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Newborn Photography: How to Use Light When Shooting Newborns

Newborn Photography: How to Use Light When Shooting Newborns

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“Newborns and Lighting.”

I think lighting is the MOST important factor in your photography. I also think it is one of the hardest to learn. It is also something that is hard to teach on the internet. I know for me it is still a work in progress. Not only do you need to know how to meter for light but you need to know how to see it. When you walk in a client’s home you should be able to scan the light in the different rooms and see, in your head, what your images will look like. It definitely takes practice… lots of practice. I think this is where we on-location photographers have an advantage. We are forced to shoot in different lighting situations at every session. Every home is different, even the same home has different light at different times of the day. A good way to start to see light is experiment in your own home with different rooms and different times of the day.

I am going to attempt to show you different images here and describe the light. Recently I have added a home studio to my business. I only shoot under 9 months here so it is really just a baby studio. It doesn’t have the BEST natural light although I can shoot natural light when it is a nice bright day. On the other cloudier days I have a back up light, a spyderlite. It is a continuous fluorescent light and I am still learning it. I find it very different from natural light but when I get it right I do love it. As it should be, this is just another part of my journey and growth as a photographer.

So let’s start with natural light…

Type of light

The kind of window light I look for depends on how cloudy it is outside. If it is super cloudy you can use a window that has light shining directly in it. The clouds will diffuse that light and give you soft pretty light. If it is sunny I look for indirect light or a window that has light coming in and I just go outside of the direct light. This can be tricky depending on the floor. Some floors will throw bad color casts (as will wall colors) but if you have white carpet it works well. Wood floors can throw a lot of orange so just watch out for that. You also have to be careful that the bounced light is not too harsh.

Position to the light

I either position my babies at a 45 degree angle, with their heads facing the light, or at a 90 degree angle. It all depends on the pose they are in. I like the light to fall over their face and throw soft shadows. If put baby’s face directly to the light you will get much flatter light with no shadows which makes for a less appealing image.

Some examples

IMG_4110

ISO 800
f/2.0
1/250
50mm 1.2

Baby is positioned with his head towards window. The window is a sliding glass door. This was taken in my home studio.

andrew001

ISO 200
f/2.2
1/320
50mm 1.2

Baby is again positioned with his head pointing toward light source, which is a window. This window is very bright as you can see by the ISO and shutter.

wise018

ISO 800

F /2.8
1/200
50 mm 1.2

Baby is positioned at a parallel to the window but turned to face the light. This house was very dark and the window was shaded by trees but with the higher ISO it made for beautiful soft image.

Used in this project and related actions:

 

riley066

ISO 640
f/3.2 (higher than I like but with the zoom I had to go higher)
1/200
24-70mm 2.8

The light source here was a bay window. I have baby against a wall just outside the baby window and the positioned at a 90 degree angle to the baby window.

A few words about studio light…

I am by NO means an expert at studio light. Many of you probably know much more than me about it, but the way I am using it right now is with my TD-5 Spyderlite from Westcott with a medium softbox. I didn’t want a huge softbox to carry with me or take up my whole studio so I went with the smaller one. I like to use the soft box in conjunction with a light source like a window. So either the window is a source and spyderlite is a fill or the other way around. I tend to use the spyderlite as the main source and let the window fill. If the window is bright enough to be a main light source I just bump up the ISO and go for it all natural.

Here are a few of my recent spyderlite sessions…

parkerw008

ISO 400
f/1.6 (for effect not because of low light)
1/800
50mm 1.2

Baby is positioned toward the light. Light is camera left very close to the ground, so it is level with baby.

penelope016

ISO 500
f/2.8
1/250
50mm 1.2

Baby is at a 45 degree angle or so to the light. Light is camera right.

IMG_5201b

ISO 800
f/2.0
1/200
50mm 1.2

Light is camera left and baby is positioned slightly towards light.

IMG_5067b

ISO 500
f/2.2
1/160
50mm 1.2

Light is camera left at a slight angle to subjects. I am literally standing right beside the softbox.

Dawson023

ISO 500
f/1.8
1/250
50mm 1.2

One of my most favorite images… light is camera right at a 45 degree angle of so. Maybe pulled a bit more in front of baby. I am shooting right next to the softbox here.

My favorite type of light… outdoor light.

I am very lucky to live in a climate where you can take newborns outside for almost ½ the year. Any chance I get to do so I do. Lately I have taken quite a few outside. I just love to be able to use my 135mm to photograph them in natural surroundings. As with other outdoor subjects I look for open shade and texture. I almost always shoot with my 135mm outside as wide open as I can go for the given situation.

Some examples of outside newborns.

parkerw032

ISO 200
f/2.0
1/1000
135mm 2.0

This is on the client’s front porch. It was a cloudy day but nice and warm. I love the soft light and contrast of new baby with old brick. YUM!

IMG_4962

ISO 250
f/2.0
1/1000
135mm 2.0

This is one of my most favorite baskets. I use it a lot.  Here I placed the baby under a willow tree, cloudy day.

IMG_5036

ISO 250
f/2.0
1/1000
135mm 2.0

The baby is outside in a basket. Cloudy day.

IMG_4034

ISO 250
f/2.2
1/640
135mm 2.0

Same basket, different baby, different setting. I like to find spots where the background has some distance from the subject. This set up makes for beautiful bokeh. Especially if you have a little back light like I do here.

IMG_4358

ISO 250
f/2.2
1/400
135mm 2.0

In a beautiful field at dusk… used a bit of pink overlay on this.
16x20-2up

A bit of a before and after… always a favorite with parents.

IMG_4415b

ISO 400
f/2.2
1/320
135mm 2.0

Same field and a beautiful momma with her baby. Love the gaze at each other here. And this also illustrates as well as the above two shots that they don’t always have to be asleep. This baby was wide awake but peaceful and happy.

I hope that this gives you a bit of insight into some different lighting set-ups and variations. The best thing you can do to learn is to practice in different lighting and experiment. You will find that a small twist of the bean bag or tilt of the head will make a huge difference in the final product.

 

This article was written by Guest Blogger Alisha Robertson, of AGR Photography.

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51 Comments

  1. Melissa Avey
    May 8, 2012 at 1:38 am —

    excellent post!

  2. July 13, 2012 at 11:59 pm —

    Super post! Love it that you gave us camera settings!!! You Rock!

  3. October 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm —

    What a great article! Thank you for sharing your settings! That’s really helpful and allowing us to pin! I’ve been wanting to make a collection of helpful tips but afraid that others won’t allow it. Thanks for making it clear and taking the time to write it all out! You ROCK!

  4. November 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm —

    Very helpful and great article! Thank you very much for sharing.

    • November 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm —

      Here’s one my favorite shots…i would Love to learn your style and techniques =)

  5. May 17, 2013 at 9:18 am —

    Thank you so much for your help on this! Beautiful examples.

  6. August 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm —

    Hi,
    thank you so much for all the great advice. I opened a natural light photography studio in May of this year and my business has really taken off. Now that the fall/winter is approaching I know I won’t get the same quality of natural light I need so I am going to have to purchase some lighting equipment. If I am using mostly natural light on a low light overcast day will I be ok with just one soft box? Also is the 50×50 Westcott light appropriate for this scenario. What type and size of soft box can you advise me to purchase in this case. Thanks in advance

  7. March 17, 2014 at 12:42 am —

    Great article!

  8. March 19, 2015 at 10:27 am —

    Thank you so much for doing this “demonstration.” I have been searching and searching for images of newborns when using the continuous lighting. This post has helped me decide that it will be worth it after all!!!

  9. April 24, 2017 at 4:26 am —

    Thank you for sharing. Great content. So much passion for work.

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Newborn Photography: How to Use Light When Shooting Newborns