What's the Difference Between a Lifestyle Newborn Session and a Posed Newborn Session?

After receiving a few questions about the difference between a lifestyle newborn session and a posed session, I realized I haven't been very clear! Hopefully this post will shed some light on these types of sessions, and help you choose what is a better fit for you and your family.

Posed Newborn Session

The word "posed" has much more to do with baby than it does with the family. While we do get lifestyle-inspired images of your family, a posed session is focused on timeless images of just your baby. 

Posed sessions are the ones where it's best that baby be between 5 and 14 days old (but truthfully, I've had babies up to 25 days totally rock this kind of session). Since your newborn was up until very recently squished securely inside of mama, they are usually a) very amenable to posing in ways that show off their beautifully tiny features and b) sleepy enough to let me pose them.

From a photographic standpoint, posed sessions tend to be somewhat challenging, as each baby is different and you never truly know what you are going to get. But I guess I like a challenge because I absolutely LOVE these sessions. I look at these posed images as fine art, and feel so inspired with a blank/solid backdrop and your baby as the subject. 

Then there's mom and dad. I know that I wasn't looking or feeling 100% right after the births of my kiddos, and I don't generally display images in my home of me being a hot mess. The images that I have framed are posed shots of my children as teeny babies. And every time I look at those images, my heart is filled with love, rather than as a reminder of how sore, crampy, bloated and emotional I was. But everyone's birth story is different, you might have come out of labor a mother f-ing goddess. And if so, let's capture that!

This is where things probably get a bit confusing. In the packages that I offer, most people go for lifestyle family shots and posed newborn shots (Classic Package). In most cases, we do family shots on the master bed, or elsewhere in the house. While I do pose you initially, what I'm looking for is more about your family's love and connection. If there are older siblings, we do a few shots of just them with the baby. If you'd like images of just mom/just dad/just mom and dad with the baby, we do that as well. 

Logistics
With a posed session, I will essentially be moving into your house. I have a giant beanbag made especially for newborn photography that will confuse your husband and generally prompts questions on how I built it. I will set this bad boy up with a number of blankets to help achieve that solid colored, gradual fade backdrop. Then depending on baby, I will try a bunch of different poses, all of which are safe and meant to hide any private bits. 

  • Things I bring to a posed newborn session:
    • Posing bean bag
    • Different colored posing blankets for the beanbag
    • Posing pillows to help position baby
    • Flokati rug (great for sibling shots)
    • Crates/buckets/baskets for baby 
    • Wraps/hats/bonnets/headbands/newborn outfits all handmade by newborn photography prop vendors
    • Floor drops 
    • Space heater
    • Seamless backdrop paper and stand (if going with the premiere package)
    • Studio light with umbrella and diffuser
       
  • Things I need from you in your home
    • Heat turned up
    • An area of at least 6 ft by 6 ft in a dark-ish room to set up the bean bag
    • If we're doing seamless background for parent/family shots (premiere package) I'll need an area of about 8 ft by 8 ft with a hard floor

Lifestyle Newborn Session

Even in a lifestyle session I will do some hands on posing, but I view this as a more photo journalistic and natural approach to your newborn.

With a lifestyle session, I will bring waaaay less stuff to your house, and will instead be using your environment as a backdrop. This includes baby's nursery, common areas in the home, and possibly the master bedroom or a siblings room as well. We won't miss the details like your newborn's tiny little fingers and toes, but they will be framed differently than they would in a posed session. Baby might be in his/her crib, on a family heirloom quilt, or laying next to big brother while he reads a story. My posing of baby will be very minimal with this type of session.

With a lifestyle session, it's less important that baby be within that 5-14 day time frame. I've shot lifestyle sessions for babies as old as 3 months, and these can often be great because you start getting real smiles, rather than the sleepy-and-pooping-smile you get with a very new newborn.

Much like I mentioned above in the posed session explanation, my family shots almost always take on a lifestyle feel. We do family shots on the master bed, or elsewhere in the house if you'd prefer. While I do pose you initially,  I'm looking for your family's love and connection. If there are older siblings, we do a few shots of just them with the baby. If you'd like images of just mom/just dad/just mom and dad with the baby, we do that as well. 

Logistics

  • Things I would bring to a lifestyle session:
    • A few neutral wraps/swaddles for baby
    • Studio light with umbrella and diffuser
  • Things I need from you in your home:
    • A few clean/tidy areas (this is why I personally wouldn't be the best candidate for this type of shoot) but if you are, you are amazing
    • If you'd like some parent images with a seamless backdrop-look, I'll need about 6 feet of an undercoated wall as a backdrop
    • Regarding the below gallery, there are more images to come, I need to pull them off of the cloud, but I wanted to have this blog post up as soon as I could.

Family Images

To sum it all up, these are my current packages, and the family images you can expect:

  • Lifestyle - Family lifestyle images included, similar to below
  • Petite - JUST your newborn, no family images included
  • Heirloom- Family lifestyle images included, similar to below, either lifestyle or for a simpler look, against a seamless backdrop or painted wall in your home

Choosing a Color Palette for your Fall Family Photos | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I've noticed that styling outfits for a family photo session is probably the biggest stressor for clients. And I'll fully admit, since having children, I feel like I've lost touch with what "the kids are wearing" and what's in. So while I'm no fashion guru, I do have an understanding of color theory and what photographs well.

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When you're having your fall family photographs taken, think about the colors in the outdoor setting around you. Hopefully we've set your session for peak color, so there should be oranges, reds and golden yellows around you. From there, you can check out the color wheel to the right and see that opposite to golden yellows are navy blues and purples. Your family would definitely pop against yellow leaves in those tones. 

Neutrals also work against almost any backdrop, and always look timeless. Neutrals can be anything from white, ivory, cream, tan, khaki, mocha, camel, brown, grey, black, denim, and sometimes even blush pinks or olive greens. I truly don't think there can be too many neutrals in a palette.

Not sure where to start? Pick 2-3 main colors. There should be elements of these colors in everyone's outfits. From there, pick some neutrals. A lot of times, neutrals will be the blueish tone of denim, a khaki or brown, blacks and grays, or a toned down version of the main colors that you chose. Lastly, pick 1-2 pops of color. These accent colors tend to be bright and vibrant and oftentimes are the most visible element tying the photos together. When choosing a color scheme, consider the season, setting, and where you'll display the images in your home. 

Some classic fall color combinations

Some classic fall color combinations

Here are some general rules for picking clothing for a family photo session:

  1. Start with one piece. To get the ball rolling, start with one outfit that you really love, and build the other outfits around that. Matching is out, coordinating is in.

  2. Layer, layer layer! This adds dimension and depth to your images.

  3. Fit. Purchase clothes that fit now. I know, if I'm buying a fall sweater for my son from Janie and Jack, I want to get as much wear out of that ridiculously priced piece of clothing as possible. But I beg of you, buy your child's current size. Rolled up sleeves and pant legs end up looking sloppy and undone in your final images.

  4. Dress for the weather. Be prepared with a flexible wardrobe in case you have to switch it up at the last minute. If your child is burning up in a sweater, he won't be happy and we won't be able to get images that you will cherish forever.

  5. Footwear. Shoes are such an important part of the wardrobe. Imagine your daughter dressed to the nines for the family shoot, but with her light up paw patrol shoes on. It causes the entire look to lose cohesion. My recommendation for shoes are boots, leather sandals, Converse All-Stars, Toms, Sperrys, and Mary Janes. Also, weather and setting-permitting, barefoot is always an adorable option, especially with babies.

  6. Let Your Child's Personality Shine! Allow your child's personality to shine through in what they’re wearing. If your daughter has a favorite pair of boots, let her wear them (at least in a few pictures). Whatever makes your child their own amazing self, let’s focus on those things.

This family nailed it for their Christmas shoot with plenty of neutrals (cream, tan, browns and olive) with pops of a bright Christmas-y red.

This family nailed it for their Christmas shoot with plenty of neutrals (cream, tan, browns and olive) with pops of a bright Christmas-y red.

Check out this coordination, mom and dad wore olive green and dark navy, and let the kids pop with a beautifully textured velvet dress and the quintessential fall mustard yellow. Nailed it!

Check out this coordination, mom and dad wore olive green and dark navy, and let the kids pop with a beautifully textured velvet dress and the quintessential fall mustard yellow. Nailed it!

Mom did a great job pulling colors from this little one’s dress for everyone else’s outfits.

Mom did a great job pulling colors from this little one’s dress for everyone else’s outfits.

You can’t go wrong with neutrals, this family is picture perfect for their holiday card!

You can’t go wrong with neutrals, this family is picture perfect for their holiday card!

What to Expect for Your Session

It's not every day that you and yours get dressed up, load into the family car and head to a random location in exurban Virginia. I've compiled a list of things to expect when booking an outdoor session with Lennah Press Photo & Paper.

Light + Timing

I'm not alone in the photography world when I say that I love shooting during "golden hour" or the hour after sunrise/hour before sunset. The light at these times of day is soft, the temperature of the light is warm, and colors appear so rich and creamy. It's utterly magical, and I just can't get enough of it. There's a fleeting nature to this time of day, and the images captured within it feel like a enchanted memory to me.

Even shuffling along a dirt path can be magical with the right kind of light

Even shuffling along a dirt path can be magical with the right kind of light

Golden hour isn't actually an hour, it depends on a number of factors including the date, time and location of the photographer in relation to the sun. Some days might only have that magical light for 5 minutes, some days it doesn't make an appearance at all due to cloud cover. 

The timing of golden hour can pose problems when photographing babies, toddlers and young children who might usually be in bed during this time. I stand by the statement that I would rather have a happy child than a beautifully lit angry child. But if the sun-drenched images in my portfolio drew you to my work, I ask that you consider being flexible to scheduling your shoot during golden hour. As a mother of two myself, I understand how important routines are to a child's day. But if you think your child/children can handle it, and you can do things to mitigate meltdowns (such as pushing nap time back, bringing snacks, promising a very special treat following the session), my advice is to go for it.

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Location
I've lived in Loudoun county for 6 years, and I am still taken aback by it's rural beauty. Some of my favorite spots for photographing families are rugged and rustic...i.e. you will probably have to drive a ways to get to the location, that route will most likely include a gravel road, we might have to pause the session to swat a few gnats, and I'll almost always advise to check for ticks afterwards. I prefer locations that aren't teeming with people so that your family can relax and be yourselves, and you are free from fear of your child/children running into danger. 

Posing
I call my brand of photography "life-inspired." I almost always try to get the "grandma shot" early in the session. You know what I'm talking about, the one where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, the kind of image that a grandma would love! Once that's out of the way, we can all really relax and just have fun. You should know that I will be hands on, I will pose you, I will fix an errant hair, I will ask you or your spouse to stand SUPER close to me so that your 9 month old is looking at my lens and smiling, not off to the side. And in some cases I might seat you in a way that might feel really awkward and unnatural. But trust that I am posing you in a flattering way and making sure that everyone looks their best. On that note, please tell me if there are bad knees or other injuries I need to consider! Dads already don't care for family photo sessions, I'd hate for him to come out of it with a stiff hip or tweaked knee!

If you have kiddos, we will play games, and let them be kids! I've found that this is the best way to get real smiles, and capture lasting memories of such a fleeting time. As they say, the days are long but the years are short. Someday you won't be able to scoop your child up in your arms and flip him upside down. Let's preserve memories like that.

In many cases I will ask that you NOT look at me. It sounds like such a cliche photographer thing to say, but oftentimes my favorite images are those where it's like I wasn't even there. I want true interaction, emotional connections, and real feeling. Those are the moments I live to photograph. Life-inspired.

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Props
In the same way that I veer towards rustic settings, I'm drawn to a vintage vibe when it comes to props. In most cases I'll bring a crocheted vintage afghan, vintage quilt and a neutral blanket for sitting poses. Then I will tailor props to the age of your kiddos. For a 10 month old, I might bring a vintage galvanized steel wash basin to plop her in, for a baby that can stand supported, I would bring a crate for him to lean on. You're more than welcome to bring props of your own, but try to keep them timeless. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve if we are really having trouble getting smiles out of little ones.

Clothing
Upon e-signing the contract, I will send you a little "what to wear" guide to help you in choosing your family's outfits. First and foremost, I want to photograph YOUR family, not the family you found on pinterest. So while I offer advice for those who would like it, most importantly, you do you. The reason I send the guide is that I've found that clothing has been one of the biggest concerns for clients, and part of my job is alleviating any stress you might feel about your session.

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Ridiculousness
You should probably know that when I'm trying to get smiles out of kids, I act really ridiculous. Maybe you're laughing at me, maybe you're laughing at how badly you want to be anywhere but sitting on a quilt in Loudoun getting family pictures taken. But I just love personality, especially when it comes through in a photograph. I will include silly pics in your gallery where your husband is photobombing, or your baby is giving her brother the stink eye. If it makes me laugh, I will include it. 

Ready? Let's do this!