Leah O'Connell

for photographers, newborns

4 Must Have Shots for Lifestyle Newborn Sessions

I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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There’s always the standard must-have shots for lifestyle newborn sessions – the things you want to capture no matter what.

Baby with mom, baby with dad, baby by himself, baby with the pet, baby with each sibling, whole family, close up of features…

Ya know, the basics.

But that’s just the beginning for me.

It doesn’t take much effort to get those photos through the general flow of a well-organized session.

My must-have shot list goes a little deeper.

Must-Have Shots for Lifestyle Newborn Sessions



There’s this subconscious thing that happens around brand-new babies – we approach them with awe. It shows up in everything from grazing a finger across her hair to resting a gentle hand on his belly.

Capturing those soft touches communicates care and attentiveness in a new relationship – and I find it fascinating.

mom holding baby pose for lifestyle newborn session by Charlottesville photographer


It’s pretty easy to get lost in throwing all your attention on a new baby. But somewhere through the course of a session, I try to capture these two people in love – after a huge life change, after the journey of pregnancy, after all the years before and whatever other struggles they went through to get here.

Their eyes for each other, his arm squeezing her tight, her head on his shoulder… whatever way they express affection, I want to bring it out comfortably and naturally. I want them to become re-aware of that love in this stage, and capture it for them to lean on as the years continue.


If you’ve ever watched a newborn, they are completely at odds with their new body on the outside. They flail and wiggle, spread their fingers and toes, and bobble their little heads. And on top of that phenomenon, what’s so beautiful to me is the parent’s natural inclination to keep them safe and steady. That lack of control in a babys’ body combined with the tenderness of a parent or siblings’ stableness, tells a story of dependence, care, and security. I want them to remember that feeling.

Our instinct is to “fix” the oddness, but I advocate for embracing it. That means not moving babies in ways that babies don’t naturally move. 

It means letting the arms hang, the feet kick, faces yawn. There is beauty in every bit.

sibling poses in lifestyle newborn photos with charlottesville photographer

4. Reference to size

Even though babies rarely sleep in their cribs for at least the first few weeks, I always try to photograph them there. If we do another shoot at their 1-year milestone, I photograph them there again. It’s this very clear measure of growth to see that same baby in that same crib from the same angle one year later that will melt a parents’ heart.

I did it with my own daughter and now I do it with every client I can.

overhead crib shot for lifestyle newborn photos at home with charlottesville photographer

And while I do photograph those little details like fingers and toes, it’s always more powerful if I can capture them with reference to size, like the palm of a father’s hand. The tiny head of hair that fits in the crook of a mother’s elbow.

This is what shifts detail shots from more than just cute checklist items into meaningful art. 

detail shots for fresh 48 photos with charlottesville photographer

The bottom line on newborn photo shot lists:

I don’t always nail each of these goals in every session, but they are my compass. They keep me focused on noticing what’s important and tapping into empathy when I’m shooting, which is the key to making images that tell true stories with feeling.

newborn photo ideas at home with sibling by charlottesville photographer

Are you interested in heartwarming newborn photos that go deeper than the basic shot lists?

Check out my newborn portfolio for more insight to my approach with lifestyle newborn photography and reach out here so we can celebrate together.

You may also like:

When to take newborn photos

Relaxed newborn photos at home in Crozet

Fresh 48 session with a new family of 4

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.