Lighting and Camera Settings | Transcription

Now, before bringing our newborn into our scene, I have a habit of getting everything ready so that I’m not figuring out lighting and setting up my camera while the newborn is just waiting. This is something that I highly recommend that each of you do, and to do this I just grab something that’s roughly the size and shape of a baby, and I find that these tubs of Lysol Wipes that I already carry around to be kind of a great test item. They’re also the same not only size, but also weight. I place the prop in the area that I would have the baby, and then I bring in my lighting assistant to help me light our Lysol tub. This helps me do a couple of things. Number one, whenever I do this little practice set up, I almost always end up fine tuning my set design just to make my shoot and my life a little bit easier.

The first thing I noticed is that once Olivia stepped into scrim the direct light coming in from the back windows, I noticed that she was blocking the heater, so immediately we bring the heater to the other side of our shooting area, where it’s no longer going to be in the way of our lighting. I’m having Olivia sheer or scrim that direct light coming through the back windows so that way it doesn’t create strong highlights, either over the newborns face or over the shooting area. Before we get our newborn I make all of the necessary accessories such as my wipes, hand sanitizer, and so forth available by placing them in a chair within arms reach.

During this time, I also did a brief test with my camera and I also saw that my exposure is going to be around 1/160th of a second at F2. I’m on my 50mm prime lens and we’re shooting at ISO 800. We can see that it’s close to proper exposure with this lovely shot of our Lysol Wipes tub. We won’t know the exact camera settings until we have Ellie placed into the scene but, at least, we have the camera exposure close to where we need it and we only need to make minor adjustments, basically to get a proper exposure on her skin tones based on the light modification within each shot.

In general, we want to make sure we keep our shutter speeds fairly quick. Given that we’re shooting newborns, newborn subjects aren’t really going to be moving around or, at least, moving that quick anyway. This isn’t a huge concern to make sure that you’re freezing emotion but what we are worried about is getting unsharp or blurry images from camera shake, which is the movement of your hands and the camera body while the DSLR shutter is open. To be safe, I would recommend that you stay above 1/100th of a second for your shutter speed.

The trick to shutter speed is really to know yourself as a photographer. Some people have very steady hands; they’re like the surgeons of the photography world so they can keep their camera steady at slower shutter speeds. I always want to tend to error on the safer side that way I don’t end up capturing the perfect shot with the perfect expression and then find out later that it isn’t quite tack sharp. 1/100th of a second is a good rule of thumb to stay above unless you feel more comfortable and you need to lower the shutter for, say, exposure purposes. Even then, if the baby is sleeping, I would never recommend that you drop your shutter below 1/50th of a second. If the baby is awake and moving around then I would try to keep the shutter speed around 1/100th or 1/200th of a second, at a minimum if there is some movement there.

We also want to keep our aperture open, which means that we’re going to shoot at a low aperture number; at F2 or F2.8, ideally. The lower that aperture number, the larger the aperture opening and this decreases our depth of field essentially blurring our background making our newborn subject really stand out from the background of the image. While I’m shooting on a lens that can go down to 1.2 on this lens, I don’t like shooting that wide open because with such a shallow depth of field it makes it very difficult to get a sharp image. Even when I nail my focus, too much of the image ends up being soft and really out of focus. At F2 to F28, those are my ideal settings unless I need everything in the scene tack sharp, in which case, I’ll raise it.

Lastly, we always want to keep our ISO as low as possible while shooting. How much grain and noise and how much that ISO particularly effects an image is really going to depend on the actual camera model but, in general, just know that every time you increase your ISO you’re losing image detail. You’re losing color detail. You’re decreasing dynamic range and, essentially, you’re just lowering the overall quality of the image that you’re shooting. Adjust your shutter speed and your aperture, fist. Then adjust your ISO to the lowest possible setting to get the correct exposure. We’re going to try and stay, for the majority of the shoot at least, under 400 ISO. Although, if it gets too dark, I’m not super worried about going up to say 800 ISO or even 1600 ISO on a 5D Mark III.