How to Prepare for a Lifestyle Newborn Photo Session
Many people think of posed, swaddled photos of week-old newborns when they think of
newborn photography. These shoots are usually prop-heavy and in these sessions, your
photographer will mostly take over and put your baby in various poses to achieve the shots you
want. There are some strict guidelines with these shoots as far as how old the baby is and posing
safety, and they are often studio-based because of lighting equipment. These photos are often
expensive due to the extra logistics involved. No doubt, these are beautiful and classic and what
many people want as their keepsake, however, lifestyle newborn photography is an alternative to
this strict posing.
What is a Lifestyle Newborn Session?
A photographer comes to your house and simply lets your story unfold. They will guide you into different poses in different settings around your home to make sure they are successfully capturing authentic and timeless moments with Baby and family.
There is often beauty in the simplest moments with your new baby: toes curled around your finger, a yawn and a stretch, a smile that may or may not be gas related..
Your photographer will spend at least an hour in your home, doing their best to simply be in the moment with you and capture the moments that you will want to look back on years later. This is a low-stress alternative to strict posing and can produce absolutely stunning imagery.
Another perk of booking a lifestyle newborn session? It is less time-sensitive than a traditionally
posed session. You don’t have to rush to get photos of Baby in the first few days. You can wait
weeks, even months until everyone is settled in.
Here are some tips on how to get ready for your lifestyle newborn session:
1. Find Your Photographer (2-3 months before baby is due):
There are most likely a lot of great newborn photographers in your area. Each one will have their own pricing, packages, and editing styles. The best way to find one that speaks to you is to spend
some time researching their websites and Instagrams. I like to start on Instagram and search through a hashtag(#). For example; #milwaukeenewbornphotographer. This is a great way to quickly scroll through a variety of local photographers and stop when one catches your eye. You will most likely be easily directed to their website through their page where you can find more information on pricing, availability, and a portfolio.
Pro Tip: If their pricing isn’t listed on their website, they’re more likely to cost more. Most newborn photo sessions will set you back around $500 depending on the area you live in and what your photographer’s experience level is.
2. Book your Photographer (2 months before baby is due):
Reach out to your photographer, typically via email, and get your spot reserved. With newborn
photography, you won’t choose a date for your session until after your baby is born, but photographers still have limited slots so you’ll want to get your contract signed and most likely pay a deposit to reserve your session. Don’t forget to contact your photographer once you’re home from the hospital so they can schedule an official session date for you!
3. Choose your outfits (one month before):
Since the whole family will be part of your lifestyle session, you’ll want to make sure you’re all wearing complementary colors and patterns. A safe bet is to stick to neutral earth tones like creams, browns, rusts, mint, grey, or light pink. These colors are flattering on all skin tones and won't clash. Baby can wear patterns, but try to keep it simple for the parents. Textures like cozy sweaters and knit blankets can help to set a tranquil scene. Does your nursery have a theme or color palette? Keep this in mind when choosing your outfits, a cohesive aesthetic can make a huge difference in your photos! Check with your photographer to see what items they will bring along: I keep it light with a Moses basket and blankets when traveling to clients’ homes. I prefer to use items they have to make it that much more personal.
Pro Tip: Usually 2-3 outfits are ideal for your baby. Any more than that and they might hit their limit and will be more likely to fuss throughout the rest of the shoot. If you want more looks, you can always swaddle over an outfit or add an accessory like a bow or hat without going through a whole outfit change. You can also include any sentimental items like a stuffed animal, a hand-knitted sweater, or a special book to make your photos personal to you.
4. Declutter Your Space (1-2 days before):
Talk to your photographer about where they usually like to orient during a session. For my sessions, we typically shoot in your bedroom, the nursery, and any other space that has great natural lighting. Don’t worry about cleaning your whole home, just focus on these spaces and move items you don’t want in photos. This includes extra baby gear, water bottles, alarm clocks, toys, etc. Keep the temperature of your home in mind as well. Also, babies tend to be more comfortable in warmer temperatures so you might want to crank up your thermostat a few degrees depending on the season.
5. Set Baby up for Success (day of session):
Coordinate with your photographer when they will arrive so you can feed and change Baby right before your session. Try to change them into their first outfit (protect it with a bib) before you feed them so you don’t have to disturb them when the photographer arrives. Depending on Baby’s state of mind: sleeping, awake, wanting to be held, etc; your photographer will decide where you will be starting your shoot and whether you will be starting with solos of baby or family shots.
Pro Tip: Have a pacifier or two nearby as well as a burp cloth!
6. Please Don’t Stress (Day of session):
Your photographer knows that babies are often on their own schedule. Don’t stress if you need to stop for several breaks to soothe, change, and feed the baby. I make sure to never be rushed at a shoot so clients can relax. A newborn session can vary from 45 minutes to two hours depending on the baby’s mood and it is your photographer's job to stay patient and navigate you through your session so they can capture the magical moments in-between the less glamorous ones. Even if you feel like your baby didn’t cooperate during your session, you most likely will be pleasantly surprised with what your photographer was able to capture.
The best thing you can do is try to enjoy the shoot and embrace the chaos, your ability to be in the moment will translate on camera!
7. Enjoy your Photos (1-3 weeks after your session):
Your photographer will most likely deliver your full gallery within a month of your session. Depending on their business model, you may be choosing a few from a gallery to purchase and print, or receiving a full gallery that does not include prints. Either way, make sure you download your photos somewhere safe and order prints as soon as you can. You invested in these images and you will be happy that you took the time to order an album or order prints!
Kristen Lopez is a Lifestyle Photographer located in Milwaukee, WI. She is currently pregnant with her first child, which makes her job as a maternity/newborn photographer even more rewarding. As a former primate keeper from San Diego Zoo, she is passionate about animal welfare and has three dogs at home that keep her entertained in her free time. When she's not taking cute photos of babies, dogs, and humans, she is probably in her bathtub with a good book or out on a walk with her husband. You can find her on Instagram @kristencariphotography or her website if you'd like to connect!