Preparing for my first baby shoot
I will try and give you some quick advice. My wife and I do a lot of newborn photography ( http://www.vegalyraphotography.com.au) so we see a lot of babies and parents. There are some tricks to this and my advice for you would be- DO A LOT OF RESEARCH
I've been asked to photograph a couple of weeks old baby which will be my first paid shoot and could need some advice. I don't have the world of gear, but believe I should use what I've got and instead concentrate on composition, framing and conveying emotion. Nothing too complicated or experimental for my first time doing this, but rather some good, regular quality shots I think.
The best time to photograph a newborn is anywhere <14 days. Some would even suggest <10 days and there is a good reason for this. Before 2 weeks the babies tend to be easier to pose. You are more likely to capture sleeping shots and naked baby shots if the baby is less than 2 weeks old. They will also tend to stay in the pose when you pose them. Once they are older they are much more difficult to settle and pose. You can still achieve some nice images but certainly trying to achieve 'newborn look' is very difficult. We often allocate 3-4 hours to some photo shoots and even then we are not always guaranteed to get that sleepy look.
In general best times to photograph babies are 0 (1-2 weeks), 3 months, 6 months and 12 months (see http://tamaratoveyphotography.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/best-age-to-photograph-your-baby.html). If the baby is already a few weeks old my advice would be either wait till 3 months time or alternatively focus on family centered shots with parents and the baby. You may struggle to achieve the newborn look.
So, not having much experience in portraiture/people photography, do you have any suggestion or advice? I have some ideas like close ups of hands and feet, mom or dad's big hands holding the baby etc. but that's about it for now. Coming prepared with ideas up-front is probably not such a bad idea
Instead of looking up newborn, look at photography for 1 month+ olds. In general swaddling works well for older babies, but there are limited looks that work successfully for that group.
SAFETY FIRST: Make sure that baby is safe. If you are going to pose it then make sure there is no way for baby to wiggle out, roll or fall. Keep in mind that a newborn is usually better than Houdini in getting out of any restrain/wrap/swaddle etc.
Pay ATTENTION to background as it is easy to miss as babies are usually small Babies are also best photographed from down low at their eye level, up from above (get up on the step-ladder or chair) but try different angles as often you can get a crop from the photo which shows baby in a different way.
As for gear I have a Canon 50D body, Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5, Canon 35 f/2 and Canon 70-200 f/4L lenses, Canon 430EX and 580EXII Speedlites, stand w/umbrella, reflector and a couple of Elinchrom 500 BXRi studio strobes with softboxes. I've been considering getting a fast prime for a while in case I do start doing portraits, having thought about the Canon 85 f/1.8 (the 1.2L being both too expensive and slow) but this job came up a bit sudden, so I don't know if I should try to find a used one right away or use what I've already got. I'm thinking about the shallow DOF of course (the 35mm lens is as fast but needing to be a lot closer to the subject would also mean distorting the baby's features which of course is not desirable). The 70-200 with it's f/4 likely wouldn't give that same look.
Your gear if fine. Just about any of these lenses can work well for baby photography. The 17-70 will be fine or stick to 35/f2. Before we've got the FF we often used either 28-75mm/f2.8 or 30mm/f1.4 and they both work fine. The zoom give you freedom to zoom in and will often focus down to ~1ft which is close enough. On FF and Crop-factor we often photograph at f4 because it is easy to get one eye in focus and have the other eye OOF at large apertures. It is much better having to fix background in PS then having to sharpen the image when part of it is OOF. The group shots (parents with baby) you may need to go to f4-5.6 depending on posing especially if you are going to have parents staggered. Use your flash to add light if you your ISO goes too high or shutter too low. Watch out for shadows on the wall if using flash as these can be really distracting
As for lighting I suppose natural light will be the best if possible, or else the Speedlites will have to be used with an umbrella for even lighting of the room (basically a one-light off-camera setup with the 580EX II being the Canon wireless master). The Elinchrom kit feels a bit "too much". And shooting in the comfort and familiar surroundings of the baby's home I think.
Use natural light and add flashes if feel you need extra light. I would leave Elichrom at home unless you feel that speedlites won't give you eough light.
Hope some of this help. Good-luck, keep calm and focus on getting some "solid" photos. Remember that kids grow up real quick and they won't have a chance to reshoot. So get you 'basic' shots out of the way before attempting to do some other ideas. Don't be afraid if something isn't working to try a different angle or pose. Sometimes it is hard to visualize it until you get back and sit down to sort through the photos.
Nikon D800, Nikon D7000, MB-D11, Nikon D60, 24-70mm, 70-200mm VRII, 18-55mm VR, 18-200mm VR, Sigma 30mm, Tamron 28-75 F2.8 (ibm), 2xSB800
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