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How to use studio lighting for newborn photography

Hi Everyone! My name is Dina and I’m a newborn baby photographer in Brooklyn New York. Today I want to show you how to use your studio lighting correctly when shooting newborn babies. Our goal is to have beautiful soft lighting, with soft – form defining shadows. You don’t want harsh lighting or harsh/strong edged…

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  • Carolzonta@hotmail.comSeptember 15, 2016 - 10:54

    Can I ask why you have the PLM turned that way? Like the top of the umbrella do the other side so the flash triggers to the other side? I’ve seen some other set ups that the top of the umbrella faces baby, what is the difference? ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanSeptember 15, 2016 - 12:24

      Good question, the flash inside the PLM is firing towards the umbrella. The light is essentially bouncing from the modifier to through the diffused fabric on to my subject. Again one more step to soften the light!ReplyCancel

      • JennFebruary 18, 2017 - 10:10

        May I ask what strobe you use? I have purchased a few different ones but still struggling to find the perfect one.  I prefer natural light but recently invested in a similar system since I live in Ohio and the sun never cooperates in the winter. I’ve heard aliens bees are great but have had no luck finding them anywhere new. I hate to pay so much for something used. I use the feathering technique with newborns just because Moms are so often afraid the flash will harm their baby’s eyes I also love the soft lighting it creates. Thank you for sharing. ReplyCancel

        • JennFebruary 18, 2017 - 10:19

          Excited to see the website you linked has the Alienbees on it. All my stores I use for photography supplies don’t carry them. ReplyCancel

          • dinaduchanFebruary 18, 2017 - 20:04

            Though Alienbees are mentioned here, I don’t use them. They are not the best option out there. Einstein light is an option that more photographers are happy about. (But I’m not using it as well)

        • dinaduchanFebruary 18, 2017 - 20:08

          I’m using the Bowens one.However I’m sure there are better options out there.ReplyCancel

          • JennFebruary 19, 2017 - 02:05

            I have a bowens too, and an impact.  My soft box is only a 62″ though. 

      • EvaAugust 10, 2017 - 10:41

        Dear Dina, this was so helpful to me, there are just two things Im trying to work out. What are the specs that a great lighting should have to have and if you know a great light source that is available in Europe. Loads use the Einstein that is not available here anymore Im looking at other lights specs that can be very similar…ReplyCancel

        • dinaduchanAugust 10, 2017 - 11:02

          Glad I could help Eva!
          I’m not familiar with all lighting types however I do recommend a light that goes to low power and works well in the lowest power (Many lights preform well in high power but not so much in low power)ReplyCancel

  • ConnieSeptember 15, 2016 - 11:01

    Great job! It’s great to see other fellow photographers pull backs! ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanSeptember 15, 2016 - 13:31

      Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • DeniseSeptember 15, 2016 - 13:39

    Great info!  I normally shoot with natural light, but will be shooting indoors with flash/strobes this weekend.  This answered my question.  ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanSeptember 15, 2016 - 19:28

      So happy!ReplyCancel

  • LynnSeptember 15, 2016 - 14:23

    Thank you for this! I also have trouble with lighting in props, would you consider doing one for lighting baby in a bowl or basket?ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanSeptember 15, 2016 - 19:29

      Good idea, will work on it!ReplyCancel

  • Lori MooreSeptember 15, 2016 - 18:45

    I use smaller softboxrs that are rectangular shaped do I attach the 86 inch plm that you spoke about to my strobe? When I Googled the system you spoke about it was only the softboxrs. I have tried to purchase something like this before but did not know if the weight of it would be too much for the system I am using?ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanSeptember 15, 2016 - 19:32

      The PLM is un umbrella, you can mount it on a flash just like any other umbrella! The PLM is instead of a softbox. A Softbox Is a light modifier. A PLM is one too. ReplyCancel

  • MarylinSeptember 15, 2016 - 22:21

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us Dina. I’ve been struggling with flash for a while and letting it intimidate me. This information really broke it down into easy to understand steps and your photo examples were perfect. Also, I really appreciate all of your time and patience with the questions I had for you in a PM. You were so open, receptive, and generous with your time and knowledge. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this easier and for getting me excited about my studio lights again! Much love, MarylinReplyCancel

  • PaulaSeptember 16, 2016 - 00:02

    Thanks for sharing.  Your PLM, are you using the white with the added black outer cover and front white diffuser OR, are you using the Soft Silver with the front white diffuser.ReplyCancel

  • Petra NachlingerováSeptember 16, 2016 - 14:52

    Thank you for your tutorial it´s great … not all people do that …ReplyCancel

  • ShainaSeptember 26, 2016 - 12:57

    Thank You so much for Sharing Dina! I found this to be very helpful in so many ways. You explained the lighting so well down to the detail. Can’t wait to start practicing! Thank You!! ReplyCancel

  • LamaOctober 6, 2016 - 09:59

    Thank you so much for this post! It helped me figure out my problem!!ReplyCancel

  • ElianaOctober 7, 2016 - 01:20

    Hi newbie here, what about about your ambient light? Does the room have to be dark to get the shadows?ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanOctober 11, 2016 - 08:41

      Hi, the power of flash overcomes the ambient light.ReplyCancel

  • JenelynApril 28, 2017 - 19:27

    Hi. I’ve just started my career in this field. Been studying a lot of online courses. Just want to tell you that your illustrations are the best so far. And the explanations as well. I better understood how the feathering works. 

    Would you mind sharing also how you can use your PLM in photographing Maternity, Infant/Toddler and Family. I have a Westcott one and still learning how to position my lights in different situations and sessions.ReplyCancel

  • Chani RJune 23, 2017 - 08:53

    This is the best article I’ve come across on lighting a newborn. You are an amazing photographer and teacher!ReplyCancel

  • YaffaJune 23, 2017 - 10:31

    Thank you so much Dina! This was so helpful! ReplyCancel

  • Rikki SJune 26, 2017 - 02:38

    Dina, Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!  This was so helpful and clear!!! And your photos are simply amazing!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • RachelJuly 3, 2017 - 12:05

    Hi Dina, first thank you for offering your help on this. I  need a little clarification on the placement of the light and a couple questions.  When you said to make sure the edge of the light doesn’t go past baby’s head, do you mean in the direction of that back wall?  I see your arrows but it almost looks like the edge of the light (closest to the wall) is lining up with the center of baby’s head.  Should that edge of the light line up with the back edge of baby’s head or the center of the head?  Sorry, I’m probably thinking about it too much.  
    I’m so glad you mentioned that the 90 degree image would seem underexposed SOOC and how to deal with it in post instead of with your lights or camera. That was an eye-opener for me!  Having said that, approximately how much exposure did you add to this image? 
    Lastly,you mentioned using the 45 degree for chin tucked in. Can you show an example image ?
    Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your knowledge with us. ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanJuly 5, 2017 - 13:16

      1) if the baby is on the center of the bean bag, The edge of the light should’t go past that point.
      2) It’s always better yo under expose than over expose in camera. How ever getting the exposure right in camera is better!
      3) I will always try to fix the pose so the face is lit nicely. Only if not possible i’ll bring the light in to lit the face more.
      You’re Welcome 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Gogo EmmonsJuly 4, 2017 - 09:23

    Dina, THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH for taking the time to do this tutorial! It’s clear, easy to understand, and full of examples to “SEE” exactly the difference! I have 6 years photographing NB and I never took the time to check the difference bw the 45 and the 90 degrees. Again, Thank you so much ! SO MUCH APPRECIATED!ReplyCancel

  • Sabine De RijbelJuly 5, 2017 - 16:37

    Hallo Dina, thank you for sharing your studio lighting setup.  I was also struggling with my lighting because I only have a little window in my studio.  I tried the 90° feathered together with my window and it is really great !!! Thank you so much !!ReplyCancel

  • Alena PopovaJuly 6, 2017 - 22:14

    Dina, thank you so much! your tutorial is very helpful. Which triggers do you use? ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanJuly 7, 2017 - 10:54

      You’er welcome! I’m using one that is compatible with my Bowens lightReplyCancel

  • LanaAugust 3, 2017 - 10:33

    This was THE BEST article I read while I was learning how to use studio lighting.  I had taken online courses and invested thousands of dollars on lighting, classes, and mentoring before I read this and this article was better than all of that.  The behind the scenes pictures of the setups and the pictures showing right and wrong all lined up just gave me that “aha” moment!  Thank you so much for sharing!  And beautiful work by the way!  I love your style!ReplyCancel

    • dinaduchanAugust 3, 2017 - 12:58

      So happy this was helpful! Thank you for the kind words 🙂ReplyCancel

  • RomanSeptember 12, 2017 - 03:46

    Hi, can I ask you what are the specifications of your Bowen light? Especially how strong it is – 400W or 600W? Thank you for answer and a great inspiration from your blog and work 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Season HurdFebruary 4, 2018 - 14:28

    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for this! What a lovely, concise, and clear way to tell me just what I’ve been seeking. You’re awesome!ReplyCancel

  • BeniFebruary 7, 2018 - 10:02

    Hi Dina I just read your this great article on new born photo setup. I have a question what should be the power setting on the flash for new born session. I am planning to buy Einstein flash and so which model you prefer ? And what if I go for the canon speed flashlight ? ReplyCancel

  • ChristinaFebruary 27, 2018 - 22:02

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I am completely new to artificial lighting and am struggling to find the “right” setup. It looks like the strobe you have is no longer available. Are there any comparable setups that you can suggest as far as quality and power? Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Ron DauroraJuly 25, 2018 - 19:34

    Hello Dina, been looking at this post on and off for several months. I’m an amateur, but looking for professional results. Pulled the trigger and bought an Einstein and a 86″ PLM W diffuser and a 1.8 mm lens. My Daughter Nadine is giving birth to her first child in a couple weeks and wants Dad to take some good pictures. Wish me luck!ReplyCancel

  • AngelaAugust 11, 2018 - 21:14

    This is the best tutorial I have read on the subject. Thank you. ReplyCancel

  • mariAugust 24, 2018 - 13:12

    Im sooooo happy you posted this and that i found it, it was very helpful thank you so muchReplyCancel

  • ZannaSeptember 22, 2018 - 17:21

    With a newborn, would you ever use continuous led lights in the same umbrella setup?ReplyCancel

  • LydiaFebruary 16, 2019 - 03:08

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m VERY new to studio lighting as I’ve alwsys just shot natural light outdoors, but this has helped me immensely, straight to the point and very clear on your explanation. I’m shooting with the DigiBee800 and it worked so successfully with your instructions! I even came back here for reference when I did the set up!  I appreciate this so much!!!ReplyCancel

  • dinaduchanSeptember 15, 2016 - 19:29

    likewise 🙂ReplyCancel

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