How to photograph a Fresh 48 session on a cloudy day
Today I’m launching a brand new series specifically for photographers (although mamas can take a peek too!)
My Education for Photographers posts will focus on the technical aspects of photo sessions. I’ll feature a few of my favorite shots from recent sessions and note the settings I used to capture the moment. You’ll also learn how I set up the shot, too!
When I was getting started as a photographer, it was frustrating to see gorgeous images online and not know how to get a similar shot. When you know specifics like lens choice, ISO and aperture, it’s easier to teach yourself how to get a similar photo.
Whether you’re new to photography, learning more about maternity/newborn or just curious about the technical aspects, I hope this is helpful to you!
First things first: my gear
I use a Canon 5D Mark II. This camera is like my 4th child and I could talk for days about how much I love it!
For all of my sessions, I use only prime lenses: Yongnuo 35 mm 2.0, Canon 50mm 1.4 and a Canon 85mm 1.8.
In this particular session, I also used my Yongnuo speedlite. It’s typically set in TTL mode at +1, maybe +1 1/3.
How to schedule a Fresh 48 photo session
Because mamas are usually in the hospital for just a couple days, you don’t have a lot of scheduling flexibility for Fresh 48 photo sessions. Most new parents prefer to schedule for the day after baby arrives to give themselves time to rest and celebrate with family on baby’s birth day. I suggest not scheduling for the day mama will be discharged just in case you can’t make it to the hospital before she’s packed up to go.
In most cases, this means I photograph when baby is about 24 hours old.
I tend to photograph in the late afternoon, when doctors have made rounds and baby’s hearing test, heel prick, etc is done. This means fewer interruptions during your session. Nurses are typically respectful of the session and will either do a quick check when necessary or offer to come back when we’re done. However, because mama’s medical care is definitely a priority over photos, I always offer to step outside when medical personnel come in her room.
Bright & airy inside, overcast outside
We scheduled this Fresh 48 session for an overcast afternoon. While I love clouds for outdoor photos, a bright, sunny day works better for indoor sessions. But, like I mentioned, there was little flexibility for this session before mama and baby would be discharged.
That’s why I think it’s well worth your time and investment to learn how to use off-camera flash – even if you’ve branded yourself as a “natural light” photographer!
When you need an extra pop to your photos, you can often get it from using a speedlite. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful to have one in my bag, especially if I wind up in a hospital room with a small window and poor natural light.
While Alexis was in a hospital room with a gorgeous wall of windows, the dark clouds outside were less than ideal. But it was no problem – my speedlite transformed a dreary room into a bright, airy celebration!
A happy family of three!
I started this Fresh 48 session in Conroe, TX with some family shots in front of those big, beautiful windows. We raised the blinds all the way up for a maximum amount of natural light.
How to set up the shot:
Alexis, Steffan and Leo are cuddled together on the couch. I invited them to talk, snuggle and laugh together as if I wasn’t there. It helps families relax at the start of the session if they don’t have to look at the camera.
Their bodies are turned slightly toward me and Alexis has a blanket in her lap for a little extra coverage. I encourage multiple points of connection by asking mom and dad to always be touching each other in at least one way – holding hands, a kiss on the cheek, foreheads together, etc.
A word about the blinds – most families keep it fairly dark in their hospital rooms and tend to rely on lamps for light.
I send all of my clients a Celebrate Motherhood style magazine when they book that includes a “What to Expect” section for all of my sessions, including Fresh 48. I send the “what to expect” tips again via email when we set a time and date for the photo session.
Within my “What to Expect” section, I ask clients to please raise the blinds and turn off the lights before I arrive. I tell parents that this is how I get the bright and airy look they loved on my website, and that we’ll lower those blinds again as soon as we can.
Occasionally I’ve gotten pushback from new grandparents about the room being too bright for baby once the blinds are raised. If that happens, I’ll take a second to explain that the natural light is best for photos, and if baby and mama are ok with it, we’ll move forward.
The flattering glow of side lighting
How to set up the shot:
While it was dark outside for most of our session, we did get a break in the clouds from time to time. I positioned Alexis in front of the window and had her turn to the side to highlight her new mama glow.
Sidelighting is one of my favorite ways to photograph new moms. I love how the light gently washes over her and baby. As long as you’ve turned off all other light sources in the room (including overhead fluorescents and lamps), you should get gorgeous skin tones here.
Sometimes shutting off all the lights feels kind of awkward – your clients might feel like they’re sitting in the dark, except for your speedlite firing. However, I reassure them that this is the perfect way to get creamy, natural skin tones. After I take a few shots, I always show them the back of my camera so they can see the images really will be bright and airy!
Happy baby in a bassinet
How to set up the shot:
By the time I was ready for baby-only shots, the sky was pretty gloomy again, so I relied on my speedlite for this shot, which I bounced off the white curtain hanging in front of the door. Remember when you’re bouncing your flash that you want it pointing at a neutral-colored surface. The hospitals in my area have walls and furniture with a lot of yellow undertones, so I usually have to bounce off a curtain or the ceiling to avoid a yellow tint to the photos.
A wide angle lens like this 35mm is crucial for Fresh 48 and in-home newborn sessions if you’re planning to nail a crib/bassinet shot!
Sure, you could stick with a 50mm and stand on top of a step stool or a chair, but the 35mm will definitely make life easier.
Even better, the wide angle will allow you to show baby’s entire body and a half body shot like above.
Watch your background!
How to set up the shot:
The wall of windows was to the back left of Leo’s dad, Steffan. I had him turn his torso ever so slightly toward the windows so that baby’s face would be perfectly lit. Little Leo just happened to open his eyes for this series of photos.
Hospital rooms are usually on the smaller side and parents bring a lot of stuff for themselves and baby. While all of that new baby clutter is part of their story, everyone will love the photos so much more if you can keep the background pretty neutral.
There are two simple ways to do this in most hospitals:
– position mom or dad in front of the windows (but remember you’ll get black eyes if you photograph them straight-on in front of a bright window)
– place them in standing in front of a corner (make sure they are pulled away from the wall)
Both of these options will help you keep medical equipment and and unwanted shots of the bathroom out of the background. Here, Steffan is positioned at the corner, with the wall of windows behind him. What you can’t see to his right is the medical equipment and IV pole, as well as the hospital bed.
Lovely new mama glow
How to set up the shot:
Shooting from above is so flattering, especially for new mamas! For this photo, I asked Alexis to sit on the bench in front of the windows, turn her body toward me and lean forward slightly. Window light flows over mama and baby, with a little help from my speedlite that I bounced off the ceiling.
You can refer to the first photo above and notice that this is the same setup, but Alexis is seated and I’ve moved a little closer to her. That’s no accident! She just had a c-section about 24 hours ago, so I added variety to her photo gallery by changing up my position and asking her to do as little as possible.
I also ask mamas if they want to wear any special jewelry, like a wedding band, for this series of mama and baby only shots. It’s these little details that make all the difference between a photo they like and an image they love.
A word about editing
I try to get everything right in camera so that there is very little editing required after a session. This speeds up my workflow, which means I can get photos to clients faster.
My custom preset is all I use to adjust luminance, brightness, contrast and other settings. Sometimes I need to make little adjustments per photo, but these usually go pretty quickly considering I had the photos right in-camera + my custom preset guarantees my images have a similar look and feel.
– I used my 50mm and my 35mm for this session, along with my Yongnuo speedlite.
– Take advantage of natural light, even on cloudy days.
– Windows also make a great neutral background for Fresh 48 photo sessions.
– Make sure all other lights are turned off to make editing faster!
Read more: What to wear for Fresh 48 sessions
I specialize in maternity, Fresh 48 and at-home newborn portrait sessions in Houston, Texas. A luxury photography experience is the perfect way to celebrate that adorable baby bump and your sweet newborn. If you’re ready to chat about a magical photo session celebrating you and your baby, click here to tell me all about you! I’ll send you a beautiful FREE Welcome guide filled with all the details