My dear wife said she enjoyed my first write-up, How to take better photos of your children so much that she has asked me to do a part two on more photo tips in order to take better photos of your children, so here we go!
This time around, instead of camera buying tips and basic tips, I’ll explain how you can achieve those super dreamy baby photos we’re all jealous of on Instagram or on your friends Facebook wall. You can also apply this to your older ones, if you can hold them still enough. In part 1 I explained how you can obtain a camera kit for less than 50% of the original cost, and I verified this holds true after browsing through a few Kijiji ads just now. For real high quality indoor photography, you absolutely need an external flash, so hopefully you purchased a combo off someone that included it. Total budget for this gear is about $600, which is very affordable for digital photography.
Step One: The barebone essentials for indoor stills
Entry Level DSLR Body+50mm prime lens+flash = Less than $500 used
Umbrella/softbox+stand+wireless triggers(needed for Nikon. Canon‘s flashes have built in wireless trigger = $100, even less if used
Step Two: Setting up the studio
In this example we will use my daughters baby toy as our subject. As with all the baby photoshoots, you want nice prop set. This is where you can be creative, but ensure you have a big soft blanket spread over your bed. To create a hill for propping the baby on different poses, stuff various pillows under the blanket. If you want the typical baby in a basket, ensure you have lots of supporting cushion. Lastly, borrow a space heater or turn your heat up as babies get cold quickly so you want to keep them very comfortable.
Step Three: Setting up the photo gear
At this point you don’t want your baby in the shot just yet, you need to take test shots to see the lighting will interact.
Flash: at medium power, start with 1/32 in manual mode
Turn on the wireless triggers.
Set your camera to Manual (M) mode with ISO at 160, shutter at 1/250(or 250) and aperture (f) at about f2.8 (we will play with this later)
This will be your result:
If you want to have only the eyes and some face in focus while everything else blurry, lower the f number to the minimum (should be 1.8 on a 50mm lens). This will allow more light in, so you might want to play with lowering the flash power or reducing the ISO. This is likely the effect you want as it’s the most common, giving it that dreamy effect. Seen below at F1.8. Note it is very bright since we left the flash power and ISO the same. If you zoom in, you can see the eyes are in focus but just past the cheeks it begins to blur and the background is significantly blurred.
ISO 160/f1.8/shutter 250/flash 1/32
If you want to have more of the baby in focus, increase the f number. In this situation, increasing the f number closes your aperture which means less light will get in. Compensate for this by either increasing your flash power or by increasing your ISO. Example below at f4.0 and f7.0. Notice how the ears are in focus and the background is almost in focus as well as we go to f7. At this stage we should have increased the power of the flash or ISO.
ISO 160/f4.0/shutter 250/flash 1/32
ISO 160/f7.0/shutter 250/flash 1/32
Make sure you always focus on the eyes. Many cameras allow you to use a cursor pad to move the focus point (the little square you see when you look in the viewfinder). Press the photo button (shutter release) half way down to focus, keep your camera as steady as possible and exhale before pushing all the way down to take the photo. Take several photos, if one is not sharp, another might be. You can also use a tripod or rest the camera against a hard surface to help stabilize it.
You will really, really need to play trial and error for where the best light direction is on your baby. This is the fun part. See below examples.
Flash source to the right:
Flash source to the left:
Ceiling bounce flash. No wireless flash, simple camera mounted external flash pointed up to the ceiling. This is very handy when you are chasing your children and are on the go. It eliminates the need to set up a light umbrella and still produces great results. It only works when you have a white ceiling no higher than 8-10 feet. The downside is it may create shadows under the eyes since the light is coming from above if they’re standing. You can help direct it forward by buying a flash diffuser cap. Here we should have increased the flash power or ISO to make it brighter as well.
Flash source to a 45 Degree, directly towards the baby. Setting up the typical front baby pose you always see.
FINAL STEP: Bring on the baby!
At this stage, you can now dress up your beautiful baby in an outfit or go full naked and start shooting. It helps to have Mommy position the baby then quickly step away while you take the shots. You can help reduce the amount of light you need by shooting next to a big window, just make sure there’s no direct sunlight, bright overcast is best.
At this stage you may think your photos don’t have enough of that “pop” or “magic” you see in online photos. That’s where photoshop comes in, which is a whole different instructional. A good chunk of the money you pay photographers goes towards the time they spend brushing up each individual photo. Here they add filters, use skin smoothing brushes, change colour tones, adjust contrast, saturation, exposure, sharpness and even remove objects from the photo. You can do the same if you have Adobe Lightroom and there are many tutorials online on how to do this. Personally, I prefer to keep photos looking as natural as possible.
Below is how a few adjustments can really change the look of the last photo. I didn’t do the skin smoothing brush since I think we can agree the doll has very nice skin. Newborns however usually have dry, red or jaundiced skin which requires brushing and colour changing in photoshop.
If our second baby had arrived in time for this post, I would have had him or her on here! Stay tuned!
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