To learn more about newborn portraits from Little Moon Photography, please visit: http://littlemoonphotography.com/
-Lens: Sigma art 50mm 1.4 This lens opens w i d e and helps me get that creamy background look.
Also, explain why you suggest these things … why is a pacifier helpful at the session? Why should the baby be given a very full feeding right before, kept awake for a bit prior, and then photographed in an 85 degree room? A well informed client is a trusting, relaxed client and that goes a long way toward a successful session.
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I hope that some (or all!) of these tips will help you toward your goal of successful newborn sessions, as much as they’ve helped me!
More little details that make a huge differences in my sessions! We all know that heating the space you’re working in is crucial … I have my space heater going the whole time and if I’m not sweating, I know the baby isn’t warm enough.
This one is the 45° lighting. As you see the light is directed at the subject; Hitting it directly will cause harsher highlights and harsher shadows. Also the background / backdrop will be lit as well, Something I like to avoid. Here it is from the side. The whole background is lit with directional lighting, unlike the feathered lighting I love so much. Now let’s look at a closeup; notice that the wrap is brighter from directional lighting and the background is lighter. At this point we can compare. Which shot looks better to you? In the one on left the light is feathered and doesn’t hit the doll directly. As a result, the light appears softer – and on the other hand, the highlights are slightly harsher. So there is more ‘white’ on the fabric and more ‘spill’ of light on the backdrop. This is not technically wrong; it is just my artistic preference. So when do I use 45° lighting? If baby is posed in a way that his chin is tucked in and I notice that there is not enough light from the 90° lighting, I will turn the light 45° to fill the subject in with more light. If you think to yourself, well I like that there is more light just like in the the right image. I want to point out that these images are SOOC. Naturally the feathered Lighting will be slightly darker SOOC. However when I add exposure later in post processing, it will add it without changing the quality of light!
We’ll start with the correct way of using studio lighting. Later I’ll show you other ways to use lighting – some of which are less flattering to your subjects. My Camera settings;
I not only want this for each and every one of my own clients, but for every Newborn Photographers’. I’ve studied, practiced and learned a lot in the past several years and am excited to pass on to all of you, five tips that positively changed my newborn photography experience.
This article is courtesy of premier newborn photographer Amber Scruggs of Little Moon Photography in Leesburg, Virginia.
Now let’s see how the doll looks in an upright sitting position. Notice how nicely the light wraps its face and body. The catch light is in the correct place – the subject’s eyes, drawing your attention to them. And just the right amount of shadows add a soft form-defining 3D like look. Now let’s look at a common mistake – placing the light without feathering, as shown below: a front view of the same setup: Look at the end result – the light appears as if it’s coming from behind the baby, causing a strong highlight on the head and ‘hole shadows’ on the face. This is a common error, resulting in the face of the baby appearing dark, while its body is brighter, as shown below. Here is the same result with the subject sitting in an upright position – again very strong highlights and a dark face. The last setup I want to show is not necessarily wrong, I just want you to be aware of the very slight difference, because once you will pay attention to it you will definitely be able to achieve the dreamy lighting you desire for newborn babies.
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Let me explain why I think this is the ideal lighting. The doll is lit from right to left with soft looking overall lighting. There are no harsh highlights or ‘hot spots’ on her face. The shadows are soft and gradual (no hard edge shadows). Correct highlights or shadows are what makes the image work! Shadows are good and beautiful when in the right place! This is why I don’t use a reflector. I don’t want to fill in the good looking shadows I’m working hard to create. In this image I placed the light 90° parallel to the right side. I also make sure that the edge of the light doesn’t get past baby’s head (or doll in our case). For me, a 90° light setup very much resembles a light pouring in through an outside window. I place the light modifier just to the edge of head as you see in this example: All images shown here are SOOC (straight out of camera). and this one as well. Note that the backdrop is not completely illuminated. The light gets feathered. What an interesting term, “feathered”! I imagine the edge of the light is lightly brushes my shooting subject, not hitting it hard in any way. Feathered lighting is the goal. It’s soft, and oh, so beautiful.
I can’t emphasis enough how important this is, even though it seems so obvious. Your goal for the session is the same as theirs, but they don’t often know what it takes to accomplish that goal. Right from the point of their first inquiry, inform them of your approach to your sessions. Likely, this information is readily available on your website or blog.
For settings, I typically shoot at f/2.2, ISO100, a SS between 100-200 and my light powered to 1/16. I just adjust as needed and always pay attention to my histogram to make sure I’m not blowing out any of my channels, with newborn and their warm skin, reds are usually the first to blow so be careful. If I want to close down and shoot at say f/4.5, I’d power my light to about 1/4 power. If I wanted to shoot at f/1.4 – f/1.8, I’d power my light down to 1/32.
–Light Modifier: I’m using the very large 86″ PLM system. It is a very large umbrella with a white fabric diffuser over it to soften the light. My PLM has soft silver bounce interior and black exterior. Essentially it is a sort of a big soft box. I bought the largest light modifier because the larger the beam of the light source, the softer the lighting on your subject becomes. With newborn babies softer is better! Tip* If you are on the lowest power and the light still seems too strong, put two fabric diffusers on your umbrella to diffuse your light further more.
In regards to blankets, I have learned how much I benefit from layering many blankets on my beanbag, in the order I want to use them and clasping the entire stack to the backdrop stand. I benefit during the session from doing this because it makes the transition from one blanket to the next extremely quick and fluid, and during post-processing because the layering helps make the blankets a lot smoother.
Look how lovely the doll is lit here; I see some yummy shadows and some soft highlights. I also see the background/ backdrop is not washed out with light. I don’t want the background/ backdrop to be too illuminated and take the attention away from my subject!
Having been a Newborn Photographer for 2.5 years now, I know that there is so much to know in order to have a successful session. And I should mention; a successful session, to me, isn’t just a beautiful gallery. It is a session in which the baby sleeps well, the parents are relaxed, and we all leave the session feeling excited about the entire process.
Here are all three setups in the sitting position: Notice how much softer the shadows on the feathered light looks! Last, but not least – if you shoot from the opposite direction of your light, you will get the yummiest backlight type of image. This lighting is best for detailed shots such as macro or close ups! And I want to finish up with the lighting doll image I prefer best – the 90° feathered look. This time edited! I hope you enjoyed this article on how to use newborn lighting correctly and achieve the dreamiest look! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I’ll be happy to post my response.
What am I using? – Light: I have a Bowens flash set – not that I recommend this unit in particular. I do recommend a flash unit with multiple power settings. Your flash needs to be set on low power so you can shoot at wide open aperture without blowing out your images and making them completely white. In order to fire the flash I have a Bowens trigger that goes on my camera’s ‘hot shoe’.
What can we do if the light is too powerful? I want to address an issue that many photographers have when the light is too powerful. We love shooting with wide apertures, we want to get the blurred backdrop and get that creamy smooth look. but if the light power is at it’s lowest setting and the images are still getting blown out? Here are a few solutions: 1) Get diffusion fabrics. If you are using the PLM system, buy more than one diffusion fabric. If you have other modifiers get a simple sheer white fabric and clip it to your soft box. 2) Get a neutral density filter for your lens. Or as they are called ND filters. 3) Get a neutral density filter to put on your light! but be carful with this ND Filter you can’t use your modeling light or else you will burn the filter.
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Depending on the size of the window, intensity of light and distance of the window to floor, I generally keep my beanbag around 3 feet from the window and my set-up at about a 60 degree angle to the window.
I use an AB400 (alien bee), a Westcott 50×50 Softbox, a heavy duty light stand and the Paul C Bluff wireless triggers. I love the AB400 because it’s not too powerful and I can shoot wide open just like I did with natural light. It really doesn’t matter too much what kind of weather it is outside, I do cover the windows if the sun is blaring in too much but for the most part in the winter, I don’t really need to, the light overpowers the ambient light from the windows. You can test this by just taking a shot with the same settings you are using with the light with the light turned off, since you are shooting at ISO100, very little ambient light will get in.
To get natural looking light, you want to feather the light, I’m sure there are other tutorials out there that can explain it better, but you want the light to just fall over the front of the babies face, never uplight the baby either, always light down the face.
I hadn’t yet grasped that the direction of the light, when hitting the subject is very important! Angling thing beanbag set-up and positioning the baby at an angle to the light source creates soft shadows which add critical depth to an attractive portrait. Also, I most often keep the baby’s head toward the light, to achieve shadowing I prefer.
My aperture is at f/2.2, Shutter Speed is 125, which is the correct sync speed for my flash. Check your camera/flash manual to determine which is your correct sync speed. My ISO is very low >100. My white balance is set with custom WB with the expodisc. My flash power is at its lowest setting to accommodate the wide aperture that I use.
In addition, when stuffing rolled up cloth diapers under the blanket to properly pose the baby, it really helps to stuff them all the way under the bottom blanket for a very smooth, not lumpy, look. In between those blankets? Lay down a potty pad! And lastly regarding blankets … thick, textured blankets are just so much easier to work with in post-processing because they are not as prone to wrinkles.
But personally sending them details about the age range you prefer for the newborn, where the session will take place, the length of the session, environment temperature, and your hope for the parents during the session, starts your trek toward accomplishing the shared goal on the right foot.
To sooth the baby while posing, I have found that a very loud ‘SHHHHHH’ goes a long way! I hold my warm hands firmly on their body, often one on their head and the other on their tush, and say ‘SHHHHH’ in their ear. Sometimes I have to raise my ‘SHHHH’ to an awkwardly loud volume, but it helps greatly in calming when they start to stir. And speaking of ‘holding’ … when I mold the baby into a pose I don’t just get them there and then snap the shot. I will keep my hands on them as I feel them relax into the position.
During this time I may be shushing into their ear, while still adjusting the pose slightly or smoothing a blanket with a free hand. But whether it is a finger that keeps wanting to curl under or a foot that wants to pop out, holding the newborn in place will comfort them a great deal and bring the pose into perfection.
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I spent 3 years only shooting natural light, studio lights scared me. Once I got my studio as much as I love the natural light it gets, I do get nervous about really dark winter days around here and having enough available light. I figured to buy a light, softbox, stand and triggers and see what I could do. I spent about a week just practicing to figure it out and have been using it ever since. I find lights to be 100 times easier to use, my images have better clarity and it’s so so so consistent color wise it makes editing a dream.
Hi Everyone! My name is Dina and I’m a newborn baby photographer in Brooklyn New York.
Learn the EXACT techniques that I use everyday to photograph my kids. Stop feeling frustrated with your DSLR. Let me help you with this FREE webclass.
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But I’ve also found that warming the spot on the beanbag where they will be posed is incredibly helpful too, particularly on the first blanket I’m working with. A heating pad works great for this!
I always look at how the light is falling on the baby and move my light as needed. I love how using one light I can get beautiful shadows and definition on these tiny little babies faces. I treat the softbox just like it’s a window.
I started out working with a teardrop shaped beanbag that I cinched on the bottom with a rubber band to make it more full and solid feeling. But ever since I purchased a puck-style beanbag and filled it with a couple extra bags of bean my posing has become so much easier. The wide, flat work area lends itself perfectly to posing in order to see the baby well and working more easily with their legs, arms and face, rather than battling with them sinking into a too-soft, too-small, beanbag.
I know you’re thinking “but doesn’t that only come with experience??” To a point, yes … but so much can also be achieved through watching videos, studying poses, taking classes or mentorships, and asking tons of questions on your favorite photography forum. I gained so much confidence before my very first session by watching a video of a well-known photographer working with a newborn.
Just seeing how she handled the baby opened my eyes to what was possible with posing a sound asleep newborn. I also observed a number of soothing techniques that have proved to be so helpful … so much so that I wish I knew of them with my own babies! True, there is nothing like true, hands on experience, but studying and watching other experienced photographers work can prove invaluable.
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I am so thankful to Courtney for letting me write for her on this fabulous site! Especially because she said I can write about newborn photography! This is certainly a passion of mine, and I love to chat about this genre of photography any chance I can get. Mostly because with each conversation, new tips and bits of knowledge can be gained … for the photographer just starting in this specialization to the seasoned professional.
And then again a day or so before the session, send reminders for what the parents can do to prepare for their experience and what they can to to ensure it is the best experience possible.
Posted in Newborn, Newborn Photography, Newborn Workshop, TutorialTags: Baby Brooklyn photographer, Newborn lighting, Newborn photographer Brooklyn
I remember when I first began photographing newborns one of the very first errors I made was how I used my light. I was prepped with the blankets and heat and lessons on posing, but … I faced the beanbag and baby right at the window! What resulted were flat-light, very one-dimensional looking images.
Today I want to show you how to use your studio lighting correctly when shooting newborn babies. Our goal is to have beautiful soft lighting, with soft – form defining shadows. You don’t want harsh lighting or harsh/strong edged shadows – but you also don’t want completely flat light without any shadows.