When Jasiek was born we couldn’t wait to do a little photoshoot of him! Newborns are the perfect models; if you shoot them young enough they will sleep through the whole experience – cutest! The shoot took a long time to get everything the way we wanted and it made me think to share some thoughts and ideas about how we did it using just the natural light in our apartment and this fluffy elephant from IKEA.
I’m shooting on my Canon 7D with a Sigma 30mm F/1.4 lens. There are arguably much better photo cameras on the market now but I still love the 7D’s many video options and its ability to shoot great depth-of-field film compared to standard video cameras. This is a cropped sensor camera, so the 30mm lens is equivalent (almost!) to a 50mm on a full sized sensor camera like a Canon 5D/1D etc. These lenses are fixed, and pretty close up – so their good range is about 1-2m from the lens.
We have a full professional lighting setup at our agency, but studio lighting gives a very polished look to the photos; for this first shoot with Jasiek I wanted to get something a little more natural so decided to shoot using all natural light. To be honest, setting up studio lighting can be a slow and painful process and even worse with a baby! I’ve put together some tips on how I shot these photos in our apartment one afternoon.
Time of Day
Shooting with natural light limits you to the hours the sun is available. For best results, shoot out of the midday sun which is harsh and leaves deep shadows. Cameras typically struggle to handle large contrasts of light and shadow, so it’s better to use a more even light source in the early mornings and late afternoons. These parts of the day give a more radiant glowing sunlight – but keep an eye on your windows over the course of the day to see when the lightsource is looking good in your location.
Choose Your Window
I shot these photos on our bed which is pressed against a window. Our apartments faces south so there’s no direct sunlight, but Warsaw in February is often cloudy and snowing so an overcast day gave us very neutral light to shoot all day. The main light source we used is just the window lighting. Jasiek’s head is always towards the window and I move around him to move the angle of the light against the camera.
It’s dark using natural light. With studio lighting and flashes you can shoot low ISO and high shutter speeds to get very crisp, sharp images. Depending on the lighting in your room you may have to shoot natural at higher ISO’s (I’m on 640-800 ISO with these shots) and low shutter speeds. This means your photos will be a touch more grainy and you’ll have to either use a tripod or have a steady hand to get your shots looking crisp. My Sigma 30mm F/1.4 used at 1.4 – 1.8 aperture has a beautiful soft tones however its very tricky to get the focus right. These Sigma lenses often forward focus (ie, focus on something 5cm in front of the baby) – I’ve had 2 of these lenses and both the same problem! – so I had to take A LOT of photos to find the right focus.
Keep Shooting, Ideas will Come
We started our shoot with Jasiek by himself on the bed. Then changed outfits. Then moved him. Then moved him again. Then the light changed. Changed outfits. Moved him. Found some props. Found the elephant. Then the light got perfect. Then we found the perfect pose.
It’s really like this. It will take a long time to find the perfect pose. I recommend for baby photos using neutral, light clothing (white, grey clothes etc) not too contrasting with the sheets you putting the baby on. Take lots and lots and lots of photos and don’t stop. Agata was very good at keeping Jasiek entertained and I’ll be honest, there was a lot of tears and grumbling and this shoot took over an hour to end up with about 12 really nice photos. When I watch the shots we started with versus the shots towards the end I can see how we learnt as we went what looked good and what didn’t. Just keep playing around until you find something you like.