Part of the reason I love in-home newborn sessions so much is because each session presents new opportunities to make unique images. Yes, I go into the session with a general idea of the shots I hope to get – the classics: each parent holding baby, siblings and baby, all together as a family, baby alone, belly button, lips, hair, baby’s head in Dad’s hands, etc. But, in my mind, those are the expected shots. What I like even better are the unexpected shots that parents are surprised you took.
I call them Easter Eggs as they are the shots you often have to hunt for, but when you can get them, they are worth the hunt. This is your chance to shine and show off how good you are at reflecting the family’s life back at them.
Here are 5 of my favourite unexpected lifestyle newborn shots:
- No.01The crib from overhead
Truth be told, this is always one of my favourite shots to take during an in-home newborn session. It shows the scale of how small the baby is and is a really great photo to remind the parents how their little one used to fit in the crib without head or toes touching the bars! If you offer baby plans throughout the first year, it’s also an easy shot to replicate during the milestone sessions.
How to: I bring a sturdy step stool with me to each photo session, climb to the very top and then use my 24 mm lens and flip out screen so I can hold the camera out from my face directly over the crib.
Trouble shooting: If the crib is set up in a dark corner, don’t be afraid to ask if you can move it near a window for this shot. If the baby is restless, it’s easy to hide a cell phone blasting white noise under a blanket wrapped over the edge (like I did for this shot), or even under the baby.
- No.02The nursery
Parents-to-be often spend countless hours preparing the baby’s room, so make sure to grab a few photos of it. I know from first hand experience how important this can be as I have very few photos of my oldest daughter’s first room (I wasn’t into photography yet!, and when she asks me to tell her stories of when she was a baby she always asks about her room. I wish I had tons of pictures to show her, but sadly I only have 2 grainy photos from my phone. If you make slideshows, nursery images are also a great place to start the slideshow to provide context.
How to: Start outside the nursery door showing a peek into the room, then move in for a wide room shot from all corners, and then move in closer to capture small decor details. I often take these shots when Mom is feeding (after I’ve taken the breast/bottle feeding shots), or during the second (or third!) diaper change of the session.
Trouble shooting: If the space is really tight consider using a stool and getting overhead.
- No.03The phone
This might seem like a really weird shot to take, but I’ve had quite a few parents over the years tell me that the image of their phone is one of their favourites. Generally, I try to be a bit ninja like, so the new Mom doesn’t even know I’ve taken a picture of her lock screen.
I have yet to find a phone that doesn’t have a picture of the baby on it, and I love that it shows the time and date on it, as well as one of Mom’s favourite baby photos (usually of a baby that is only hours old!). Also, many new parents track feedings and diaper changes on an app and will have it open and timing during the session. If that’s the case, I always try and get at least one image of the app screen.
Tracking feedings is generally front of mind in those first few weeks and months, but when they look at these images years down the road, they’ll have forgotten all the time they spent meticulously logging things.
How to: If the phone is accessible, quickly hit the home button to turn the screen on, grab the shot and move on.
Trouble shooting: If you are trying to be sneaky but there are a bunch of notifications blocking the home screen, explain to Mom what you’re doing and ask if she’ll clear them. Reflections can also be tricky, so you’ll have to adjust your angle to ensure you don’t have blown highlights or distracting reflections in your shot.
- No.04Getting dressed
Dressing a newborn can often get overlooked as an opportunity for worthwhile photos, as it’s the outfits on either end of the activity that are probably more the point, but sometimes the transitions can result in some really beautiful moments.
Often parents work together to dress the baby before a possible meltdown (if you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about!). When I’m in the middle of a newborn session I rarely let the parents out of my sight (they are aware of this going into the session), so I always have my camera to my face, ready to go for both diaper and clothes changes.
How to: Getting tiny fingers and toes into clothes with buttons and snaps can be a challenging task, so I find it easiest to stay back, out of the parent’s way. Let them do the work and compose your shot accordingly.
I usually default to overhead (again, that step stool comes in handy), or a wide shot eye level with the changing table. If you want to get creative you can try and sneak a shot of the baby through the parents’ elbows
Trouble shooting: The baby will probably cry and the parents might start trying to go faster for your sake. Ease their fears by telling them crying is normal and to take their time.
- No.05Family heirlooms
Before every newborn session I ask the family if there are any special family mementos they’d like to have included in the session. It can be a quilt Great Grandma made, a teddy bear, a bassinet Dad slept in as a baby, a pair of shoes that have been passed down generations, a necklace Mom gave Dad when they found out they were pregnant, the possibilities are endless and will be unique to each family.
I ask the parents to have the object out and ready so we don’t forget about it, and then I make sure to naturally include it at some point during the session. The goal is to make these images meaningful for the parents, but not feel forced or out of style with the rest of the session.
How to: Prepare the parents for this ahead of time otherwise they’ll be scrambling the day of the session. Some families won’t have anything they want to include, and that’s totally fine.
If you’re doing a clean shot of just the baby and the object, try to move close to a window so you can have lots of natural light to use. I usually try to do this shot close to the start of the session so I don’t forget about it later on.
Trouble-shooting: There’s not much that can go wrong here except that the baby wants nothing to do with whatever you’re trying to set up. If that’s the case, let it go and try again later in the session.