Pairing Speedlite and Natural Light for One Year Old Photos

Updated: Mar 23

Natural light is beautiful, but it's out of control! Ok, so I exaggerated a little there. But it is out of YOUR control. You can move around to accommodate it, filter it, bounce it, but you can't move it. Enter, speedlites! Read on to see how I use speedlites to compliment natural light for awesome baby pics at home.



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GEAR

You can use any DSLR that works with off-camera flash to create fun family photos. My DSLR of choice is my Canon 6D. It's full frame (large sensor) and very reliable. But you could easily use any Canon Rebel DSLR. If you're not sure how to use a speedlite with your flash, read this post first.


If you have read my post about prime lenses, you know I'm a fan of them. Prime lenses are lightweight, sharp, and offer wide maximum aperture to let in more light when needed. For this shoot I alternate between my Canon 28mm 1.8 and Canon 50mm 1.4. Both are light and easy to use indoors. Later on I will switch to my Sigma 70-200 2.8 to allow me to step back and zoom as needed while baby William plays outside. The Sigma version of the 70-200 is over $500 cheaper than the name brand Canon 70-200 2.8 and has performed well for me.


To compliment the natural light in these photos, I used a Canon 600EX-RT as needed. You could easily use a Canon 430EX III-RT instead. I control my 600 using the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT radio controller for Canon. The Yongnuo uses the same wireless, radio technology as the new 600EX-RT and latest 430 but it is cheaper than the name brand Canon ST-E3-RT and has an additional focus assist feature. I own two YN-E3-RT and still spent less than the Canon version. And I love the focus assist for low light situations.


CAMERA SETTINGS

APERTURE: While my prime lenses allow me to open the aperture very wide, I don't go wider than 2.8. I don't want to risk losing focus on little William as he runs and plays.


SHUTTER SPEED: At minimum, shutter speed should be matched to the focal length of your lens (1/50 for 50mm, 1/80 for 80mm). But faster is better, especially with active kids. I prefer to stay upwards of 1/250 of a second when possible.


ISO: As usual, you should keep your ISO as low as possible. I am lucky that my Canon 6D DSLR will allow me to go up to ISO 2000 without too much noise. And Lightroom does a great job of fixing noise when needed. But try your best to keep it low when possible. I prefer to have a little noise rather than a blurry photo, so I tend to prioritize shutter speed slightly above ISO when reasonable.


For more details on how to take sharp photos, check out this post.


TIPS

As with any portrait, always focus on the eyes. To be more specific, generally focus on the nearest eye. When viewing a photo, people are natural drawn to the eyes of the subject, so you want them to be in focus. I focus on the eyes by selecting a focus point near or on one of the subject's eyes, depending on the composition.


With baby photos you just have to go with the flow. Don't rush. Hang out with mom and dad. If baby is in a good mood, try posing. If they aren't cooperating or are older and run around like William, step back and observe them interacting and playing games alone or, preferably, with parents. Candid photos are great, so don't feel like you need to force everyone into poses. After I had gotten some classic family photos and fun bedroom shots, I just stepped back with the 70-200 and let William do his thing. As you can see below, I got some awesome candid shots. It definitely helped to have his parents smiling and making faces at him.


We started in William's bedroom. I wanted to capture the memory and feel of him hanging out and playing in the room his parents decorated for him.


SETTINGS: 1/800 sec, f/1.6, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 600EX-RT, Yongnuo YN-E3-RT, 43" Shoot Through Umbrella (camera right), Manfrotto 5001B Light Stand


When you have an active child, it's usually a good idea to just step back and observe. As a result, I got fun shots like this. I wonder what he's thinking. Is he giving ME the block?


SETTINGS: 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 28mm 1.8, Canon 600EX-RT, Yongnuo YN-E3-RT, 43" Shoot Through Umbrella (camera right), Manfrotto 5001B Light Stand


If mom and dad's room is clean, it can be a fun place to get photos. There is a bay window in William's parent's bedroom that provided awesome natural light for photos, but I wanted to add a little more. I put my Canon 600EX-RT on the small stand it comes with and set it in front of the windows pointing up to bounce off the ceiling. This complimented and increased the amount of light coming from the window side of the room and added extra fill light for photos.


SETTINGS: 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 600EX-RT, Yongnuo YN-E3-RT


This is one of my favorite photos from the day! It's challenging to get a sharp focus when he is moving. This is one of 10-20 photos I took during this moment. I picked out the sharpest one during post production.

SETTINGS: 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 600EX-RT, Yongnuo YN-E3-RT


The 600EX-RT is to the left and behind dad in this photo.

SETTINGS: 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 600EX-RT, Yongnuo YN-E3-RT


I kept shooting as we moved from bedroom to living room and later outside. While the photo below isn't as posed the other shots, photos like this are very fun! I gave the photo a matte effect to make it look more like a "lifestyle" photo.


I mounted my Canon 600EX-RT to use it for bounce flash and fill light. I pulled out the built in white flag to throw some light forward on William in both the indoor and outdoor photos. I shot in ETTL letting the camera choose the flash power.

SETTINGS: 1/200 sec, f/3.5, ISO 640

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 600EX-RT


We moved outside to their backyard as the sun was beginning to drop. The sun in the background provided an awesome flare effect for these shots.

SETTINGS: 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Sigma 70-200 2.8, Canon 600EX-RT


I guess if your kids likes dirt, let him enjoy dirt!

SETTINGS: 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 400

GEAR: Canon 6D, Sigma 70-200 2.8, Canon 600EX-RT


I hope these tips inspire you to go create awesome photos! I'm happy to answer any question in the comments below. And if you're getting ready to buy photo gear, I appreciate you using the links in this blog. At no cost to you, Speedliter's Blog may make a small commission on anything you purchase within 24 hours of clicking the link. If you find something cheaper or better for you than what I mention in this post, get it! The most important thing is to get out and keep shooting!




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