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Newborn Photography Lighting

NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHTING – by Channon Williamson Photography

I get asked all the time what light I am using for my newborn lighting so I thought I would write up and demonstrate quickly. I used to use natural light, as I didn’t have a permanent studio – and it was always so tiny I had no space for a light. My studio is still tiny but the best decision I ever made was to purchase a strobe. I absolutely love the control I have over it. From setting a custom white balance – which I will walk you through, to being able to move the light if you have a jumpy baby instead of trying to move the baby – win win!! I use the Elinchrom D Lite RX  Kit. However I bought a 60inch (152cm) Octo to go on it and a heavy duty bracket to support it. I also got an extra diffuser to go over the front to help soften the light.


I thought it was going to be super hard to learn, but once the light is set up and you understand the settings. it is the simplest thing in the world. Most often I have my shutter speed set to 160, I tend to use f5.6 or higher for families – depending how many people are involved and keep my iso at 200. I then adjust the light setting f I need more power. I can do this from the trigger on my camera – easy peasy. For prop shots i generally use f4 and beanbga I also use 4f

I use a Sigma ART 35mm lens for almost all my set ups. I sometimes add in macro shots and I have the Canon 1oomm for that. I do have a Canon 24 – 105mm as well, but it’s not nearly as sharp as the 35mm.

I have a black curtain to cover my window and shoot with the studio door closed so the ambient light doesn’t affect my settings. I used a doll to demonstrate as it’s easier than having to have a spotter and keeping a baby asleep, but have also included some real examples to help illustrate.

The first and most basic idea is to have your baby/model positioned at 45 degrees from the light source – this helps to create soft shadows which add dimension and shape to any face. It took me a long time to understand this shadow thing, but now I love shadows. I tend not to use a reflector, but if you find your shadows are too dark. all you need to do is pop one into the opposite side of your light to create a bit of fill light.


So here we go:

Family Light Set Up

For my family set ups I have the light lifted as high as I can get it in my tiny studio and tilted ever so slightly forward – like this:

Newborn Lighting


You will notice my grey card attached to my stool – I always set a custom white balance so the light is true and consistent and makes editing skin so much easier.

To set your CWB, hold your grey card where your subject is going to be, fill the frame with the grey and take a picture. Adjust your settings to the correct exposure if you need to. Take another picture.

Custom White Balance

Then using the correctly exposed picture, go into your camera menu ( I use a Canon 5dmark3) and choose Custom White Balance and push SET , it will tell you only compatible images displayed, Push SET, It will ask you – “Use WB data from this image for Custom WB – Toggle to OK > it will ask again, “Set WB to > Select OK. It takes 10 seconds to do and is worth it!!


Here is an image using this light set up:

Newborn Lighting Family

Prop Light Set Up

For my prop shots I put the light right down as close the ground as possible and tilted slightly:

You have a few options in terms of positioning the baby – you can have the legs closest to the light – which I use a lot, or you can have the legs positioned away from the light.

Newborn Photography Lighting

This is SOOC legs closest to the light (straight out of camera)

Newborn Photography Lighting


And this is how I would edit

Newborn Photography Lighting

SOOC with the face closest to the light Newborn Photography prop lighting

Newborn Photography Lighting props


And some real life examples:


Newborn Photography Lighting


Beanbag Light Set Up


Again, I have the light as low to the ground as possible at a 45 angle to the beanbag.

Newborn Photography Beanbag Lighting

I stand to the left of bub and tilt the camera towards the light

Newborn lighting beanbag



I hope you find this helpful and please feel free to ask me any questions 🙂








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  • Vijay GajjarApril 6, 2018 - 12:20 pm

    this is very useful article. thank you. i want to know which elinchrom light model you use.?

  • Vijay GajjarApril 8, 2018 - 12:01 pm

    Thank you.

  • isabellaJune 18, 2018 - 3:06 am

    thank you so much for this amazing article it has helped me in more ways than one. just wanted to know where you got your 152cm softbox from and the heavy duty bracket? 

  • ChannonJune 18, 2018 - 8:48 am

    Hi Isabella, the softbox I got from a company in Perth called Team Digital and the bracket i got from B&H in the US.

  • HAYDENJuly 9, 2018 - 8:43 pm

    Hi CHANNON, does it mean the light will flash when taking photo ?

  • ChannonJuly 10, 2018 - 8:39 am

    Yes, that is correct Hayden.

  • MariNovember 2, 2018 - 6:59 pm

    Hi, thanks this helps a lot! Do you also use this light on sitters and family session if you do these session? Im about to purshace my elinchrom lights, but the sales lady advise me to go for the ELC 500 because of the fast recycling time( fast movibg toddlers) and said that I can also use it for newborn as it can shoot at 8W for shollow depth of field. I opted at first for this lights but they said the recycling time might be a bit slow for todlers? Thanks, Mari

  • ChannonNovember 6, 2018 - 12:59 pm

    Hi Mari, I do use this for sitter sessions and toddlers but not a lot. I would go with faster recycling if you have that option. 🙂

  • Renee PoutJanuary 5, 2019 - 3:08 pm

    Your pullbacks are the best as a go to for how to achieve that perfectly soft lighting we all strive for !

  • ChannonJanuary 8, 2019 - 8:21 am

    Thank you Renee

  • JessJune 15, 2019 - 5:20 pm

    This is really helpful .I’ve recently purchased a D lite one .I darkened my room with blackout fabric ,set camera to 160,f3.5 and iso 100 and in mid shoot my Nikon D750 wouldn’t focus i don’t think there is enough light in the room for it to focus so now I’ve taken the curtains down and even considering turning over head lights on .Please help as I don’t know how I can create shadows now 

  • ChannonJune 15, 2019 - 5:34 pm

    Hi Jess, Do you have your modelling lamp on and turned up for brightness? You shouldn’t have a problem with focus if that is on. It also stays on all the time.

  • MelanieAugust 24, 2019 - 4:16 am

    Hi Channon, Thank you so much for sharing. Just a quick question, I see you mentioned this is a strobe, but looking at the pics you took of your setup, it seems there is continuous light? I am in a struggle within myself trying to decide which setup, and I want to go for continuous light, but am having trouble understanding the setup of strobe when I see a constant light on the baby. Haaaalllp 🙂

  • ChannonAugust 30, 2019 - 9:35 am

    Hi Melanie

    The light you see is the modelling lamp – one of the many reasons I love this light, it helps you see the light placement and the flash only fires when you take the shot. – Hope that helps 🙂


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