Newborn Photography, Before and After

Newborn Photography, Before and AfterNewborn Photography, Before and After. In a bid to get my poor neglected blog cranking again, I thought I’d begin a series of posts showing images in a before and after scenario.  It is often much discussed, just how much post-production (aka “Photoshop”) is acceptable in our industry, and I thought I would look at that for a minute.

In particular, with newborn photography, it is often hard to establish when to draw the line.  Some argue that newborns are Mother Nature’s perfection and that there should be no retouching of newborn portraiture.  Others prefer things like skin discoloration caused by the birth process, flaking skin, milk pimples etc be removed, in much the same way as adults prefer their portraits to be retouched.  Some go waaaaay overboard and to the extreme where the end result is a baby who seems to have no texture to their skin at all.

Personally, I like to sit somewhere in the middle.  A photographer colleague of mine, Matt Palmer (go check out his awesome work over at Record Makers Photography), applies a rule that “if it won’t be there in a week remove it (such as pimples, scratches etc), but if it is a permanent fixture (moles, freckles, scars), then leave it.  I like this approach too.

Additionally, for me, the amount of retouch depends a lot on other factors such as the final feel I’d like the image to have, and things like how well posed the baby was and how the light was at the time of the capture.  If I am using natural light, as I usually do in a newborn photography session then this can sometimes be a major contributing factor.

So, to kick things off, here is little Lucinda Grace, on her 11th day.  This image was lit with a Paul C Buff Einstein E640 Flash Unit bounced into a Soft Silver Paul C Buff 64 inch PLM Umbrella set at about a 45 degree angle and approximately 4ft off the ground, to the left of the camera.  Captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and EF240-105mm f4 L Series lens at 28mm.  Manual exposure, ISO 200, 1/125 sec at f4, with me standing overhead on a step-ladder.

As you can see in the first image, there was obvious lens distortion due to me capturing the image with the wide 28mm focal length, so this was the first thing the I corrected in post production.  I also felt that the initial image lacked warmth – both in the respect of colour/tone, and in general feel.  I think that as parents, we all intrinsically want our babies to look safe and nurtured.  So, I chose to warm up the image, mask in additional warmth and tone to the petals of the flower, and add depth to it, as well as a slight amount of retouching of the skin.  Finally, using dodge and burn techniques, I created additional shading and contrast to specific areas to give a warm, chocolatey feel to show little Lucinda in a beautiful safe embrace.

I chose to alter the colour of the petals to give them a warmer feel that was more cohesive with the final image. Although the original colour that David from Island Vine Designs selected when he built the prop was very cool, I decided that it was a little too vibrant in this instance for this particular image.

The lovely cosy nesting that you see little Lucinda wrapped in can be purchased from one of my favourite prop vendors Divine Miss Ruby Designs.

I’m pretty happy with the end result, what do you guys think?


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