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.
Outdoors I look for open shade, or pockets of shade. Usually under a bunch of trees is a good spot like here:
You want to make sure while they are in the shade they are still facing the light so you get great catchlights:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!