So you’re expecting a new little babe! Congratulations! If you’re like many new parents, you’ll want to have memories of your baby during this fleeting time so you’ll start your search for a newborn photographer. One of the first questions you’ll be asked is: “Do you want a lifestyle session or a posed newborn session?” Do you know the differences between posed vs lifestyle newborn photography?
A newborn is only a newborn for around two weeks. The little one then graduates to infant for the next three months, is considered a baby until around age one, and a toddler up to about age three. While these designations are somewhat subjective, it can’t be denied that the “newborn” stage is the briefest and most fleeting. Parents who seek out newborn photography only have a small window of time in which to capture this precious stage in their child’s history.
With such a limited time frame, it’s best to plan out the details as soon as possible, preferably in the months leading up to the birth. Two of the main options available for documenting newborns are posed and lifestyle photography.
Posed Newborn Photography:
A sweet little babe all sleepy and squishy on a soft blanket backdrop wearing an adorable little knit hat or wrap. She’s peacefully resting with her hands folded under her soft cheek, all those newborn wrinkles and folds on display. A tiny life, only days old, sleeping peacefully all curled up and comfy just as she recently was in utero. This is a posed newborn photography session.
This type of session takes place in a studio within the first 5-14 days of life. The photographer controls lighting, backdrop and props and can be (mostly) prepared for how the session will unfold. Parents are able to relax and entrust the process to the photographer from start to finish, getting a break from the home setting and allowing the photographer to guide the creative process entirely.
Lifestyle Newborn Photography:
Lifestyle newborn photography takes place in the family’s home. It tends to be more candid, capturing the family members as they go about their day. I love to do discreet breastfeeding images, shots of nursery details, and photos of the parents adoring their precious new baby. I shoot from many different perspectives, from really far away to being right up in your business 😂
While there are more variables in this style of photography, these images tend to be more meaningful because the possibility for profound unscripted moments is much higher. Parents and baby will likely be more relaxed in the familiar home setting and open to more tender and intimate poses. It is an honor to capture natural moments that document real memories in the baby’s first few weeks.
There are so many differences between posed and lifestyle photography for newborns. Lifestyle sessions will always feel more natural and intimate than studio sessions, and many parents and photographers favor them for these reasons. Lifestyle sessions allow for tiny details in the nursery to be recorded. Pets and siblings can be involved. Moments are captured that would otherwise be missed.
It’s often a more relaxed session because the family is simply living while the photographer pretends to be a fly on the wall. The studio, on the other hand, allows for optimal lighting, a larger variety of backdrops and props, and highly specific creative poses/outfit ideas to be played out. It all depends on what the parents are looking to accomplish and what kinds of memories they want to hang on their walls.
In posed newborn photography, it’s best to schedule the session within the little one’s first two weeks of life. When we are looking to obtain those sleepy, posed shots, the younger the baby is, the better. During the first 14 days, they are often quite sleepy and therefore able to be positioned and “molded” into adorable poses. They are also very flexible at this age and quite enjoy being curled up and cozy just as they were in utero. Blankets, props, wraps, headbands, hats and mini outfits can certainly be used in either setting, but the studio allows for more focused and targeted photography without distractions.
In a different way, timing is key during an in-studio posed newborn session because it’s important that we wait until the baby is settled into that nice, deep sleep before I start to work with them. This process can be lengthy and patience is everything. I have had many sessions where I quote a time frame of 2-3 hours and I’m still there at the 4 hour mark. I *try* not to let that happen because those first days and weeks can be an exhausting time for parents but I do want to make sure I give everything to the family that I promised. I do provide a lengthy preparation checklist before the session so we can be assured of the best chances of success.
Conversely, with lifestyle photography, the timeframe is less distinct as we are not asking the baby to remain asleep in a specific pose in order for the session to be considered a success. Distraction is invited (or at least expected), and the photographer goes with the flow, staying open to unscripted moments as the parents and child reveal themselves. The lifestyle newborn shoot focuses primarily on the interaction between the new baby and his family and surroundings and is much less centered around obtaining the perfect pose. Therefore having a baby under two weeks of age becomes less important. This is particularly helpful for parents who contact me once their newborn baby is over that magic age for traditional newborn photography. Just because a baby is a little “older” doesn’t mean you have to miss out on those precious newborn moments!
Seeing The Light
It is true that during a studio session, the light is controlled. I know what to expect in my home studio. I know that the light comes in big and beautiful at a certain time of day and that my itty bitty newborn clients will be sleeping peacefully, bathed in the window light during their stay with me. I can also supplement with flash if it’s a cloudy, grumpy day. An in-home lifestyle session obviously cannot offer the same kind of assurance. Clients often come to me concerned that their home will not be bright enough or pretty enough.
Rest assured that most spaces can be manipulated to ensure beautiful images. The best settings have light, neutral wall coverings and furniture but even if your walls are neon green, we can find a spot in front of a window to shoot and you’d never know about the wall color. Obviously this is something we’d discuss beforehand (and I always ask for snapshots of your home and lighting so I can see for myself what we’ll be working with) so there are no surprises for either of us!
The session below is one of my all-time favorite lifestyle sessions. Their home was the perfect canvas for a couple of reasons. First it was bright and beautiful. The windows provided us with soft, natural light which made shooting easy and gave the photos an airy feel. Secondly the rooms were neutral. The white bedding and walls gave us a gorgeous and non-distracting backdrop to work with making the baby and his family the focus of the session. The fact of the matter is, if you have one or two great, bright rooms in your home we can use them to our advantage to provide you with a gorgeous set of very personalized newborn photos that you will enjoy for years to come!
If you’ve read this far, you might be interested in the companion blog I wrote about why you should invest in maternity photos. It contains some not-to-be-missed personal maternity photos that I think will convince any pregnant woman that professional photography is the way to go to document a pregnancy (wink).
Liz Viernes Photography is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.