This article is courtesy of premier newborn photographer Amber Scruggs of Little Moon Photography in Leesburg, Virginia.
I spent 3 years only shooting natural light, studio lights scared me. Once I got my studio as much as I love the natural light it gets, I do get nervous about really dark winter days around here and having enough available light. I figured to buy a light, softbox, stand and triggers and see what I could do. I spent about a week just practicing to figure it out and have been using it ever since. I find lights to be 100 times easier to use, my images have better clarity and it’s so so so consistent color wise it makes editing a dream.
I use an AB400 (alien bee), a Westcott 50×50 Softbox, a heavy duty light stand and the Paul C Bluff wireless triggers. I love the AB400 because it’s not too powerful and I can shoot wide open just like I did with natural light. It really doesn’t matter too much what kind of weather it is outside, I do cover the windows if the sun is blaring in too much but for the most part in the winter, I don’t really need to, the light overpowers the ambient light from the windows. You can test this by just taking a shot with the same settings you are using with the light with the light turned off, since you are shooting at ISO100, very little ambient light will get in.
For settings, I typically shoot at f/2.2, ISO100, a SS between 100-200 and my light powered to 1/16. I just adjust as needed and always pay attention to my histogram to make sure I’m not blowing out any of my channels, with newborn and their warm skin, reds are usually the first to blow so be careful. If I want to close down and shoot at say f/4.5, I’d power my light to about 1/4 power. If I wanted to shoot at f/1.4 – f/1.8, I’d power my light down to 1/32.
To get natural looking light, you want to feather the light, I’m sure there are other tutorials out there that can explain it better, but you want the light to just fall over the front of the babies face, never uplight the baby either, always light down the face.
I always look at how the light is falling on the baby and move my light as needed. I love how using one light I can get beautiful shadows and definition on these tiny little babies faces. I treat the softbox just like it’s a window.
To learn more about newborn portraits from Little Moon Photography, please visit: http://littlemoonphotography.com/