What lens for newborn photography?

August 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I'm often asked about my studio equipment in particular, what lenses I suggest for newborn work. 

First thing to say is I'm a Nikon gal. I've no desire to spark a Nikon v Canon v Sony debate, its just that since starting my professional photography career years ago I've built up a lovely collection of good glass (i.e. different Nikon lenses for my regularly changing camera bodies), so unless something mind blowing comes along in the camera world, I'm happy to stay on the dark side (photographers will know the joke).

Back to the subject of the blog. What lenses would I advise for newborn work? There is no one-size fits all answer.

First and foremost, you need to think about how you work; your particular work space and style. You choose the lens that will best help you achieve what you want based on your personal circumstances. This is the same for all genres of photography.

A newborn session is different to (for example) an adult portrait session. The newborn session needs to be fluid, you will be working essentially at the mercy of your little client's needs and wanting to achieve a variety of shots from macro close ups of tiny details, to wider family groups. Your lens choice(s) must therefore meet a variety of needs and allow you to work efficiently. 

Take me for example. During a newborn session: 

  • I like the freedom to move around and work quickly and easily therefore;
  • I personally hate changing lenses mid session and prefer to work with one lens.
  • I want to be able to change my work flow easily as necessary to suit any situation. Eg, if I plan to start with close up shots of a sleeping baby on the bean bag but my little model is awake for the first hour, I may quickly switch to family group shots or prop shots where baby can be wrapped and awake to avoid wasting time.
  • My working space is good, but not huge and of course,
  • I want pin-sharp images.  

35mm Prime

I do know some fab newborn photographers who swear by a 35mm prime, and its wider perspective would certainly be good for smaller working spaces where you can't 'back up' far enough away from your subject. However with my preferred one-lens way of shooting this one isn't on my camera for newborn sessions (although it might be for landscapes or environmental portraits).

Wider lenses tend to exaggerate the distance between near and far objects meaning that, while they're good for shots such as looking down on baby or family group shots, I wouldn't personally use this lens close up in case of distortion. For other portraits I might get around this by use of composition and shooting distance, but the last thing I want to do during a newborn session is to have to think about such things at a time when I might just want to quickly get the photo in the camera because baby is (perhaps) on the verge of waking for a feed, or their toddler older sibling just isn't going to sit still for much longer! 

85mm prime

This is a fantastic portrait lens and one I use regularly for business and actor head shots. Again though, it doesn't work for me when it comes to newborn sessions, as its not wide enough for some of my chosen newborn images.

70-200 f2.8 zoom

While I do use the wonderful 70 - 200 f2.8 for portraits outdoors, my studio doesn't have the space to use it for every aspect of a newborn session. In addition, while this lens and the images it produces are beautiful, size wise it is also a beast, and one I find it far too cumbersome to wield for a full session! 

50mm 1.8" prime (not the 1.4?" I hear Nikon purists gasp!)

Nope, the 1.8. Cheap as chips, sharp as a pin and in my opinion, a fantastic little lens. 

The nifty fifty is great for newborn photography and I did use mine for several years. I must admit though, I sometimes struggled, for example with larger family groups I would often find myself with my back pressed up against the studio wall to get everyone in frame.

60mm micro prime

I do own this lens and have used it (on a separate camera body) during newborn sessions for close up shots of those tiny fingers, toes, lips and eyelashes. It is indeed a wonderful lens. The only downside I found was that, in order to get close enough to my subject to achieve those gorgeous close up shots, I sometimes found myself blocking my own light. 

24-70 f.2.8 zoom

So finally we come to my chosen newborn lens!

A few years ago I had a revelation. Since giving up wedding photography to concentrate on my newborn and family work, my Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 zoom lens had remained dormant in my camera bag.

Up until this point I had always preferred prime lenses for studio work because in general, a prime lens will perform better and be sharper than a zoom. I can't recall why one day I decided to dig out my 24-70 and use it for a newborn session, but my eyes were opened and I haven't looked back since. By using the 24-70 I instantly found the freedom I needed to work quickly without having to change lenses. I was converted! Large family groups, prop shots and close ups, this lens has them all covered.

The argument still remains of course that a zoom will never be as sharp as a prime (and I do still love my primes), however I can honestly say I have never had an issue with sharpness on my Nikkor 24 - 70 f2.8.

In conclusion then, when deciding on a lens for your newborn portraiture you must consider your own style, your particular work space and how you work. I hope this little blog has provided some useful tips in the meantime.

Thanks for reading!

Lens_Nikkor_50mmLens_Nikkor_50mm Nikon_60mm_f2.8_AF-S_Micro-NikkorNikon_60mm_f2.8_AF-S_Micro-Nikkor AF-S_Zoom-Nikkor_24-70mm_f2,8G_ED_001AF-S_Zoom-Nikkor_24-70mm_f2,8G_ED_001
The "Nifty Fifty" - has to be the best value lens on the market.   My secret weapon - the 60mm micro for all those lovely close ups. The 24" - 70" 2.8.  My workhorse, weddings, newborns, families, pets - this fella has it all covered!



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