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Category Archives: FAQ

Time for another FAQ post!

I’ve gotten awesome feedback on my FAQ posts so how about another? Submit your questions to me within the next two weeks. Questions can be about to all things photography but I will not answer business related questions.

Email your questions to: amber@littlemoonphotography.com and don’t forget to become a fan of Little Moon on Facebook, CLICK HERE! Once I hit 1000 fans I’m going to do something very special to celebrate.;-)

Because I love her, here’s a photo from a session earlier this week. I LOVE two year olds, I asked her to smile and show me her teeth and she took it quite literally.
clare

FAQ V2! | Northern Virginia Newborn Photographer

WOW, I got so many awesome questions for this post I wish I could answer them all. I’m going to dive right in with the first question and probably the most popular question…

1) I am wondering what aperture setting is your favorite (do you shoot at very low apertures). Also, indoors how high are you able to go
with iso without getting “lots of noise” (although I understand a 5D can handle higher iso than a 50D, which is what I have). Would you ever be willing to share some of your workflow.

Hmmm, that is hard to say. I shoot all over the place as far as settings go but I do favor shooting wide open. For outdoor photos with a moving toddler I’m usually at f/2.0, that seems to be my sweet spot on my 85 1.2L.

Here’s an example:

Here is a SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) shot from this past weekend. This one was taken at f/1.6 (he was sitting on a stool so I felt comfortable going low since he wasn’t running), 1/640, ISO320 (very overcast morning) with my 85 1.2L.
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I used my Photovision Calibration Target to set my custom white balance and pretty much nailed my exposure by checking my histogram right after the first shot I took and just adjusted my shutter speed as needed. Since there was nothing of importance that added to the story behind him I chose to shoot wide open so that he would be the focus of the this headshot.

Here’s the edited shot:
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Much better, huh?

Like I said in the past I keep my editing VERY simple. For this photo, I shot in RAW and opened up the raw file in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). Within RAW I:
- bumped the exposure a little to the right.
- adjusted the temp a tad cooler
- increased the blacks
- increased contrast
- increased clarity just a tad

I then opened it in CS3 and:
- did a very simple curves adjustment, grabbed the middle of the curve and lifted it a little bit to the upper left corner.
- ran portraiture and then reduced the opacity to 40% and also reduced the warmth of the skin to -2 within my portraiture settings.
- used the clone tool to fix a bruise on his head and lessened the dark under-eye circles.
- added contrast.
- did another curves bump.
- did a quick high pass sharpen.
- cropped it so he wasn’t so centered.

And a B&W conversion, I LOVE Nicole Van’s B&W action for an edited photo:
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For indoor shoots (which all newborns are) I typically shoot my ISO’s between 300-800. I’m set up right next to a window with the baby’s face at a 45 degree angle to the light source so even on overcast days I have never had to go above ISO800. With the 5D MKII it’s entirely possible to go over ISO1000 but I just prefer not to since the majority of my clients buy large prints of their babies and I really don’t love what noiseware does to my photos.

Here’s an indoor newborn SOOC from this past weekend:
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Again, exposure according to my histogram was spot on without blowing the blanket. Baby looks a tad dark but I know I can fix that in post production. This was shot at f/2.8 (again dealing with a very dark day), 1/100 and 43mm on my 24-70 2.8L. My shutter speed is a little lower than I usually like but I have pretty steady hands and am able to get a sharp shot. A general rule of thumb is to take your focal length and double it and that’s a safe shutter speed to stay out without getting soft photos.

Here’s the edited shot:
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In ACR I:
- bumped up the exposure and brightness.
- increased contrast
- increased clarity a tad

Then in CS3 I:
- did my standard curves bump as described above.
- ran portraiture and lowered the opacity to 50% and reduced warmth by -2.
- did a levels adjustment and dragged the middle tick line towards the left to brighten the midtones a bit.
- in a selective color layer I took out some yellow under neutrals.
- cropped and cloned the background a bit to make the blanket more perfect.
- high pass sharpen (I use an action I purchased from Nicole Van)

Then we have my outdoor newborns. With these since they are not moving and are stationary in a basket or bowl I usually shoot at f/1.2 like in this shot. Here’s the SOOC:
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This was shot at f/1.2, 1/500, ISO160 with my 85 1.2L. I LOVE how shooting at 1.2 renders the background into a smooth, blurry explosion of greens and color like a painting.

And the edited shot:
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Again, I opened this in ACR and:
- bumped the temp a little warmer since the baby’s skin looks a tad cool.
- increased exposure
- increased my blacks
- increased vibrance to punch up the greens.
- increased brightness

And in CS3 I:
- did a curves bump.
- ran portraiture on a low opacity and increased the warmth +1.
- levels bump
- increased contrast
- in selective color I opened neutrals and took out -2 magenta and added +2 in yellow.
- cloned out some of the more obvious flakes on the baby’s skin.
- sharpened

See, all very simple stuff I treat every photo differently but similarly if that makes sense. I don’t use many actions because I like to do things myself.

2. When working with a moving toddler and shooting with a wide open aperture how do you set your camera to focus?

PRACTICE, lots of it. I wouldn’t suggest anyone shooting wide open with a moving toddler unless you are used to it. Start at say f/3.5 and master nailing focus at that point and then work your way down. I toggle my focus points because that’s what I’m used to and it works for me. I’ve gotten really fast at doing it and am also very used to shooting wide open. When I was just starting out I would take my son out daily to practice my skills, I’d focus on one thing that day and my goal was to master it.

3. First, do you offer any kind of workshops and second can you explain how on earth you get newborns to rest their heads on/in their hands while they are up on their elbows?!? I have tried this pose many times but it never seems to work!

I get asked about workshops and mentoring ALL the time and I’m hosting a small, private newborn workshop in 2 weeks down at our beach house in the outer banks. This is a private get together with a bunch of amazing photographers from across the country that I’m doing a little workshop for. This is for fun and not paid, I have NO idea what the future holds as far as formal workshops go so I will just leave it at that. Right now I have no plans of doing them.

I’d love to mentor everyone who asks but due to time constraints, I can’t right now.

For the hands on the head pose, I use a U shaped neck pillow or boppy underneath the beanbag and just lay the baby on their belly resting their head on their arms. They have to be VERY asleep to get this pose but once they are out you can easily move and mold them into place.

4) Where do you get your props/ backdrops / wraps you use for newborn sessions?
I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for new props. My most recent find came from a local antique store, it’s an old, wooden trencher bowl:
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This wrap is actually organic cheese cloth that I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond:
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The rest of my wraps and hats are from www.etsy.com from various sellers. I spend a LOT of time and money on that site.

5) Can you please post a step by step swaddle demo using photos instead? I can’t remember any steps you showed, only that it was the best demo I’d ever seen and I badly need swaddling 101! I also would love to know the best size for the swaddling fabric.

For this shot:
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I bought brown stretchy fabric from a fabric store, I want to say it’s a mix of cotton, rayon, and spandex and I cut it down to a 18×18 square and swaddled the baby just like you would with a normal blanket except I tucked the baby’s legs up and pulled it nice and tight as I swaddled so you can still see the outline of the baby under the fabric.

6) I want to know how you get the newborn’s legs to stay perfectly in that position, when they are laying on their back and the image is shot from above (usually a vertical).

For shots like this:
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I make sure that my beanbag is nice and squishy. For most shots I like it firm so I use a rubber band to tie off the bottom so it’s nice and tight but for these shots I take the rubber band off or loosen it so it has more give. I then take a receiving blanket, roll it up and shove it under the black fleece under the legs/butt of the baby and it helps them keep their legs closed. The baby also has to be asleep, when they are awake their legs are all over the place.

7) What do you do when you have a newborn that will NOT sleep? I had a recent shoot with a two-week old and so she was already a little “old” for newborn shots, and she was wide awake for two hours straight and flailing her cute little arms all over the place. Any tips or suggestions??

I’ve been known to spend 4 hours at a newborn session waiting to get the shots I want but I’ve also been known to know when to call it a day and have gone back the day after to finish up a session. I’m a VERY patient person and that is definitely needed but I’m also dedicated to providing my clients with the images they hired me to get so if going back on another day is necessary, I will do it. I am also pretty good about making sure I do my newborn sessions within their first two weeks of life, that makes a HUGE difference. After two weeks they hit that crazy awake period and also start cluster feeding and hit growth spurts.

Some good shots to do with awake newborns are the swaddled ones, shots with Mom & Dad, and other more lifestyle type shots around their house.
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Babies are much easier to pose/move when they are asleep so that is usually my goal.:-)White noise, full bellies, warm house, space heater, etc. all usually do the trick.

Hope this post was helpful and hopefully I can do another one soon.;-)

Last Call for FAQ’s!

I haven’t forgotten that I promised to do another FAQ post I’ve just been VERY busy. It seems that I’ve hit a baby boom around here in August and have had 7 newborn sessions.

If you have a question about anything photography related please send it to amber@littlemoonphotography.com. Please note that I will not answer business related questions but am more than happy to answer technical photography, post processing, and posing questions.

And because I can’t post without a photo, here’s one more of sweet little “A”. I call this photo Baby Got Back….. back wrinkles that is.;-)
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TGIT, I’m off to watch my summer addiction, Big Brother!

Well Hello There! How about another FAQ Post? | Northern Virginia Newborn Photographer

I can’t believe I haven’t posted on here in over a week. We had an awesome 4th down in the Outer Banks. Unlike last summer where we didn’t go to the beach at all, I’m taking full advantage of vacation this year. There is something amazing about taking a weekend off and unplugging from life for a while. With the pace I’m working these days, it’s much needed for my sanity.:-)

Here’s a shot I snapped while we were sitting on the beach watching the 20 or so firework shows going on around us. I LOVE how you can see the silhouette of the lifeguard stand and the other people on the beach.
fireworks

Now that I’m back, how about another FAQ post? The last one went so well and I was overwhelmed with questions I was seriously shocked to see how many people read my blog.

If you have any sort of photography (or non-photography) related questions for me, email me at amber@littlemoonphotography.com. I hope to have another post up sometime in the next few weeks.

Now back to work, keep an eye out for lots of sessions coming up in the next few days.:-)

FAQ’s! | Northern Virginia Newborn and Baby Photographer

Wow, I’m totally blown away at the response I got to offering up a FAQ post! I got so many I can’t include all of the questions in one post so look for another one of these soon and keep the questions coming!

1) How do you find your light, inside and outside?

Ahh, this is one of those million dollar questions. Finding the light is one of the most important skills to have when you are a photographer, good light can make or break a photo. When doing sessions indoors I usually try to set the child or newborn up at a 45 degree angle to the light source. When I arrive on site at a location I immediately scope out the entire house for the rooms with the strongest light. I find that bedrooms usually have awesome light in the mornings (when I usually do my sessions) and then work from there. I’m lucky that a lot of the homes I work in are new construction so the windows are nice and big.

Here you can see a little behind the scenes look into a newborn session, the beanbag is underneath the blanket and I just clip the blanket to a couple of chairs to give me a seamless blanket backdrop. I turn it so the baby is at a 45 degree angle to the windows so I get good directional lighting.
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Outdoors I look for open shade, or pockets of shade. Usually under a bunch of trees is a good spot like here:
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You want to make sure while they are in the shade they are still facing the light so you get great catchlights:
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I tend to shoot wide open outdoors (usually between f/2.5 and f/1.2, I LOVE getting the blurry looking backgrounds especially when it’s lush and green out.

One tip when outside photographing a client, take a photo and then peek at it, make sure that the light looks good and if it’s not, just move them.

2) How do you get that beautiful glowing baby skin? Specifically, what I mean is there is not a trace of orange in it, it’s just a lovely perfect beige creamy color, there are no red marks under the nose or on the forehead or anywhere, it’s not too magenta or yellow or cyan…you know what I mean!

This question was not asked once but I think 4 or 5 times, lol. For skin tones the first thing I always do is set a custom white balance. I use Ed Pierce’s Photovision Target and swear by this thing. This saves me a TON of time in post processing and makes sure that I get their skin tones right in camera.

I also swear by portraiture, a plug-in for photoshop. You have to be very careful when using it or you run the risk of getting fake looking skin and we definitely don’t want that. I always run portraiture on it’s own layer and then reduce the opacity to 20-30%. Within portraiture I always bump the brightness to +2. I like the way this looks.

If a baby is jaundice or very pink I just do a selective color layer and reduce the amount of yellow or magenta under “neutrals”. That usually does the trick for me.
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Lastly, the LENSES make a huge difference. I’ve found that Canon’s L Series lenses produce some of the most amazingly cream skin right out of the camera. My all time favorite portrait lens is my 85 1.2L. I also love my 24-70 2.8L, it’s an amazing and versatile zoom lens.

3) Photography is my passion, and I was thinking about working up to going professional by starting with friends and family and building up a portfolio. I have a Sony point and shoot. Is it absolutely necessary for me to have a DSLR? Could I start with the point and shoot and make the change later?

You can definitely start out with a point and shoot! All P&S cameras have an option where you set the settings manually. The most important thing when starting out is learning the correlation between ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture and you can do that even with a P&S! Just turn off the flash and jump right in, I’ve seen some awesome photos taken with a point and shoot camera. An awesome book to read (and the one that helped make things *click* (no pun intended :-)) is Brian Peterson’s Understanding Exposure.

I don’t see anything wrong with skill or portfolio building with a Point and Shoot but I would most definitely invest in a good body and a few lenses before you start charging someone.

4) How in the world do you convince the parents to let you photograph their babies while they are under two weeks? How do you allow time in your schedule for newborns?

I tell parents that all of the babies in my portfolio (which is the reason they are hiring me, right?) are two weeks and younger and the longer we wait after that, the harder the session is going to be. Plus, I warn them of the horrible baby acne that can set in after week two. My poor son had it and it was AWFUL looking, no amount of photoshop was going to fix that lol. I always joke with parents that once they call their friends and family letting them know of the arrival of their baby to call me and I’ll be over as soon as they get home from the hospital.

As far as scheduling them, once the client books me I mark their due date down on my calendar. I always leave room in my schedule to fit in the newborns that I know are arriving. Since I book out months in advance I always let potential newborn clients know they need to book me BEFORE their baby is born.

5) As a mom/hobbyist photographer trying to improve my skills I am curious what your set up for photographing infants looks like? How do you position babies in relation to windows, etc. When you put them on the beautiful fabric backgrounds you use, where are they (i.e. on a bed, table, floor?) and what angle do you position yourself at to get such great shots?

With newborns they are always on a beanbag (see above photo) and usually at a 45 degree angle facing the windows.

For older babies up to age 1, I love shooting on Mom & Dad’s bed. It puts them at a great height for me to shoot them. To separate your photos from looking like “mom shots” get down on your child’s level when shooting. I’m frequently crawling and laying on the ground during sessions for this reason and my knees are constantly bruised because of this.

For the awkward ages when they can’t yet sit up and don’t do well on their bellies, shooting while standing directly above them works best. Lay them on a blanket to give yourself a pretty “backdrop” and shoot away. Make sure though that while standing you are not blocking your light source.
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6) When do you find time to work? Is your son in school and you work during the day or are you a night owl and stay up til’ all hours of the night slaving away?

I’m a night owl! My son is 21 months and goes to bed at 7 every night so usually from 7-11pm I’m in my office in front of my computer working. It’s not easy but I still love doing this so much that it doesn’t feel like “work” to me.

7) Do you pack a ton of stuff to your newborn shoots? What’s the best way to transport all the goodies. I feel like I’m bringing everything but the kitchen sink and am exhausted when it’s done from packing all goods. How long do your shoots usually run? Do you provide all the fun hats and accessories for the newborns or are the parents buying those? How do you encourage them to buy the accessories if they are the ones providing them?

Yep, I’m 100% on location so for newborn sessions I feel like I’m literally moving in to my clients homes. I have a few of those giant oversized boat totes from LLBean that I use to carry my blankets and then I also have another bag full of hats and wraps. Newborn sessions are at least 2 hours, sometimes 3. I’ve only had one session go longer than 3 hours and that was because the baby was a long cluster-nurser. One recommendation I usually make for breastfeeding mothers is to try and pump some milk for the session so the feeding doesn’t take as long.

I have a HUGE bag full of newborn hats and wraps. I’m an etsy addict and love buying fun new hats. I also ask the parents ahead of time to lay out any hats or special blankets they would like to use during the shoot but I also let them know that I have a ton of fun accessories as well. I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for new hats, baskets, etc. I love to try something new at every session.

I love using cheesecloth to wrap babies, just cut it into small strips and wash it to make it look nice and warn.
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8 ) Did you teach yourself Photoshop? Do you use actions? How long do you spend editing an average session? Will you describe your general workflow for post shoot?

Yep, I’m 100% self taught with Photoshop. I use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) mindset when it comes to editing and the only actions I use are for my black and whites (LOVE Nicole Van’s B&W workflow set). Once I download the RAW files from my card I bring them up in ACR (adobe camera raw) and look at every single photo. I blow it up to 100% and make sure the eyes are tack sharp and if they are not, the photo gets tossed. I rank my favorites and then get to editing.

In ACR I usually adjust exposure (bump it up a tad), clarity, brightness, contrast, vibrance and blacks. Once in CS3 I just do a simple curves adjustment to brighten it, run potraiture on it’s own layer, adjust the brightness/contrast, and then run a defog (unsharp mask at varying settings depending on the photo. Sometimes I’ll sponge the background to pop the color a bit on it’s own layer and adjust the opacity down to 20% but usually don’t have to do that, especially with the MKII.

That’s really it, like I said I LOVE clean processing and don’t like using lots of crazy actions, I want my photos to look natural.
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Hope this post was hopeful, like I said keep the questions coming and maybe I’ll make this a regular feature.:-)Keep checking back on the blog this weekend, I have a TON of sessions to share with you including 3 newborns!

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