Newborn and Baby Photography Jargon Buster | A Parent’s Guide

newborn baby photography jargon buster

Hiring a photographer is probably not something you do every day. So when you start researching newborn and baby photography you might come across some strange terms or jargon and wonder what on earth it all means.

If you’re anything like me, I know you’ll want to make an informed decision about who you choose to photograph your baby and will want to choose the best photographer for your family. 

So if you’d like to understand more about all the new terms you’ve seen you’re in the right place. In this article I’ll share some of the common terms you might see on newborn and baby photography websites, and explain exactly what they all mean.

Related Article: How to find a good newborn photographer


Bean Bag Posing

Any photographer who specialises in posed newborn photography needs a safe surface to pose and photograph your baby on.

For many of us this is a firm beanbag, covered with one or more blankets. And this is why you sometimes see photographers use the term ‘beanbag posing’ or ‘beanbag poses’ on their website. This simply refers to them posing and photographing babies on a beanbag.

Here’s a picture that one of my clients took of me photographing her newborn baby on my beanbag:

clare murthy newborn photographer

Composite Images

In photography, a composite image (often referred to as a composite) is any photograph that has been created by merging two or more photographs together in Photoshop to create a single final image.

The most common reasons that newborn and baby photographers may do this are:

  1. Because it wouldn’t be safe to take the final photograph as a single shot (for example a picture of a newborn baby propping their head up on their hands or hanging in a hammock from a tree.)
  2. To change the background of the photograph so that it looks like the photograph was taken in a different location or in special prop.

Learn More: What Are Composites In Newborn Photography, And How Are They Created Safely?


Digital Background

Digital backgrounds are used by some photographers to create their composite image. 

A digital background is basically a photograph of the background of an image – it doesn’t have any people in it. Photographers can then take a photograph of a baby on their beanbag or inside a prop, and ‘merge’ it with the digital background to create the final image.

The background could be as simple as a photography prop that the photographer doesn’t actually have in the studio – in which case the final photograph would be a photograph of the baby inside the prop in the digital background.

Or it could be more complicated – for example, the background could be a picture of a hammock that’s hung from a tree in the jungle. A photographer could merge it with a photograph of your baby so that it looks like the baby is sleeping in the hammock in the jungle.


Documentary Style Newborn and Baby Photography

As you research newborn and baby photographers, you’ll notice that there is a huge spectrum of photographers offering different styles of photography.

Documentary photographers take a photojournalistic approach. They don’t give direction or input, rather their aim is to capture life events as they unfold – just like a photojournalist would observe and record an event, without trying to move people or objects or direct the subjects as to what they should do. 

Their objective is to capture your life with your baby just as it is.

kew newborn photography

Editing and Retouching

You’ll probably see the terms ‘editing and ‘retouching’ used all over photographers websites. 

Almost all professional photographers will use their camera to capture RAW images, which contain lots of data about the image, but are unfinished. They need to be processed by the photographer before they are ‘usable.’

Different photographers will use the terms ‘editing’ and ‘retouching’ interchangeably, but the way I would describe them are as follows:

Editing photographs involves correcting the photograph for exposure, colour, cropping, and adding any other touches that give the photographer’s signature look.

Retouching photographs usually takes more time, and can include things like: correcting uneven skin tone, fixing flaky skin or baby acne, softening bags under the eyes or lines, whitening teeth, and creating composite images.

In newborn photography retouching can make a significant difference to the final photograph as most newborn babies have uneven skin tone, flaky skin and / or acne.

Not every photographer will offer the same level of editing, or retouching, and some won’t offer retouching at all. Others may offer a certain amount of retouching as standard, but charge extra for more complicated changes.

photo shoot cancelled covid

Posed Newborn Photography

Posed newborn photography is another style of newborn photography that you may come across. This is the kind of photography that I specialise in.

In posed newborn photography a photographer will use a studio set-up and pose your baby and family in a series of poses, with plenty of direction. The photographer may have their own studio, or will bring their studio equipment to your home. 

In posed newborn photography, the photographer can control every element of the scene to realise their creative vision – from how they use light, to the detail of each pose, to the choice of backdrops, colours and outfits

Within posed newborn photography you’ll find a spectrum of styles, from very natural where the photographer uses neutral colours and minimal props, to highly stylised where the photographer uses lots of colour, props or accessories such as hats or headbands when they are photographing your baby.


Lifestyle Photography

Lifestyle newborn photography sits in-between posed and documentary photography. In lifestyle photography, the photographer’s aim is usually to capture an everyday scene, but to do so with a more curated approach. 

With this in mind, a lifestyle newborn shoot will usually take place at your home or an outdoor location. The photographer will likely give you guidance on what to wear, choose the best place for you to sit or stand, advise you on what activities to do, and might move objects into or out of the shot to achieve the desired result.

Natural Light Photographers

Natural light photography, is very simply when a photographer only uses the ambient light around them to light their photograph. They don’t use any flash or continuous studio lighting at all.

As with most styles of photography, there will be a spectrum of approaches to natural light photography. From photographers who just photograph you as you are, where you are regardless of where the light is. To those who carefully select the right time of day, location, poses, and modifiers to create exactly the shot they would like.

Creating beautiful photographs with natural light isn’t as simple as going outside or standing by the window and taking a photo. A photographer who really understands natural light will understand the best times of day, best place for you to stand, and the best angles to make the most of naturally available light.

Online Gallery

After your photo shoot you’ll probably see your photographs in one of two ways; either your photographer will arrange a face to face meeting with you where you can see the photographs for the first time and choose what to order, or they will send you a link to an online gallery.

An online gallery is usually a private, password protected web page where you can view the edited photographs from your photo shoot.



Some baby photographers will use props in their shoot – this could be anything from a bowl, basket or bathtub that your baby lies or sits inside. To pillows, flowers and other small objects that they may include in the photograph with your baby.

south west london newborn photographer


A sitter session is a photo shoot for babies who can confidently sit up unsupported. Typically this is from about 6 months of age.

Some photographers will specify that the sessions are for babies who can sit unaided but aren’t yet walking or crawling. Other photographers just have the requirement that your baby can confidently sit up unaided.

Learn More: What Is A Sitter Session In Baby Photography?


Studio Wardrobe

Sometimes photographers will have a ‘studio wardrobe.’ Most commonly for sitter sessions and maternity photo shoots.

In short, a studio wardrobe is a set of clothes that the photographer owns, and that clients can wear for their photo shoot.

Typically these clothes will match the photographer’s style and you’ll know that they will work well in their photos.

london newborn photographer clare murthy

Two Week Window

The ideal time for a posed newborn photo shoot is usually the first two weeks of a baby’s life. You’ll sometimes see this described as the ‘two week window.’

The reason for this window is that babies under two weeks of age are typically very sleepy and enjoy being curled up in newborn photography poses.

After two weeks, babies typically start to spend longer periods awake, uncurl, stretch out and grow larger. As these changes happen the likelihood increases that a baby may not be able to manage all of the poses, and may spend long periods of the photo shoot awake.

Learn More: What’s the best age for baby photos?


Ready To Book Your Photo Shoot?

I hope that this guide has helped to decode some of the jargon you’ve found as you’re researching photographers.

I’m sure you’ll want to make an informed decision about who you choose to photograph your baby, and if you have any other questions about booking a newborn or baby photo shoot please do get in touch here. I’d love to hear from you.

You can learn more about booking a shoot with me here:

book baby photo shoot clare murthy

Picture of Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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