This article on newborn lighting techniques is courtesy of renowned newborn portrait photographer Amber Scruggs of Little Moon Photography in Virginia.
I always aim to feather my light so that I get nice light going down the baby’s body, the shadows help define their tiny little features. My light is always placed about 90 degrees shining down the head/face. Here is the correct way to place the softbox to get ideal shadows/even lighting for newborns:
One mistake I see often is people place the edge of the box or light source (window/sliding glass door) BEHIND the babies head. Doing this gives deeper shadows and “black holes” for eyes since the light is not feathering/skimming down the front of the baby, instead baby is being lit from the front and the back.
Here’s the resulting image from that “bad” placement, the differences are not huge, but definitely noticeable, especially in the eye sockets as they are dark and unlit.
One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is flatly lit newborn images. I find that lighting a newborn flatly is not flattering to their little features, here you can see the placement of a light for this situation:
Too much light coming in FRONT of the baby and not cascading DOWN the baby gives you very little shadowing as seen in the resulting image here:
The flatly lit image converted to black and light will look horrible & muddy.
The image with the softbox placed so that the light is perfectly feathered, the black and white conversion has much more depth and contrast.
Westcott Lighting Gear in Action