10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session

when i first started taking on newborn clients, i knew that i wanted to take the lifestyle approach.  i love the way that lifestyle newborn sessions are honest, natural, and incorporate the brand new parents into the photographs.  while i feel like posed newborn photography is beautiful, it is simply not for me and my style.  when i am talking with a soon to be daddy and expecting mommy, i explain to them that their newborn session will be very natural, organic, and candid.  i explain that i will be simply capturing them being…them!  on the day of the session, i show up to the client’s home with me and my camera gear, and only that.  no baskets nor themed outfits to put the babies in…just me and my camera.  having offered these sessions for awhile now, many photographers ask me for tips for photographing a lifestyle newborn session and i am more than happy to take you behind the scenes.

having a baby is a really huge milestone in client’s lives and they are trusting you, as their photographer, to document their sweetest moments as a growing family.  it’s important that you have a plan going into the session and create a stress free session for the new, and tired, mommy and daddy.  i can’t even count how many newborn families i’ve photographed and, throughout my experience, i’ve found 10 tips that really help me have a successful session each and every time.  take a peek at these 10 tips that will help you feel confident and organized during your next lifestyle newborn session!

to learn a little more about what posing guides have really helped to inspire my newborn photography and family sessions, be sure to check out my post about how i learned to pose my clients.  and to see what other photography books i love, check out what is on my bookshelf!

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10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session

10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

1. give the parents a little natural light homework

after my clients officially book a newborn session with me, i give them a little homework.  it’s really easy homework.  i have my clients watch the natural light in their home so we can determine what time of day it is best to photograph their newborn session.  because i am a natural light photographer, i use natural light only and do not use any artificial light like overhead lights nor a flash of any kind.  since i use natural light only, it is really important that we schedule the client’s newborn session at a time when it is the brightest in their home.  to prepare, i instruct clients to shut off all of the lights in their home for a day or two and watch the natural light for me.  i photograph mostly in the master bedroom and in the nursery, so i have clients watch those particular rooms for lighting.  when they note a time of day that it is the brightest, we schedule them for that time!  having great natural light is one of the most important parts of a successful in home newborn session.

sometimes client homes are still rather dark, even during the brightest time of the day.  and sometimes it is just a darker day in general, and the natural light decreases indoors.  because i would rather be safe than sorry, i always bring my tripod with me, just in case i need to use it to help steady my shot in low light situations.  i rarely have to use my tripod, but in the couple times that i have, i’ve been really thankful to have it!

10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

2. get a tour.

the first thing i do when i arrive at the client’s home, after i gush over their newborn, is get a house tour.  having the client show me the master bedroom and nursery area upon arrival really helps me plan out the session right at the beginning.  during the tour, i can check out the natural light and quickly determine what photographs i want to photograph in what areas.  i also keep my eye out for other areas in their home that have great light, such as on the staircase or in their living room, and am mindful of other photography opportunities that the uniqueness of the client’s home allows.10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

3. allow yourself enough time

allowing yourself enough time will keep the session running calm and smoothly, while maintaining that relaxing atmosphere for the new parents.  i tell my clients that my newborn sessions will be around 2 hours, allowing enough time for feedings and changings throughout the session.  one of the things i have found most helpful is that it is easier to allow time for the baby to be fed and changed throughout the session than to try and photograph a fussy baby.  by allowing time for parents to stop and feed or change their child ensures that everyone will stay happy and comfortable.  taking 5 minutes for a little break every once in a while will save you lots of time in the long run!

10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

4. photograph the newborn with mom

she waited an entire nine months to meet her baby, so make sure you photograph the mom with her new little one.  have her cuddle her baby really close, with her face right next to theirs and simply have her gaze lovingly at her little one.  keeping mama and baby posed close creates a very maternal photo.  it is important to keep the new mother’s comfort in mind throughout the session.  before i start the session, i tell my new parents that if i should put them into a pose that is not comfortable for them, they are welcome to move into a position that feels better to them and we will pose them accordingly.  keeping clients comfortable and relaxed will show in their photos and help create natural images.

10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

5. photograph the newborn with dad

while the mother gets to carry and bond with their baby for nine months, it’s after the birth that the new daddy really gets to have his own special moments.  so photograph it!  i love having daddies hold their new baby in their hands, as it creates a special photo that both shows a brand new bond and also shows just how little the newborn is in their father’s hands.  it’s a great way to show perspective!

10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

6. capture the details of the nursery

parents put a lot of care and planning into their baby’s nursery, so make sure you take photos of their newborn amongst those precious four walls.  whether it is on a changing table or in their crib, be sure to capture them in their new room.  i love to get a pullback in the nursery, as a way of capturing all of the nursery details that surround the newborn.  i make sure to have my nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 lens in my camera bag, so i can capture really spacious pullbacks that show the new family in their home.  when parents look back on their collection of newborn photos in the years ahead, they will be happy you took the time to photograph that room that they spent months perfectly planning.10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

7. it’s okay to tell clients what to do!

to be honest, most clients really want you to simply tell them what to do.  put them into flattering positions and don’t be afraid to take control of the session and direct them.  they will thank you for it.  plus, you are the one behind the camera so be sure to take note of whether certain poses are working or if they need to be adjusted.  take the time to make those subtle tweaks, like placing the dad’s hand on her waist or arm and having him hug her close.  i love to get my parents really close throughout the session, with their newborn cuddled between them.  having them touch foreheads and gaze at one another, and then down at their newborn, creates a really intimate photo that shows the closeness of a brand new family.  if your clients are comfortable, have them steal a kiss or two throughout the session, too!  it makes for the sweetest photo.  10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

8. capture all the baby details

after you take some pictures of their sweet face, take the time to capture all of the tiny details that newborns have.  while i have photographed newborns from 9 hours to 5 weeks old, i recommend that my clients book me for when their newborn is around 2 weeks old, as i feel they photograph the best then.  it gives the new parents long enough to get home from the hospital and settled, but still is soon enough to capture the newness of their baby.  after that two week window, it is also common and normal for some newborns to develop baby acne, so it is best to get their photographs scheduled before that could potentially show up.  but if it does, no worries!  edit, edit, edit!

and speaking of editing, brit chandler gave me some of her wonderful Lightroom tools from her “fresh pack” that are very helpful when editing newborn sessions.  i particularly love the macro enhancer and the skin smoother tools that she created, as they really help to create a very complete image that pay special attention to the detail!  go check out her presets for newborns and more, they are beyond amazing!

when photographing the details, be sure to get photos of their tiny fingers and toes, their ears, and even the top of their head.  newborns grow so fast so it is really important to photograph all of the tiny details so you can capture their newness.  i love to lay newborns on the master bedroom bed for this part of the session and i love to put my sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens on my nikon d610 when photographing details, as the low aperture helps me maintain a focus on the toes and hands, while creating a lovely blur around the focal point.  10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

9. be sure to take a family photo

one of the main reasons why i love to photograph lifestyle newborn sessions is that they capture those moments of the parents interacting with their newborn.  parents and even their children can one day look back and see just how little their baby was in their arms, or what they looked like at the time.  i know it sounds obvious, but be sure to get a great family photograph.  i like to capture some candid, natural moments of the parents looking at their baby and then have them look at me for a more traditional first family portrait.

10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

10. keep clicking, even during the breaks!

don’t set your camera down for even a second!  part of being a lifestyle photographer is capturing those candid moments of the family doing what they do.  and newborn families do a lot of feeding, changing, and cuddling.  what they don’t do a lot of is sleep!  make sure you take every opportunity to capture moments between parents and their new baby.  it is during these moments that honestly is captured and your clients will thank you for it.  10 Tips For Photographing A Lifestyle Newborn Session | bethadilly photography

11. bring a stool

okay, i know i was only going to give you 10 tips, but i just have one more!  along with your camera gear, bringing a step stool can be very helpful during sessions.  a step stool helps to give you a little more height when you want to photograph the newborn from above, such as when they are laying in their crib.  even getting one foot higher off the ground can make a world of difference in your photo!

what lenses i bring to my lifestyle newborn sessions

for my newborn sessions, i put my sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens on my nikon d610 and my nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 lens on my nikon d600.  i love the low aperture of my sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens that allows me to get a sharp focus paired with a smooth surrounding, while my nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 lens allows me to achieve those wide angles that i love for a great pullback photo.  and again, i always carry my tripod with me too, just in case i need a steady backup!  to read more about what gear i pack for my photography sessions, be sure to check out my post below about what gear is in my photography bag!

to see more of my lifestyle newborn photography, feel free to take a peek at my newborn portfolio!  there are a lot a charming babies in there!  have some newborn tips that have worked for you?  be sure to share them with us in the comment section below!  i love to learn more about what works others for other photographers!  let’s keep up this beautiful bethadilly community of photographers encouraging and supporting other photographers!  happy photographing, peeps!

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  • Annelies Duyn - Love your site and tips.ReplyCancel

  • Norleena Horton - Your content is always so relevant and helpful. You have a beautiful style Beth <3ReplyCancel

  • Samanta Salam - Such a very beautiful photography. I like your work.. http://dinamicostudio.com/ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Love your tips! I always bring a step stool since I am 5’1″ and like to get somewhat “above” shots for clients. They are the most flattering. I probably would have completely forgotten to take detailed photos of the nursery if you hadn’t said something. I get so obsessed with baby and parents that I sometimes forget where I am. Thanks again!ReplyCancel

    • {beth} a-dilly - Yes, I totally agree that taking photos from above is a very flattering angle! Glad I reminded you about the nursery!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - Take your macro lens too. You can really fill the frame with tiny fingers and toes. Go back further to fill the frame with a beautiful portrait of the baby, and it makes it really easy to leave anything distracting out of the frame. Some of the best photos I took of my newborn were with my macro lens.ReplyCancel

  • Patricia Beaubelle DeVoe - Any tips for lifestyle newborn sessions when a young sibling is involved? Those always seem to be the most challenging sessions for me.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - Wonderful post! When you ask your clients to do the natural light homework, do you reference direct sunlight at all? In terms of not wanting direct sunlight coming into the nursery during the session for example? Thanks!!ReplyCancel

    • {beth} a-dilly - Yes, I definitely address harsh light with my clients! I let them know that if they can physically see the sunlight on their walls or floor, that’s a no go! Being really clear about the light you want makes the session turn out that much more beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • 8 Tips for Photographing Newborns With Siblings » bethadilly - […] some tips on how to approach a lifestyle newborn session?  check out my 10 tips for photographing a lifestyle newborn session to get you […]ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - Loved this article! Thanks for sharing! Quick question…what do you say to clients for how to clothe their babies? Do you tell them to start in a diaper or to wear a onesie? Would love your insight on this!ReplyCancel

  • 6 Questions to Ask Before Lifestyle Newborn Sessions » bethadilly - […] need help know what photos to take?  check out my 10 tips for photographing a lifestyle newborn session. […]ReplyCancel

  • Tips For Photographing A Hospital Newborn Session » bethadilly - […] even more tips on how to photograph newborns after they arrive at home, be sure to read my 10 tips for photographing a lifestyle newborn session to help you prepare for your […]ReplyCancel

  • 10 Tips For Photographing Your Own Newborn - bethadilly - […] help deciding what pictures to take of your newborn?  check out my 10 Tips For Photographing a Lifestyle Newborn Session to be […]ReplyCancel

  • christi - Your photos are gorgeous. And this blog post… it’s just what I’ve been looking for! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!!!ReplyCancel

  • Carlos Tamez-Mendez - Great tips and wonderful photos!ReplyCancel

  • Claudia - So over the in studio posed newborn sessions and looking for something different.  Your blog is a breath of fresh air.  I noticed that your clients all have beautiful homes. Have you come across clients homes that you want to run out of? If so, what do you do (other than make the best of it)?ReplyCancel

    • {beth} a-dilly - Ha ha, to be honest I have been pretty lucky and haven’t had a situation that I couldn’t make the best of. In some homes, I definitely focus more around windows for better light or have to get creative with compositions in order to remove distractions from the frame, but never felt like I wanted to run out of the house. ha ha.ReplyCancel

  • Meg B. - The tip on bringing a stool is golden. I should make a stool a standard part of my equipment. Just getting a few extra inches above the client, creates so many new angles. Thanks for the tip.ReplyCancel

  • Dinah Sutton - When you are doing shots over the baby like in a basket on the floor what lens do you use ReplyCancel