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COVID 19 Safety, Family Lifestyle Session, Front Porch, Indiana, Newborn

May 6, 2020

How to have a Newborn Session with Social Distancing


If you are expecting right now, you’ve already had to cancel a lot of plans–baby showers, doulas, siblings coming to the hospital, postpartum visitors–and so much more. One thing you don’t have to forgo is photos with your new baby.

True, your session probably won’t look the way you envisioned it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t capture this season of your family’s journey.

When my friends Cat and Josh brought home their new baby, Brooks, I had just been cleared to work again (shooting outside while following social distancing guidelines). So we decided to try an outdoor newborn session similar to the front porch sessions photographers have been offering around the country.

Before I share my advice for this kind of session, I just wanted to share some of my favorite images to show you how special this session was!


I just love how these images capture the love and relationships in this new family of four. If I’m being honest, these are my favorite kind of newborn photos anyway–images of baby being loved and held by his family.

So lets talk about how to make images like this! Here is my advice for parents and photographers to have a successful newborn session with social distancing.

Be flexible on timing, both for weather and for the baby. Newborn sessions are usually indoors in a climate controlled environment. Newborns have trouble regulating their body temperature, so it’s important to keep them warm. For this session, we had planned to shoot in the morning, but it was rainy and blustery, so I told Cat and Josh to just text me later in the day when it was sunny and baby was fed and sleepy.

This brings me to my second point about timing. Traditional newborn sessions often last about two hours because most newborns need a lot of breaks for feeding, diapering, swaddling, etc. By waiting until we had baby in a good spot, we were able to work quickly outside and make all of these images in just twenty-five minutes.

Think about how you can create connection and capture family dynamics with what you have around you. When we shoot newborns inside, we often get a lot of images of baby swaddled in a crib or on a blanket. For family photos, we use a couch, chair, or bed so that everyone can sit comfortably and baby’s face can be propped up near the parents and siblings. Outside, we don’t have the same props, so we have to be more creative with posing and direction.

For this session, we worked where we had good light (the driveway) and where we had some seating (the front porch). I also used a little slope in the backyard so I could shoot down toward the family and get a bit more of baby’s face in the image. For closeups of the baby with each parent, I asked the parents to hold the baby up near their face and talk, kiss, snuggle, etc. I also had dad hold the baby while squatting down so we could get big brother’s face close to the baby.

Finally, being outside means you can go off book and get some images that aren’t usually part of newborn sessions–like the family holding hands and walking or Dad showing big brother a bird’s nest! I’m all about going with the flow and letting siblings shine too during these sessions.


Bring your longest lens (and a long macro if you have one). For this session, I used my Nikkor 70-200mm 2.8 and my Nikkor 50mm 1.4. My telephoto lens let me get some closeups on the family while keeping my distance, and my 50mm is just my favorite all-around lens for family photos.

If I was doing this again, I also would have brought my 105mm 2.8 macro. Since it has a shorter focal length than the telephoto lens, it would have allowed me to get a tighter crop on baby’s face. Overall, I’m really happy with these images, but I think the macro lens would have given me a few more options for shooting.

If you don’t have a telephoto lens, bring the longest lens you have and crop some of the photos tighter in post processing.

Pose the parents so that baby’s face is pointed towards you. When we work in a nursery, we usually get closeups on baby’s face from above, which means we are standing or leaning directly over baby. This just isn’t possible while social distancing, but we can still get some sweet images of baby if we have parents hold him on his side facing towards us. You can also have parents hold baby slightly higher up their arms and shoot from the side to get another angle.


Hopefully these tips help you think through your newborn session and feel confidant that you can get great photos, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

What if I can’t meet a photographer outside right now? Of course, an outdoor session only works if you have mild weather and a safe place to meet. If you are living in a cold climate or in a big city without safe public spaces (or if your state has more restrictions than Indiana), you might not be able to meet a photographer right now. In that case, my friend, Jenn Van Elk has shared a great tutorial on capturing your newborn with your iPhone. You can do a surprising amount with an iPhone and some professional guidance (and you can always schedule a family session in a few months when it’s warmer, safer etc.)

Sending hugs to all of you who are navigating these difficult days. I hope this post brought you some hope and joy.

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