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, and so when we wanted to write a guide on how to shoot a lifestyle newborn session, we didn’t need to look far.
We’ve been drooling over her lifestyle newborn sessions over in our graduate’s group, so she was a natural choice to collaborate on this 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 the family is all placed on the bed together? Inevitably a little person might sneak in for a cuddle, kids will start jumping, and the parents start laughing (or telling them off!). My job at a lifestyle newborn session is simply to capture it all.
Before the shoot and again when I first arrive, I explain the process. I remind them that there is no formal posing, just guidance. I tell them not to worry about smiling at the camera, and that if they’re not sure what to do, just look at and touch their baby, and look at each other.
In lifestyle newborn sessions you want to go with the flow as much as possible, but always ensure you get multiple combinations of people. So Mum with baby, Dad with baby, both parents with baby, siblings with baby, and of course the whole family.
Always ask them if there’s anything specific they want to capture and if possible try to do it early 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 lifestyle newborn photography is allowing 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 in those instances, just capture what’s really happening.
Always keep talking and chatting to the family – it’ll help keep them feel relaxed.
You can get a tonne of variety simply by shooting from lots of different perspectives, enabling the family to stay in the same position for a long time. Stand up and shoot down, kneel down and shoot up, shoot from all sides, and even from behind peeking down on them.
This is the biggest challenge. I personally consider flat light 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 in 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 guide your family to that area. You can also use the window coverings to create interesting light, for example opening heavy drapes just a touch for a sliver of light for a more interesting lighting situation.
Sometimes dads or kids don’t want to be part of it – you just have to go with it. Explain your process, be friendly, and don’t force anything. Shoot whoever and whatever you’re able to – often they’ll end up warming as they realise a lifestyle photography session is a very relaxed style of session.
Take detail shots, take some shots of baby crying, some shots of mum settling the baby. Continue trying different angles and perspectives for variation. Make sure the parents know that it’s okay so that they don’t get stressed.
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 to shoot is the living room, nursery and the parents bedroom. The bed is such a great place to photograph a family, 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!
At this lifestyle newborn session, the family had a beautiful old leather sofa which had been passed down from dad’s grandfather, and he had vivid memories of 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 choose a different room.
I 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 there are siblings, take the opportunity to capture them in the frame whenever you can. If they’re in a good mood at the start, grab them then because 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 siblings, so that they can continue to play (especially if they’re relucant subjects!). Then I capture their play and natural interactions with their new sibling.
Sieze any opportunity to photograph siblings with their new baby, the beauty of lifestyle newborn sessions is it doesn’t need to be posed. You want to capture them in this way.
I like to get some shots of baby on dad’s lap, with baby’s head in his hands as it really emphasises the size of baby at that point in his or her life.
Move around behind them and shoot down.
Pose dad with the baby resting on his chest. Have him place his hand under baby’s bottom, with his chin resting on or kissing baby’s head, and shoot from the side.
Turn baby around so she’s facing toward you and shoot straight on.
If mum is comfortable, I like to offer breastfeeding shots, as usually baby needs a feed during the session at some point.
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, and wide shots allow the environment to tell a story.
Another option is to ask mum to lay on the bed with her head in her hands, and then I place 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 of this one pose.
You can have them snuggle with their baby on a bed, a sofa, the floor. In particular, the parent’s bed is a perfect location as it lends itself really well to a lifestyle newborn 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 just from the 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 and the photos can become very special to the parents once their baby has outgrown each routine. Therefore, don’t miss out on moments such as wrapping the baby, bathing, dressing, feeding, settling, placing the baby in their bed for a nap.
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.
I have a Nikon D750 which is a full frame. I’ve really noticed the difference with being able to take images in low light compared to my old crop sensor camera.
Currently all of my work is shot with a 50mm lens as its 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.
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