Tips + Techniques

5 Tips to Shooting Unposed Lifestyle Newborn Photography

June 24, 2021

By Elena S Blair

UPDATED 1/17/2023

Seven years ago, I gave birth to my third precious baby. At the time, I wasn’t shooting lifestyle newborn photography; I was still posing newborns and marketing to parents who were seeking more traditional newborn portraits. I was rarely satisfied with this newborn work, however, and I usually left those sessions feeling exhausted, sweaty and defeated. But I didn’t know why.

[Read: Virtual Newborn Photography—How One Duo’s Approach is Thriving]

The newborn side of my business was thriving, but it was not satisfying me as an artist and it was not in line with my connected lifestyle family work. When my baby was a few days old, she was sound asleep—the perfect opportunity for posing her in my best newborn poses. I got out my bean bag and blankets, stripped her down and posed her…and I hated it. I stood back and looked at her all posed on the bean bag and literally didn’t snap one photo. It felt so wrong to see my perfect baby posed and out of my arms. I scooped her up in my arms and had a little cry—tears of relief and joy.

This was a huge “a-ha” moment for me. I realized that the reason I felt my newborn work was lacking was because it was. It was lacking passion from me.

[Read: The Next Natural Step—Branching Out From Wedding to Newborn Photography]

My favorite part of every newborn session was when I was capturing the connection and emotion that is present when a new baby enters a family. I dreaded the time I spent in front of a heater posing the baby on the bean bag. I have so much respect for the genius traditional newborn photographers out there, but in this moment, I realized that I wasn’t one of them and that lifestyle newborn photography was what spoke to me as an artist.

Right then and there, I rebranded and redirected my business to be only lifestyle newborn photography. I gave away my bean bag and most of my blankets and never looked back. Naturally, I was worried I would have trouble getting business, but the opposite happened; my newborn business exploded.

It just goes to show you that having passion and putting your whole heart into something will make it thrive.

[Read: Pricing Portrait Photography to Suit Your Clients and Your Growing Business]

I want to share with you five tips to transition from traditional newborn photography to lifestyle newborn photography.

1. Deliver What Your Clients Booked You For

Complete any newborn sessions on the books in a traditional way while letting them know of the upcoming switch. When I made this transition, I honored my old style for the handful of sessions I already had booked. I explained to those clients that they would be among my last traditional sessions. I think it is important as a business owner to deliver what is expected and promised.

2. Refresh Your Online Portfolio

Do this as soon as possible. Your online presence is your first line of communication with future clients. You have to display photos of what you want to attract. This can be painful because it can be hard to take down photos you are proud of—and posed newborn portraits are beautiful—but you have to. Chances are, even if you were posing newborns, you were also capturing moments and connection during those sessions. Scour your archives and gather images that speak to you as an artist, and I assure you clients who appreciate connected lifestyle newborn photography will come your way.

3. Seek Opportunities to Build Upon Your Lifestyle Newborn Photography

Even though I had a lot of great lifestyle shots in my archives, I wanted some fresh images with my newfound passion. I put out a model call and photographed a handful of newborns and their families for free so that I could really let my creative juices flow and get my groove in lifestyle newborn photography. These sessions yielded images that are still among some of my favorite images I have ever made because I felt so free as I was creating them.

4. Tell Your Clients About Your New Style

I am so very appreciative of my loyal families, and my biggest worry was letting them down, as they had come to expect posed newborn images from me. I sent out a newsletter to all my families letting them know that I was changing my approach to newborn photography. I let them know that I would still be honored to capture their future newborns, but that my approach was going to be different. Guess what? I have had dozens of old clients come to me with their subsequent babies even though my style changed. They appreciate lifestyle newborn photography, too!

5. Let Moments Trump Perfection

If you have been posing newborns and making traditional newborn portraits, your brain is trained for perfection. The truth is, having a newborn is far from perfection. Allow yourself to break the rules in order to capture what you are feeling. Let go of smooth blankets, perfect light and sleeping babies; instead, embrace natural baby movements, moody light and lots of newborn snuggles. You might find yourself chopping heads, staring into the eyes of a wide-eyed newborn, capturing a daddy soothing a fussy baby, or zeroing in on a tiny hand curled around her mommy’s finger. The moments are endless during a newborn session.

The Takeaway: Follow Your Bliss

If you love traditional, posed newborn photography, that is wonderful! But if you are wondering why you aren’t enjoying it and are ready to throw in the towel, rethink your approach. Lifestyle newborn photography might be just what the doctor ordered.

Elena S Blair is an award-winning family and newborn photographer based in Seattle. She is also an educator who co-owns both Blair & Thurston Retreats and Lady Boss Workshops. She has also written about how to cue natural, authentic poses for family portrait sessions.