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:
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.
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:
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.
This is SOOC legs closest to the light (straight out of camera)
And this is how I would edit
SOOC with the face closest to the light
And some real life examples:
Beanbag Light Set Up
Again, I have the light as low to the ground as possible at a 45 angle to the beanbag.
I stand to the left of bub and tilt the camera towards the light
I hope you find this helpful and please feel free to ask me any questions 🙂
Newborn photography may be more challenging than most other forms of photography, but it’s totally worth it. Getting to capture such hope and love, from the baby is a wonderful experience. Here is another valuable resource on newborn photography to read.