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Soft lighting for maternity photos...

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by Jetta32696, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. Okay, here's the deal:

    I have a friend who is 7 months pregnant and is going to allow me to experiment (again) with taking maternity photos of her and her daughter. My first attempt was last night and I was not pleased with the photos although I haven't looked at them in detail yet. At first glance I was somewhat disappointed.

    Last night I used a single SB-800 on a bracket (on camera at first), and the lighting was too harsh for me. I used TTL mostly, but I used it in manual for a few shots and dialed it down as low as it could go (I believe 1/132).

    Space was limited and there was some decent window light, but I stink when it comes to natural light photography. Any suggestions???

    I do have an AB800 and large octabox, but didn't think it would work with the limited space, so I didn't even bring it. I kind of wish I had, but can't do anything about that now...

    Should I try the AB? Try my luck shooting with available light?? Should I just leave it alone, and focus on the aspects of photography that I KNOW I'm much better at?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated...


  2. Personally Keith, I would probably use the natural light as the main source of illumination and then soften the shadows with a dialed down SB800 diffused. Of course you could do the same thing with the AB800 and softbox.
  3. Thanks Gordon. Unfortunately, I'm not really comfortable shooting with only natural light... However, since this is not a paid shoot, and an experimental shoot, maybe I will try it just the same.

    I also have a small softbox for my flash that may come in handy as well.
  4. You said earlier that you had "decent window light", which means directional light that could be your main light if you use your 50/1.4 lens at a wide aperture setting. Then you can use your flash, at low power setting bounced off a white wall or ceiling, or through a modifier, as your fill light.

    Edit: I see Gordon made the same suggestion earlier. If he and I agree, it must the right ;-).
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2007
  5. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    I'd do everythiing I could to squeeze the AB and softbox in . . .
  6. LOL - thanks alot Frank! I guess, I'll have to see. Whenever I've shot using available light, I always needed some type of fill to help with the shadows. I guess I could always break out my reflector too, huh?

    I may being the AB800 with me next time as well...but we'll see. Thanks.
  7. A single light source is a single light source be it a window or a strobe, and the closer you get the light source to the subject, the softer the shadows... so a small room shouldn't be that big of a deal unless it's full of furniture and whatnots.

    If the window is giving you good light, but not enough of it consider putting the AB outside the window.

    What color is the room? If it is something close to white you can bounce the light off a wall or ceiling... or bring a large reflector. That way, you won't have that cumbersome octo to contend with.

    Why not impose on her to do another test? Or you can bring a laptop to check your results.

    Be sure to do a custom WB.

    There's all kinds of opportunities here for you to learn how to overcome obstacles... take advantage of the opportunity.

    Oh, and while I have the floor... why do maternity shots have to be of women holding their bellies? I would approach this as a photo-journalism project. I mean, after all, don't pregnant women do anything other than hang around with sheets over their breasts holding their bellies?
  8. Thanks Woody. There actually was alot of stuff in the way, dresser, bed, night stands, entertainment center...so space was really limited.

    2nd floor apartment, so the AB outside the window is not an option. I was bouncing the flash off the ceiling, maybe I could try the wall next time. I also have a reflector I can bring. She and I will shoot again, but I'll have to wait until I get home to see the results...no laptop yet...

    Good final point!!! I'll get with Erika again, and try something else. I'm not the most creative guy out there, but I'll see what I can do.

    Thanks alot for sharing your expertise Woody.
  9. Firelarz


    Feb 26, 2006
    Chandler, AZ
    Wow, PJ shoot of maternity. Cool idea.

    Now for the jokester in me...Maybe we can start at the beginning, you know that act of making a baby and shoot it until the little one pops out. LOL
    I know I crack myself up.

    Seriously Woody, that is a great idea.
  10. :biggrin: I would only consider documenting the entire process if I was involved... LOL
  11. Yeah, that's all we do Woody, sit around, just waaaaiting for the baby to arrive. :tongue:

    Or sometimes if we get bored of waiting, we run Rottweilers in dog agility trials. :tongue:

    Date of Photos: May 21
    Estimated delivery date: May 23
    (Baby not born until 6/2)

    Entering the ring with Vikka and confirming our entry to the scribe
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Get in that tunnel!
    View attachment 99400
  12. Frank R

    Frank R

    Feb 18, 2006
    Long Island NY
    Have you considered using available light and a large reflector? I have used a multidisc round reflector which will give you some options on white, gold or silver tint. I have also tried a 2' x 4' white foam core board and found it works well and you cant beat the price.:biggrin:
  13. Thanks for the reply Frank. I actually have a reflector, but didn't realize I had it with me until after the shoot was over. Erika and I will be shooting again in the next few weeks, as she's in her 8th month...
  14. JMontes


    Jun 22, 2007
    Edgartown, MA
    Keith, any updates on how it went? Sample photos?

    I will possibly be photographing a co-worker's wife who is due in 2 or 3 weeks. It will be my first time photographing a pregnancy and I'm a bit nervous.......I am not being paid (I need the experience so I offered myself up for it) but still want to do a great job. Lighting has never been my strong point so I'm hoping to go off other people's learnings to help me out ;) 
  15. Packard

    Packard Guest

    If north window light is not an option, then try for a wall of light.

    This is a very soft, and easy light source to use.

    My method is to take 2 heads and bounce them off a wall. I place a large diffusion screen (a matte finish shower curtain liner works well).

    Instead of moving your light for the effect, you do just as you would with north window light--you move your subject to get the lighting effect you are after.

    I have those large, collapsible frames made from PVC tubing with a bungee cord in the core. I think mine are 72" x 42". I assemble 4 panels into a "phone booth". 1 panel is translucent and is the front panel. One panel is white, and I reflect the light(s) off the white panel. The two side panels are black to keep the light directional. The panels are joined with small clips. A small black panel for the top would be good, but I have never gotten around to getting one.

    This makes a very soft and easy to use light source. A white reflector for the shadow side is helpful too.

    If you have a white wall, you can just bounce your lights off the wall--it won't be as well controlled as my setup, but it will be easy to use and very soft.
  16. Keith,

    Have you tried any of the Gary Fong Lightspheres? I love mine and use them all the time. They would probably give you what you are looking for as good "lighting" and can be used in and outdoors. IMHO.:smile:

  17. The second attempt went a little better, but Erika has asked that I don't post the photos. I've decided to leave the maternity photos to the pros who specialize in them. :biggrin:

    The only advice I can give is try different things. If you have a reflector, use it, and don't be discouraged as easily as I was.

    Thanks Packard, I may try again, but it won't be with Erika as she had the baby last Tuesday...

    I haven't tried the GF yet, but I continue to hear good things about them. Thanks for the tip...
  18. Keith,

    If you buy one, get the "clear" first as it is used for all "general" purpose shooting where as the "cloud" is for portraiture.

  19. JMontes


    Jun 22, 2007
    Edgartown, MA
    Will do....I am comforted in the fact that I won't be getting paid, so I won't feel that pressure to deliver the high quality photos like I can do with macro photography..I'll bring my reflector as well as other lighting, thanks!
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