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Seven pounds and twenty inches. A tuft of dark hair. Tiny fingers and even tinier toes. I am sure you can imagine the sweetness of a newborn baby. Capturing those small details and freezing them in time is the joy of a newborn photographer.
You really cannot beat having a fresh baby as your subject. I know newborn sessions are one of my favorites. However, that didn't come overnight or without a TON of trial and error.
I believe there are two types of newborn photographers:
The lifestyle newborn photographer: who does not pose the baby and rather uses the baby's family and surroundings as the backdrop and uses a lifestyle approach.
I happen to fall in the lifestyle category.
Both types are talented and have studied, practiced, and honed their skills. And images from studio and lifestyle sessions are beautiful and have a specific target market.
(NOTE, this post is in NO WAY intended to spark controversy! I have several friends in the studio newborn camp whose work I admire and I do refer to them when potential clients want a more posed feel for their photos).
When I first got started in photography, I knew I wanted to photograph babies. I was lucky enough to have friends that allowed me to practice on their newborns. With each of those sessions I would fill up my minivan (and when I say fill up, I mean FILL UP) with props, blankets, a Pinterest inspired pvc pipe backdrop holder my husband made, bean bag, etc. If there was an item that could be used for a newborn session, it was probably in my van.
A very long, exhausting four hours later the session would be finished. I was left with images that were cute and *mostly* technically correct (we all start somewhere, right?). But, I felt that the images lacked emotion, and that oomph I wanted to feel from the images was missing.
I actually turned away some newborn clients because I just did not feel comfortable with my skills. Below is an image from 2012 just so you can see where I started:
It wasn't until I photographed a new mom nursing her baby boy in the Fall of 2012, that an image spoke to me (see image below).
I knew at that point, that I wanted to focus on the emotions and connections that are present when a new baby is welcomed home.
If you are considering Newborn Lifestyle Photography yourself, read on....I will share some important tips and tricks I've learned over the years as I embraced my love of newborn lifestyle sessions.
First and foremost, I have learned that it is most important to be upfront about what you offer. There were a few times after I had decided on my approach that I realized I should have been more clear with families in regards to their newborn session. You do not want to show up and a family not know what to expect.
I always photograph newborn sessions at the family's home. As you are planning the session with them, tell them the areas where you like to shoot. Many times I focus on the nursery, master bedroom, and/or family room.
This always gives them the knowledge of where I will be shooting, and also gives them a chance to tidy up, if they want, prior to the session. (Cue daddy or grandma, because I know I did not want to clean my house after getting home from the hospital with a new baby)!
You will need to have a solid grasp on indoor lighting! Make sure you know how to use indoor light to your advantage, utilizing it to achieve the exposure and feel you want for your images without relying on external lighting. I wrote a post describing tips for shooting indoors last year - READ IT.
I often ask families to pay attention to the light in their homes and note what time the most light comes through. I will then try to schedule my session around that particular time.
When working with indoor lighting, remember windows are your best friend!
It is critical to have lenses and camera bodies that make shooting indoors more successful. I typically use my 35mm. And I often have to bump up my ISO to compensate for the lack of light. Shooting with your aperture wide open (lower f-stop number) and/or a slower shutter speed will also allow more light on the sensor.
Using sentimental items is totally okay during a lifestyle session, and does not make it less lifestyle and I love finding ways to incorporate them.
I often encourage families to bring out blankets crocheted by great-grandma, parent's old stuffed animal (or in one image below, a championship water ski), or other items they find special. Using these items will add a personal touch to the photos.
Get the family in the pictures!
I cannot tell you how much I love images that include baby with the new parents, big brothers, sisters, and even grandparents. The emotions surrounding a new baby are powerful and some of the best images will come from these moments.
One of the beauties of taking a lifestyle approach with newborns is having the opportunity to document the family doing something together.
I love being a fly on the wall as mom changes a diaper or dad rocks the baby to sleep. It's these moments that make the statement "A picture is worth 1000 words" come true.
As I mentioned previously, when I started in newborn photography, I turned away a few potential newborn clients because I was not secure in my skills, nor was I 100% satisfied with my artistic outcomes.
Discovering newborn lifestyle photography was a gift to me. As an artist, newborn lifestyle sessions brought me so much joy and satisfaction. And as a mom, I know families will absolutely treasure the moments you capture and document for them.
If you edit in Photoshop and want to create beautiful newborn images for your clients -- you must try the LUXE Newborn Complete Workflow Photoshop Action Collection, you'll be so happy you did!
And if you prefer to edit in Lightroom, Pretty Presets recently released their fabulous Bella Baby Newborn Preset Collection, which includes tons of presets and brushes specifically for newborn editing in Lightroom
Do you have any questions or comments about Newborn Lifestyle Photography? Just leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Allison Wheeler is a lover of lifestyle photography from Norman, Oklahoma. Her eyes were opened to photography by toying with Instagram in 2010. She got a camera soon after and learned to use it by documenting her life with her husband and three young sons. She now happily does the same for others, from births to weddings and almost everything in between. To see Allison's most recent work, visit her Facebook page. She often gets on Pinterest to avoid cleaning her house.