Natural Style Newborn Photos: The Way I Like to Remember Them

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Natural Style Newborn Photos: The Way I Like to Remember Them

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Why natural lifestyle newborn photography?

There are lots of different styles of photography when it comes to capturing a newborn baby. Some people love to use lots of props, and introduce many fun things into every photo. Some are experts at posing the baby in unique and whimsical positions.

Although I can appreciate all the different styles, I prefer to capture a newborn baby the way that I remember my three newborns. My kids are almost all grown up now, and it’s hard to remember exactly what they were like when they were brand new. Every once in awhile, I have sweet memories of how they were once upon a time. The sweet smell of a newborn’s head. The skinny knees stretching out. The reflex grasp of those tiny fingers. The perfect little toes and wrinkly feet. The million different expressions that could keep me entertained for hours. The soft cheek, and even the peeling skin that inevitably showed up for a little while.

These are the things I remember. These are the memories I cherish. These are the moments I try to preserve with my camera with natural newborn photos.

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Keep it real

One of the wonderful things about photographing babies more naturally, is that you can let so many ideas of perfection go. If your baby loves a pacifier, photograph him with a pacifier. If she’s having a fussy day, grab a few crying photos. It’s okay, because it’s life. Real life. We’re not trying to create an illusion that the baby is something other than who he is, that very moment.

Be patient and flexible when photographing newborns, and leave lots of time to stop for feeding, burping, or changing a diaper. If your goal is to just capture baby as she is, you don’t have to be as worried about getting a whole session in within the two week old time period. It’s okay if baby isn’t quite as moldable if you aren’t trying to mold them into anything in particular. Since we’re just keeping it real, you can be more relaxed. Shoot another day if the first day you try just doesn’t work out. Also, you don’t have to stress out about keeping the baby sleepy the whole time. If he’s asleep, photograph him that way. If she’s wide awake, capture those eyes. It doesn’t matter.

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Get the details

I love to photograph little details. I can’t hold a newborn without pulling her socks off to have a peek at her feet. That means that I can’t photograph a newborn without getting a few shots of those perfect little baby feet, either. Find the little details you love, and capture them. Feet, hands, ears, knees, hair; everything is cuter in miniature. It’s a good idea to capture hands and feet with mom or dad’s hands holding them too, because it will help the parents remember exactly how small they were.

Don’t wait for a perfect expression. Those wrinkly foreheads, big yawns, hungry mouths, pouty lips, and even those sad cries can be perfect photo opportunities. Baby faces are fascinating!

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Shoot wide open

I like to use a pretty wide aperture when I photograph these details. If you can shoot at around f/2, give or take, those details will be the star of the photo. You won’t be distracted by other things, and the part you want to highlight will look especially sharp. Shooting wide open is a good idea when you are capturing other newborn moments, like baby’s bath, putting socks or a hat on, swaddling, or anything that you want the focus to be on or a particular action.

Be careful when you are shooting with a depth of field this shallow that your focus is EXACTLY where you want it, and that you don’t move after you lock in your focus. A slight movement from you or the baby could put your photo completely out of focus, and ruin what you are trying to achieve.

For more help shooting indoors with a wide aperture, you can read my article on Indoor Portraits Using Natural Light.

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Capture baby’s world

You might want to get some photos of your sweet newborn in her carefully decorated crib or nursery. If there’s a rocking chair that he loves to be held in, photograph mom or dad rocking the baby. One of my favorite memories with my babies was getting them out of their crib in the morning, or after nap time. They always seemed so happy to see me, and they looked so sweet and small in those big cribs. I wish I had photos to help me remember those times in better detail. Think of baby’s little world, and photograph him in the places he spends a lot of time in.

You could also take photos of the little things that are part of life with a baby, without the baby in the photo. Stacks of diapers, rubber ducks, teeny shoes, bottles, pacifiers, etc. can be photographed to remember what life was like when your house was overtaken by baby things.

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Show the love

Don’t forget to capture how the rest of the family feels about the new baby. Photograph sister’s look of adoration. Photograph brother’s fascination with baby’s little toes. Photograph mom’s absolute love for her tiny new being. Photograph dad’s proud protectiveness, and contrasting rough, big hands.

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Sometimes the relationships the family has with the new baby are my very favorite thing to photograph. The love and bonding that happens so quickly with a new baby in the house is an amazing thing, and those special moments are so important to preserve.

Be careful with young siblings that you keep the newborn safe as you are photographing them. You can capture their natural reactions to the baby while still keeping the baby safe. Let them sit near their little brother or sister if they’re too young to hold the baby. They can pat him, or lightly kiss him on the head. If you have a young child hold the baby, make sure someone is standing right outside the frame to take the baby as soon as little sister is “done”, because sometimes that can happen very suddenly.

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If you’ve always thought that baby photos had to be perfectly posed and creatively propped, give lifestyle newborn photography a chance. Try photographing a new baby swaddled in a blanket. See if you can capture a bunch of funny expressions, or capture “a day in the life” of the newborn. You may decide that these natural, real life photos are your favorite after all.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Melinda Smith was born to be a teacher. She teaches violin lessons and fitness classes, as well as photography classes and mentoring. She lives on a mini farm in Eastern Utah with her camera, husband, kids, chickens, horses, bunnies, dogs, and cats. Visit her at Melinda Smith Photography.

  • David Thompson

    Thank you for a sweet, tender reminder to the absolute joy of a new baby and for sharing your insight into capturing some of the magic of the moment.

  • Thank you so much, David!

  • David B

    Two of my favorite photos of my daughter are not “perfect.” One is a studio photo that captured her just as she started to cry, with the cutest pouty lip you’ve ever seen. The second is an iPhone photo I captured of a lying-on-the-floor-screaming fit I snapped on the spur of the moment.

  • I love those captured moments! I’m sure you’ll treasure those photos always.

  • officiallywanda

    i love this thank you for this

  • You’re welcome! Thank you. 🙂

  • my3sons

    I love this post. So timely as we have a baby in the family just born yesterday and I will be photographing her in a couple of days. While it seems like there are so many photographers who are heavy into props, it seems like the baby sometimes gets lost among the props.

  • I agree, my3sons! You have to be careful not to overpower a little teeny baby. 🙂 Congrats on the new baby in your family! Have fun photographing her!

  • I really liked this post! It’s nice to see the authenticity of the setting for your example images. This style may not be for everyone but there isn’t a universal style everyone can agree on anyways.

  • Thank you Angela! So true… there are many different styles, and every artist has his or her own. 🙂

  • Choo Chiaw Ting

    Great artcile.
    shooting it wide open without artificial lighting may be no more a limitation to today’s latest camera body… furthermore when shooting wide open, less detail can be captured due to lens limitation and DOF. ;). When shooting it real, i also want to show it real without modifying too much “color” and “tone”.. so i could keep the original real ones for editing anytime in future.. 😉

  • Davide Bonaldo

    i loved this article, great inspiration! i’m just starting my photography business, and i wanna focus in particular on this kind of newborn photography, first cause i love genuine and spontanueos photos, and secondly cause i think this style is not diffused as it should be, and many parents may be demanding for this authentical style.

    i hope it’ll work!

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  • Best of luck to you, Davide!

  • Some good thoughts, Choo Chiaw Ting. Thank you for your comment!

  • Peter Boekelaar

    Couldnt agree more. Congrats. Thumbs up

  • glennsphotogs

    Wonderful article and photos

  • I totally agree with this method of photographing new babies. While the posed, baby-in-buckets photos can be cute, I love babies as they are and like to remember them that way. Just letting them lay on the floor or (if they are older) sit outside can be “entertainment” enough for a photo. Here are some of my attempts at baby photos:

    I die over these lashes: https://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/dsc2674.jpg?w=1200&h=&crop=1

    Singing with grandma: https://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/dsc2590.jpg?w=1200&h=&crop=1

    Hanging out post bath: https://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/dsc2567.jpg?w=1200&h=&crop=1

    This one was is in a bar, lol: http://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/dsc5604.jpg?w=800&h=533

    Just chillin with dad: https://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/dsc2750.jpg?w=1200&h=&crop=1

    Tiny baby feet! http://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/dsc5964.jpg?w=800&h=533

    Baby hands! http://jessicaheckingernowakphotography.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/dsc5977.jpg?w=800&h=533

  • Robin Nations

    This is so inspiring for me. I have been asked several times to photograph newborns and have pleaded my way out of it due to the fact that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with all the props and what looks like a great deal of bodily manipulation on the baby. But your images are so incredibly sweet and beautiful that now I know what direction I should be taking. Thank you for this enlightenment. I cannot wait for the opportunity to give it a whirl. And now I’m really kicking myself….I turned down twin girls this past summer.

  • jp grace

    you said EXACTLY what i was thinking!!! i’ve turned down so many newborn and infant shoots, assuming what the moms wanted was wicker baskets and angel wings… so not my thing! never thought of this on my own but i’d love doing it this way! i won’t assume and blindly turn them down again! (now, to find a newborn volunteer to show the parents… hmmm… 😉 )

  • I’m so glad this article could help your photography! Sometimes we just need a little nudge in the right direction. 🙂

  • I’ve had so many contact me because they want this natural style… there is a style of photography for everyone! I’m glad you’ve discovered this one. 🙂

  • Jessica, these images are fabulous! What treasures!!

  • Thank you so much!

  • Thank you! 🙂

  • Thanks so much!

  • Rodlooi

    Fantastic insight and article. Photographing my babies were the reason I picked up the camera again several years ago. Yes, all the pictures of the babies in basket etc are cute but the pictures that still holds value and when we can have a good laugh and mommy gets all tears eyed are those natural pose, captured at the spur of a moment in the babies most natural enviroment. I too have turned down some requests for newborn shots because I am never really comfortable putting babies in any ‘unnatural’ pose. Now I know what I should be focussing on. Thanks again.

  • Beautiful photos, very inspiring. I especially enjoy the shallow DOF shots, where the viewer is immediately drawn to a particular portion of the baby’s body (like the little feet), with all of that texture and detail, and then the eye is led down a path towards the rest of the body, as it fades into a soft background. Almost makes you feel wrapped up in one of those baby blankets.

  • Ties Lahlali

    Reading this in the hospital cafetaria after ordering breakfast. My baby girl was just born a few hours ago and obviously reading this brought tears to my eyes 🙂

    Got the 50m ready for action!

  • Oh my goodness! Congratulations on your new baby girl. 🙂 I’m sure you will capture many beautiful photos of her. 🙂

  • Thank you so much!

  • You’re so welcome! Thank you for your sweet comment.

  • Melanie

    This is really refreshing. Thanks for the reminder to photograph life, and not necessarily have to pose it. I am a birth and in-home newborn photographer, so this is really helpful to me.

  • Thank you, Melanie!

  • Melanie Henson

    Oh, how sweet! <3 Mel at mothersheeporganics

  • Ties Lahlali

    Thanks Melinda!

    I didn’t have much time left in the hospital and wanted to use the light there, the background and the fact I had a bed on wheels so I just used the photo’s in your post as an example and shot some quick shots before we checked out. Let me know what you think 🙂

  • cheyanne

    hey

  • cheyanne

    but what about the black one lol

  • James Shepherd

    I love this style of newborn photography. I hate so much of what is trendy right now – especially the ones with cutsey props or those with lots of Photoshop fakery.

  • Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  • I used to love Anne Geddes’ work in the past, but now I think she’s guilty of what we’re seeing these days.

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