Sunday, May 1, 2011

My First Newborn Shoot

With so many friends pregnant like I am not only am I getting some early practice handling newborns I also have some willing parents who donate their babe to me for camera-related practice.  I am by no means a newborn photography expert, but I will share with you what I learned in my first "session" and how I edited my photo.

Yes, I said photo, not photos.

The poor little fella was crankier beyond cranky and I actually ended up with really only ONE good photo out of ten.  Compound that with the lengthy time it takes for me to edit the photo and I settled on choosing just one to share.  

This guy was a whopping three days old when I visited his momma.  She eagerly handed him over to me in order to take a couple photos.  Without any props and a cranky, constant feeder on my hands I resorted to what I could before a massive cranky fit broke out.  

This is the original photo straight out of the camera:

How I took this photo and tips
  1. Feed the baby.  VERY important!  A fed baby is a happy and posable baby, unless your baby happens to like to feed every five minutes.  If so, then its very difficult to get in good shots in such little time!
  2. Keep the baby warm!  Babies are very ineffective at regulating their own temperatures so they get cold quite quickly.  Once a baby gets cold they become uncomfortable, squirm, and cry.
  3. Bring props and a diaper cover!  Which I didn't and don't have.  Some prop examples include a diaper cover (nothing looks more unflattering than a white huggies on a newborn), hats, and blankets.  I was hoping that a cute bucket or wagon would be on hand to put the little guy in, but instead we settled for laying him on a white blanket on the couch. 
  4. Newborns don't often open their eyes.  Sometimes they do if they hear a mothers voice or loud sound.  If you happen to have an awake moment with the newborn take advantage of it!  Also, be prepared for the awake newborn to quickly realize that he is not hear his mom and to soon begin wailing. 
Editing the photo was a completely different challenge that took me a while to sort out.  The end result, however, was amazing and worth the time.

How I Edited this Photo:
  1. I started with the obvious, adjusting the exposure, brightness, and contrast in Lightroom before going to work on this photo in my old standby, Photoshop.
  2. The hardest part about newborns is the skin!  People have a perception that newborn skin is so white, smooth, and unblemished.  In reality it is the opposite, quite red and blotchy. I discovered a relatively easy way to fix it...  Create a layer mask of a white rectangle that covers the entire photo (it works especially well for me because the blanket is white - if you background is anything else you can erase the white shape over parts that are undesirable).  Once you create the layer mast change it to "Overlay" over the main image.  It will transform the blotchiness in an instant.
  3. I added a couple other light yellow textures that brought out the colors/contrast of the baby, particularly the eyes. 
  4. Lastly, I "burned" a little but of the baby's lips and eyes to make them more crisp.

Ultimately there is a lot to keep in mind when doing a newborn shoot and a lot of editing that takes place to get to angelic and pure professional looking photos.  If you would like to try out editing a newborn photo yourself right click on the original image and download it.  And now I can't wait to go back and take a second try and photographing this little guy.  I should get more than just one great photo next time! 

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