Over the years as a newborn photographer, I’ve entered a lot of homes and held a lot of babies.
It’s my job to notice things and capture them because let’s face it, new parents are running on fumes and learning a whole new set of emotions.
Before I had a baby myself, my observations we pretty surface — aka the basic admiration of cuteness. But after doing the whole newborn thing firsthand – whew, there’s a whole new kind of empathy.
I see things from a perspective of “oh, that’s special” or “they’re going to want to remember that.” Things they might not really notice or that just seem randomly part of life – but I know that when they look back even three years later, these little details will become vehicles for stories of this child’s’ earliest days.
This is one of my favorite photos from the first month of Kira’s life – simply because it brings me back to how scared we were to bathe her because she was so tiny. Holding her with that baby bath smell felt like the most precious thing I’d ever touched.
In every lifestyle newborn session, there’s a standard shot list – the things you want to be sure you capture: Baby with mom, baby with dad, baby by himself, baby with the pet, baby with each sibling, whole family, close up of features, in the nursery.
Ya know, the basics.
But that’s just the beginning for me.
It doesn’t take much effort to get those photos through the general flow of a well-organized session. But my must-have shot list goes a little deeper – it’s the heart-melter things, the feelings. If I can capture these things, I know the session is something that will truly serve the family well.
Must-Have Shots for My Lifestyle Newborn Sessions
1 – Touch
There’s this subconscious thing that happens around brand new babies – we approach them with awe. And that shows up in everything from grazing a finger across her hair to resting a gentle hand on his belly. Capturing those soft touches communicates care and attentiveness in a new relationship – and I find it fascinating.
2 – Affection between the parents
It’s pretty easy to get lost in throwing all your attention on a new baby. But somewhere through the course of a session, I try to capture these two people in love – after a huge life change, after the journey of pregnancy, after all the years before and whatever other struggles they went through to get here.
Their eyes for each other, his arm squeezing her tight, her head on his shoulder… whatever way they express affection, I want to bring it out comfortably and naturally. I want them to become re-aware of that love in this stage, and capture it for them to lean on as the years continue.
3 – How babies move
If you’ve ever watched a newborn, they are completely at odds with their new body on the outside. They flail and wiggle, spread their fingers and toes, and bobble their little heads. And on top of that phenomenon, what’s so beautiful to me is the parents’ natural inclination to keep them safe and steady. That lack of control in a babys’ body combined with the tenderness of a parent or siblings’ stableness, tells a story of dependence, care, and security. I want them to remember that feeling.
And yes, photographs are still, so motion might seem counterintuitive. But mostly is the tenderness in connection without trying to “fix” the oddness. That means not moving babies in ways that babies don’t move naturally. It means letting the arms hang, the feet kick, faces squirm – and capturing the beauty in it.
But, I’m also going to photograph the breast pump on the coffee table and the parenting books by your bed. Sometimes, we just embrace it all! Documenting life means not being afraid of what it looks like to others, but understanding what it will feel like when you’re 10 years down the road —in a new home, or when you have kids’ bikes and backpacks in the front yard non-stop, or you’ve gotten rid of that sofa that your oldest thought it would be fun to color on.
I capture that stuff because I don’t care if you think it’s not pretty now, I care that it tells your story.
5 – Reference to size
Even though baby’s rarely sleep in their cribs at least for the first few weeks, I always try to photograph them there. If we meet again at their 1 year milestone, I photograph them there again. It’s this very clear measure of growth to see that same baby in that same crib from the same angle one year later that will melt a parents’ heart.
I did it with my own daughter and now I do it with every client I can.
And while I do photograph those little details like fingers and toes, it’s always more powerful if I can capture them in the palm of a fathers’ hand. The tiny head of hair that fits in the crook of a mothers’ elbow. These are what make detail more than just cute, but meaningful.
I don’t always nail each of these goals in every session, but they are my compass. They keep me focussed on noticing what’s important and tapping into empathy when I’m shooting, which is the key to making images that tell true stories with feeling.