Fujifilm X for Newborns

Elli-Cassidy

By Elli Cassidy

I’m a newborn and maternity photographer and trainer based in Lincolnshire and also in London, UK. I’m often asked why I recommend the Fujifilm X series for my newborn work so I’ve outlined the main reasons below.

I bought an X100S in 2013 which I intended to use as a personal camera for photographs of my children as my DSLR was just too big to carry around daily. I fell utterly in love with both the look and feel of the X100S and also with the files it produced. I soon concluded that I need to progress to Fujifilm for my client work, so I sold my existing DSLR camera and lenses and bought an X-T1 for the studio, it has the same Fujifilm feel, and again, wonderful files. Once I started using the X-T1 for client work I found it really came into it’s own, so many of it’s design features helped make my sessions run smoother.

When posing babies on my beanbag set-up I need to stay within close proximity to them so that I am always within arms reach if they were to stir or startle when in a pose. My favourite lens for these images is the 16-55mm as it enables me to get full body shots and also closer crops all whilst staying right next to the subject. I will sometimes use my 35mm too, as I love the extra shallow depth of field I can get when shooting wide open, it helps the blanket backdrops naturally fade off without having to manipulate it in photoshop after.

To help babies settle I often keep my hand on them so they still feel some contact, at around 6-12 days old they aren’t use to being left alone yet, and this is where the X-T1 makes a massive difference to the way I work. It is light enough that even with the 16-55mm lens, I can shoot steadily with one hand, only removing my other hand from the baby just before I take the shot.

The silent shutter is also a winner, once the baby is asleep it’s great to know that there won’t be any heavy shutter clunks to disturb them.

Beanbag
X-T1, 16-55mm, 1/180s, f/2.8

For prop shots I usually use my 56mm or again the 16-55mm zoom. When I shoot against my wooden backdrop the 56mm at f/1.2 gives a wonderful separation between the baby and the backdrop and really makes them stand out. For these shots I do ask a parent to spot the baby for me and they are right next to them, just out of the frame, ready to hold the baby should they roll or startle. On these portraits I tend to use the tilt screen so that I can hold the camera just above the floor enabling me to capture the baby at their eye level which gives a really intimate feel to the images.

Prop
X-T1, 56mm, 1/180s, f/2.2

Another set-up I like to do is with the flokati rugs, the baby is all curled up in womb-like pose and I shoot from above looking straight down. With the X-T1’s tilt screen, I stand next to the baby and using a light weight wrist strap, hold my camera directly overhead using the screen to frame the image. Before I moved to Fujifilm I had to use a small step to stand on to be able to compose the same image with my DSLR, it was heavy to hold and I never felt that standing on something near the baby was the safest way of working, so I’m delighted now that the X-T1 lets me work around this easily.

When including older siblings within a newborn shoot I have found the X-T1 to be less intimidating and intrusive to my young clients. It’s not big and menacing like large DSLRs and using live view means I can keep eye contact with them too which makes for a much more relaxed image.

Flokati-rug
X-T1, 35mm, 1/125, f/2.2

An obvious benefit I felt when swapping to Fujifilm was the improved practicality, after a day of shooting my wrists, arms and back really thank me for the weight difference. I certainly couldn’t have entertained the idea of shooting as freely as I do know, sometimes one handed and frequently over the top of my tiny model.

I love that the settings I tend to change within a session are all easy to access, the ergonomics of the X-T1 have always felt ‘right’ to me, I can twist a dial without having to go hunting through menus. I spot focus and find the D-pad easy to use to toggle my focus points, and the auto white balance seems to do a fantastic job with tricky baby skin tones.

I genuinely do think my little X-T1 combined with the great line up of lenses are the perfect match for my little clients.

Baby-in-hands
X-T1, 16-55mm, 1/180, f/2.8

 

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Explaining apertures with puppies

Despite photographing lots of dogs prior to this I naively thought that I’d be able to line up eleven calm and collected Labrador puppies to demonstrate the effect of different apertures on a photograph.

Do these look calm and collected to you?

Labrador puppies-3

Despite the challenging subjects I hope that I can help you understand the fundamentals of using different apertures and how this affects a photograph.

To start off there are three things that are all intertwined in a photograph, these are your shutter speed, ISO/ASA and aperture. Shutter speed is the length of time your camera shutter is open for. This is important depending on what you are trying to photograph, if you are wanting to freeze action then you are going to want a fast shutter speed such as 1/1000 of a second. While if you wanted to create motion blur then you would want a slower shutter speed, for example, 1/60th of a second.

A shutter speed of 1/1900 of a second helped to freeze this leaping puppy

Labrador puppies-17

ISO is a way of setting the sensitivity of the camera sensor. The lower the ISO number (e.g. ISO 100), generally the better the overall quality of the image. However, the lower the number the more light required for an exposure. A sensor set up at ISO 100 requires a shutter speed four times longer than a sensor set up with ISO 400. With ISOs you have to decide what you want to prioritise, faster shutter speed or better quality, you have to find the compromise you are happy with for the situation at hand.

Tired puppy at ISO 200

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Crop of puppy showing high levels of detail at low ISO

ISO 200 crop

Then there are apertures… This dictates how deep the depth of field will be in the photograph. For example f1.4 has a very shallow depth of field that is helpful for isolating a subject, while f11 has a large depth of field that means everything in a composition can be sharp. Again though there is a twist as the smaller the f number the larger the amount of light let into the lens, meaning faster shutter speeds.

At f1.4 the depth of field is so shallow that only the eyes are in focus

Labrador puppies-8

If one of the three factors change, then it affects at least one of the two other factors. For example if your camera is set up with ISO 400 and aperture f5.6, showing a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second and you want to increase your shutter speed then you can lower your aperture a stop to f4 (which will double your shutter speed) or another stop to f2.8 (quadruple your shutter speed). Alternatively if you don’t want to change your aperture then you can increase your ISO to 800 which would also double your shutter speed.

Using puppies was a difficult choice…

My intention for this blog was to have a wonderful selection of shots showing eleven puppies sat in a line using a variety of different apertures to show how this affects depth of field. The owner Ruth Mercer, who very kindly let me photograph the puppies, said the best time to do this would be when they’re being fed. As the birds eye view picture clearly shows, my dream of a nice orderly line was never going to happen! Why I thought this was possible with these little bundles of energy was beyond me. No matter though, the whole experience was utterly heart warming. And all is not lost as I did obtain some shots that highlight the difference in depth of field caused by different apertures.

Puppy at f1.4

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Puppy at f10

Labrador puppies-20

You can see that with the second photo the depth of field is much greater than the first. This in turn shifts the focus away from the isolated, in-focus puppy in the first image to the whole scene of the second image. Note how your eye should be drawn a lot more to the bottom of the black puppy a lot more in the second image because it is in focus.

Despite being a rather unusual way to highlight how different apertures can affect the image produced, I hope this puppy inspired explanation has helped further your understanding. The lens used for the majority of these shots was the XF23mm f1.4 r which offers very fast autofocus and a very shallow depth of field, using f1.4, to give the photographer the greatest amount of control through a wide aperture range (f1.4-f16).

The take home message is that a small f-stop number allows you to create a very shallow depth of field to help isolate a subject. While a large f-stop number will mean that a larger proportion of the content in the picture will be in focus. To finish with here are a few more shots of the puppies, generally using a shallow depth of field to keep the focus on these adorable little characters. You can also check out a video of this adorable experience here by Ellice Dart.