Like many family portrait photographers, we started off capturing newborns with props, blankets, swaddles, and accessories galore. Sophie loved the excuse for late-night shopping sprees on Etsy, and browsing antique stores soon became a weekly family outing. However, as we started getting more and more newborn bookings, we realized that something was missing for us. We’re both go-with-the-flow personalities, and with the endless attention to styling and perfecting tiny details, they’d sadly become our least favorite sessions. We no longer felt that butterflies-in-our-tummies giddiness for newborn sessions, and we wanted to figure out how to get that feeling back!
We spent an afternoon reviewing our galleries and quickly realized that our favorite images were always the portraits of parents cradling their newborns. Duh, why hadn’t we realized this before?! Although they were posed, they still captured the intense love and emotions that totally takes your breath away. We both felt such a tenderness and sweetness in capturing this precious bond, and we decided that we wanted to focus on these moments.
So, we gradually shifted towards a more lifestyle approach, and honestly, we couldn’t be happier. Now we can’t wait for our next newborn session. Although we still take the time and effort to capture a few posed portraits, we spend most of our session capturing the interaction between parents and their brand-new bundle of joy. These are the portraits that have the most meaning to us, and we leave feeling fulfilled. We’ve definitely lost those clients that love the baskets and swaddles but we’ve opened doors to a whole new world of clients who share our appreciation for preserving the “story” of this special time. For anyone else who’s been thinking of dabbling in a lifestyle approach to newborn photography, we thought it might be nice to share some of our personal insight.
First off, there’s no better place to create precious memories than a home filled with the love and excitement of a brand new baby. We’ve also found that the comfort level of our clients tends to be much more relaxed in their own environment, which really shows in the final images. Not to mention, parents have spent so much time and effort perfecting their baby’s nursery and it’s a pity not to feature all of the adorable details. I enjoy finding creative ways to incorporate home décor, nursery accents, and family memorabilia to really personalize the portraits.
We allow the session to unfold naturally which yields images full of raw, genuine emotion. We may help Mom and Dad get comfortable on the sofa, and get them into a position that allows me to shoot from a variety of angles, but once they’re set, we don’t interfere.
As in cinematography, I always start out with a wide establishing shot that sets the tone of the story. Sometimes I shoot through a door, or closet, to create a sense of undisturbed observance (fancy word for a simple concept). Few shots include direct eye contact, and the images flow like a story.
I love to capture the same moment from different angles. With unique crops and perspectives, the possibilities are endless. For example, if baby is lying in the crib, I’ll shoot on eye-level through the bars, top-down through the crib mobile, and even a wide-angle portrait through the chandelier. If Mom is feeding her baby in the nursery, I’ll shoot wide-angle to include the setting, and close-up to capture the emotions.
If parents are having an intimate moment of cuddling their baby on the sofa, I love to have a bouquet of flowers or cute home accent in the foreground to add depth. I also like to shoot over the shoulder to capture the parents’ view of their sweet newborn. This is usually a great time to switch to my macro lens for close-ups of tiny toes, little fingernails, and feathery eyelashes. Yet another favorite technique is shooting a mirrored reflection of an intimate moment. This often works beautifully for portraits in Mom and Dad’s bedroom. It’s almost as if we’re “peeking” into our clients’ lives to capture those natural, candid moments that hold so much meaning.
Years from now, Mom and Dad will look at these photos, and be reminded of the sweetness of their newborn baby, those first cuddles, and their tender emotions. It may just be a short story of one lovely afternoon, but it’s a story that will be treasured for a lifetime.