• Ashley Norton Photography

In-Home Newborn Lifestyle Session Prep Guide

Updated: Feb 11

Newborn lifestyle sessions are my favorite type of session. It is truly an honor to be invited into someone's home to capture this new, raw, and beautiful season of their life. I am both honored and humbled, and take the responsibility very seriously.

This blog post is the result of multiple hours of research, professional photography education, and personal experience working with families. I hope it helps you feel a bit more prepared for your upcoming session.

Lifestyle session by Clovis newborn photographer Ashley Norton.

What is a newborn lifestyle session?

A newborn lifestyle session is an opportunity to capture this specific chapter in your lives--the first newborn snuggles, their tiny baby toes, and the love passing through each person as they gaze on this new family member in their house.

They are typically done in the comfort of your own home, which puts everyone more as ease as it's their safe space. These sessions are designed to be simple, relaxed, and a fun celebration of new life.

While I'll do the fan-favorite photos of everyone smiling at the camera and baby by themselves, this type of session focuses more on your family interacting with the new baby: the first cuddles, finding tickle spots, and the details like the little fingers and toes. Expect me to capture lots of laughs and candid moments with your family.

What about those photos of babies in little teapots, or dressed like a flower?

Those portraits are referred to as a newborn portraiture session. They are often done in a studio with a variety of props, solid backgrounds, and flash.

While I don't specialize in this type of portraiture, I do know several photographers who do that I could recommend to you.

How soon after my baby is born should we do our lifestyle session?

The best part of lifestyle sessions is that you can really do them anytime. While 7-14 days after the baby is born is ideal, if you're feeling overwhelmed or going through a difficult recovery and need more time, we can still do our lifestyle session a month or two later.

What time should my newborn lifestyle session be?

Morning hours offer some of the best lighting indoors, so I typically schedule indoor sessions during the hours of 9am - 12pm. Another point to consider is your family's own routine. We can work together to find a different time slot with beautiful lighting if the morning interrupts your regularly scheduled nap or eating time.

You want your session to feel calm and comfortable. While I can make it work with stressed-out kids (& partners), I want you to have a good time during your session. Let's work together to find your family's best time.

Where will we take the photos?

Ideally, we'll spend most of our time in the 1-2 brightest, best lit rooms in the house. Natural light coming in through the windows is the most ideal, which often comes up in the living room, master bedroom, or nursery. If you're not sure which room is the best, you can send me a few images of the rooms at different times of the day and we can make a decision from there.

There has also been a growing trend towards outdoor newborn lifestyle sessions, often in the fall and spring. We can make room to visit your porch, backyard, or even a local park to get a more diverse final album.

How should we prepare our home?

You don't need to deep-clean your entire home before your session--it's your home so it should look like someone lives there.

I recommend focusing your efforts on decluttering. Tidy up and put loose items, like burp rags, breast bump, and spare pacifiers away. You can take it all back out as soon as the session ends, I promise. If you're still de-clutter when I arrive, I'll help you out.

Additionally, please open up all the blinds and curtains. Natural light streaming in through the windows is the best source of light for my camera. Lamps and overhead lights often cast these weird orange shadows that just look out-of-place.

Lastly, turn up that thermostat just a few degrees. Baby will be much happier in a warmer environment--especially if they'll be taking any diaper-only or naked photos.

What should we wear?

I recommend light colors, like white, pastels, tan, etc. as the light bounces off everyone more effectively, giving you better photos. Logos or bold patterns can be a bit of a distraction, and take the focus away from your beautiful family.

Don't worry too much about shoes, as the session will be in your home, where shoes often aren't worn. Bare feet can look beautiful in the final album.

A maxi dress or cotton gown will go a long way for moms, as they tend to be both soft and comfortable. Not your style? Find something in your closet that's both comfortable and flowy--you won't be disappointed.

A solid-color outfit for baby (think a white onesie or muslin swaddle), can be perfect for their close-up shots as well. Just a diaper can also result in stunning, simplistic photos and allow me to hone in on baby's details. If you'd like to include a second outfit that you absolutely love, we'll make time for it as well.

Please have back-up outfits close by as well. Blowouts and spit up can delay the session quite a bit if we aren't ready.

What about the nursery?

The de-clutter advise extends into this room as well. Parents can spend a good amount of time putting together their nursery, so I'm sure to get some photos of the details within the room.

Additionally, I recommend prepping the crib for individual portraits of baby. A white or neutral color crib sheet will reflect the best light on to baby's skin.

How can I help my baby prep?

Feeding baby right before the session starts is ideal, as the "milk drunk" stage keeps the baby happy and sleepy. If you'd like some photos of your nursing, then we can make time towards the middle of the session right before an outfit change.

If you notice that baby's skin appears dry, you could apply baby lotion a day or two before our session.

Try to loosen baby's diapers and remove any tight clothing about 30 minutes before our session begins to avoid any marks on baby's skin. In the meantime, swaddling baby in a warm blanket can be a beautiful moment to capture when I arrive.

My baby cries. A lot.

If baby or their siblings start crying or fighting during our time together, try not to worry. They can sense your anxiety, and feed into it.

I will not rush through your session. We'll take breaks, and I'll shoot through the tears--which can result in sweet moments of mom consoling her kids, or make-up hugs.

This should ultimately be a fun and memorable experience for you. Your baby won't ever be this small again, and a desire to capture these moments is probably why you clicked on this blog post in the first place.

What does the session actually look like in real time?

The session will last 60 minutes. If you aren't ready, don't stress too much. It's a lifestyle session, meaning that I'm documenting the relationships in your family. The last minute outfit fixes, just finishing up lunch, or even mom putting on her makeup with her daughter gazing up at her can be a wonderful opportunity to capture the beautiful and hectic moments of newborn life.

I try not to go into newborn lifestyle sessions with a set itinerary. Yes, I have poses and groupings I know I'll get to, but we can make our way there.

Feeding baby when I get there? Great! We can start with other siblings, or images of you feeding baby if you'd like those.

Older siblings in a terrible mood? Completely fine. I'll start with close-ups of baby, or their parents interacting with baby. The older siblings typically don't take too long to want to join in on the fun.

I'm going to walk you through a recent newborn session so you can hear what's going on in my mind from first arrival.

Lifestyle session by Fresno newborn photographer Ashley Norton.

These parents welcomed their second son a few weeks ago. They decided to have their newborn lifestyle session at 10 days old--a perfect time. As you can see in the next few images, he's awake for some moments, but sweetly asleep the next.

His older brother started a bit shy, but was also curious. A new person in the house with a big camera? Fascinating. I took the opportunity to start with some group shots since no tears had been shed yet.

His curiosity quickly gave way to squirming around a bit, so I suggested a favorite toy or book to keep him a bit more occupied while getting some images displaying the new relationships in the family.

Lifestyle session by Clovis newborn and family photographer Ashley Norton.
Lifestyle session by Fresno newborn and family photographer Ashley Norton.
An in-home newborn lifestyle session guide.
A newborn lifestyle session guide.
A guide to newborn lifestyle sessions.

I love working in the master bedroom for newborn sessions for a few reasons.

  1. Huge bed! You can see how much he was able to crawl and move around, which allowed me to get creative with my images.

  2. It's fun! Kids don't always get to play on that big bed every day, especially with their newest family member. You're guaranteed to get some giggles captured.

  3. The lighting! These images are so bright because of that bright bedding, but also the clear walls and open windows. You can see the de-cluttering magic at work here.

Eventually, the fun did wear off a bit. Grandma stepped in so that baby could have the bed to himself for a bit.

A guide on how to prep for a newborn lifestyle session.
A guide on how to prep for a newborn lifestyle session.
A guide on how to prepare for a newborn lifestyle session.
A guide on how to prepare for a newborn session.

His parents soon joined back in on the fun. Well, they were always there. Due to concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, I'm care to mask-up the entire time, and keep my distance. Any movements of baby are done by his parents.

A guide on how to prepare for a newborn photo session.
A guide on how to prepare for a newborn photography session.
A guide on how to prepare for your newborn session.

This image was one of my favorites from our session.

There had originally been some miscellaneous baby items along the wall, but once I saw this moment, I had it cleared to all the focus could be on mom + baby.

A session by Fresno newborn lifestyle photographer Ashley Norton.

I'm also careful to capture these in-between moments. I'm sure this image is one that grandma will treasure for years to come.

A session by Clovis newborn lifestyle photographer Ashley Norton.

Another one of my favorite in-between moments.

A session by Central Valley newborn lifestyle photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by Fresno newborn and family lifestyle photographer Ashley Norton.

I like to capture these tiny details as well. I mean, when will those toes be this small and adorable again?

A session by Fresno baby lifestyle photographer Ashley Norton.

His brother, fresh out of a play session with grandma, saw the fun and decided to join us again.

Baby was able to get his outfit changed and I captured this adorable moment while they waited.

A session by Clovis baby lifestyle photographer Ashley Norton.

You can see in the above images that baby's original swaddle was a brighter, more neutral tone, making it easier to focus on his adorable features.

His parents decided to change baby into one of their favorite outfits for him, preserving more memories.

A session by Fresno newborn portrait photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by Clovis newborn portrait photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by Central Valley newborn portrait photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by California newborn portrait photographer Ashley Norton.

Grandma got a few more moments with baby as well.

A session by Fresno newborn portrait photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by Fresno newborn photographer Ashley Norton.

This one was also one of my favorites from their session.

The two above images were taken only seconds apart, but tell different parts of a generational story.

His older brother quickly wanted back in on the fun again.

A session by Fresno newborn family photographer Ashley Norton.

Wanting some variety, we headed over to the boys' play room.

Rather than deep-cleaning, his parents focused on de-cluttering (most of the toys were moved to a separate room), and only kept a few more memorable toys in the play room.

A session by Clovis newborn family photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by Central Valley newborn family photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by CA newborn photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by CA newborn family photographer Ashley Norton.
A session by Fresno newborn photographer Ashley Norton.

As you could see, it was a very flexible session. I was able to capture a variety of moments, while working with their family's needs.

I'm interested in a newborn lifestyle session! What's my next step?

You can click here to submit a contact form. I'll send you more details, tips, and a Style Guide to help you prepare for your session. I also offer video consultation before our time together so you can get familiar with me, and know exactly what to expect.

I offer discounts for maternity + newborn lifestyle session bundles, so I encourage you to reach out to me around 20 weeks so we can plan accordingly.

I have more questions!

Write them below as a comment, or just message me! I'm always happy to help.