Newborn photography has become hugely popular in the last few years. What we once only saw in the books of Anne Geddes has now become readily available for everyone everywhere. And with newborn photography becoming increasingly popular within the photographic community so come the questions from photographers. How do you keep them asleep? How do you pose them? And biggest of all – how do you edit them?
No fear fellow photographer! I am here to rescue you from the yellow and red madness that is newborn skin. The biggest problems that seems to come from newborns is acne, redness, jaundice and flaky skin. When you look at a newborn they look clean and sweet but when you start taking photos things that were not very apparent in real life are suddenly magnified on your monitor. Today I’m going to explain my process with shooting and editing newborns.
The single most important part of photographing newborns happens before you open your editing program. It happens during your photo session and that is – proper white balance and exposure. If you have proper white balance, lighting and exposure then editing is simple.
Here is the SOOC (straight out of camera – unedited) image. If you look you will see the white balance is true to life, there is a soft shadow down the babies camera left and exposure is proper. I tend to slightly underexpose when I shoot and bring it up in post.
The first step for me is smoothing the babies skin. I copy the background layer and run Portraiture at default. I then adjust the opacity, usually around 60-70%. Add a mask and mask off the important areas like eyes, lips, and hair.
The next step is to clean up flaky skin and baby acne. Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift then press E. This will make a new layer that merges your previous layers. You also have the option to just flatten the image but I like to keep all layers separate while I am editing. Here I will use the healing brush for small areas or the patch tool for cleaning up larger areas.
The next step is I think what makes people love my images so much. Under adjustments open a levels layer. Take the middle slider and slide it to the left (for this image it was 1.18). Then take output and change it to 10. This raises the midtones and shadows on the image and makes it nice and airy.
The final step is to remove redness from the babies. Since we shoot in very warm rooms the babies will sometimes turn pretty red. I do not like to remove red under saturation because this can make the babies lose too much color, babies are pink after all!
Open a new Hue/Sat layer under adjustments. Change the drop down from Master to Reds. Take the bottom slider (darkness/lightness) and slide to the right to lighten the reds. For this image I slid it over to +24.
And you’re done! As mentioned in the beginning – white balance, exposure and lighting are KEY when shooting anything. If all these are proper your time in Photoshop is minimal.