Starting Out in Newborn Photography with Elli Cassidy
One of our lovely customers Elli Cassidy has taken the time to write us a blog post about her experiences becoming a newborn photographer, and the kit she uses for her beautiful work taking pictures of newborn babies. Elli also runs mentoring courses so if you are as impressed with what you see as we are check out her website. Many thanks Elli.
Newborn lighting - A perfect partnership
As with every genre of photography, lighting style is a personal preference and there are many different ways of lighting newborns shots. That being said, my favourite lighting for babies is a simple one light set-up with a large diffused modifier. It gives me a lovely soft light, gently lighting the baby's face yet still giving soft shadows to shape and define their features. It also means I can spend those precious moments when a baby is asleep concentrating on perfecting the poses and not having to worry over my equipment settings at the same time.
From the dark days
I originally wanted to be a natural light photographer, I started out mobile without a studio, so not having to pack lights in my small hatchback was a bonus. However, I soon realised that the small terraced houses I often worked in, coupled with the UK’s winter light levels left me struggling. I was having to shoot at much higher ISOs than I wanted, even when shooting wide with fast glass and my images suffered from too much noise.
I then invested in continuous lights which were nice and portable. They were great at topping up natural light and made it far easier to achieve better exposures. Editing was still frustrating though as I found my white balance and exposure shifted a lot depending on whether the sun popped in and out of the clouds, and the lights weren't strong enough to use independently of ambient light. They also weren't able to freeze toddler motion when I shot siblings with newborns.
A flash of inspiration
When I moved into my studio, there was very little natural light reaching my shooting space, and what light there is was heavily green as my building is surrounded by a canopy of trees. I knew it was time to embrace the world of flash.
A friend recommended the Elinchrom D-lite RX One to me as they can have a really low power output (as low as 6 Ws) which would mean I could still shoot nice and wide, most other lights would require ND gels or filters to be able to open the aperture as wide as I wanted. The D-Lite RX One’s are also a great low cost light, I use it with the Elinchrom Skyport Trigger so that I can raise and lower the power of the light directly from my camera. My editing became so much quicker and more consistent as I was getting great shots to start with, the exposure and white balance stayed the same throughout each set-up, I could use a low ISO (200 is the Fuji's lowest) and it made batch editing straightforward.
I team my D-lite with a mixture of modifiers, sometimes a Large 105cm Translucent Umbrella or a 100cm Rotalux Squarebox Softbox. I've seen some lovely results with the 135cm Rotalux Octabox as well. For some set-ups I will use a reflector opposite to fill in and soften the shadows.
Last year I swapped from using full frame Nikon D700s to the mirrorless Fuji XT1s, and I'm so glad that I have the D-Lite RX One. I find I now often have the power as low as 0.5 to be able to shoot wide open with a low ISO, the transition was seamless and not something I thought would be easy to attain.
Newborn photographers often ask my about my lighting and whether mobile or studio based I think the D-Lite RX One is the way to go; it's simple but effective, a mini light for a mini model.
Elli's newborn lighting recommendation:
Purchase a complete package with the Elinchrom D-Lite RX One Baby Portrait Kit
You can see more of Elli's newborn photography at www.minimemories.co.uk and her newborn mentoring which includes lighting, here: