Sunday, November 15, 2009

Photographing Infants: Part 2

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, photos of my son!

In this photo Alexander is three days old and like a good baby model, sound asleep. I wanted to achieve the look of natural light with soft shadows and a slight directional quality as if the light was screaming in the window. Then I remembered I live in Western Washington and light here can be hard to find on a rainy day. I found myself with two choices, either shoot with the natural light and a high ISO or try flash. Before anyone skips to the bottom of the page and begins commenting on how mean it is to startle infants with a strobe, let me tell you how you can do the same without causing any trouble for yourself and your subject. The name of the game here is bounce.

To start I placed a pop-up reflector card by my front window and then positioned the SB-900 on it's floor stand (included in the box) about half a foot away from the reflector and pointing directly at it. I also positioned another reflector by Alex's head and 180 degrees from the flash and reflector combo in the window. To test the flash I placed a stand in for Alex in the basket and checked the lighting was what I wanted. Then while holding my son I tested the flash at half power and watched him to make sure he wouldn't jump in my arms.  When it flashed Alex didn't even move a muscle because it was several feet from him and being redirected by the reflector cards.  Completely ready I took off his clothes, fed him, and then once he was fast asleep, placed him in he basket. For me getting babies into the right position is always the hardest part. Key things to remember though: make them look comfortable, (unless you're going for that Anne Geddes I'm a super bendable infant thing) try to find angles that flatter them just as you would adults, and work fast once your shot is set up. With a naked infant there are a number of things that can go horribly wrong in a matter of seconds. I'm sure you can guess what those are so I won't elaborate.

The shots used in this blog post were all shot at the same exposure 1/20 @ f4.5. I wanted the background visible but not distracting. And as usual I enjoy shooting with wider angle lenses close up. The first image above was shot at 16mm so I could include the entire basket and some of the floor. The next image (left) was at 35mm and still has some of the wide angle feel but it's closer to normal (50mm) so there is just a little distortion. (Or in layman's terms- the reason why this baby looks to have a giant head.) Plus with the f4.5 you can see that the image is sharp from his hair to fingers. Note: it's always good to remember that the depth of field provides sharpness forwards and backwards from your focal point. So because I was focused on Alex's eyes, his hands and hair also fell within that range while letting the background and the rest of his body past the shoulder fall off in sharpness and blur together.

The next image has the same exposure, nearly the same focal length (40mm), but the angle is different. I moved about a foot to the right to become more parallel with the baby and by doing so I changed ever so slightly the focal range and perspective. The third image (right) shows his head in better proportion to his body and while I like the angle of the second image I think it's important to note how different they look and how minor the adjustments between each image create varied results.

In case your wondering set up for these photos took about a half an hour and I shot nearly 20 frames during the next 10 minutes. At that point Alex was tired of me pushing his legs back into the right place in between shots and began to fuss. Being his mom and knowing we were going to do another photo shoot the following day, we ended our photo session. If the baby had been a client's child we would have moved on to another pose after the baby had some time to settle down. On average this can be a few minutes to a half an hour in some cases.

The Alexander photos continue tomorrow with some tutorials about how to make better black and white images.

For more information about infant portrait session with Irene Jones Photography please visit our website, Irene Jones Photography Online.

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