As a photographer for the last 7 years, one of the things I struggled with most was finding a way to streamline the post-processing process without skimping on photo quality. When I began to photograph newborns, that became more important than ever, with the massive amount of time I spent already on newborn shoots as it was. Two years ago I began to use MCP’s Fusion Action Set, and when it came out, I also began to use MCP Newborn Necessities Photoshop Actions. In this post, I’d like to show you my editing processes along with all the camera information.
The Camera and Settings:
This is Landry, who at the time was under a week old. She was my first outdoor shoot, which makes her very special to me and my portfolio. I photographed her in Ohio on a cloudy day in July. There was not a speck of sunlight in the sky. We were in the local courthouse lawn in her town. I used a Nikon D5100 and 50mm lens. (If you’re looking for a good portrait lens, I could not suggest a better one!)
My ISO was 100, I shot an aperture of f1.8 and shutter speed of 1/4000. The baby was about 2 meters from me. This image below here is SOOC, no adjustments or crops.
The behind the scenes:
I opted not to bring a diaper cover with me to this shoot, and the mother did not want nude shots of Landry, so we left her diaper on. I bought the Coke bottle at a local grocery store. The vintage Coke crate belongs to my mother, and the two quilts that are stuffed into the crate are handmade vintage quilts from my grandmother.
The setup was simple: Stuff the crate with the folded quilts and place baby on top. I posed her legs underneath her and put her hands under her head. Because it was very warm and humid out, I did not have trouble keeping her asleep. Mom was on the right side directly out of the frame, and an assistant was on the left side as well. (Disclaimer: It’s VERY important in newborn shoots that you always have an assistant, whether paid or the parent. Babies cannot hold themselves up and even when lying down, can roll or move themselves at any moment into an unsafe position, especially when in or on props and not directly on the floor.)
When I brought it into Photoshop, I used ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) to crop the shot and align it. This particular shot was one I did far away, to give a sense of the surrounding landscape. Here is the 8×10 crop I pulled into Photoshop for editing:
Editing in Photoshop:
My personal preference is that I love One Click Color in the Fusion action set, and I use it on almost all of my color shots. I also love the softness of the overlays in Newborn Necessities. Often in a newborn or child shoot, I will mix the two together. When I start, I always start with One Click Color. With this particular shot, I felt the vintage crate and surrounding browns and reds would look well with Rustic, in the Fusion set. I applied Rustic from the Color Fusion actions. This shot below is One Click Color on its own, at 75% opacity:
And this image below is with Rustic, at 50% opacity.
As you can see from the edits, although the color does bring out the Coke crate and the surroundings like the buildings and grass, it’s too contrasted and red on the baby, and this is where Newborn Necessities comes in handy. I started with Hush the Reds from Newborn Necessities. Here is the mask and the final product, at 50% opacity.
And the result:
Next, I applied Hush Jaundice. Even when the baby doesn’t look like she needs it, I will check my color levels and apply it anyways, because the naked eye can’t always see the tiny bit of yellow that a printer will, and I always make sure to edit for print. Here is the mask and the final edit of Hush Jaundice from Newborn Necessities, at 55% opacity.
And the result:
In both Hush Jaundice and the Reds, you’ll notice I use a very loose feathering on the baby. Feathering makes it appear most natural and depending on just how red or yellow the baby is, I may or may not need to go in and do an exact feathering along the line of the baby. This all depends on the shot. I have had shots where I needed to closely follow baby due to color problems. You’ll also notice that in the beginning, SOOC Landry was red. Why didn’t I apply these two first and get that out of the way? Because One Click Color and Rustic applied color settings to Landry that changed how she looked. By waiting until after I’ve applied the biggest color changing actions, I can compensate not just for Landry’s skin, but for the actions as well.
The next edit I wanted to apply was Baby Bottle Photoshop Action from Newborn Necessities. When I have a shot that is a bit dark or contrasted, I like to apply Baby Bottle because it lightens things up with a slight haze, without overdoing it. My newborn shots are not meant to be dark and contrasted, and this helps them. Here is Baby Bottle applied, at 19% opacity:
Baby Bottle also enhances the “Spotlight” layer of One Click Color, which really emphasizes Landry even more. However, I still wanted a nice natural vignette to it, so I used Natural Vignette from Newborn Necessities. I applied it underneath the Baby Bottle layer at 53% opacity, so that it was hazed over slightly by the creamy color and didn’t stick out too much. (Disclaimer: My personal opinion is that when applying a vignette your shots, you should make sure that you aren’t applying something too drastic that totally removes corner colors, or covers your subject at all. While some may say that this is “preference” of photographer and client, I feel that it just looks sloppy. You shouldn’t have a reason to cover your photo over with a vignette, but applying a soft one that enhances the subject is okay.)
And here’s the final shot, with all the edits!
The total process took me about five minutes to compile, in comparison to my fifteen minutes I used to take with manual edits. I used MCP’s Facebook action to make a smaller proof size to share online. I’ve edited the action slightly to save my images out at 1300px on the longest side, which is my personal preference of proof size for clients. When saving a proof I also apply a watermark, which I have added as a brush preset for easy convenience.
Here are some other shots from the session, all edited with Fusion and Newborn Necessities: