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I love little babies, but photographing them can be challenging. I also love a challenge. Surmounting this challenge starts with my camera and lighting equipment. I use a Nikon D3s and 24-70mm Nikkor lens. I'm usually hovering right over the baby, so I prefer a shorter lens.
For lighting, I use two Elinchrom BXRi 500 heads with Elinchrom Rotalux Octa Softboxes. The light this rig produces is incredibly soft, and wraps around the baby. There aren't any of the harsh shadows that smaller light sources can produce.
I make sure the mother is near as much as possible, so that the baby relaxes. Having her scent and warmth beside the baby has a calming effect. By placing a neutral cloth over the mother, she becomes part of the background. Rarely can a person tell the mother is holding the baby in my portraits.
I shoot with the baby looking over the mother's shoulder so I can get a full-face portrait. Then I'll have mom hold the baby in front of her and get a couple more shots.
I do my best to get as many detail shots as possible, such as eyes, feet and hands.
I shoot everything in RAW, so my editing process starts with ingestion into Lightroom. I make minor changes to my overall images such as exposure, saturation and cropping. When I'm finished, I export the files as high-resolution JPEGs.
I then use editing software called Photomechanic, which allows me to move quickly through all of the pictures. I can also plug in general IPTC data like the subject's name and the date of the photo shoot. It also allows me to launch an editing sweet like Photoshop.
From there, I use my actions and plug-ins to finesse the infant portraits. One of my portrait editing plug-ins is Imagenomic Portraiture. You can see what the program looks like below. It's very simple, but it can be overused. I recommend taking editing very slowly—try not to overwork your portraits.
It usually takes me two hours to photograph a baby. This gives me time to put both the baby and the mother at ease. Plus, it also allows time for a quick bottle break or the occasional diaper change. After the session, it takes an hour for me to edit. Photographing babies takes patience, but the end results are worth it.
Stacy L. Pearsall
Charleston Center for Photography