I started out my journey into newborn photography by packing the tailgate of my vehicle as though I was departing on a mountaineering expedition.
I jammed beanbag chairs, backdrops, and props into the car until I could barely close the doors and windows.
I felt that I needed all of these tools to stylize the newborns I was hired to photograph. I would trek into my client’s home and throw down my piles of beanbags and equipment, as exhausted as a Sherpa arriving back to base camp.
The idea was to create the perfect little-controlled set-up to photograph newborns inside my client’s home – a mobile studio. I felt pressure to capture the perfect, posed newborn picture and felt that this set-up was my best way to achieve it. Although these set-ups worked, and work well for many photographers, I always felt like I was missing something and was left wanting more from my work.
I was having an identity crisis – I called myself a lifestyle photographer in search of the real story, yet I was lugging around a portable studio. There was a disconnect for me and I needed to make a change.
Eventually, I took a risk and decided to try a solo trek. I traveled without the beanbag, backdrops, props and set-ups. Not only did I free myself of the heavy gear, I also freed myself from the expectations of posed and perfect. By doing this, I was giving myself permission to look for and document real moments – the cornerstone of lifestyle photography.
Quickly, my work began to change.
As I began to look at my newborn portfolio, I noticed five recurring themes that helped put my work into the lifestyle category.
1. Faces and connections
A lot of research suggests that facial recognition is one of the first skills a newborn learns. When newborns come into this world, many faces from grandparents to siblings often surround them. I wanted to capture these interactions, as these are the people that will support and love the baby throughout his or her life.
2. Capture the verbs
Shortly after taking the full plunge into newborn lifestyle photography, I wrote a blog post called “Verbs and Newborns.” This was one of my first posts that directly addressed my approach to lifestyle newborn photography and how I sought to capture the verbs that make up the first few days of a newborn’s life including snuggling, feeding, swaddling, holding, soothing, burping, rocking and adoring.
3. Include the newborn artifacts
There are many artifacts inside a client’s home that have sentimental value and bring the past into the present moment. Some families had Moses baskets that have been in the families for generations. Other families had quilts that were handmade by a loved relative. These artifacts became essential to my sessions and added more meaning and depth to a family’s story.
4. Find new perspectives
Whether shooting through the crib rails or from above, there are many fun and interesting perspectives to capture during a newborn session. I often look for items in a client’s home that either frame a photo or add an interesting perspective such as a mirror or an open door to the nursery.
5. Use the window light
Soft and sweet, window light is the perfect light for newborn photography. While at first I missed the golden hour lighting of my outdoor sessions, I began to embrace and adore window lighting for my indoor sessions. Even in the darkest home, there is usually a window with soft lovely light if you look for it.
These five items help me stay focused at newborn sessions.
Every client has a different home and a different story, so the final gallery of images is different for everybody but what all my newborn galleries have in common is the infinite new love that comes with welcoming a baby.