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Thread: Baby Portraits

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Baby Portraits

    So, I am opening this specifically int he Image Critique thread as I am looking for input as to how best take baby portraits. I had my first portrait session with my neice in November to get a few pictures for grandparents for the holidays. I am going to get another chance to shoot her when she turns 9 months and then hopefully 1 year. In addition, this next weekend, I am going to have a chance to shoot my 14 month old nephew.

    So, I am interested in thoughts, suggestions and tips. I have recently added the ST-E3, 2x600 EX RT flashes, and 42" Westcott umbrellas. For lenses, I am primarily used the 50 f/1.4 at f/2-2.8 and the 100 mm f/2.8 L at f/2.8. I have recently added the 70-200 f/2.8 II, but have already noticed the MFD may limit its use.

    Below are a few of my favorites from the first session:
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    From my least favorite shots, I am already noticing that I need good separation from a nice neutral background. I am wondering about:
    • My light placement, I tried to do 45 degrees on either side with a ~45 degree downward angle. The lights were placed about 3-4 ft from my niece.
    • The catch light in her eyes show the spines of the umbrellas. Maybe I should move to another diffuser?
    • Should I have tried f/2.8-f/4 a bit more, get a little more of her head in focus?
    • In post, I decreased clarity to -5 to -10. I also typically altered the red channel as she had very rosey cheeks. Anything else?


    Any thoughts or tips are appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Brant

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mark Elberson's Avatar
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    The 1st two are really nice. I think they'd be much better if you cropped them to the portrait orientation though. That would help reduce some of that background and your niece would fill the frame. Watch your framing on the 3rd. It's a great expression but you chopped off both of her hands which takes away from the composition. The light looks good but due to your placement it's a little flat. I don't mind seeing umbrella ribs in the catch lights but I'd prefer not to see (2) of them. 99% of non-photographers and 90% of photographers wouldn't notice/care so take that with a grain of salt :-) I'd experiment with moving the lights a little closer and backing off on the fill to give it a little more dimension. I would also not count out the 70-200 due to its MFD. For newborns it can be tricky since it may be hard if you're shooting strait down on them but for the shots above it would have worked great. I'd rack it out to 200mm and shoot it at between f/2.8 and f/4. You'd reduce the background as well as compress it so that would clean things up a bit. I think that lens + the 100mm macro are the best two lenses you can use for shooting babies/toddlers.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Thanks Mark and JRW. I'll play with the lights a little more. I ran everything ETTL with 1:1 ratio. As this was my first time using the system (other than my tests to figure out how to use it) and first time with multiple flashes, I wanted to keep it simple. But I like the idea of aiming the light better (perhaps behind) and also trying to make it look like there is a single light source. I'll also work with the ratios between the two flashes, that may provide some additional dimension.

    I haven't and won't discard the 70-200 for baby portraits. I had thought it would replace the 100 macro. I actually considered selling th 100 macro to help fund the 70-200 as I really don't shoot macro and they seem to be optically pretty equivalent. But I am glad I didn't. I can see uses for the much shorter MFD.

    BTW...it was tan-cream colored sheet. We threw this together. We had plans to come down and see them on a Sunday in early November and I had just received the ST-E3 and second 600 EX RT. So, I figured out how to use it on a Saturday, texted them to see if they'd be interested and talked "background" while we were there on the Sunday. I'll put some more thought into it for next time. But I am glad we have these shots...she already looks different....

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 12-09-2013 at 11:06 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Jayson's Avatar
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    I think you did pretty well. You have got some good expressions. I don't take baby portraits often but when I do, I use my 50mm f1.4 or my 24-70mm, but I use a 7D. I would agree with Mark that you should crop those in portrait to get everything in the picture. I usually have a little more picture and crop to what is needed with babies. You never know about the print sizes. For lighting, I would actually use your flash on manual so you get consistent output with the white background. I shoot at f/4 or f/5.6 and usually have my key on something like 1/4th power through the soft box right on the edge of the mattress. The other light set up a couple feet behind me on 1/4th power through umbrella. I raise the soft box so it is about 6ft high and put the umbrella all the way to the ceiling which is about 9ft. That gives a good ratio I've found and if they happen to move their head just right so there are two catchlights, I erase one in photoshop. Props are fun to use with little ones also. Get a basket, a hat (santa hat), hooded shirt, blanket, something like that to either play with or play in. It brings out smiles. Bubbles are good too (keep a rag handy to wipe up mess). I took all of my baby portraits for the kiddos on a couch that pulled out into a bed. That way I could be at their eye level and not worry about them rolling off. I would agree with the others that the ribs of the umbrella won't be noticed by most people and you can always edit the catch light if you really want to. I found this modifier on Amazon and it has held up pretty well for the last couple weeks. Its like the Apollo orb but much cheaper made and priced.

    If you don't like your background, you can alway go buy a simple white sheet or get some white fleece from hobby lobby or a craft store. I bought 4 yards of the white fleece 6 years ago and still use it for my white backgrounds today. Its warm for the kiddo to lay on too. I read somewhere that sometimes to keep little ones interested and sitting patiently, you can put a little piece of scotch tape loosely around their index finger. It worked for mine to keep them sitting where I wanted. You get some interesting expressions too. For posing, I would look online at pintrest or something like that. Keep in mind that for little ones, you can put them in any spot and they will roll, move, or scoot to somewhere else almost immediately. Roll with it and snap away. Take lots of pictures. You never know when they are going to give you the best expression. I always take so many more pictures when photographing little ones for that reason.

    Sorry for the ramblings, but hope there is something in there that might help.

    Jayson
    Last edited by Jayson; 12-09-2013 at 01:33 PM.

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