I accomplished the C curve by making sure the baby’s head was tilted and her body was curved to the side. It’s easy to curl a newborn like this by placing baby’s elbow under her knee on the inner side. The baby’s face will clearly be seen and will not be obscured by her body.
I’m going to show you a few simple posing and lighting tricks to create the look you want in every newborn photo.
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.
Look at the image below. Do you see the gorgeous highlight on baby’s lips and the cute details of little toes in the distance?
Hi Everyone! My name is Dina and I’m a newborn baby photographer in Brooklyn New York.
When photographing newborns from above, I light the baby’s face at a 90-degree angle. This way, one side is completely lit and the other side is partially lit. This creates a nice triangle of light on the cheek that is in the shadows. This is known as Rembrandt lighting.
Posted in Newborn, Newborn Photography, Newborn Workshop, TutorialTags: Baby Brooklyn photographer, Newborn lighting, Newborn photographer Brooklyn
Don’t be afraid of including lots of shadows. Position your shadows correctly.
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.
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;
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Broad lighting is when the majority of the subject is illuminated by the light source. Short lighting is when most of the subject is in the shadows. When focusing on a subject’s face, if the face is turned toward the light, most of the face will be lit, and that is broad lighting. When most of the face is turned away from the light, and is in the shadow, that is called short lighting.
In nature the sun illuminates us from above, creating shadows under our nose, cheekbones and chin. Lighting from below (upwards) creates unflattering shadows on the face.
Light and shadow build interest in our images. In this sense, shadows are just as important as light. Shadows create depth and dimension, and they direct the eye to the main part of the photo. Our eyes are automatically attracted to the lighter parts of the image, so we need to be certain that light hits the most important elements. Here are two easy rules to remember:
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 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.
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!
4. Be mindful of light and shadow. They make or break an image!
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It’s not easy to remember all the ins and outs of posing newborns in studio lighting when you’re working with unpredictable little people that need lots of breaks and might pee on you at any moment. If you’re just beginning your journey into posed newborn photography, it can all feel very overwhelming. Luckily, it gets easier!
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.
When using studio lighting with newborns, the light source should come from the direction that the baby’s head is laying. The light should illuminate the baby’s face downward, from the top of the head to the chin. Lighting from the chin upwards would cause spooky up-lighting and “monster” shadows, which we want to avoid. When posing a newborn on a beanbag, always turn the baby’s head to the side the light is on.
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’.
When photographing newborns using studio lighting, it’s useful to know the different types of lighting situations so that you can manipulate the light to get the look you want.
In this image, the light is coming from the left side. When you see shadows under the chin and the nose, those shadows are a good indication that the light is placed correctly.
Let’s take a look at the image below, where baby was not placed correctly in relation to the light source. Since I have not moved my studio lighting, the light is still coming at a 90-degree angle from the left. This setup is lighting the newborn’s face in an upward direction, creating the wrong kind of shadows on her face.
1. Consider the pose when you are using studio lighting for newborns.
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.
Imagine separating a two-dimensional image into layers. The features closest to the camera are the first layer and the most important part of the image. The next layer includes the features that are farther from the camera. The details on this second layer are less important, but they serve to create a dynamic and interesting image. Think of the added texture of fabric or a wood floor as part of this second layer of interest.
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.
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.
–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.
Look at Rembrandt’s famous paintings for examples of this classic lighting technique. We can often draw photography inspiration from art.
Look at the two images below. Can you see how our eyes love the C shape more than the simple straight line?
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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3. Create visual layers in your image by deciding which elements are most important.
-Lens: Sigma art 50mm 1.4 This lens opens w i d e and helps me get that creamy background look.
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!
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.
This article is courtesy of premier newborn photographer Amber Scruggs of Little Moon Photography in Leesburg, Virginia.
2. Consider the type of lighting that best suits your vision for each photo.
Backlighting happens when you and your camera are directly opposite from your light source and you’re shooting from the shadows toward the light. This technique yields perfectly creamy lighting, which I really love!
If you have a baby who won’t stay in the pose you want, as in this example, turn your light so it shines at a 90-degree angle on the side of the baby’s face. That way you’ll create a well lit image — unlike this one.
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.
When you pose the newborn correctly, it’s easier to light the baby perfectly. Posing correctly means creating a curve in the image, or a C shape. Our brains love to see curves. Our eyes follow the curves in an image and we see the whole photo with all the details in harmony.
In the photo below on the left, since the baby’s face is tilted a bit to the left and the light source is on the left side of the image, most of the face is lit. Therefore, the baby is broad lit. The shadows are simply giving nice definition to the right side of the face. When the light source moves to the right side (in the right image), her face is mostly in the shadows and she is short lit. Both of these images are posed and lit correctly. Which image do you like the best? That’s how you should light this pose!