The art of editing new born baby portraits
When it comes to a professional newborn photography shoot, you are hiring a photographer with multiple expertise. Apart from the thoughtful set-ups, the carefully constructed and yet safe posing, sophisticated photographic equipment and techniques, you are also seeing the end results of some skilful editing!
Why do new born baby photos need to be retouched?
Very rarely photographs are delivered straight out of the camera. Photographers edit the images to enhance their appearance. While some adjustments are minor, some may involve more elaborate craftsmanship.
As a general rule, I will always correct the colour and tone of the images as well as improve the colour contrast so the images closely reflect that being seen by our naked eyes. Cameras are intelligent inventions, but they are still far from the sophistication of human eyes.
One common edit for newborn baby images involves skin retouching. Newborn babies tend to have blemishes and skin flake which will go away in days. I normally suggest parents not to tamper with the skin ahead of the photo shoot just in case baby's skin reacts adversely. To ensure the images are timeless, without reflecting temporary skin conditions, I will remove blemishes or flakes that become apparent in the high resolution images.
Imperfections in the background
Inevitably I notice creases of fabric backdrop while taking photos. When I pose babies on the bean bags, paramount importance is placed on safety and keeping the babies settled, so if that involves not being able to smooth a crease or two on the background, I will do so in post-production.
When I pose babies and families in front of a wall background, occasionally equipment, props or shadows may get in the way. If everyone is already in good position with babies well settled, moving things around may cause interruptions. Again to ensure best results, I will spend time in editing to remove unwanted items.
One of my favourite settings in newborn photography is hand shots of parents holding babies with a black background. In truth backgrounds are never pure black after being lit by studio lighting. I love to 'turn' them into all black for more drama in post-production.
In addition, the hand shots do require some staging and special props to ensure baby’s safety and comfort. The baby would never be left dangling in mid-air and just touched by a parent's hands! We would therefore need to edit out details that are not part of the final images.
Babies may need assistance in certain poses
I cannot stress enough that safety is the number one priority in a baby photography session. There are poses that some parents adore but babies may need a bit of extra help to get into those poses. One good example is images with babies resting their chins on their hands. Newborn babies do not have enough strength in their necks and it will be dangerous to put their heads up un-aided. Hence having the chin-on-hands pose involve multiple steps – we will take photos of babies with parents supporting their heads in different positions, then 'stitch' the photos together.
Adults can be retouched too!
Often I would encourage parents and siblings to come in front of the camera for family portraits with their babies, as they form memories of family history that is well worth recording. While I use mainly posing and lighting to best capture the parents, I may do some minor retouching to enhance the skin and look of adults where needed.
Regardless, it is a fine balance to ensure the photos are not over-edited. It is important to check out your preferred photographer’s photo gallery to see if you like his / her style. Mine is one that is rather natural looking – I don’t like images to be over-edited to the extent that that they look artificial and the babies become doll-like.