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- Basic Portrait Lighting Principles
- Short Vs Broad Lighting For Portraits
- How To Use Rembrandt Lighting For Portraits
- Essential Portrait Lighting Tips
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Babies make awesome photographic subjects. Parents love portraits of their precious newborn family members and other people are drawn to well done portraits of a newborn because the subject matter touches the hearts of most. Newborn photography lighting is a vital part of what makes these images so heartwarming.
As photographers, you probably won’t be surprised by what you will see in a newborn photography lighting tutorial. The way you light other subjects is also how to a newborn portrait, but with a few changes to make the configurations work better for newborns.
How To Light A Newborn Portrait
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There are several concerns to factor in with newborn photography lighting. We want to be able to control the lighting, both in placement of the lights and intensity, so we can get the lighting ratios and other things right. It is a portrait, so our regular techniques can apply, with some adjustment.
I have found that the best lights for newborn portraits are LED continuous lights. Continuous lights avoid the issue of startling the subject, which when involved with very small children and infants, can pretty much end the photo session right then and there.
An issue with standard continuous photography lighting gear, such as incandescent bulbs or quartz, is heat. Those lights get hot and that leads to the subject being uncomfortable, which in turn will also end the portrait session. LED bulbs are much cooler operating than other bulbs, even cooler than CFL bulbs.
LED bulbs are also incredibly power efficient, so you can find some excellent battery powered LED lights such as the Hakutatz LED lights. Portable, small, battery operated lights will open up the possibilities when taking newborn portraits as environmental portraits, which many parents prefer over coming to a studio.
Even in your own studio, small lights like the Hakutatz LED lights are very handy for setting up with a minimal floor footprint. This can allow the parent to stay close to their newborn and not be worried about bumping into your lights, tripping over a cord, or getting uncomfortable with heat.
Your Set Up For Newborn Portraits
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The camera and lenses you choose will depend on the desired end result, just as with adult portrait subjects. You choose your lens focal length based on what type of pose and composition you want. Lenses in a range of moderate wide angle to short telephoto, including normal lenses, will often be the best choice.
For full frame format, the focal lengths of 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm will give you a pleasing perspective and the right angle of view for the basic portrait compositions. Fast primes are useful for selective focus techniques, but a high quality normal range zoom lens will also work well. Kit lenses will work as well, but with less selective focus opportunities due to the slow maximum apertures.
Safety And Comfort
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There are multiple options for where to place the newborn subject. Some like large chairs and sofas, beds are a good option, and the floor is also available. Personally, I don’t like posing tables, because even though they may be sturdy, I worry about the baby falling. I’ve never heard of that happening to any photographers I know personally, but still…
Whatever space you use for the subject, you’ll need to adjust your camera and light placement to achieve good results. This may mean you will be low to the ground and will have to adjust your lighting configuration, too. That’s another reason I like to use small battery powered LED lights so you can move them around easily and not worry about cords.
The safety and comfort of your newborn subject is paramount. A nervous parent or photographer could transfer tense emotion to the young subject, too, so ensuring safety and comfort should also result in better images overall.
Newborn Photography Lighting Tutorial
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Lighting newborn portraits is very much like lighting any other subject in your photography. If you have already taken any other photography lighting tutorials, the same principles apply as do many of the same configurations.
Some of the best portrait lighting techniques for newborn portraits include Rembrandt lighting, broad lighting, short lighting, and window lighting. You will probably be modifying these classic configurations somewhat to compensate for the special needs of each individual subject.
Most of these classic lighting techniques require two lights or a light and reflector to make them happen. You can find detailed explanations of these lighting techniques in our previous articles.
Window light can give us a very natural feel and is often soft and diffused. You can mimic window light by using a softbox and LED lights that allow for changing the color temperature of the light emitted.
Soft And Neutral
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Newborn photography is a fairly specialised niche of portrait photography with certain lighting and posing techniques working better than others.
A soft approach is often preferred over dramatic renderings. Soft light, soft poses, soft colors, even soft furnishings tend to appeal to the parents of the newborn over attempts at making exciting portraits.
As the kids grow up, the parents will want different styles in their kid’s portrait. Delivering the soft, loving view of a well lit and composed newborn portrait will please the parents and should create a satisfied repeat client for you.
And if you have a newborn of your own, congratulations! Take lots of newborn portraits in addition to all the candid shots you will get. You’ll cherish the memories with these beautiful images.