August 24, 2018
A Guide to At-Home Newborn Sessions –
Over the past year, at-home newborn sessions, or lifestyle sessions, have become one of my favorite types of shoots. The realness, the comfort of the home setting, the tiny fingers and toes – so different from the outdoor sessions I typically do and I love every part of them!
Many of my photo clients are young families – I begin taking their photos from the time mom is pregnant and follow them through the early growing years as a family. Last year, many of my first-time moms were pregnant with their second, third and fourth children, and I visited their homes to document one of their most intimate times as a family.
As an at-home newborn photographer, it is a privilege to be invited into this unfamiliar and quiet space. This newness. To feel the raw and unhidden emotions your family in the place you feel most at ease.
It always helps to know what to expect before these shoots, which is why I’ve written this post!
What is my shooting style?
I prefer to document newborns naturally. This is called “lifestyle” photography. Some newborn photographers pose babies and dress them with props and staged outfits, and while there are many talented photographers with this approach who get beautiful shots, this is just not my style! I like to capture families in a way that depicts real life, a glimpse into their every day. There is such sweetness to newborns, I enjoy capturing them exactly as they are in their unique home environment.
I do, however, like to add ‘props’ from your home that have special meaning into our sessions – hand-knit blankets, family heirlooms, outfits, stuffed animals that hold significance to both you and your baby.
When is 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 an email after delivery when things have calmed, and we will arrange the exact time/date for your session!
Many moms in their initial emails to me ask about the best time to take newborn photos, and while there is not one answer, I can give suggestions! The first month is typically the best time for these photos. The industry standard suggests the first two weeks, but this is mostly for photographers who shoot with props and posing because the smallness of a five-day-old baby is easier to work with in that setting than a four-week-old who has found his/her limbs! Because I shoot lifestyle sessions, this is not the case for me, so we have more flexibility!
The first two weeks-
If you decide to schedule your session during the first two weeks after baby is born, 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. That being said, they also stay in a deep sleep easier than they will in a few weeks, so many times the images we get are with their eyes closed. This is also the period of time where the umbilical cord may not have fallen off yet – something to think about if you want naked/partially-naked baby shots!
The second two weeks-
If you wait until the third or fourth week after birth, babies are a little bit larger and more mobile, their skin tones have evened out, families are more comfortable and relaxed, there is a better chance of catching them with their eyes open, and the umbilical has fallen off.
So it is really up to you and what images you are hoping to capture of your little one!
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.
What should we wear?
I always recommend soft, neutral colors no matter what type of session we are having! A general rule of thumb, have family members compliment each other without matching. Babies are particularly adorable in small, soft patterns, whether on their clothing or on the blankets they are resting on. Multiple outfits for your newborn is a definite plus! For more details on outfit selection, please read my What to Wear blog post, as many of the tips are similar!
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. And it isn’t just about your clothing! Even if you aren’t feeling quite like your normal self yet, take advantage of this time to get your nails done or go in for a massage! Yes, the focus will be on your newborn, but you should enjoy the process too!
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!
Indoors? How should we prepare?
I almost always take newborn photos indoors. These photographs 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, different group shots.
What to expect on your session day?
When I arrive, I love to catch up on what has been going on since we last saw each other. This is also the time when I get to meet baby for the first time! This moment brings so much joy and it really sets the mood for both myself and the family for our time together. I will ask for a tour of your home so that I can see where the light is falling, special rooms or backdrops you’d like to use, the baby’s room. I’ll ask about if there are any important items or family pets that should be included in the shoot.
Then, we begin taking photographs. We will shoot in 2-3 rooms of your home – typically those that are the most snuggly and have the most window light (the nursery, master bedroom and family room are some of the most popular).
I take cues on timeline from the baby – it’s best to be flexible! If he/she is hungry when I arrive, I will start with feeding and changing shots. If he/she’s sleeping soundly, we’ll start with crib and nursery shots or wide-angle, full-room shots of the entire family together. Family shots are lovely on the couch in your family room, cuddled up on the bed in the master bedroom, sitting on the floor or standing near the rocker in the baby’s room. After group shots are finished, we take photos with brothers and sisters. When these are finished, we let all siblings involved have a break and focus on intimate detail shots of the baby, if we haven’t already. These can be in the crib, on the master bed, on a favorite soft blanket. Some families like half-naked shots with just a diaper or onesie on to really capture their teeny-ness, other prefer to keep them swaddled or bundled up in their favorite outfit. We’ll try our best to get eyes closed and eyes open during this stage of the session to give you variety and show off every little tiny detail of your newborn!
Although this is a lifestyle session, I do offer guidance on posing and timeline to help clients feel more comfortable. I do not put a time limit on these sessions, but they typically last from 1 to 2 hours. Sometimes baby sleeps through the entire shoot and we finish up quickly. Sometimes baby needs to eat or needs a new diaper, or there are a few outfits we’d like to change them into throughout our time together, and it takes a bit longer. One of the best parts about these sessions is we get to take our time and be flexible without worry of time limitations!
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!
© Seana Shuchart Photography, LLC 2022 | All Rights Reserved
I like when you said that your approach is depicting newborn, and the family portrait is realistic. You also educated about how this “lifestyle” photography works. I have a newborn son, and we are planning to have a family photo shoot next month. I like the style of natural portrayal without destructing costumes and outdoor backgrounds. I will find a photography service like yours in our area soon. Thanks for validating my idea of realistic photography.