Do you like an idea of a beautiful, intimate and personal photo session? Here we will talk about lifestyle newborn photography at home. How to prepare, what to consider, how to prep the parents, what to do during the session, and all the other little things that might help you get the best results.
I love creating these special newborn and family portraits. They are much more meaningful, even when they are not perfectly posed and lit. This is made even more special when newborn portraits are taken in the parents’ longterm home, making this an amazing memory to enjoy for years down the line.
Watch this video to see how I photographed one of the newborn lifestyle photo session. A little backstage experience.
And here is the final little clip I gave to the parents. Of course they love it, but even more so many years down the line, when they will have tears in their eyes watching this.
What is a lifestyle newborn photography session?
Lifestyle photography means the portraits are created in a candid reportage style. Most such photo sessions take place in the home. Lifestyle photoshoots aim to create a compelling storytelling body of work. They show the environment, the little details and subjects therein.
How to prepare for a successful newborn lifestyle session
My mantra is prepare for the worst and hope it doesn’t happen. Sometimes you get to the location and wish you had brought a flashgun or reflector, or you realise you have forgotten the lightstand. This is not good, so to avoid this as far as possible I always do my packing the night before to make sure I have everything with me. A bit like preparing for a wedding.
Equipment to take to a lifestyle newborn photoshoot
Here are the photography-related items I tend to take to a newborn lifestyle photoshoot in the home:
With regard to equipment, I like to be prepared for whatever the situation will throw at me. You never know what the house will look like, what the light will be in there. Especially in the UK, on a bad weather day suddenly you can be walking into a pretty dark place. All that available light is sucked out and you have to crank your ISO to 3200 and above.
In this case I could use a bit of flashlight to get better light, less grainy photos. A reflector is also handy if you are photographing a newborn baby and you need to fill in some of the shadows to reduce the contrast. Fast lenses like F1.4 or 2.8 are the best. These will ensure you shoot on lower ISO settings and your background separation is much nicer too. This defuses any clutter in the background.
Video of me talking about items to pack for the lifestyle newborn sessions.
Here are the newborn-related items I tend to bring
Even though this is a lifestyle newborn photo session, I still bring a couple of items with me, just in case. You never know, maybe the baby is really big, or the parents want some bare skin images.
Wraps can be a great way to cover the nappy and act as a blanket. I also use wraps to swaddle newborns to get them calm or sleepy. Especially after the feeds, I would wrap them up. Doing it right usually would make newborns nice and calm. Once I have taken a few images in wraps, I would open layers and start doing more natural poses. I sometimes like to be more creative and having these items to hand can help.
I also bring a couple of blankets with me. Sometimes the family doesn’t want to use their own duvet for baby photos, or the baby cot hasn’t arrived yet. So, I use one of my blankets as a background and get the parents to stretch it. You can also bring a few simple plastic clamps to stretch it out.
I also bring a couple of little newborn outfits. This is in case the parents are stuck or their selections are simply way too big. I don’t often have to use these options, but it is good to have them to hand.
How to prepare parents for a newborn lifestyle session
You don’t just need to prepare yourself for the photo session, but also the clients. There are a few key points to address before the session.
I always double check that the parents are after simple natural looking newborn portraits. This sounds obvious, but sometimes when you arrive for the session, the parents start requesting very posed newborn photos with props etc. You might not be ready for this. Lack of communication can lead to mismatched expectations. Show them what sort of images they will get beforehand. I have a dedicated lifestyle portfolio page for home sessions. If they do request posed newborn photos and you are unsure, you can address this. You can also prepare for this in advance. Some of my lifestyle clients ask for more posed photos. Just be ready for it.
Prepare the clothing.
Ask the parents to prepare the clothing a day or two prior to the photoshoot, with everything ironed and ready to go. Otherwise, you might have a pretty hectic morning with parents running around with the ironing board and making a million decisions.
Heat up the house
I always recommend putting the heating up by a couple of degrees before I arrive. Especially if we are planning to take newborn portraits with no clothes. This is a UK perspective, obviously if you live somewhere much warmer, you don’t need to do this.
Photos of the areas where you will be taking photos.
Sometimes I ask parents to send me photos of the main living areas. Nothing major, just images that are as wide as possible so I have an idea of the space and what I’m doing. I also ask what way the windows face: north or south. This way, you can plan the session knowing how much light will be in the room at the specific time of the day. Here is a nifty site/app to see where the sun will be at the time you arrive.
Parents generally love how prepared I am and thank me for these tips. They feel more involved in the process and hype themselves up for the session. This also allows you to look more professional, no matter what happens on the day.
Clothing preparation for home sessions is probably the most important task to consider prior to the shoot. I always recommend wearing something simple and casual: solid colours, light or dark. Try to stick with the same colour palette. This doesn’t have to be the exact same colour, but similar tonality will be great.
Here I have made a video for my studio sessions, but the same rules apply to the home sessions too.
Newborn lifestyle photography pose ideas
The main difference between studio and in-home lifestyle photography is how photographers capture the story. This very much depends on posing, lighting and space. I have an entire blog post comparing home and studio sessions with the same family.
Lifestyle sessions involve very little posing and direction. I do pose the families for formal portraits, but the rest of the session is directed only, depending on the light in the house and avoiding busy cluttered backgrounds. Find the best light spots and try activities there to create candid family portraits. The best approach is to follow the light and make sure the faces are well lit.