Answers to your questions regarding photography lighting!!
Rita, Bitsy Baby's studio owner, has answered your questions here in this blog post. If you have a question please email us at email@example.com and we will put it in line for our next post in this series.
How do I know what good light is for my photography sessions?
I always say "good light" is a matter of opinion. For instance, some photographer's work use very dramatic light setups with a lot of shadows and small slivers of light on the subject. Others may prefer very high-key setups, which means much of the image and subject is brightly lit including the background with little shadows, two good lighting styles but certainly appeal to different tastes. Here are just a couple rules I use in my own work and studio:
- If a baby or subject is looking at the camera with eyes open there should always be a catchlight in the eye so your light would need to provide this.
- The subject should be closest to the light source for the best quality light or further away if you prefer or need more feathered light or if your light source is a higher window.
- Unless the background is black or white, all parts of the image should have some detail versus completely black or blown out (white), especially on the body or face.
- When outdoors, sunlight is generally best coming from the side or behind the subject.
How do I "find" the good light for newborn portraits?
I always say as long as you have some light then you are good but the more light you have to work with, the better. You can always block extra light to customize your light arrangement but when you have very minimal light you may need an alternate source such as a reflector or an off camera flash. We use black felt to block extra light sources and white nylon material to diffuse very bright direct sun such as this product HERE.
What do I look for when I am doing in home photography such as where to set up to photograph a baby?
When we work in client's home, we are looking for light sources/windows or patio doors that also provide somewhat uncluttered backgrounds. Sometimes we will remove a wall portrait or decor element in their home to provide a solid background for their immediate setup. If it isn't distracting then we leave everything in place and love to include the natural elements of the family's home just as it is. For larger families with young children we prefer larger light sources like bay windows or patio doors that will give us plenty of light which allows us to still use higher shutter speeds to assure the moving subjects are not blurry. When there is limited light indoors don't be afraid to wrap the baby up and go outside if the weather permits. Open skies provide beautiful light.
For newborns up to sitting babies we look for light that goes to the floor such as a patio door so the baby that is laying or sitting closer to the ground is still fully lit. Alternately, you can use a window next to a bed and have the baby up on the bed. Always have a parent watching the baby for safety when on the bed. We do use a high chair in some sessions and this can be near even a smaller window as the baby is raised higher in the chair.
Our first birthday session babies always end up with their cake in our antique high chair. If we are shooting lifestyle images we look for enough light in the living areas and nursery. Now, if we are photographing a newborn and are working towards those posed images, typically on a beanbag, then we definitely look for a smaller area that can be easily warmed to keep the baby sleepy. If you are bringing a lot of things for your setups such as faux floors, backgrounds, beanbag, blankets, etc., you may need a somewhat larger area. The most important thing is to keep your baby warm and comfortable. The larger area you are working in the more challenging this becomes so prioritize the session's needs and go from there. We enjoy keeping our in home photography sessions all natural with lots of emotional lifestyle imagery where we use minimal props and setups that are not a part of the home. I could go on with this question but this provides some basics. =)
Is it easier to have a studio where you are accustomed to your light or work in a client's home where light may always be different but children are more comfortable?
I am lucky enough to have a studio but do also give clients the option for us to come to their home for an in home photography session in Maryland and Washington DC areas. True, you do become familiar with the light and white balance etc in your own studio but there is nothing like going into a client's home and using their own personal space as their backdrops, though admittedly this adds a challenging element to the session if you are just starting out. What style of imagery they prefer also adds to whether it is easier. For example, if they prefer the studio style of perfectly posed images, sleeping babies, and solid backgrounds then that is definitely easier for us to do in the studio where all the preparation elements such as proper temperatures and props are at hand versus setting up all the stuff in their home and hoping there will be an ideal working space.
However, if they enjoy the emotional and raw images of a lifestyle session then that is very easy for us to accomplish in their home versus our professional studio since we are trained and prepared to "find the light" and then focus on capturing storytelling imagery for the family. I will say we have our studio set up to be able to provide both studio and lifestyle looking imagery even including outdoor setups. Clients love the variety in their final galleries we now provide and they can get it all in one place which is ideal.
When you work on location do you bring studio lights or only work with natural light?
Our professional camera equipment allows us to shoot in very low light settings without the need of large and cumbersome studio lights in homes. So, no, we do not bring studio lights but do have an off camera flash in the event we need just a touch more light to fill shadows. Even in the studio, we prefer to work with natural light for our baby sessions and the natural light of nature itself outdoors on our wooded studio property.
What equipment do you recommend for low light situations?
Certainly look into professional camera and lenses, the consumer level of even SLRs do not provide the quality needed for professional images under low light situations. A prime lens such as a 35mm or 50mm lens helps out as well with their low 1.8 apertures to let in the most light as possible. We always say as a professional you should have equipment that allows you to do what your clients can not do for themselves. And if you are a non-pro that is inspired to capture your own family with professional quality then do look at the pro lines of equipment. We use the professional line of Nikon camera bodies and lenses and are always thrilled with the outcomes, even in near darkness.
I have seen so many styles of baby photography I like and sometimes the image is very dark and sometimes it is very well lit and bright. What is the difference and what is the best style for baby portraits and clients?
This could be an extension of the first several questions above. I would say the style of lighting you choose to go with in your art and business is a matter of taste. For my own liking I tend to fall towards dramatic light and deeper shadows but we seem to notice our clients actually enjoy more evenly lit images based on the particular images they choose and order. We provide a variety of styles in the studio and have a setup for a darker more dramatic style of image as well as a brighter background and lighter toned side of the studio to make sure our clients receive a good variety in their image galleries. We encourage our clients to let us know if they have seen any work in our portfolio they are specifically fond of and we can lean towards that style more for their images to be sure they are satisfied with the outcome.
If you have a question you would like highlighted in our Photography Tips blog series please email it to us via the contact page on the Bitsy Baby Photography website here and we will line it up for future posts. If this has been helpful and you are interested in more photography training please visit the Photography tab on the website for more training and workshop information.