Baby Photos Using Natural Light

Updated: Apr 6, 2018

As a speedliter, it is important to recognize when natural light is best. I started this session with my speedlite ready to go but I noticed some contrast between the 6000k speedlite and late afternoon sun and it seemed like my speedlite was producing shadows in unwanted places. I tried a couple shots without the speedlite, and the results below were much better. Multiple windows in the baby room and master bedroom provided plenty of warm light for our session. The two windows shown below were the location of most of the photos. I didn't make lighting diagrams for every shot, but let me know if they would help.


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GEAR

For this shoot I used my Canon 6D DSLR and Canon prime 28mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 lenses. The Canon 6D is my workhorse. It's currently Canon's most affordable full frame DSLR. I like full frame cameras because they take in more light and have a better dynamic range than crop frame cameras like Canon's Rebel line. I like to use prime lenses because, while they don't zoom, they're light and they have wide maximum apertures allowing them to let in more light if needed. To read more about why I use prime lenses, check out my post on Pros and Cons of prime lenses.


SETTINGS

Aperture: My prime lenses can accommodate a very wide aperture. However, parents tend to bounce and sway with their babies. In order to keep more of my subjects in focus, I used 2.8 aperture or more for some photos. When I needed more light and could get away with it, I opened my aperture wider. If you're not sure what aperture to use, start with an smaller aperture like 5.6 to keep more of your subject in focus.


Shutter Speed: As mentioned, parents with babies bounce and sway and I wanted to keep them sharp. It's always a good idea to match your shutter speed to your lens focal length, at minimum. When using a 50mm it's best to use a shutter speed faster than 1/50 of a second. To improve the likelihood of sharp images, I used 1/100 of a second for these shots.


ISO: It's always best to keep ISO as low as possible for clean images with no noise. The lowest ISO is 100 but I wanted my images to be brighter without increasing the aperture or slowing the shutter speed, so I increased ISO to 400. If you're not sure how high your camera can go before experiencing noise, take some test photos with different ISO settings.


TIPS

Portraits and people photos are usually made interesting by the poses and expressions of the subject. For newborn and family photos I want to capture expressions of happiness and love. To do this I capture images of parents interacting with baby wearing a pleasant expression or smile. While parents can be coached, babies can require a little more cajoling. Capturing these expressions often requires stepping back for parents and baby to interact and waiting for the perfect expression.

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 28MM 1.8

SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400


For this photo, I had mom hold Margot in her arms next to the window. While aperture 1.4 would have let in more light, I could have easily lost focus on her eyes if she or mom moved. For this reason I used aperture 2.8. The 50mm lens allowed me to step back a bit and let mom interact with Margot.


GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4

SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400


Margot's dad didn't act like it, but he loved having his picture taken. I chose a different angle and snapped away while he posed holding Margot.

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4

SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400


Always keep your camera in hand during your photo session. You can capture great images the whole time, even while mom is taking a break and feeding the baby. The dual windows behind me provided wonderful light for this photo. Be sure to ask permission to photograph mom if she is nursing rather than bottle feeding.

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4

SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at f/1.8, ISO 400


In this last photo we laid Margot on a blanket on a large chair between the 2 windows. Their placement provided excellent clamshell style light.

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4

SETTINGS:1/80 sec at f/2.0, ISO 400

What questions do you have about these photos?

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