Photographing newborn babies isn’t the same as many other specialized types of photography. When it comes to lighting, a striking white light that’s great for jewelry or product photography isn’t the best option for capturing the soft features of a baby. Not only does it overexpose the baby’s features, but it can also be uncomfortable for a newborn. That’s why it’s important to understand newborn photography lighting, including what works, what doesn’t, and what the best newborn photography lighting equipment is to use.
Here’s our guide to creating the right newborn photoshoot lighting in your studio. Before sending your images over for photo manipulation services, here’s what you can do to take stunning photos that can lead to results that captures the most adorable features of a newborn baby.
Choosing Newborn Photography Lighting Equipment
As mentioned earlier, equipment and lighting setups that work for more commercial types of photography doesn’t necessarily work for newborn studio lighting. These lights can be too powerful and can overexpose your image (not to mention make each shot uncomfortable for a newborn baby).
For aperture, set your equipment around f1.4 – f2.8. This allows your camera to get a perfect exposure without using too much light. Having a large umbrella, a big modifier, or a softbox can also soften the light in your image. Otherwise, use a larger source of light, as it can produce softer, natural-looking light that matches the aesthetic of newborn photography.
This now begs the question: how many fixtures should I have for studio lighting for newborn photography? Because of the softness and delicateness of the subject, one light source is enough. If you want to minimize the shadows and contrast, use a white reflector to bounce light onto the shadowed area.
Replicating Soft and Natural Lighting
Unless you’re going for an aesthetic outside of traditional newborn photography, lighting should resemble that of natural lighting. When you’re in the studio, the image should look like the light is natural sun lighting coming from above. As much as possible, avoid illuminating a baby’s face from below, as it creates a ghoulish shadow that isn’t aesthetically pleasing in baby photography.
As much as possible, never point your light source directly at the baby. This can overexpose the baby because of the strong light. Instead, feather the light with a modifier or by adjusting your camera angle. This can result in a softer light that’s matches the aesthetic of newborn photography.
Using the Right Lighting Techniques
Once you’ve set up your newborn photography lighting equipment, you can start directing your lighting depending on the aesthetic you want. The poses you and the baby’s parents want to incorporate into the photoshoot can also determine which lighting technique is best, so discuss these beforehand. Here are a few common lighting techniques used in newborn photography:
To achieve soft lighting, you’ll need one light source and an umbrella that can reflect light for a softer effect. This is a generally good lighting to do for any type of pose or shot you want to try out. This is the closest you can get to natural lighting, which can then be improved on when you use Photoshop to touch-up your pictures later on in post-photography editing.
Based on the popular lighting style of Rembrandt’s work, this lighting involves having one light source illuminating one side of the face and the other creating a triangle that’s partially shadowed. It’s an interesting way of creating soft light that doesn’t shine too brightly on a newborn baby. And if you angle the baby’s face to the light just right, you can have the light still emphasize the baby’s facial features without getting it too exposed. If you want to minimize the shadow created on the second half of the face, use a reflector.
Have the light source directly behind your newborn baby. This means your camera should be from the shadows in the direction of the light. The result is an illuminating effect that highlights the tiniest details of your baby. This is great if you’re doing a closeup shot or pose that emphasizes smaller details like their lips, fingers, and toes.
Broad newborn photography lighting can be done when your light source hits the largest part featured on the newborn. This happens when the subject is turning away from the direction of the light. This means that if the baby is turned slightly away from the light, the front-facing side will be more illuminated than the one away from the light. However, a reflector will bounce off the light so that the shadow is minimal and the rest of the features are still well-defined.
What If I’m Photographing a Newborn Outside the Studio?
Having a photoshoot with studio lighting for newborn photography provides you with the advantage of controlling your light source. But if you’re photographing a newborn outdoors or in a home setting, you might have a harder time controlling the light. Here are some helpful tips for finding the right newborn photoshoot lighting.
Find Natural, Neutral Lighting
In case you can’t control your lighting, your best option is to find natural lighting. From there, you can get good raw images and can have newborn baby photo editing done in post-production to enhance the lighting effect you want to achieve.
Ideally, you should work in an area where the sun can give good natural lighting, so outdoors or a room with unobstructed windows in the daytime are good alternatives outside of a studio. If you’re indoors, try to find a room that has neutral-colored walls. Walls that are too bright can affect the color and tones of your baby and the props around them, which can affect the overall quality. Though this can all be edited in post-production, having good lighting and a neutral setup can lead to better results.
Finding an Angle That Works
When working outside of a studio, having a reflector can help diffuse lighting and create a softer effect, especially if the light can be too bright. Otherwise, you can also cover the window with a white fabric to diffuse the lighting.
Finally, depending on your newborn baby’s pose, you might want to experiment with your angles and using different areas around the room until you find the right lighting angle. Feel free to explore with flatlays or shooting from a lower or higher angle as necessary to get that perfect shot.
Tips for Finding the Right Lighting Working with Newborns
Whether you’re setting up newborn studio lighting or finding the right newborn photo lighting outside, it can involve some trial and error to achieve the right amount of soft lighting. Here are some additional tips that can make the process more efficient:
- Plan your poses ahead of time. Some lighting types are best for certain types of poses, so it’s best to get an idea of the poses you want to shoot so you know what kind of lighting you’ll be using. Discuss the photoshoot with the parents to learn more about what poses they’d like to see for their baby.
- Make sure the baby is safe and comfortable. Throughout your photoshoot, the newborn’s safety and comfort should always come first. This means not forcing the baby into poses they’re not comfortable with, as well as making sure the light source isn’t too bright for their eyes.
- Invest in a good diffuser, reflector, umbrella, etc. While there is no hard rule on this, newborn photography gets the best images with soft and natural light. Having equipment to diffuse the light without the need for multiple light sources can give you more flexibility to explore different poses without having to toggle the lighting too many times.
- Don’t forget to have your photos retouched. Even when you’ve nailed the lighting, there are some unavoidable effects that can affect your photo quality during the photoshoot. To minimize this and bring out the best in every newborn photo, don’t forget to have your photos retouched by professional image retouchers.
Bring Your Baby Photos into the Spotlight with Paper Boat Creative
Baby photos can be a challenge for many photographers. While you’ll want to minimize your lighting and keep it soft, your lighting should also be enough to minimize the shadows that can take away the softness of newborns. That’s why finding the right balance for your newborn photography lighting is essential for images that emphasize the cuteness of any little one.
Your skills as a professional photographer can capture those adorable moments, but working with a team of professional image retouchers can add even more magic and cuteness into every image. At Paper Boat Creative, our team can help you achieve your desired lighting and enhance your image while still maintaining that soft and natural lighting in newborn photography.
Get in touch with us to learn more about our photo retouching services and to request a demo. See why Paper Boat Creative is the perfect partner of professional photographers today.