During my nine years of being a professional photographer, at-home newborn sessions have grown to be one of my favorite type of sessions. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t always the case. When I was first starting out they used to scare me. Endless questions kept me up the night before… what type of light will the house have? Will I bring the right props? Will the siblings behave? Will the family be tired? Have I practiced my wrapping and posing technique enough? But most of all…will the baby sleep long enough to get some good poses in? I remember those days like it was yesterday. And, if I’m being completely honest, I still get butterflies the night before a newborn shoot – mostly from excitement, but a little from nerves too. And I like it that way. Because newborn photos are a big deal and they deserve the respect of a little bit of nervousness!
Through the years I have gained a lot of knowledge about what works to make a newborn session fun, relaxing, and produce the most beautiful photos. Below I share insight into my process, why it is different, and what families can do to prepare for the day to make it as easy and memorable as possible.
my shooting process
Nowadays, photographers seem to fall into one of two camps when it comes to newborn photography: lifestyle and un-posed or studio and posed. I like to provide a combination of the two. The first 45 minutes of your shoot consists of relaxed, lifestyle photos with the family. We get family shots, sibling photos, mom with baby and dad with baby. It is great because everyone is ready to go, fresh and interested (particularly toddler aged siblings). And then boom, it’s done! Dad can relax, toddler can go play, and momma can feed baby. Which is the perfect time for me to bring in all my fun props, and set up near a window. By the time I am finished setting up, baby is usually asleep and I can begin the posed series of photos. This whole process usually lasts around 3 hours, but the family is only involved for the first 45 minutes. The rest of the day is usually relaxing for them. Of course sometimes, the day goes a little differently, but 90% of the time this is the flow of the day. I love being able to provide a mixture of both lifestyle photos and posed photos to my clients, all done in the comfort of their home. As an at-home newborn photographer, it is a privilege to be invited into this quiet space. This newness. To feel the raw emotions of families in their familiar surroundings. And it always helps to know what to expect, which is why I’ve written this post!
my shooting style
As a photographer, the most important aspect to me is light. It is the first thing I look for when entering your home. During the lifestyle section, I aim to shoot in the master bedroom, a family room, and the nursery. I throw open all of the shades to allow as much natural light in as possible, giving the photos a light, bright, and airy look. While shooting the posed photos of the newborn I typically set up in front of the biggest window I can find that is not providing direct light. My backdrops are neutral, soft colors and I bring a collection of hats, headbands and other fun things for the parents to choose from. However, I always insist on at least one “clean” shot of the baby, with just the background and no props to make sure you have something simple and timeless.
how to prepare
Family photos will mainly focus on the baby and the relationship you share – tiny details of their bodies, curves of their faces and lots of cuddles with their parents – all of this is best done in the comfort of your home. We get a wide variety of images by using a couple different rooms and switching up posing – baby wrapped up, in a favorite outfit, naked or partially naked if the parents wish, feeding, and a variety of group shots. I even bring a little notebook with printed photos to show you what we are aiming for in some of the more posed family shots. I find it helps speed things up and gives clients confidence having a visual to look at instead of simply depending on my verbal explanation. It also helps me point out important details that elevate the photo, like where exactly to place your hand.
- Worried your house is a mess? Please don’t stress…you just had a BABY! Clutter is expected! We don’t need much space, and we can always move furniture around and place it back at the end of the session. Your home should look lived in, especially with young ones in the house. Photos are usually taken in the master bedroom, in the family room, and the nursery. Taking a few minutes to tidy up these rooms (particularity bed side tables, coffee tables, and the floor of the nursery) help keep the focus on taking photos instead of picking up.
- I do ask, prior to my arrival, that all blinds and curtains are opened and overhead lights turned off to help me locate the best lighting.
- I also recommend keeping your home a bit warmer than normal during our session, especially if you are interested in a few bare skin shots of your newborn. Turn off the AC or crank the heat to about 75-80° a half hour before to ensure baby is warm and snuggly throughout our time together.
- Let’s not have an audience! Sometimes grandparents are staying with the family to help out with the newborn baby – yay! It is great if they are there, often they end up being a wonderful help. But, try to avoid scheduling friends and other family members coming over that day. The less people are in the home, the quicker and more relaxing it is to accomplish what we need to!
- Continue to feed your baby how you normally do, but we may need to be flexible during the session! A fed baby is a happy and sleepy baby, so they may need to eat more often during the session than they normally do. We can take as many breaks as needed for feedings – these can make for some beautiful mom & baby shots.
- Make the bed. Some of my all-time favorite shots are of the entire family snuggled up on the parent’s bed. A non-busy soft, neutral comforter works best, throw pillows or a blanket are a great way to add in color and personality! Simple crib shots of the baby are wonderfully soft and provide a great blank canvas to show off all their little details, and show off the nursery!
- Plan outfits ahead of time! If you are planning for your newborn to wear multiple outfits, please have them washed and ready! If you know you want some bare skin shots and baby is sleepy upon my arrival, dress him/her in just a diaper or onesie under a swaddle or blanket so we don’t have to upset them by changing them more than once.
what to wear
For newborn sessions I like to recommend that families stick to dark, neutral colors such as black or navy. The contrast on the newborns’ creamy skin helps to bring the focus on your new baby. However, many people love the light and airy look, and in that case you may want to go for softer colors such as grey, white, or even a light pink or blue. In my outdoor family sessions I always say coordinate, but don’t match. With newborns I say the opposite – go ahead and match! By wearing a similar color (for example, jeans and the same color shirt or dad in jeans and a shirt and mom in a similar color dress)the focus is drawn to the baby, and not competing with the newborn.
For Mom – soft comfortable clothing! A knit top, cotton gown or simple tank will keep you comfortable and provide a lovely background for mom and baby shots, especially for the more intimate close-ups. Soft clothing and bare feet look great in the home setting.
For Dad – comfort is key! Wear what you would normally wear around the house on a grocery shopping day – comfortable, casual and low-key. This can be as simple as moccasins, jeans and a plain colored tee or button-up that nicely compliments your partner’s outfit. Try to steer clear of large logos, bright colors and bold patterns. Plain and simple is best!
For Brother/Sister – comfortable is absolutely key! A cotton shirt and shorts or a little cotton dress in a color that matches what mom and dad are wearing.
the best time to take newborn photos
I recommend getting in touch about your session a few months prior to your baby’s birth to tell me your due date so we can pencil in a spot on the calendar and talk through your session details. When the baby arrives, you can send me a text after delivery when things have calmed, and we will arrange the exact time/date for your session.
The first two weeks is the best time to take newborn photos. During this time he/she will be at their very teeny-est and they are eager to stay small and curled up, which is great for cuddle shots and the posed photos. It is also best for fitting them into the cute newborn headbands and hats. It is also easier to keep them in a deep sleep which helps achieve the poses that accentuate their baby curls and rolls.
I excel at shooting in natural light, it flatters skin tones so nicely. For this reason, sessions are normally done in mid-morning or late-afternoon when window lighting is as its best glow.
I hope this helps you prep and plan for your at-home session! Any tips/comments may be left below – hope to see you soon!
Oh and don’t forget to follow along the blog circle. There’s a group of six of us this month, and next up is my friend Hali Tomczak . Click the link to check out her blog post and stunning work: Upstate New York Newborn Photographer