What lens for newborn photography?
I often get asked what equipment I use in the studio in particular, what lenses would I recommend be used to photograph newborns.
First of all, I'm a Nikon gal. If you're interested in photography yourself, you're probably well aware of the great Nikon v Canon debate. I'll be perfectly honest with you, I personally don't think there's much in it.
Every camera has its plus and minus points - sometimes the bods at Canon will bring out a new body that just pips the Nikon, sometimes its the other way around.
I, like many photographers I know, have stuck with one particular brand because its what I started out with. Once you've built a photography business using a particular make and you've got a few bodies plus several lenses, its really quite expensive to think about switching to another system - although I am aware of photographers who have 'jumped ship' mid career one way or another for their own reasons.
Back to the subject of the blog. What lenses would I advise be used for newborn work? First and foremost, you need to think about how you work, your particular work space, what your style is and what look you're after in your photos. Then you can choose the lens that will best help you achieve that.
For example, I know some fab photographers who use a 35mm prime to great effect in their newborn work. For me personally, that doesn't work. With wider lenses you have to be careful with your distance and perspective, as a wider lens will make close subjects look a lot larger than ones further away. If you get 'lost' in your work and aren't concentrating, you could well end up with images of big nosed babies with tiny eyes!
The 85mm prime is a fantastic lens and one I use regularly for head shots, but for me its not wide enough to use throughout a newborn session. I don't like switching lenses if I can get away with it, so the 85 whilst fine for some shots, doesn't give me enough scope. Likewise, whilst I do use the wonderful 70 - 200 2.8 for portraits where I've wanted beautiful bokeh, I personally find it far too cumbersome to wield around in a newborn session as my studio space isn't huge.
When I first started, I used my trusty Nikkor 50mm 1.8 ("not the 1.4?" I hear Nikon purists gasp!) Nope, the 1.8. Cheap as chips, sharp as a pin and in my opinion, great for newborns. When the new 50mm Nikkor came out I upgraded and continued with that.
The nifty fifty is great for newborn photography without a doubt - but as I tend to include family portraits it did mean that, to avoid standing with my back pressed up against the wall, I either had to have another body with a wider lens on in the studio, or switch lenses during a shoot. I also had to climb a stepladder for those cute 'looking down on baby' shots.
Much as I love my nifty fifty I did question one day, whilst balanced on my step stool in a very warm room trying to get my little model and all the lovely swooshy fabrics that I had painstakingly arranged into shot, whether there was a better option.
Later on as I rummaged through my camera bag I realised of course there was. I dug out my 24 - 70 2.8. Fabulous lens, but one that had not seen much use since I gave up weddings a couple of years back. I used it in my next newborn shoot and haven't look back since. I don't know why this didn't occur to me much earlier - stupid me! Of course I can still photograph at 50mm, but I can now also easily fit the whole family in. In addition, I no longer have to climb on my step stool to get those 'looking down on baby' shots so a lot safer from that perspective too - I'm really steady on my feet but one less risk is all good! By the way - if you are photographing from this position, i.e. leaning over baby, please always remember to have your camera strap around your neck!
Some photographers might argue that a zoom will never be as sharp as a prime and yes, in most cases I would agree. However, (and this is where my Nikon girl colours really show)....I've never had an issue with sharpness in this particular lens, after all - its a Nikkor 24 - 70 for pete's sake!
Finally I have a secret weapon - the Nikkor 60mm micro for close up shots of those tiny fingers, toes, lips and eyelashes - a wonderful lens but I do find that sometimes you have to get so close to your subject that you're blocking out your own light!
As I've already said, if you're deciding on a lens for your newborn portraiture you must consider your own style, your work space and how you work and what you want to achieve, then base your decision on that. I hope this little blog has provided some useful tips in the meantime.
Thanks for reading!
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