Studio lifestyle newborn photography—how my style has changed

Did you know I’ve been photographing babies and their families for over 10 years? Now I would call my newborn photography style something like, “studio lifestyle,” but my style has changed a lot over the years, and began in a very different place than I am now. Here is a little history behind my journey to studio lifestyle newborn photography.

I started photographing newborns back in 2012, after one of my friends asked me to take pictures of her newborn son. I had a friend from middle school who was a newborn photographer, and after seeing her images on Facebook, I thought, I could do that. I went to school for photography, I photographed a bunch of weddings, I loved babies, how hard could it be?

Of course, I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, babies are cute and its pretty hard to take a HORRIBLE photo of a baby, but those early images had a lot of room for improvement. I did a bunch of free sessions while I learned how to pose and photograph babies flatteringly.

studio lifestyle newborn photography - family sitting on a bed

Where I started – “posed studio newborn”

When I started out photographing babies, I had a very specific style, which was super popular at the time. I posed babies naked, using cute little props, putting adorable headbands and knitted hats on them, posing them very specifically with different colored backdrops. I’d start with them wrapped up in stretchy swaddle blankets and slowly unwrap them without waking them up. I’d put them in buckets and baskets and on these pretty fur rugs called flokatis. I made sure their little fingers were straight with their faces resting on their hands and the light fell perfectly down their faces. The photos were adorable.

The babies really needed to be asleep to make these poses work. This meant that often sessions were as long as 3-4 hours if the baby needed to eat or wasn’t completely down with sleeping the entire time. This also meant that parent photos were done at the end of the session, as the last shot before we wrapped. The babies were naked, and since there was a decent chance parents could get peed or pooped on, it was always an interesting part of the session.

studio lifestyle newborn photography - mom laying with baby on a bed, kissing nose

What changed?

My son Oliver was born in February of 2019. I decided to do two newborn photography sessions–a studio session with a photographer who did newborn sessions very similar (better) to me and a lifestyle session with a photographer who came to my house and did the photos in my bedroom and in our nursery. While I loved all of the images, my absolute favorite ones were the images that we were in all together as a family.

As a photographer and just as a mom and primary documentarian of our family, my phone was filled with photos of my son, and my son with my husband during those early days, but very few of me with him. I didn’t feel like myself for a long time after he was born. I cherished the professional photos I had of us where I actually loved the way that I looked.

These were the images that I hung on my wall, used as my phone background, as my social profile picture, etc. These images are hanging behind me in my living room as I write this. Yes, I write and edit on my couch. I know, its bad for my back.

From the moment I came back from maternity leave, I wanted to make sure that I prioritized parent photos in all of my sessions moving forward. I started incorporating a bed set up into my studio sessions. I purchased a pretty chair for a second set up. I bought white lace curtains and plants and wall decor and started focusing half of the session time on parent and family photos. I started to shift away from fully naked posing by keeping babies in a diaper and wraps with different backdrops and props. It was kind of like putting one foot in lifestyle but keeping my other foot in posed. Unfortunately, this only lasted a few months.

studio lifestyle newborn photography - dad holding baby in his arms

And then the pandemic

Maybe I should back up a little bit here. When I first started photographing babies, my “studio” was my living room. I moved my furniture around and clients sat on my couch while I worked in front of them with a huge light, backdrop stand, and baby on a beanbag and fake flooring. After a few years I moved into the spare bedroom, and later into a slightly larger spare bedroom in our next home. Here were are as the pandemic breaks out and not only was I not legally allowed to operate for a few months, but once I was, the idea of bringing clients into my home was not ideal.

For the first few months of 2020 in the Summer, I did all of my newborn sessions outside. This was strange but pretty cool. I’d wrap the baby in a swaddle and we’d just do a bunch of parent and family shots, similar to an outdoor family session. I’d bring along a basket to do some prop shots as well.

Once the weather started cooling down, I still wasn’t comfortable bringing clients back into my home studio, mostly because my husband was working from home full time and my son still wasn’t back at daycare yet. So I started photographing in clients’ homes, doing lifestyle sessions and still bringing a few props with me as well.

I loved the intimacy of photographing families in their homes–getting to see their nurseries, seeing them snuggled up with their babies in their rocking chairs or on their beds. While these sessions are so sweet, I know from experience that it can also be difficult to get your house together when you have a new baby at home, especially if you also have a toddler who is constantly tearing your house apart the minute you clean it. Lighting is usually not ideal, spaces are often small, not everyone has a perfectly designed home or finished nurseries.

studio lifestyle newborn photography - two older brothers holding baby sister while sitting on a bed

Finding my studio – studio lifestyle newborn photography

Over the years I had always dreamed of getting a commercial studio. I looked at many many spaces that just didn’t work for my needs. In the Spring of 2021, I finally found the perfect location to shoot in this style I call studio lifestyle newborn photography. In my new studio, I was able to design multiple sets specifically for family centered posing. I have a cream colored bed, huge windows with white curtains, a big moveable wall with ship lap on one side and tan lime wash paint on the other, and various chairs, benches, and decor that are all neutral and simple so that the focus can be on your family.

During my newborn sessions now, parents hold their babies for 90% of the photos. I take a few photos of the babies alone, but the focus is really on the whole family. I want you love the way you look in them. I want you to hang these images on your wall so you can always be reminded of when your baby was so tiny that they fit in your hands, and how beautiful you and your family are together.

studio lifestyle newborn photography - mom sitting in a chair with her baby smiling in her arms
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Whitney O'Brien is a Boston newborn photographer with a studio in Dedham, MA. She specializes in natural, timeless portraits of motherhood, including maternity, newborn, milestone, and family sessions.


She serves Boston neighborhoods such as Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park, as well as Dedham, Needham, Newton, Brookline, Westwood, Norwood, Walpole and beyond.


To see my latest work and photos of my own kids, follow me on social media!

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