Posts Tagged ‘Photo Setup’

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We decided to skip Halloween costumes this year. Nicki is too young to understand, and, since we weren’t planning on going out, a custom didn’t make sense for us. We did have her skeleton sleep and play, so when I started feeling the momma guilt of skipping her first holiday, we thought we’d do a Holiday photo shoot and send out cards to family.

Nicki was only a little over three months for this photo. She’s obviously not sitting on her own yet, but can sit while propped up. To create the card I envisioned I needed to get a little creative.

For this photo I started by folding two towels and placing them on the floor for padding. We have hard wood floors, and Nicki will kick when excited. I didn’t want her to hurt herself by accident. Next I got the plush backrest pillow and put it on the towels. I had bought it umpteen years ago when I was off to college, but never really used it. Since I can’t ever throw anything away, I still had it. I placed the backrest on top of the towels so I would have a cushy spot to prop Nicki up.


The setup

I draped a black backdrop over my setup and with a few props and I was good to go. I adjusted my camera settings so my metering light showed a bit dark and upped the contrast in post processing for a spooky effect.

We got a couple good ones, it was hard to pick a favorite. Ultimately I decided to go with the smile, even though a few of these invoke a more halloweenish feeling. Grandmas adore the smiling babe.

Nicki kept scooting forward in what Domingo called the ‘limp skeleton’ pose. Gotta love her facial expression. I predict she’s going to be quite the little ham!


Another good limp skeleton.


Here’s one were she’s holding a pumpkin between her two hands.


A good one of her ‘sitting.’

July 27, 2012

DIY Newborn Photography

There’s truth in what they say, that the first two weeks are a bit of a blur. I hadn’t made up my mind about newborn photography – whether I would do it myself or higher a professional – but the next thing I knew Nicki was two and a half weeks old and we hadn’t even looked at photographers, let alone booked one! Playing to my fears that we had waited to long, the internet said three weeks is ‘old man age’ for newborns. Newborn photos are easiest for babies 8 to 10 day and younger, when they are the most sleepy. I panicked. Had we missed our opportunity?

I was a bit intimidated. I liked the maternity photos I took, but that was over a period of 40 weeks. I had plenty of time to learn what works. Normally I take hundreds of photos to get a few I really like. Newborns are not exactly known for their patience. I was worried I had waited too long and Nicki was no longer in her sleepy newborn phase. I knew I’d have only a brief window to try.

DIY newborn photography turned out to be not as difficult as I thought. Being behind the camera rather than in front of it, like for DIY Maternity Photography makes a world of difference. Still, I see areas I can improve.

I started with the advice I had read on the internet:
(1) Turn off the A/C and up the heat. Warm babies are happy babies, but naked babies need more heat to be warm! We let the temperature rise to 76 degrees in the house.
(2) Feed baby. Babies with full tummies of warm milk tend to be sleepy, and sleepy babies are more manageable. I stripped Nicki down to her diaper to feed her. I then removed her diaper, wrapped her up in a towel (just in case!) and rocked her to sleep.

I used the love seat for my photo setup. The seat offered me a variety of angles to choose from. I could crotch down to baby’s level or stand up if I wanted to take any looking down at her, shoot with her directly in front of me, or angle to the side. I turned the love seat around so it faced the window and the good light. I also removed the back cushions so the backdrop fabric would drap nicely. The seat cushions were fairly firm, and good for resting baby on. I did try and angle the cushions slightly for a better view of baby by placing a rolled up towel under them the back corner of the cushions. I then put a plastic cover over the couch (we had one pee incident during filming!) and a nice white linen over top to act as the backdrop. Once setup, I was ready to feed and prep the baby.

Nicki still cooperated with me, and I was able to get a sleepy ‘newborn’ photo. Belly full of warm milk, some rocking and she was asleep and pliable (though maybe not as flexible as in her younger weeks. I kid, I kid.)

awake

sleeping2

Nicki did cry the first couple of times I put her on the couch. Since we use the Rock N’ Play she wasn’t used to lying flat on her back (or on her tummy!). But after a few minutes, she calmed down and decided she liked the position. It also helped that we picked early morning, when she’s usually her happiest go-lucky self. Another great aspect of the DIY approach, you can shoot multiple times or multiple days. If baby is fussy and not cooperating one day it’s no problem; just try again tomorrow. The photos I shared were over a couple different iterations. I snap as many photos as I can before she gets fussy and look at them afterwards when she’s down for her nap.

One word of caution: have a spotter/baby calmer. I had my mom help who is a bit of a baby whisperer. She made sure Nicki stayed far from the edge of the couch cushion, so I didn’t have to worry about accidents. She also talked to the baby while I snapped away to help keep baby’s interest and direct baby’s attention. It also made for this hilarious outtake.


Outtake 1: My mom’s hand as she pats the fussy baby.

And, of course, sometimes you strike gold by accident.


Outtake 2: I dub this one “You wish you were as cool as I am”

Now that we’re at thirty one weeks (7 months) along I thought I would try some more interesting DIY maternity photography. My bump is pretty pronounced at this point, and while it will get bigger, I don’t (yet) have stretch marks or a popped belly button, so I thought I would take advantage of it! Don’t worry, there’s nothing risqué.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is to remember where you’re light source is! Light is your friend! If you think of the camera, light source and you forming a triangle, I found it works best if the angle in the corner represented by you is not obtuse (either acute or right angles are fine). Otherwise I’m usually cast in too much shadow. I then face anywhere between the light source and the camera. My preferred light source is a window, but in a pinch a lamp can do.

I also strongly maintain that this is a time to experiment with your camera. You don’t have to share the photos you don’t like, so why not snap away and get as many as possible! I’m much more of a classic bump kind of gal, but it was fun to experiment.

Nothing but Belly!

This is a pretty standard maternity photo for a reason. It’s also super easy! I did this in front our living room window in early morning when the sun was streaming through, illuminating the curtain. If you have a tripod, set the camera height to be at about your navel. I’ve got a three quarters turn to the window (so the light is on the bump) and the camera is facing me.

One of the things that makes this shot so easy is you can easily lean over and see how the photos are turning out, and adjust the camera settings as need be. The sun kept going behind clouds, so I had to keep readjusting my exposure. I really like the overexposure in this setup.

If you don’t know how to do an over exposure, and easy way is to have your camera on ‘auto’. The camera will then select an appropriate f-stop and shutter speed. Next, switch over to manual and reduce shutter speed to have a longer exposure. You can always do several iterations of trial and error until you get the exposure you want.

I also did the overly cliché hands-in-the-shape-of-a-heart shot. You’re taking these shots for you, so who cares if you indulge in some clichés? Do whatever makes you happy!

Tips:

* If you’re going to do this with a bare belly, change out of any full or partial panel maternity pants in advance. That way you won’t get any clothing lines in your photos. I’ve found I often have to change for about a half hour first, just to be on the safe side.
* I sometimes forget I’m holding the camera remote and end up with a clenched fist. I find it works much better if I set the remote down, or hide it in my pocket during the 2 second shutter delay.

Setup

The layout for this picture. The yellow triangle shows the angle the camera sees.

Inverted Perspective

Not going to lie, this one was much harder than I expected. For this shot I’m lying on the bed and the camera is on a tripod. The problem is I’m not as spry as I was thirty weeks ago. It takes a great deal of effort to get up off of the bed, and change the camera settings. I also don’t particularly love this shot, since my bump is much less pronounced.

In order to reduce the number of “bad shots” and thus trips to the camera I recommend using a piece of masking tape to mark the spot for your head. Domingo also helped me by letting me know where the image was being cropped so I could readjust without needing to get up all.the.time.

Tips:

* Try not to tilt your head too far back when looking at the camera. At least for me, tilting my head too far back and an ear to ear grin caused my forehead to wrinkle.

Setup:

The layout for this picture. Again, the yellow triangle shows the angle the camera sees. For the photo where I’m wearing the pink shirt, the camera is about 8 inches to a foot higher than I am, pointing down. It’s about 2 feet higher for the second image. The camera and the window are on the same side of me, so the light from the window will illuminate the bump.

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