Getting the perfect newborn photos is critical for your clients. These photographs are very prized, and if done well, your reputation for a newborn photographer will spread.
I’m going to discuss one lighting technique that you may or may not know about, which is called feathering – a lighting technique I used to create the image below.
Whereas it sounds like a silly term, it actually produces some really amazing results in terms of lighting, and works well for almost any subject.
I personally like to use it for newborns quite frequently (including bean bag shots, prop shots, parent shots, etc), but it even works well for studio maternity sessions.
Newborn Lighting Tips
Here’s a list of equipment that I use to achieve this affect, plus the equipment I use for the overall image:
- Westcott Recessed Mega JS Apollo 50” softbox
- Paul C Buff AlienBees B400 light
- Backdrop of choice
- Prop of choice (I used a bean bag in this scenario)
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens
To set it up, I put my softbox at a 180 degree angle I put my box at a 180 degree angle and place it about 6 inches from the side of my set up and about 6 inches in front of my set up.
Seems a bit strange, doesn’t it? But with the size and quality of the softbox (shown below), the light trickles or “feathers” onto my subject – creating softer shadows and even light across their face.
This type of setup will also make the background slightly darker, and the farther away your subject is from the background, the darker the background will be.
When it comes to settings for both the lighting equipment and my camera, here are the settings that I use that work well with my style:
- Camera shutter speed: 1/200
- ISO: 160
- Aperture: between 2.8 and 2.2
- And for the lighting equipment itself I never set it higher than 1/16th power
However, note that if you’re looking for a brighter style you will have to increase the power on the Alien Bee. For me, I’ve found that keeping the power at 1/16 makes the lighting much softer (than it would if I were to set the light at a higher power), which is what I’m looking for in my style.
Another fact I will point out is that you cannot go faster than 1/200 shutter speed on a Canon 5D Mark III with studio lights. My previous camera, a Canon 7D, could not go faster than 1/250. So be sure you’re aware of that when you are choosing your camera settings, as max shutter speed will differ for different brands and models.
It took me a little while to get this lighting technique correct and perfect it, but once I did I had so much fun with it.
And since the lighting on my subject is so even and the background already illuminated properly (via placing the light and subject at the correct distance from one another), it has helped tremendously with my post-processing.
I also never have to mess too much with settings during a shoot, which is a big help when working with newborns.
To see more of Keely’s newborn work, check out her feature here!
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