Baby It’s Cold Outside..

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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

Shooting stills on a movie set with the X-Pro2

guest-blogger-strip-black

By Keith Bernstein

Earlier this year Castel Film Studio in Bucharest, Romania, underwent a dramatic makeover. The studio’s backlot streets, previously the location of a Gothic horror movie, were re-modelled into 1900 Milwaukee, the setting of a new movie set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century. A cast of American and British actors filmed over 3 months, helped on a daily basis by up to 500 Romanian extras and backgrounds actors.

Background actor on set
Background actor on set

As the stills photographer on the film, I took the opportunity to use the X-Pro2 on set for the first time. Stills cameras on movie sets – usually SLR’s – have to be silent to prevent any shutter sound being picked up by microphones or disturbing the actors during a take. To silence the shutter the camera and lens is housed inside a blimp – a soundproof housing that lets you shoot during the filming of a scene. Heavy and slightly awkward to use, the blimps have only limited camera controls on the outside; changing camera settings necessitates opening the housing. The silent shutter mode of the X-Pro2 was immediately attractive; and shooting without a blimp meant saving 1.4 kg of weight around my neck.

I used the X-Pro2 extensively to photograph the extras and a lot of the set decoration, often switching the format on the X-Pro2 to a 1:1 ratio. This allowed the pictures to be quickly uploaded in square format on to social media to market and publicise the movie. Light levels on set, especially the interiors, were often very low, and the X-Pro2 at ISO 4000 with the XF35mm f1.4 lens worked amazingly well, even when shooting at maximum aperture.

There are a number of great features on the X-Pro2; the format change option, live view when changing colour temperature selection, and the silent electronic shutter are among many outstanding choices. One irritation I have with the camera is the battery life – it’s not the best so I always carry spares.

I am currently working on a film in Germany, and am now using two X-Pro2’s with 23, 35 and 56mm lenses. So have I given up on the heavy blimp and SLR combination and switched over entirely to X-Pro2’s? No not yet; there are still some on-set circumstances where the SLR & blimp combination works better for me; but the size, weight, electronic viewfinder and options such as format change of the X-Pro2’s is pushing me ever closer to the edge of change.

Set dressing on interior set
Set dressing on interior set
Castel studios backlot and re-created Milwaukee street
Castel studios backlot and re-created Milwaukee street

Biography

Based in London, working on film sets throughout the world; recent productions include the last 6 Clint Eastwood films, (Sully, Sniper, Jersey Boys, J. Edgar, Trouble With The Curve, Invictus) ; Long Walk To Freedom with Idris Elba; Argo with Ben Affleck and Gunman with Sean Penn
Website: www.keithbernstein.co.uk
Instagram: keithbernsteinphotographer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KeithBernsteinPhotographer

Make a home studio – in your bath!

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Written by Roger Payne

The time had come. I’d been trying to justify keeping my X100S and X100T for some time but, in reality, since T had arrived, S had been spending increasingly lengthy spells in the cupboard. So, with a heavy heart, I decided to sell. The obvious route was on eBay, so I cleaned the camera up and took a couple of snaps before preparing my listing.

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My initial shot (above) was very typical of the sort of image you see on eBay – lit with flash from the front, it hardly shows my lovely X100S in the best light, while the background is distracting. I didn’t think it would appeal to buyers, so I decided to try an alternative tack and headed upstairs into my bathroom…

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Admittedly, this isn’t the most obvious room in the house to start taking product pictures but, in reality, it’s got a ready made studio for product shots – the bath. White, with a nice curve, the bath bounces plenty of light around to get even coverage and it has a clean, uncluttered background that won’t distract from the item on sale.

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Using an X-T1 with an XF18-55mm lens, I positioned the X100S at the opposite end to the taps, flicked out the X-T1’s rear screen and used the lens cap under the end of the lens to keep everything nice and straight. The X-T1’s screen is perfect for images like this, although fixed screen X-series models will be fine – you might just have to contort yourself into the bath a little! I chose an aperture of f/11, ISO 1600 and used the two second self-timer for hands-free shooting and took a shot.

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Not bad. Considering this was under tungsten light in my bathroom, I instantly had a better image than my earlier front-on flash lit effort. There was, however, a slight orange colour cast as I’d left the X-T1 on the Auto white-balance setting. I switched to the Incandescent white-balance option and took another.

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Better. The colour cast has now all but gone, but I still thought it could be improved further – the highlight on the lens and on the handgrip were distracting, caused by the main light above and to the left of the camera as you look at it. To overcome this problem, I deployed a diffuser on the bath over the top of the camera. I had a ready-made one, but you could use a large sheet of tracing paper to get a similar effect.

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Hey presto, the distracting highlights had disappeared! But I still wasn’t completely happy, so I tried one more option, leaving the diffuser in place and attaching an EF-42 flashgun on to the X-T1. I pointed the flashgun head straight up so the light bounced off the ceiling and switched the white-balance back to Daylight.

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The result is below. Good isn’t it? And you’d never know it was taken in a bath. Naturally, you don’t have to use this idea purely for auction site listings, you could be far more creative, but there’s little doubt that this is a great way to boost the look of items you’re selling. I posted the listing and sold the camera for the price I wanted within a couple of days. What did I use the proceeds of the sale for? To buy an X70, of course!

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