How To Clean Your House Before Your In-Home Newborn Session (In Less Than 30 Minutes!)
You’re home from the hospital with your bundle of joy and anxiously anticipating your in-home newborn photography session when you stop to look around and realize…this place is a disaster! Your photographer is coming in an hour and you’re running on two hours of sleep and a cold brew. How can you clean your house for maximum results with minimum effort?
For some mamas, nesting hits hard. And if you are a natural clean freak to begin with who can’t sleep until you have polished the ceiling fan, then you have nothing to worry about. Your house will be sparkling.
But for the rest of us mere mortals living in the eye of the hurricane that is “bringing home baby,”— with an assortment of toddlers/dogs/cats/husbands thrown in for good measure— the idea of a perfectly organized home is a pipe dream.
What is a stressed-out mama who wants nothing more than casual, natural and clutter-free lifestyle newborn pictures to do?!
Here's the big secret: you do not have to perfectly clean and decorate your ENTIRE house in order to make your newborn session look great. By channeling your efforts to a few very specific locations and ignoring the rest, your house can look like everyone in it got a full 8 hours of sleep last night. That’s the magic of photography!
The key is controlling what’s in the frame. This article will help you learn what you can shove into a corner and ignore without sacrificing the quality of your images— and what you definitely can’t skimp on. Here’s how you can get your house photo-ready for your lifestyle newborn session in half an hour or less:
1. Clean Off Your End Tables
I love shooting in mom and dad’s bedroom or another common area, but in those crazy newborn days the clutter builds up fast. The easiest way to make these images look clean and timeless is to take everything off your night stands. You can leave the lamps, picture frames, and any other decorative items you won’t mind in the images. But the rest of it has got to go! My go-to move is stuffing into drawers. As new moms we tend to compile a comprehensive convenience store on our night stand— water bottles, nipple cream, burp clothes, sound machine, granola bars, magazines, pacifiers. I can vouch for the necessity of having all of these items within arms reach at all times, but you don’t need photographic evidence of them!
Sliding everything off into the top drawer will take you two seconds, it’ll be easily recoverable when we’re done shooting, and it instantly makes your room look neater.
2.) Make your bed with a plain, classic bedspread
I typically do lots of shots in your bedroom— it’s a wonderful, cozy spot for casual family photos, nursing photos, close-ups of just baby, and action shots of dad burrito-swaddling baby.
Everyone has their own “style” when it comes to bedspreads, but one thing I do recommend when deciding how to decorate that day is a (relatively) plain or solid colored bedding, or a classic design like stripes. Big, bold, geometric patterns can be visually distracting, especially when paired with patterns in your clothing or baby’s swaddle. You don’t want anything taking away from the people in the photos.
You don’t have to go buy a new comforter at Target just because you’re reading this— often times if all you have is a busy, patterned bedspread, we can simply turn it over— they’re usually solid on the other side!
Decorative pillows and throw blankets are a big thumbs up! You’ll may have to move some of them around for you to sit on the bed— but they do photography beautifully and can add some great texture to the background. If you don’t have any, again you don’t need to go out and buy any. But any decorative pieces that you already have in your room and are special to you can definitely be included!
3.) Tidy around the crib and the rocking chair
Getting pictures taken in the nursery is so special with a newborn— it is usually a room that you have put a lot of time and heart into preparing, with each wall decal, painting, and book placed lovingly in its spot. Or maybe you’re like me and still have the nursery only half finished by your kid’s first birthday—we can’t ALL be Joanna Gaines!
Either way, I always like to snap a few shots in your baby’s new room. At a minimum, moms usually have a crib and a rocker/glider in place, and these just happen to be the best places for taking pictures. A simple crib, with a sheet and maybe a mobile or special stuffed animal makes for some super sweet images.
I also love capturing mom in the rocking chair with baby— the two of you are going to be spending a lot of time there together over the next few months. Look to the left and right of the chair— everything immediately adjacent will be in the frame. Are you ok with that? Then I’m ok with that! But if you want to move anything, now’s the time to do it. I’m not that great at Photoshop.
If you have a beautifully decorated nursery, I will be thrilled to document it. But don’t feel like you have to have a nursery straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog to get beautiful images. By focusing on smaller details, like your baby’s toes kicking through the slats of the crib, or your arms lovingly tucked around baby as you rock back and forth together, we can isolate moments over things— and that will create the images you’re going to treasure forever.
4.) Find one clean background next to a window
Do a walk through of your house a few mornings in a row and try to notice where you get the most natural light, regardless of the weather outside.
That won’t always be your bedroom or nursery— if it’s your living room, or office, or a spare bedroom even— I’m probably going to ask if we can take a few portraits there. These shots are usually taken in front of a window, and it’s always helpful to have a clutter-free background. Here are a few photos as an example:
If you have a plant or wall decor behind you, that's fine, it’s part of your home! But if that’s where you keep your vacuum cleaner or dog bed, I’m probably going to ask if I can move it. Don’t worry, I put everything back where I found it.
This task is the easiest one to leave for when I get there— I always ask for a little walkthrough when I arrive to see how the light is coming in that day anyway. I might see a place that is pure magic that you never even considered before. If it has a cluttered background, it’ll take us just a minute to move it out of the way and suddenly you’ll see the magic too.
5.) Let’s go outside!
There are plenty of great reasons to go outside for part of your newborn session— the least of which is that it’s one less thing you have to worry about cleaning up! If it’s a nice day outside, I love heading outside for some sweet and playful family portraits and action shots. Forgot to mow for the past week? No problem— let’s throw a blanket down in the grass and get everyone to snuggle up. Or we’ll stand up and get a great family portrait! Again, it’s all about the angle, the cropping, and what we let into the frame: lots of love and snuggles.
What DON’T I have to clean?
Here are a list of chores that you absolutely, unequivocally do not have to worry about getting to before I arrive for your newborn session. Yes, I am a photographer and yes, I am in your home to document it so you want things to look nice. But I am first and foremost a mama, so I know that being present and spending time with your little ones is more important than making sure every single nook and cranny is spotless. So here’s the real truth— you do NOT need to worry about:
Scrubbing your bathroom
Cleaning your toddler's playroom
Doing your dishes
Wiping down your dining room table
Mopping the kitchen floor
Organizing your closet
Folding your baby’s onesies Marie Kondo-style
Vacuuming your hallway
Emptying the Diaper Genie
There’s a reason I shoot lifestyle photography— its focus is on real life. Homes are meant to be lived in, and part of living with small people means inevitable chaos. By channeling your limited energy into the four specific and manageable places I mentioned above, you too can have a Pinterest-ready photography session that looks amazing, and leaves you with nothing but warm fuzzy memories of those sweet newborn days— and plenty of time left over to take a nap!
Rachel Rossetti is a family and newborn photographer based in Pittsburgh, PA.