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How We Shot It

DIY Newborn Photography | How We Shot It

By Anthony Thurston on November 6th 2013

The Newborn Photo

newborn-photography-how-we-shot-it

The Newborn Photo Equipment and Settings

  • Canon 6D
  • Canon 50mm F/1.8 II, hand-held
  • 1/320 sec @ f/1.8 & ISO 2500
  • Manual Exposure, Daylight WB, RAW
  • 1 Ratty “Use To Be White” Blanket
  • 1 Piece of Tin Foil

Why We Shot The Baby Photos

Before I go into too much detail about how exactly I shot this Image I wanted to take a minute and talk about WHY I took this image. Three and a half months ago my wife and I welcomed the newest member of our family to the world, and being a photographer I wanted some of those awesome newborn portraits that I always see on Facebook and Pinterest. I thought I could do it myself. How hard could it be, right?

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Wrong, the results were terrible. I mean really terrible. The lighting didn’t work and I just couldn’t get the posing the way I wanted it, and baby Noah was not the easiest subject in the world. I was really discouraged and my wife was also really bummed that we could not get the sort of results that we were hoping for.

Fast-forward a few months and the team behind the workshops here at SLR Lounge released the new Newborn Workshop Collection. Needless to say I was pretty psyched, we had been talking about it internally for a while and I knew it was coming but I was really excited to check it out and see where I had gone wrong with my attempt at newborn photography.

So as soon as I could get my hands on the new workshop I sat down and watched it through, beginning to end. I was happy to see that it was not all that complicated, and I was able to see where I had gone wrong in my first attempts.

Before we jump into how I shot this image I  just want to reiterate that I am not a professional newborn photographer, nor am I trying to be one. I am just a photographer who wanted to get better images of my new baby than I was able to get on my own.

How We Shot The Baby Photo

I decided that I did not want to wait, I wanted to give what I learned from the workshop a try. The problem that I had was that I did not have my photography gear with me at the time, most of it was at my make-shift studio, and I was the only parent home. So I decided to improvise and use what I had available around the house to apply the principles that I learned from the workshop.

baby-photo-gear

In this case that happened to be an old ratty “use to be white” blanket which probably cost about $20 brand new at Walmart, a “boppy” feeding pillow,  and a piece of tin foil from the kitchen. Throw in a big sliding glass door and the back of my couch and you have probably the cheapest newborn set known to man.

[Rewind: See These 10 Newborn Photography Tips]

Baby Noah is now 3 1/2 months old, he does not pose into cute little poses or sleep throughout a photoshoot. That got rid of a lot of the standard newborn poses that people tend to think of with newborn photography, which makes sense since he is not a newborn. Taking this into account I decided it would be cute to set him up and try to get him to react to the camera.

I was shooting with my new Canon 6D, a camera that I am still learning coming from the 7D, so this was also fun for me as a way to play with my new camera. The only two lenses that I had with me at the time were my Canon 50mm F/1.8 II and my Canon 100mm F/2, and due to space limitations I decided that the 50mm would be the better option.

Since I was using a nasty old blanket I wanted as little of that as possible to be visible, so I chose to shoot the 50mm wide open at F/1.8. In hind sight the shot is a little on the soft side, largely due to hand holding and shooting the “Nifty Fifty” wide open (luckily baby shots look best a little soft). If I do this again I will probably try something different – like using a tripod and stopping down the aperture a bit – to get a sharper shot.

baby-photo-gear-setup

I set up the shot with the blanket draped over the back of the couch, and placed the “boppy” pillow under the blanket. The big sliding glass door was on camera left and on the right I had my 4yr old son Michael holding a piece of tin foil for me as a reflector. I originally tried a piece of white fabric, but it was not reflective enough and Michael had to stand to close to the baby for enough light to fill in the shadows on Noah’s face, so I switched to tin foil.

After it was all set up I placed Noah on his belly and propped up his front with his arms over the pillow. He got the idea down pretty quick and soon he was holding himself up just fine. We tried to get this shot for about 30 minutes, and it took quite a bit of hand waving and talking to keep his attention but eventually I got what I was after.

Just remember to pay attention to how the baby is feeling, they can get tired of getting their picture taken just like adults can (as is evident in the below shot, ahaha)

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The Post-Processing

The processing on this shot was a breeze thanks to the new Newborn Presets that come with the Newborn Workshop Collection. After loading the shot into Lightroom I simply loaded the “NB Standard Import  – Color + Profile” preset and that was pretty much the hardest part of my editing process for this image.

import-preset

I did have to make some tweaks to the highlights, which were a little too powerful for my liking, and add some sharpening. But overall it was really a quick “under-10 click” edit.

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Overall I am really happy with the results of this shoot given that it was on the fly, with (mostly) everyday household items. Friends and Family alike have not stopped gushing over the image(s) from this shoot that I posted to Facebook, and the wife is happy to now have some great baby photos of Noah. I am excited to give this a try on another day with more planning, preparation and props.

It just goes to show that you don’t need expensive equipment or adorable props to create great imagery of your newborn baby. You don’t need to be a professional newborn photography nor do you need to be trying to be one, but if you are a photographer and have a new baby coming or recently had one I highly suggest you check out the new Newborn Workshop Collection. It will save you a lot of time, disappointment, and help you create the images that you dream about.

Before & After Processing

noah-before-after-diy-baby-photo

Learn Newborn Photography

From planning to posing, lighting, newborn safety, camera techniques and everything in-between. This 8 hour workshop collection will teach you everything you need to know to capture and create beautiful newborn photo as well as how to process them to perfection. Click here for more details.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Wayne Ferguson

    Thanks so much for the tips! I feel so fortunate to have been able to capture the first days of my daughter Nora with my Canon Rebel! I put my photos on my blog! http://www.photowayne.com/?p=117

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  2. Kurk Rouse

    Straight out of camera was a very good shot

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  3. Servando Miramontes

    Kind of like the BEFORE better… Cool write up! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Throwback Thursdays: 11/7/13

    […] Do It Yourself Newborn Photography and How we shot it. In this article we’ll show you how to shoot great newborn portraits on a budget. […]

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  5. Lisa Russell

    Fantastic article. As a question popped into my head, it was answered in the next sentence. Many photography articles leave me wondering – while you answered it all. Thanks!

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Thank you so much for the comment, means a lot :) Glad I was able to answer everything for you.

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  6. Wes D

    I achieved the same effect here with a Boppy Pillow, a sheet from my bed and the lamp from my nightstand with the shade removed! I think the results were pretty good.

    http://gradientgraphics.net/downloads/Photo1.jpg
    http://gradientgraphics.net/downloads/Photo2.jpg

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Just goes to show you don’t need anything you don’t already have, just the know how to use it all correctly. Great Shots!

      Thanks for Sharing.

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