, special details that will not necessarily be obvious enough for the parents to point them out.
For lifestyle newborn photoshoots I usually use a Nikon D750 which is a full frame. I’ve really noticed the differences when taking images in low light compared to my old crop sensor camera.
Currently all of my work is shot with a 50mm lense as that’s all I have!
It’d be great to get a 35mm to fit more in the frame when I’m in tight spaces.
I typically shoot at f/1.8 to f/2.5 during these sessions. Sometimes that bit of blur really adds to the emotion, and it also allows for more light to enter the camera. I don’t drop my shutter speed below 200, and so I rely on ISO a lot to balance the exposure.