Photographing a Newborn Using Your Digital SLR
8 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Photographing People Using Your Digital SLR
When you become a proud parent, take some time to put on your photographer’s hat, grab your digital SLR, and capture some photos of your precious newborn — you’ll be glad you did a few weeks from now when your baby looks so totally different.
Choosing camera settings for photographing a newborn
You want soft light and a shallow depth of field. You get that depth of field by using Aperture Priority mode and a large aperture — f/3.5 or larger — which blurs the foreground and background, and keeps your baby in sharp focus. An ISO range from 200 to 800 can take you from the first pictures of your baby in the hospital to photos of your bundle of joy illuminated by soft window light in your home. Use the 800 setting only if the light is very dim.
A focal length between 80mm to 100mm is ideal for intimate photos of the child with a parent or a close-up shot of the child all swaddled in soft blankets. Use image stabilization if your camera or lens has it because any operator movement when you photograph an intimate portrait results in an image that’s not as sharp as it could be. If you don’t have image stabilization, steadying the camera with a tripod is a good way to hedge your bets.
Taking a picture of a newborn
Photographing a baby is very rewarding for any parent or, for that matter, any photographer. However, if you’re not the parent, come to the photo session fully loaded with patience along with your digital SLR. You have no choice but to bow to the baby’s schedule.
Do your part to keep the babe calm by not startling her by using a flash or irritating her by placing her in bright light. Direct sunlight is hard on a newborn’s eyes and is too harsh for good photographs.
Find a window letting in soft light — ideal because it casts soft shadows — and move a sturdy table, covered with blankets to cushion the baby, into the light. Have a parent place the newborn on the blanket, and when she’s calm (she may not like leaving her parent’s arms and fuss for a minute), zoom in on her and position the auto-focus over the eye closest to the camera. Press the shutter button halfway to focus the shot and compose the picture. Find an interesting angle; Placing the baby’s eye on a power point is a good way to go. Press the shutter all the way to take the shot. Then press it a couple more times to make sure you get a good picture.
No baby pictures are complete until you include one or both parents. Choose a large aperture that has an f/stop of f/4.0 and focus on the baby. The parent may be slightly out of focus but the baby’s the star.