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What to use for newborn photography lighting?

Newborn photography lighting is an essential aspect of capturing beautiful and memorable images of newborn babies. You need equipment to offer and shape the illumination. And proper lighting techniques can help create a soft, gentle, and natural look while highlighting the delicate features of the baby.

COLBOR CL220 LED constant light is a good choice for newborn photography lighting.

What newborn photography lighting equipment to use?

There are several key tools and accessories that photographers commonly use to achieve beautiful and professional results. Here are some essential pieces of equipment:

Light sources

When selecting lights for newborn photography, three frequently mentioned sources are natural light, continuous lighting, and studio strobe/flash lighting. In this part we will introduce what they are and what to look for in each type of light source.

Natural light

Daylight is the most accessible and cost-effective light source for many of us. However, it's important to understand how to manipulate and control it effectively.

You may come across terms like bouncing, diffusing, or blocking light. A 5-in-1 folding photographic reflector system is a flexible device that can accomplish all three functions. They usually have a sheer diffuser in the center, many colored reflectors (white, silver, gold), and an absorption panel (black). These reflectors are affordable, easy to store, and come in various shapes and sizes.

Various factors such as changing weather conditions, seasonal daylight hours, window size and height, and the orientation of your studio space will influence the suitability of daylight for your needs. If you find that natural light is insufficient or prefer a more consistent option, investing in studio light for newborn photography may be necessary.

Continuous lighting for newborn photography

Continuous lights are studio lights that stay on constantly, thus the name. They offer consistent light for the subject and are simple to use. As a result, you can see how the light falls on the baby's face as you move it about.

One of the popular continuous lights in newborn photography lighting is a 200-watt LED constant light that is daylight balanced and offers adjustable output. It is important to understand what each characteristic stand for so you can know what features to look for.

  • 200 watt: This denotes the highest level of brightness that the light can emit at its maximum intensity.
  • Variable output: Adjust the output dial to raise or lower the light's intensity according to your requirements.
  • Daylight balanced: This pertains to the light's Color Temperature, typically measured on the Kelvin scale. Daylight corresponds to approximately 5500 degrees Kelvin, resembling the natural outdoor light we see during the day.
  • LED light: LED is short for 'Light Emitting Diode'. You might have LED lights in your household as they are energy-efficient and produce less heat compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. However, it's important to remain mindful of potential burns and fire risks when using them.

Strobe lighting for newborn photography

Strobe lights, a different kind of studio lighting, operate differently from continuous lights. They do not remain constantly illuminated but rather synchronize with your camera using triggers and receivers. Consequently, when you press your camera's shutter button, the strobe instantly emits a burst of light. These high-powered lights are effective at capturing motion, resulting in sharper images of your newborn.

When selecting a studio strobe for newborn photography lighting, one crucial factor to consider is its range of output, spanning from maximum to minimum levels. This aspect holds significant importance. As a newborn photographer working within limited space, it is essential to have a strobe that can adjust to a low minimum brightness when required. This flexibility helps prevent overexposure of the subject.

However, it is important to note that this consideration is just one aspect among many that determine the amount of light falling on your subject. Other factors include the choice of light modifier (such as a softbox), the position and angle of the light, ISO settings, aperture, and more. However, even if you have properly regulated all of these factors, if your minimum flash output is too high for your scenario, you may still wind up with overexposed photos.

Therefore, while you may assume that a more powerful strobe, such as a 300Ws or higher, will allow you to use a single light for all kinds of photography, it may not be ideal for your newborn photography studio if its lowest output is too strong.


As implied by their name, light modifiers for newborn photography allow you to adjust the quality, direction, or intensity of the light. In newborn photography lighting, they serve several important purposes. They help decrease the studio light power and minimize harsh shadows on the baby's head. Additionally, they redirect light to highlight the newborn's features more effectively. Some modifiers also feature white reflective fabric that can reflect light back onto the subject. Examples of such modifiers include softboxes, diffusers, reflectors, and snoots.

Flash triggers & receivers

If you opt for continuous lighting, there is no need for flash triggers and receivers. However, if you decide to go with strobe lighting, you will need to activate the flash each time you press the shutter button on your camera.

Although most strobe lights come with a sync cord, using it can be cumbersome and pose a tripping hazard, especially when you are frequently moving around during the shoot. It is recommended to invest in wireless triggers and receivers instead. The trigger transmitter connects to your camera, enabling communication with the lights, while the receiver is attached to the studio light and responds to signals from the camera trigger.

Light stands

You will need to invest in light stands to support your lights, whether they are continuous or strobe. It is a simple process, but ensure that you select a sturdy stand capable of supporting the weight of your equipment.

Newborn photography lighting techniques: 6 common setups to use

In newborn photography, you can use a variety of lighting techniques. Often, a photographer's distinctive "style" is heavily influenced by their chosen lighting setup.

It is crucial to note that newborn photography differs from other types of photography where subjects are typically in an upright position. In newborn photography, the baby may be lying on their back or side. Therefore, when discussing light positioning, it is essential to consider the interaction between the light source and the subject's face. A simple way to observe this is by examining how the shadows are cast from the baby's nose.

Feathering light in newborn photography

This newborn photography lighting creates deep, soft-edged shadows. Feathering occurs when the light shines directly in front of the baby's head and skims across it. The modifier (umbrella or softbox) is at a 90-degree angle with the face.

There are two typical ways to achieve this. First, position the edge of your light source in line with the top of the baby's head. This will provide the most shadows. The second way is popular in which the infant is "in the light". This means that the baby is aligned with the center of the light. This will still produce shadows, but they will be softer due to the light closeness and size.

Rembrandt lighting

The technique known as Rembrandt lighting adds a captivating and dramatic touch to newborn portraits. It involves illuminating one side of the baby's face fully while casting gentle shadows on the other side. This setup results in a distinct triangle-shaped highlight on the cheek and a subtle shadow under the nose.

To achieve this desired look, illuminate the newborn infant from a 90-degree angle. Then, utilize a reflector or supplementary light source on the other side to soften harsh shadows. Make adjustments until you observe a triangle-shaped highlight on the baby's cheek.

Short light

This is another dramatic lighting technique utilized in newborn photography. This method involves illuminating the side of the face that is farther from the camera, leading to increased shadows and contrast. As a result, the subject appears narrower and more slender.

To produce short lighting, position the primary light 45 degrees to the subject's side. You may also place it slightly behind the infant to highlight the newborn's face away from the camera. Additionally, consider softening the shadows using a reflector, white fabric, or an additional light source.

Broad lighting

Broad lighting stands in contrast to short lighting in newborn photography. This newborn photography lighting involves directing light onto the broader side of the face, which is nearer to the camera. It creates a brighter atmosphere and gives the impression of a larger face for the subject. This approach is ideal for accentuating the baby's chubby cheeks.

To achieve this technique, place the newborn directly in front of the camera and orient the broader side of their face towards the light source. For added dimension in the photograph, consider incorporating a fill light.

Softbox lighting for newborn photography

Softbox lighting for newborn photography

As the name implies, soft lighting creates soft or diffused illumination. It eliminates harsh shadows to create a calm and pleasant atmosphere.

To obtain soft lighting in baby images, you'll need a diffuser. Remember to aim the light at the reflector rather than the subject.

Back lighting

This lighting technique in newborn photography entails positioning the primary light source behind the subject. While it may pose a challenge for novice photographers, the potential results can be highly rewarding. It imparts a dreamy aesthetic to your baby photos. When capturing backlit images, ensure that the light source remains outside the frame. Additionally, it is crucial to properly illuminate your subject.

Newborn photography lighting tips for better outcomes

It is crucial to consider additional aspects besides newborn photography lighting when preparing for a photo shoot.

Ensuring comfort is key as newborns sleep frequently, necessitating a peaceful environment to maintain their slumber and achieve desired poses. A serene setting with parents nearby and a cozy temperature is beneficial, while white noise can provide a calming backdrop. Many photographers have parents close by to ensure the baby's safety and prevent any unexpected movements.

Having a variety of wraps and blankets in different colors and textures is essential for props, ensuring they are gentle on the baby's skin and easy to handle. Opt for soft organic fabrics with enough elasticity to conform to the baby's contours effortlessly and create the desired effect, avoiding rigid materials that require excessive manipulation.

Mistakes are inevitable, and it is important to learn from them without becoming discouraged. Instead of dwelling on errors, swiftly transition to a new pose or prop and analyze later. Avoid putting undue pressure on yourself; allow ample time for the shoot as capturing the perfect moment requires patience. Relax, savor the experience, and embrace the creative process.