Baby It’s Cold Outside..

10-xmas-fuji

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Elli Cassidy

At Christmas it’s almost compulsory to take photographs and when you add a newborn baby into the equation it’s the perfect opportunity to create something extra special.

Whether you’re a fan of full-on Christmas decor, or prefer just a subtle nod to the season I hope this fills you with hints, tips and a sprinkle of festive inspiration.


If you are new to photographing babies you can keep it simple and natural, have baby lying on the back and photograph them awake and relaxed. Newborn babies can’t focus their eyes well, so I wait for them to stare into the distance and then move my camera into their line of sight, it can take a bit of patience but is usually worth it.

For this shot, I dressed the baby in a soft white romper and a berry headband which sets the season without needing a santa hat.

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1/100s, f/2.8, iso 100, X-T2, XF16-55

Another simple image to capture is baby toes, they can be awake or asleep for this, though for wrigglers I’m grateful for the fast focusing of the X-T2.  In the first shot you can see the out of focus fairy lights which add an interest to the composition, and for the second shot I used a berry coloured wrap to create a warm festive feel.  In the second shot I was actually gently holding the baby’s toes in place underneath the fabric to keep them at the angle I wanted.  The tilt screen on the X-T2 was handy here as I could both hold her feet and shoot one handed comfortably.

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1/100s, f/2.8, iso 100, X-T2, XF16-55
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1/100s, f/2.8, iso 200, X-T2, XF16-55

Overhead shots are also easy shots to get whilst keeping baby safely lying down on fabric. The wreath I used is mainly fabric so is quite soft and not prickly, and I padded the middle out with a furry cushion cover so that she was well supported at all times.

If a baby isn’t the most settled then I will swaddle them with a wrap so they feel secure, and more often than not they fall asleep when wrapped.  For all these shots I stand over the baby, using a camera strap, and then use live view on the tilt screen of my X-T2 to compose the image.

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1/160s, f/2.8, iso 200, X-T2, XF16-55
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1/125s, f/2.8, iso 200, X-T2, XF16-55
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1/125s, f/2.8, iso 200, X-T2, XF16-55

This shot is a more typical newborn baby pose, but using a seasonal coloured wrap keeps the image simple whilst adding a slight festive touch.

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1/100s, f/2.8, iso 100, X-T2, XF16-55

Christmas is a great excuse to pull out some of my favourite props too, so here are a few where I’ve tried to recreate some of the magic of the holiday.  All of these images were taken with a spotter, which means I had someone on hand (usually a parent) to stay very close to the baby with the sole purpose of holding them if they start to move or roll.  Spotters are either just outside the frame but still within reach of the baby, or I edit them out in Photoshop.

To make it a bit more interesting I wanted to include some lights within these set-ups too, one having a candle lit effect lantern and the other incorporating some fairly lights.  Each of these meant I had to work out the best way to capture the lights whilst not overpowering them with flash.  I needed to shoot fairly wide open to be able to record as much of the ambient light as possible, yet I still needed to light the subject too with my flash. I had the ISO at 100 (or Low) and my aperture at 2.8 on the 16-55mm, if I shot at 1/250s I overpowered the fairly lights and you couldn’t really see any light from them at all, when I slowed down to 1/125s they were visible but quite small and hard. I couldn’t shoot any wider unless I swapped lenses, so the next option was to reduce the shutter speed further. As my baby model was asleep, as long as I held the camera steady, I was able to shoot at 1/15s which enabled the flash to still perfectly light my model without overpowering the ambient so I captured the nice effect of the lights too. Again using the tilt screen was invaluable as I could sit down and hold the camera steady without having to lie on the floor to see.

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1/15s, f/2.8, iso 100, X-T2, XF16-55

With the lantern shot the candlelight wasn’t giving any spread at all as it was just so low powered, so I photoshopped the glow in afterwards. I thought including both images will show you the different ways of achieving the same kind of end result.  Where possible I do prefer to get it right in camera, but I’m not opposed to editing small things if it helps create the right feel either.

1/125s, f/2.2, iso 100, XT2, XF56,
1/125s, f/2.2, iso 100, XT2, XF56,

And finally a slight twist on a more advanced newborn pose known as The Potato Sack, I wanted to give a bit of a snowman feel so added a hat and then in photoshop I added some snow, just for the fun of it.  This pose is usually done with baby being supported and then the hand edited out afterwards.

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1/125, f/2.8, iso 200, XT2, XF16-55

All images were shot with the X-T2 and lit with a single Elinchrom d-lite1 and a 1m² softbox. I almost always position the light so that it flows down the baby’s face to give either a butterfly shadow under their nose or a loop shadow at the side of their nose.


And finally I few tips for you to help get your newborn model to sleep:

1. Heat – A toasty warm room and a fan heater near baby, I find it’s the warm breeze that helps settle them
2. Milk – A ‘milky drunk’ baby, I always ensure they have a full feed before we start so they are nice and full
3. White noise – Background noise helps send most babies to sleep and masks any noise you might make whilst working
4. Blankets – I use a blanket from home to hold them in whilst getting them to sleep as it smells familiar to them
5. Dummy – I always ask if they have one at all, you can pose the baby with their dummy and then just remove it for the individual shots
6. Patience – sometimes it takes a while for them to drop off to sleep but having all the above in place can make it much easier.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and I’d love to hear how you get on with your festive baby photographs!

Elli Cassidy
www.minimemories.co.uk

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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About the author

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