alex_ethridge

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Hey everyone!! I have been away for quite some time buuuuuuut I have learned SO much in the year and some months doing photography that I had to share. Several of you have seen my desperate out-cries in the past begging for some kind of direction. Looking back the other day, I realized just how far I have come. There is SO much involved in capturing the perfect photo...Lighting, equipment, posing, back drops, techniques, wrapping, and so much more! I love all photography, but newborns are my favorite...even if they are the most challenging. ;) Enough babbling! So, I attached a photo of my very first newborn session and my very last. Check out the difference. Feel free to laugh, leave advice, or just some kind words! :)

My lighting is still tricky among many other things but I'm branching out with my posing and wraps as you can see. My best tip for getting baby good and sleepy is a full belly, white noise close-by, and a space heater!! Those are my life lines. I have been very mindful of my angles as well, making sure I can at least see baby's face for one...and two, attempting more flattering angles. More head, less butt I guess! Ha! LightRoom has been my biggest savior overall!! I learned a lot in LightRoom but still have so much to dive into. My lighting is just 2 soft boxes and honestly, I can't remember the dimensions but they aren't very big. I'm shooting with a Canon 80D and a 35mm lens just so I can get a wider angle if needed. I was using a 50mm for portraiture but this has worked for me lately. I do miss the background blur from my 50mm but I can mimic it in Photoshop I suppose. It takes A TON of patience and strong stomach because you WILL get peed/pooped on. It's not a matter of "if", but "when". Ha!! It is the most challenging yet rewarding shoot in my opinion. :)
 
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Definitely making progress - the second image is very nicely done! My only thought is that grey on grey is a bit... unexciting? Have you considered getting either coloured wraps or coloured backgrounds? I don't think you'd want to go super bright, but maybe just a hint of colour in one or the other?
 
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alex_ethridge

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Definitely making progress - the second image is very nicely done! My only thought is that grey on grey is a bit... unexciting? Have you considered getting either coloured wraps or coloured backgrounds? I don't think you'd want to go super bright, but maybe just a hint of colour in one or the other?

You're totally right! I get so caught up in making sure baby is calm that I lose track of being creative. Honestly, I secretly get stressed out and just hope for the best with whatever baby will let me do. The mother liked neutrals and grays so I never thought about adding color just because I was afraid it might not contrast well. I'm so glad you pointed that out, now that you mention it, it is kind of dull and boring. I have a newborn session this afternoon and will keep that in mind!! Thank you so much!! :)
 

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My lighting is just 2 soft boxes and honestly, I can't remember the dimensions but they aren't very big. I'm shooting with a Canon 80D and a 35mm lens just so I can get a wider angle if needed. I was using a 50mm for portraiture but this has worked for me lately. I do miss the background blur from my 50mm ..
Your softboxes don't have to be very big if they are positioned fairly close to your subject.

How far back would you have to move in order to use the 50mm again? Note that many portrait photographers use a lens quite a bit longer than 50mm. Some of the better lenses for portraiture are 85, 105, and 135mm. Of course, if you don't have the physical space in which to back up, or if you don't want to be all the way across the room from your subject, the 50mm might be a good choice.
 

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Definitely making progress - the second image is very nicely done! My only thought is that grey on grey is a bit... unexciting? Have you considered getting either coloured wraps or coloured backgrounds? I don't think you'd want to go super bright, but maybe just a hint of colour in one or the other?
The mother liked neutrals and grays so I never thought about adding color just because I was afraid it might not contrast well.
Contrast is one facet of color use, and so is harmony, complementary, and analogous. Read up on how to use and mix colors and what effects you can come up with.
 
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My lighting is just 2 soft boxes and honestly, I can't remember the dimensions but they aren't very big. I'm shooting with a Canon 80D and a 35mm lens just so I can get a wider angle if needed. I was using a 50mm for portraiture but this has worked for me lately. I do miss the background blur from my 50mm ..
Your softboxes don't have to be very big if they are positioned fairly close to your subject.

How far back would you have to move in order to use the 50mm again? Note that many portrait photographers use a lens quite a bit longer than 50mm. Some of the better lenses for portraiture are 85, 105, and 135mm. Of course, if you don't have the physical space in which to back up, or if you don't want to be all the way across the room from your subject, the 50mm might be a good choice.

So, am happy with the size of the soft boxes as I do position them pretty close to my subject, although, I do wish I had better quality lighting. I feel as thought these could be brighter? Then again I could change out my bulbs...I use the 35 mm because my studio is tiny and I don't have a lot of room to move back if that makes sense. Another reason is, well frankly, my 35mm is sharper than my 50mm being it's only a 1.8 and my 35 is a 1.2. I'm just working with what I have ya know?
 

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So, am happy with the size of the soft boxes as I do position them pretty close to my subject, although, I do wish I had better quality lighting. I feel as thought these could be brighter? Then again I could change out my bulbs...I use the 35 mm because my studio is tiny and I don't have a lot of room to move back if that makes sense. Another reason is, well frankly, my 35mm is sharper than my 50mm being it's only a 1.8 and my 35 is a 1.2. I'm just working with what I have ya know?
Do the softboxes have continuous lighting (like light bulbs that stay on until switched off)? The best way to fix that is to use electronic flash (studio strobes).

You will get a lot of light, even with "low-powered" (like around 100 watt-seconds). In fact, you might have to run them at less than full power, particularly if they are close to your subject. You will not have enough light with continuous lighting, but you will get a lot of heat from them.

When you see that there is some correlation of sharpness between lenses based on aperture, and you're talking about only a relatively small difference, then I'd say the deciding factor is not so much the aperture, but more like the individual lens quality. Since the apertures you mentioned are as wide as those lenses go, I would not expect optimum performance from either one if you're always using them wide open. Very often, a lens design will perform below it best performance when shooting wide open. It is no wonder you're seeing a difference between your two lenses. I think you could run a simple experiment to compare the two lenses under controlled conditions to find out which one you prefer.

Speaking of sharpness, I think sharpness (resolution) is probably not the most critical aspect of a lens that is used for portraiture. I think "soft focus" is much more attractive than having everything razor sharp.

Portraiture is a genre that requires complete thinking about what constitutes an ideal setup. You should be thinking of other image qualities aside from resolution. How does a particular lens render color, depth, contrast, and other qualities. Sharpness is only one facet of your image quality, and may not even be desired in portraiture.

There are cameras and lenses that seem to be optimized for portraiture, and produce outstanding portraits, but you will have to do some research to come up with your ideal setup.
 
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alex_ethridge

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So, am happy with the size of the soft boxes as I do position them pretty close to my subject, although, I do wish I had better quality lighting. I feel as thought these could be brighter? Then again I could change out my bulbs...I use the 35 mm because my studio is tiny and I don't have a lot of room to move back if that makes sense. Another reason is, well frankly, my 35mm is sharper than my 50mm being it's only a 1.8 and my 35 is a 1.2. I'm just working with what I have ya know?
Do the softboxes have continuous lighting (like light bulbs that stay on until switched off)? The best way to fix that is to use electronic flash (studio strobes).

You will get a lot of light, even with "low-powered" (like around 100 watt-seconds). In fact, you might have to run them at less than full power, particularly if they are close to your subject. You will not have enough light with continuous lighting, but you will get a lot of heat from them.

When you see that there is some correlation of sharpness between lenses based on aperture, and you're talking about only a relatively small difference, then I'd say the deciding factor is not so much the aperture, but more like the individual lens quality. Since the apertures you mentioned are as wide as those lenses go, I would not expect optimum performance from either one if you're always using them wide open. Very often, a lens design will perform below it best performance when shooting wide open. It is no wonder you're seeing a difference between your two lenses. I think you could run a simple experiment to compare the two lenses under controlled conditions to find out which one you prefer.

Speaking of sharpness, I think sharpness (resolution) is probably not the most critical aspect of a lens that is used for portraiture. I think "soft focus" is much more attractive than having everything razor sharp.

Portraiture is a genre that requires complete thinking about what constitutes an ideal setup. You should be thinking of other image qualities aside from resolution. How does a particular lens render color, depth, contrast, and other qualities. Sharpness is only one facet of your image quality, and may not even be desired in portraiture.

There are cameras and lenses that seem to be optimized for portraiture, and produce outstanding portraits, but you will have to do some research to come up with your ideal setup.


Wow!! You really know your stuff! I feel like such a "newb" but I love that every time I log in to this forum, I always get the best advice!! Thank you SO much for helping me! I am definitely going use your perspective on the lighting and lens choice. However, when I said I care about sharpness what I mean is...I'm super obsessed with getting a sharp subject or focal point with blurred depth/background. I didn't realize that wasn't important....I'm super intrigued by that. Would you mind elaborating?
 

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Wow!! You really know your stuff! I feel like such a "newb" but I love that every time I log in to this forum, I always get the best advice!! Thank you SO much for helping me! I am definitely going use your perspective on the lighting and lens choice. However, when I said I care about sharpness what I mean is...I'm super obsessed with getting a sharp subject or focal point with blurred depth/background. I didn't realize that wasn't important....I'm super intrigued by that. Would you mind elaborating?
Thank you for the very nice compliment!

I see now what you're after. Personally, I think the shallow depth of field meme is overdone and not particularly flattering to most people. If your clients all seem to want a shallow DOF, then that is what you give them, although if you show them some different approaches to their portraiture, they might lean in another direction, much to your surprise.

Since my latest interest in photography is portraiture, I have been looking very critically at lens choices and other things. There are loads of videos and learning websites on the internet that will help a lot with setting up lighting, for instance, and even some very knowledgable people expounding on lenses.

You are right in sticking with prime lenses, IMO, due to (very probably) better image quality (IQ) from primes as opposed to zooms. (generally speaking) Another consideration is the angle of view that is the result of being either close of farther back from your subject, and that usually is influenced by your lens choice. That is why I question why the 35mm over the 50mm. Over the past year I have purchased some excellent lenses for portraiture, and the shortest one is 58mm. That one is known for excellent micro contrast, which the main reason I bought it. some of my lenses are the older manual focus lenses, which might not work so well with infants, but if they are sleeping, then you've got time enough to focus properly.

My first suggestion is to get some studio strobes, and read up on how to set up flash. (strobist)

Next; do a real-world controlled test between your lenses varying the aperture in a very detailed, controlled method so you will know where each lens performs best. You may find that they each will perform at the maximum while at different apertures from each other. This is normal, and you should know this before your next shoot.

Download a DOF calculator onto your phone so you have one with you. Use a tape measure to determine the distances. (don't just guess at it) I think you can get a free one, although I seem to remember I paid a couple of dollars for mine. Practice at home using a stuffed animal or something about the size of a baby and at the normal distances you usually take photos. If you practice enough beforehand, you won't be fumbling around at the client's house with a tape measure and calculator.

Practice with your new strobes as well, so that when you go to a place to set up a portrait session, you can do it quickly and efficiently. Try (at home) some different lighting setups that you want to try with your next clients. The examples you showed are pretty good, but the lighting is flat, so you need to move the lights around to make more of a "modeling" light.

Still study about colors as I wrote above, and assemble some additional props that aren't all gray. At your next few sessions, ask the client to permit you to try different color combinations (ones that you know are good) and see which ones they like.
 

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Oh, more about DOF:

When shooting a baby on a blanket, the DOF can/should be at least as deep as the blanket so as to avoid a blurry blanket which is bound to distract the viewer (client). When you are doing an outside informal portrait of a standing adult (such as in your new avatar photo) that is when you blur the background. This will provide separation of the subject from the background which is a good thing.
 
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Oh, more about DOF:

When shooting a baby on a blanket, the DOF can/should be at least as deep as the blanket so as to avoid a blurry blanket which is bound to distract the viewer (client). When you are doing an outside informal portrait of a standing adult (such as in your new avatar photo) that is when you blur the background. This will provide separation of the subject from the background which is a good thing.

Okay, this is going to sound very uneducated ,I'm sure, but do we not want a blurry background/blanket for this shoot? I ask because a few people made a comment like "Oh look, a floating baby!" when that is not the look I was going for. I just like the look of things to be soft, wrinkle-free, and focusing on baby. Knowing this will drastically help me in breaking my deep, DOF obsession. I had a newborn session last night and again, "floating baby". Although, it doesn't help that I use a thin, stretchy material as my back ground and I notice a lot of NB photogs using materials with texture which will help bring more contrast and dimension maybe?
 

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Okay, this is going to sound very uneducated ,I'm sure, but do we not want a blurry background/blanket for this shoot? I ask because a few people made a comment like "Oh look, a floating baby!" when that is not the look I was going for. I just like the look of things to be soft, wrinkle-free, and focusing on baby. Knowing this will drastically help me in breaking my deep, DOF obsession. I had a newborn session last night and again, "floating baby". Although, it doesn't help that I use a thin, stretchy material as my back ground and I notice a lot of NB photogs using materials with texture which will help bring more contrast and dimension maybe?

To be sure, there are times when you want a shallow DOF, which helps separate your subject from the (now blurry) background, but trying for a shallow DOF at all times and in all photos is wearing, trite, and distracting when it is not needed or wanted.

The "floating baby" remarks indicate that you blurred the background when you didn't need to. Anyway, the soft blankets and other props will keep everything "soft and fuzzy" plenty good, and now you can concentrate on nailing the focus on the eye(s).

Most lenses seem to perform best at a mid-range aperture, such as; f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, for instance (your actual numbers may vary some).

When you consistently try for the best image possible, your skills will produce a well-grounded body of work that isn't cliche.

DOF and focus are only part of the picture. (no pun intended) Being skilled with light is probably the single most important aspect of photography that will have a profound effect on your photography. You can learn DOF (and use a calculator until you can do it without one) in just a few good practice sessions, but learning lighting will take most people years to get really good at it, so get started learning lighting ASAP.
 

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