What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

Started Dec 20, 2013 | Discussions
wootphoto Junior Member • Posts: 27
What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

Hi. I've been practicing with my EM-1 for a month or so now, getting ready for the big day of when my first daughter is born.

So far so good. I realized that professional baby photos are really expensive. Also, I think I can do just as good (or good enough job) myself. But I think I'm missing some equipment.

I have the following:

E-M1

PL-25/1.4

Zuiko 12-40/2.8

(40-150mm)

FL-300R (remote-capable)

Included flash on E-M1 (to trigger/fill flash)

Tripod (borrowed)

I'm thinking I'm missing a softbox or umbrella. What would you all recommend for the best bang for the buck? I don't really see myself doing many studio-type shots later, but I would like to see what I can do for the baby shoot now.

I saw this: http://fjwestcott.com/product/rectangular-pocketbox-flash-softbox but I'm not sure how well that can attach to the FL300R which is completely flat on the front.

Perhaps I can borrow or rent some lighting equipment?

Also, any tips in general for shooting babies are appreciated!!!

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Barry Stewart
Barry Stewart Veteran Member • Posts: 8,833
Get the flash up

That light box is better than an exposed flash — but it is still a smallish source and will cause more shadows than a large surface. These light boxes are usually affixed to strips of Velcro, which are applied around the head of the flash.

On the ground would not be a good spot for the flash. You need the light up.Light stands are relatively cheap and can often extend past head height… much higher than most tripods. They usually come with the standard screw head that would fit a camera's tripod mount.

I have an umbrella, which I pull out for family shots — but the reflection of the spokes in the eyes is a giveaway to the light source. Recently, I added a sheer fabric cover for the front of the umbrella, to diffuse the light even better. This might affect Olympus remote flash control, though I usually use a radio slave, which has no issues, even way out of light-of-sight.

Even simpler is to use diffused (or at least not direct) window light, which can be very beautiful. Simplest light diffuser to bounce flash off: a white ceiling or white wall (or sheet).

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Barry

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agentul Contributing Member • Posts: 619
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

i'm in the same situation as you are. i've red that it is not good to use powerful light sources around newborns, as it would negatively affect their still developing eyes. so i'll just rely on the ambient lighting.

then again, i don't find newborns visually attractive, so i'm not inclined to go too far at this point.

baxters Veteran Member • Posts: 5,152
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?
1

First of all, an early congrats. Best wishes for an uncomplicated delivery.

Ambient light and the 45mm or a legacy 50mm works great for newborns. Avoid flashes. I had great fun shooting my grand daughter. Went for 8X10's and the drugstore called back and said they wouldn't print my "studio" pictures unless I signed a waiver.

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Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,532
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

i'm in the same situation as you are. i've red that it is not good to use powerful light sources around newborns, as it would negatively affect their still developing eyes. so i'll just rely on the ambient lighting.

then again, i don't find newborns visually attractive, so i'm not inclined to go too far at this point.

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Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,532
Re: Get the flash up
6

I read the first two items on your list (E-M1, 25/1.4) and thought "done".

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DLBlack Forum Pro • Posts: 13,231
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

You really have the basic gear.  Maybe aadd the Olympus 45/1.8 lens.  Other gear would be couple of reflectors.  Then a nice window.  If you really want to use a flash then bounce it off the ceiling or off one of the reflectors.

Congratulations!!   Show us some photos of the new baby.

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Chas2 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,496
Re: Cheap Flash Modifier Technique
1

I use a piece of foam core board as cheap flash modifier.  It gives very soft light, even if it looks kludgy.  Use a piece cut out to 8x10 or so with two parallel notches, maybe a 1/4 inch wide by 3 inches long, spaced a 2-4 inches apart, depending on the width of the flash body.  Use some heavy rubber bands, put those around the flash head, tight.  Tilt the flash head up so it is pointing to the ceiling.  Attach the card to the bacj of the flash head with the rubber bands.  You essentially have a large white card refletor facing the subject.  When the flash goes off, the white card provides very soft direct illumination in combination with bounce off the ceiling.  Set your ISO to something like 400 and use A mode to control depth of field and away you go.  If your flash swivels, you can actually swivel it 10 to 30 degrees off axis, and play with the results.  You can get a little soft shadow definition depending on circumstances.

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jl_smith Veteran Member • Posts: 3,852
You don't need anything but a window
3

For baby shots, a really nice method is just use diffused lighting from a large window, if you have it.  Then, you could use the 300R as a bounced (not direct) fill, letting the window light be the main light, or even just use a large piece of foam board as a reflector and forget the flash altogether.

If you don't have a good enough window, you might try using the 300R and bouncing from the ceiling or even a large piece of foam board that someone is holding above the flash.  It's also possible to use a light stand and umbrella, but I don't think you need to go that far.

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brick33308
brick33308 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,864
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?
1

PLEASE don't use flash! Window light is so much more beautiful and natural. Here are some I did that way.

http://brick.smugmug.com/People/2007-Brandon-infant

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OP wootphoto Junior Member • Posts: 27
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

These are really nice pics.

Thanks for all the advice (everyone.) I think I'm going to stick with natural light for now (someone mentioned flash might be bad for developing eyes). Or, maybe bounce flash together with window light.

Thanks!!!

 wootphoto's gear list:wootphoto's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm 1:4-5.6 R Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 +1 more
Paulmorgan Veteran Member • Posts: 7,191
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?
1

brick33308 wrote:

PLEASE don't use flash! Window light is so much more beautiful and natural. Here are some I did that way.

http://brick.smugmug.com/People/2007-Brandon-infant

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It would take a lot more than just a camera flash to damage a babies eyes.

You already have most of what you need.

The most important accessory is an imagination.

clengman
clengman Senior Member • Posts: 1,964
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?
1

Available light is a good way to go. If you want to use flash and you don't want to buy an umbrella or soft box, bouncing off a white wall or ceiling is easy OR you can set two chairs together with the seats touching. Drape a white sheet over the backs of the chairs. Put your flash on the seat of a chair aimed through the sheet toward your child. Instant soft box.

DO NOT TAKE A LOT OF CAMERA GEAR TO THE DELIVERY ROOM! The camera and the 25mm is enough. DO NOT TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES IN THE DELIVERY ROOM! Just enjoy the moment. There will be plenty of time for pictures later. Good luck!

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Heyseuss Hoolio
Heyseuss Hoolio Contributing Member • Posts: 586
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

Are referring to in hospital birth photos as well?  I have experience in this and you must be prepared.

I took in my E-P1 to do this.

As others have mentioned, don't use a flash, you don't want to be distracting the nurses and doctor when the baby is being delivered, or even flash the newborns eyes out since this is the first time exposed to light (even through their eyelids).  I'd recommend a fast lens unless you want to bump up your ISO pretty high, because even though there's light in the room(s) it's actually not very bright at all so a fast lens is a must.  Something that autofocuses fast too because there will be a lot of movement and split second photos, you don't want to be trying to focus when once in a lifetime things are happening.  Then of course, be prepared to put the camera into auto or something easy so the nurses can take photos of you and the baby as well without being totally confused when they look at your camera, face detect focus works well for this.

LincolnB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,346
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

I saw this: http://fjwestcott.com/product/rectangular-pocketbox-flash-softbox but I'm not sure how well that can attach to the FL300R which is completely flat on the front.

It's probably not big enough to deliver soft, diffuse light. Something like that is best for situations that require portability, but that doesn't sound like your situation. Umbrellas are cheap. You should probably get an umbrella, something to mount it on the tripod or a light stand, and use the camera hand-held.

That's for after the baby is born. In the delivery room, well... I'll stay out of that discussion.

one umbrella lighting

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markintosh13
markintosh13 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,805
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

some random-ish thoughts:

You aren't missing equipment - you'll be fine with the 25mm 1.4 and the flash (bounce it back and up).

Delivery room / day / week photos - shoot tight, convert to b/w. Save most of your shooting until later in the day, unless you're going for gritty photojournalism.

Clean solid backgrounds can be useful.

Let the ISO creep up if you have to - don't be an ISO 200 purist.

Set your aperture to 2 - 2.8 to blur backgrounds out a bit, machine-gun burst shots for focus if you have to.

Post process - go B/W to eliminate issues with skin colour, ugly maternity blanket colours, etc. Much of the "professional look" is skilled PP retouching - skin smoothing, selective blur, selective colour saturation / desaturation, exposure/brightness, selective sharpening, etc

Google "how to shoot baby photos" and figure out what styles and approaches you like - if it's Anne Geddes style... go back and keep googling. Steal ideas shamelessly and mix them up, create your own look.

Take a few obligatory feet / hand gripping your finger photos. Use scale and size contrast as a compositional element.

Later you can use a flash - just bounce it back / back-and-up - as well as using windows. Use an ND filter / variable ND filter so you can still shoot wide-open(ish) - though with the faster shutter speed of an EM1 you'll probably be fine without.

Have fun. Enjoy the experience. Shoot many photos (however, inflict only a select few on others).

Here's a (relative) select few of the many from my past six months, in rough chronological order...

Stevejac Contributing Member • Posts: 911
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?
1

There are several issues here. I agree, just use available light. Flash it too harsh. You won't be taking professional portraits but you're going to be taking a zillion images and some will be extraordinary.

That was me as a grandfather. Now me as a pediatrician. First, the flash won't hurt the baby's eyes. There's no evidence of that although I'd not want any of my patients to have repeated flashes directly in the eyes at close range.

Second, about the delivery. Someone said don't use flash as it will distract the doctors, nurses, etc. I don't think so, but I'd suggest turning your camera off at least until the baby is born.

Your child's mother needs you to be with her and helping her, not fiddling around with a camera. Also, by paying attention to the camera, you're going to be distracted from what is one of the most important experiences of your life.

Before the delivery there's nothing you want to photograph. You might think the first few seconds of life, baby in the OB's hands would be a good subject but that's not likely to be something your wife wants recorded for posterity. Follow the baby to the heating table if you must and shoot over people's heads. Better yet, don't turn on your camera until all the excitement is over.

When the baby is in your wife's arms and yours, that's something for you to experience directly. Don't ruin it for yourself by using a camera.

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Steve Jacobs

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lambert4
lambert4 Senior Member • Posts: 2,301
I was in your boat 6 years ago, and it was simple to achieve....

I apologize up front if I repeat others information.

Over the first few weeks you will seek natural light, the vitamin D needed by a new born to help process iron in their blood is also ideal for photos!

a simple fill flash bounced or none at all if you have a nice source, and a good textured setting be it those nicely woven or knitted blankets you received from family and friends,  these will offset the perfect baby skin which lacks character compared to your parents and ourselves these days.  A nice white reflective surface be it paper or backing board can allow better control of shadows but is not necessary.

your new bundle will sleep well during the day, and not at night so pictures will be easy to attain.  They also will be really still so almost any lens will allow you to get the images you want.  My best newborn images were from my GF1 and 20mm Panasonic, the reality was the candid circumstances made it the camera that was always at hand, the more specific attempts were great as well buts the images were coming at a furious rate and the GF1 was always there when the moment presented itself.

Getlow or level with the child, which is where you will find yourself anyways staring at them.  I missed your setup , but if you are shooting an OMD either, someone posted a net diffuser which was a Ping pong ball cut to slide over the clip on flash and after some trials it is perfect, save your money for diapers.  This will cast nice light in those times away from the windows.

It goes without saying but enjoy the time with your newborn, every picture will have meaning if you are in the moment with them.  And the keepers will outnumber the cast offs.  Simple texture props like blankets and caps will be aplenty and meaningful objects in your life be it a slide rule or baseball glove or stethoscope will give deeper meaning, beyond that babies are quite possibly the easiest subject to photograph.  Give it a year or two then you need zoom fast apertures and CAf that can tag a swallow in flight, oh yeah and energy drinks to keep up with them.

Congratulations again, kids are wonderful.  And invest in a larger hard drive or cloud storage service it is harder to delete an image of your child than any other.

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Here's to learning something new everyday, and remembering it the next.

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devin357
devin357 Forum Member • Posts: 82
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

Those are absolutely spectacular pictures!

As for the newborns, the lights won't necessarily hurt their eyes permanently, but they absolutely hate it. Just had my first grandchild and he winced at the focus assist light. With an EM-1 shooting raw you can take pictures in extremely low light that can be massaged in PP to look great. Don't make the baby's entrance into this already hectic world anymore traumatic than it has to be.

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Devin

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LWW Contributing Member • Posts: 597
Re: What do I need to do my own newborn/baby photos?

You just need three things, Baby is a priority 1, a camera with a fast(ish) lens, and a steady mind and hand. At this time you will be surprised at the amount of emotion and lights, brollys and the like will be superfluous as you will probably not be in any state to use them. Just go with the flow, high iso and do what you can - This is a pretty special family event after all, not a photo opportunity.

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