Posing, camera angle, composition, and lighting are four important elements of creating great newborn images. And newborn photography lighting plays a big part in the final image. You can shoot with the best camera angle, pose the newborns correctly, and compose the image properly, but with improper illumination, the image will fall flat. Therefore, in this article, we will offer you a guide to illuminating the baby properly when you first start your photography career. Here are 4 things you should keep in mind.
- Invest in the right lighting gear for newborn shots
- Use single light source to make shooting simple
- Illuminate the baby from above
- ‘feather’ lighting to make it softer
Get right newborn photography lighting equipment
This includes a photography light to illuminate the newborns, a stand for mounting the fixture onto, some modifiers for softening and spreading lighting evenly, and optional triggers and receivers to function the flash.
Studio light for newborn photography: Choose between continuous and strobe lights
The problem for newborn photographers is not selecting the brightest light, but rather one that can be adjusted low enough to not overshadow your young subjects while shooting wide open. To begin, you need to make a choice between continuous and strobe. Below we will explain what they are and how they performs in newborn photography.
Continuous light, as the name suggests, is studio light that is on continuously. The “what you see is what you get” effect allows you to adjust the position and angle until you see the newborn photography lighting you want falling on the subject. There is also no further equipment like triggers and receivers needed to make it properly work. Therefore, LED constant light for photography like the COLBOR CL220 is a user-friendly option for newborn photography novices.
When you push the shutter button, strobe lights sync with your camera (through triggers and receivers) and generate a flash. Because you are freezing motion, you will always be able to get clear shots, even when photographing a huge group or people in motion. Because of this capability, strobe lights have become the industry standard for studio photographers in general.
It does, however, imply that you have no clue what your photo will appear like until after you've taken it. The built-in modeling light is intended to help your camera achieve focus before pressing the shutter and to show you where the light will fall - but it isn't always an accurate depiction of what the image will look like.
Light stand: It should robust enough to support the light and modifier
The light stand is a simple piece of equipment. The most critical factor is that it is robust enough to support the weight of both your light and modifier.
For newborn photography, where your subjects are frequently propped up close to the ground, a light stand that can keep the light and modifier as low to the ground as possible is useful.
As usual, safety is first, so anchor the stand by placing weights, sandbags, or any other heavy item over the legs to counterbalance the weight of the modifier.
Modifiers: Best light modifier for newborn photography is to help soften and diffuse lighting
It is theoretically feasible to direct your studio light towards your subject and shoot, but the light will be harsh, the ensuing shadows will be harsh, and the outcome will not approximate the appearance of soft natural light that we are aiming for.
To obtain that softer effect, we would like to modify the lighting for newborn portraits, which is why the word "modifier" comes in. Parabolic umbrellas and softboxes are the most widely used modifiers. They do the same task: they disperse the harsh, directed light from the light source, spreading it around and softening it. Instead of a focused beam of harsh light, the goal is to have a huge amount of soothing light that wraps around the newborns.
Modifiers come in a variety of sizes; the larger they are, the more light is diffused and the softer it wraps around your subject. However, for huge modifiers, you must ensure that your studio space is enough, particularly the ceiling height. If you're photographing parents with this modifier, make sure the light is over the head of the tallest parent.
Triggers & receivers: Necessary equipment when using strobes for newborn photography
If you decide to use continuous lighting for newborn photography, you don’t need this equipment. If you've picked a strobe as your lighting source, you'll need to figure out how to get your camera to activate the flashing of your strobe every time you push the shutter.
The free option is to utilize the sync cable that most strobes come with, which physically links the strobe to your camera through a cable. However, it will cause a trip hazard when you are moving around. Therefore, it is not advised to use it.
The better option is a wireless trigger and receiver. The trigger transmitter is what connects to your camera and allows it to "talk" to the lights. The receiver is connected to the lights so that it can "hear" the camera trigger.
Make newborn photography lighting setup simple by using single light source
Use only one light to keep things simple. Using two lights increases the likelihood of filling in the shadows. If you fill in the shadows too much, you'll get flat lighting, which implies the face has little or no contour.
We aim to capture shapes by manipulating the contrast between highlights and shadows. If you don't want too much contrast in the image, use a white reflector (or set your beanbag near a white wall) to bounce the light back into the shaded side of the face. However, don't add too much 'bounce' or you'll lose that exquisite shape.
Direct the newborn photography lighting from head top to chin
When you position the light and adjust the angle, make it illuminate the newborn from the head top diagonally down toward his or her chin. This will result in a really nice loop lighting pattern. You never want to illuminate the baby's face with light from below. This is referred to as 'ghoul' illumination, and it is not particularly visually pleasant.
Use feathering light for newborn photography
This means not pointing the octabox or umbrella directly at the newborns. Instead, you can ‘feather’ the illumination. That is, illuminate the baby with the light that spills from the modifier edge. In this way, the light will be softer and more pleasant. This slight movement of the modifier can make newborn photography different.
As aforementioned, newborn photography lighting is the key factor that influences the final images. You can get proper illumination by getting the right equipment, using a single light to manipulate highlight and shadow, directing the lighting from above, and using feathering illumination. Once you have mastered these four steps, you can focus on the other three elements to bring your newborn photography to the next level.