Looking to capture gorgeous lifestyle newborn photos? You’ve come to the right place.
I certainly enjoy viewing styled images of sleeping newborns, newborns in costume, and even – thanks to a bit of proficient Photoshop work – newborns appearing to hold up their heads. But I’m an even bigger fan of lifestyle newborn photography; it’s those lifestyle emotions and stories that really make my heart sing.
In this article, I share my six best tips to improve your own lifestyle newborn photoshoots. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know:
- The best lighting for lifestyle images
- Key equipment to bring for every session
- Where you can capture the most compelling shots
- Much more!
Let’s dive right in.
1. Capture every detail
The newborn stage is extremely brief – so whether the baby is crying heartily, yawning, or sleeping peacefully, you should aim to capture it all. The yawn of a four-day-old infant looks different than the yawn of a four-year-old child, so don’t be stingy with your camera; it’s all worth memorializing!
If the newborn is awake, carefully watch them for unique expressions with the camera to your eye. And as soon as you get a frown, a smile, a cry, or a yawn, press that shutter button.
Sure, a crying infant may not seem worthy of a photo. Your clients might even agree! But give it a few years, and I guarantee that your clients will be glad you captured everything, not just the good moments.
And by the way, don’t just photograph the newborn. Capture their surroundings, too, such as their crib, their blankets, their toys, and other items in the nursery. Talk to the parents and find out which baby items are meaningful. Who knows; maybe the grandparent knit the blanket or the dog is considered the first-born!
2. Photograph the newborn at home
You can technically do newborn lifestyle photography anywhere: the hospital, a relative’s house, or even the car.
But in my experience, it’s always best to conduct the photoshoot at home.
Why? If you capture images of the baby in their very first house, every backdrop and item of furniture will be meaningful. You can capture the newborn in the nursery, the newborn on the couch, and the newborn in their crib. None of the photos will feel artificial or staged; instead, everything will feel authentic.
Plus, since every home looks different, you’ll never feel like you’re shooting the same scenes over and over again. Instead, you’ll have the opportunity to take a unique series of photos with each new client.
When you’re shooting at a person’s home, by the way, try to tell the story of the location, not just the newborn. Capture images on the front steps, in the backyard, in the living room, the nursery, and more. Let each new location offer up a new image (or three!).
3. Do the photoshoot in the first 10 days
Babies are considered “newborns” for their first three months, so some newborn photographers prefer to shoot later on down the line when the baby is more alert and engaged.
But I recommend the opposite. Instead of waiting, go ahead and schedule the photoshoot in the first 10 days.
Yes, the newborn will be less active, but that can be a good thing. Since babies sleep most of the day at first, they’re easier to capture on camera, with parents, and in larger group portraits. And they’ll also be able to better handle noises and movement.
Of course, in lifestyle newborn photography, the newborns don’t need to sleep the entire time – remember what I said about capturing everything? – but very young babies tend to be calmer, so the session will go more smoothly.
Young babies are also less likely to have skin issues like newborn acne, which will save you time when post-processing after the session.
4. Bring the right equipment
When it comes to newborn photography, the equipment is not as important as the person behind the camera.
Lifestyle photoshoots tend to take place indoors, so you need to have equipment that performs well in low-light conditions and tight spaces.
I’d also recommend carrying a wide-angle lens (to handle smaller indoor spaces) with a wide maximum aperture (for improved low-light shooting). In general, the wider the maximum aperture, the better, but f/2.8 is a solid starting point, f/1.8 is great, and f/1.4 is outstanding.
You should also bring a macro lens so you can capture detail shots of the newborn (here, I’d recommend grabbing a lens in the 90-105mm focal length range, as it’ll let you take high-magnification shots from a reasonable distance).
And a reflector can be hugely useful, too, especially if you mostly shoot indoors. One of those cheap 5-in-1 options tends to work great, plus they’re super portable. You can keep it in your car, bring it out when it’s time to shoot, then fold it up again without issue.
Don’t be afraid to overpack; when I arrive at a client’s home, it usually looks like I’m staying overnight because I have a roller bag and carrying case!
5. Use natural light
Flash can startle newborns and ruin your shoot, so this newborn photography tip is a big one. (Plus, when you’re photographing new parents with their baby, using flash or other lighting equipment can take away from the spontaneity and natural tone of the shoot.)
So instead of using flash, look for strong sources of natural light. Windows tend to work great, so spend plenty of time shooting in rooms with lots of window space. If you’re struggling to shoot indoors, you can also open a door – or you can head outside where the light is basically guaranteed to be more powerful.
You’ll need to pay careful attention to the quality of the natural light. If the sky is clear and the sun is high overhead, make sure it isn’t shining directly on the newborn; this will create harsh, unflattering shadows that rarely look good. Instead, work in the shade or by a window without direct light. (Also, make sure to bring out that reflector, which can help mitigate shadows!)
On the other hand, if the sky is cloudy, the closer you can get to the light, the better. Make sure you work near a window and let some of that beautiful diffused light fall onto your subjects.
As for early morning and late afternoon shoots:
The sun will cast beautiful golden light through the windows, so be sure to include a mix of direct and indirect light in your shots. You can capture all sorts of interesting effects through a creative mix of light and shadow!
6. Be flexible
When you’re photographing a newborn, a lot can happen. The baby may cry constantly, or you might get spit on, pooped on, vomited on, and more.
Just remember: You can’t always prepare for what happens during a newborn shoot, so stay calm and take everything in stride.
Sometimes, you’ll struggle, and that’s okay. Just do the best you can, and your clients will be appreciative. The first few days of a newborn’s life can be a hazy memory for new parents (who are often sleep-deprived and running on adrenalin). So know that you’re capturing an important time for the family, and that – no matter how well you do – your photos of your client’s lives will be treasured.
Lifestyle newborn photography: final words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to head out and capture some beautiful newborn shots.
Just remember all the tips I’ve shared. Above all, be flexible! The more you can go with the flow, the better things will turn out.
Now over to you:
Which of these lifestyle newborn photoshoot tips do you plan to use first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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