The Art of Storytelling Lifestyle Newborn Photography with Michelle McKay

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Lifestyle Newborn photography by Michelle McKay

In today’s episode, Michelle McKay shares with us her storytelling mindset, and how she creates artful, organic, and nostalgic images for her in-home lifestyle newborn clients that catch those beautiful, ordinary, seemingly inconsequential moments that ultimately make up the sum of our lives.

Discovering a love for lifestyle newborn photography (4:17)

After the birth of her oldest, Michelle developed her organic way of shooting, as she recorded the cute and beautiful moments of her daughter’s life, but also those everyday ones of life unfolding  – baths, crying, sleeping –  that turn out to be meaningful.

How to carve your own path as a lifestyle photographer (5:16)

Michelle initially didn’t even realize that there was any other option that posed for newborn photography. She didn’t shoot her own family this way, and so simply shot for herself, and what resonated for her.

How to get past the fear of lifestyle photography that uncertain circumstances and low light bring (6:33)

Understanding light is the key to confidence in lifestyle newborn photography. Take time to learn the nature of light, and how it falls. Then practice and experiment. When you understand light, it is liberating to know that you can actually make photos in any lighting conditions.

Also, approach shoots as a confident leader – your client wants to be led, wants you to take charge and give direction.

Lastly, recognize that babies are going to be babies. They are unpredictable. Be present in a calm way that is reassuring to the mom. You are there to capture how those first few weeks with a newborn feel, and not all those moments are peaceful. But it is the whole cohesive story of how that newborn became a little person.

Advice on overcoming the fear of not being able to control the environment (13:29)

Client preparation is super important. It starts with what a client sees on the website, and then every interaction makes it clear what to expect from a session.

When a home is messy, assess which part of the mess is part of the story, and keep those, but just do a quick cleanup of those messes that are just clutter.

If you are charging profitably, you will also have clients that are thoroughly invested in their lifestyle newborn session, and so they will probably be ready for you.

Why is profitability so important? (16:10)

Photographers get into business because they love it so much, and then don’t always value of what they do. You need to have a shift in your mindset and realize that there are many people who are not able to achieve the results with photographs that you do, and as such value your work and will pay for it.

If you’re taking time away from your family, it has to be worth it.

Do lifestyle photographers have to be all-inclusive to ensure the client gets all the storytelling moments? (18:12)

Lifestyle photographers get stuck on thinking they have to give all the digitals. You can, as long you charge profitably for them.

All families are different in terms of their needs, their intentions with the session, and the images that resonate with them. The key is to provide different options that can meet different needs, especially regarding digitals and wall art.

How to maintain your sparkle and not fall into a photography rut (21:05)

Shooting in-home newborn sessions keeps creativity alive because every session, every home, has its own challenges, points of interest, charm, and character.

Shooting for yourself is also important to remember why you do this in the first place.

What is the Family Historian Scavenger Hunt (23:13)

The photos that truly become valuable as the years pass are those of our everyday lives, scenes that we stumble across in our homes, that is telling of the stage and time that you’re in right now.

Students are encouraged to take photos of the messes, and when they reluctantly do, peers are identifying the unique and authentic stories being told. We need to reprogram our brains, and these stories are enriching and a valid part of our lives – memories are not always pretty.

How to figure out your artistic style (30:02)

Take your time. Slow it down so you can really listen to yourself.

Shoot every single day, as it’s the best way to grow quickly,

Find what makes your heart excited and do more of that.

How to value your time as an artist (31:37)

Make time to set clear goals. It will help you stay on track, give you permission to say no, and filter out the things that are just noise.

Creating a storytelling narrative in client work (33:38)

The first few weeks with a newborn is beautiful, but it can also be overwhelming, and it can pass in a way where a mom doesn’t necessarily feel she was present in that time. Storytelling photography is about creating that story for parents.

Michelle’s thoughtful approach to emotive storytelling makes her lifestyle newborn sessions keep speaking into the family’s life, year after year, as their lives wind through the world.

Discover more about Michelle McKay


Facebook Groups:  wearememorycatchers       thebeautifulordinarypresets
Instagram: @michellemckayphotographer    @wearememorycatchers

 Michelle McKay happily runs a thriving and profitable lifestyle newborn photography business, specializing in in-home newborns in Geelong, Australia. Her style is artful, organic and nostalgic, and her work aims to catch the memories of now for new mamas, for whom life with a newborn can feel like a beautiful yet somewhat hazy blur.

She is also the creator of The Beautiful Ordinary presets, which are used by Lightroom and ACR photographers worldwide on their indoor and outdoor photographic art. It has a super active and engaged preset group, and it’s in this space where the concept of the Memory Catchers was born – a phrase that describes photographic artists who strive to bring an element of storytelling or narrative to their imagery.

Earlier this year, she established an online space called We Are Memory Catchers, which is a space for artists, heart-ists, and photographic business builders to learn, grow, get inspired, and hone their skills. It was from this space she launched her first course called Telling Stories and Making Meaning – Learning the Language of Photographic Art, and the first round of students are currently mid-way through, and learning so much about how to create intentional storytelling images, and possibly even more about themselves as artists, and business folk.

My friends I would to share with you this beautiful post Michelle McKay Wrote  her words are as beautiful as her art 

I hope you do something just for you, today.

Do it for you, for the simple joy of it. Do it clumsily, and imperfectly; fill it with your humanity, and let your inner smile shine through it.

Sing while you’re in the shower – a song your parents used to play, one you haven’t heard in years. Or the silly pop song that saw you first fall in love, way back in high-school.

Bake a cake and eat it before dinner, or read a chapter of your favourite book – the one with the tattered pages, that always feels like going home.

Potter in the garden instead of hanging the washing, go for a wander in a direction you’ve never walked, drive to the beach and stand on the sand, and don’t take any phone photos to show you were there.

Sit with the kids and eat oranges with your bare hands in the grass, letting the warm juices drip down between your fingers. Make fancy cordials in the good glasses or the forgotten tea cups, and soak up the sunshine.

Wriggle your toes, arch your back, stretch out all those lovely busy working organs.

Tell the littles about a time when you were a kid; something you used to like to do, or when you did something scary, or – even better – tell them about a time you failed. And then another failing story, and then another. Tell them about trying again.

Make something, write something, build something, sing something, practice something.

It doesn’t have to be good; things don’t always have to be good.

Breathe in and out again, slowly.

And squeeze someone’s hand.

These are the only reasons we’re here.

Resources shared in this episode:
2021 {online} Newborn Retreat

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