How to Achieve the Best Lighting for Newborn Photography

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If you want to capture your baby or work as a newborn photographer, you know how difficult it is to take great pictures. Many factors are at play, such as props, posing, and camera angles. Lighting is often overlooked in newborn photography, but it can make or break your photo.

The best lighting for newborn photography involves the right studio lighting equipment and techniques. Use either continuous or strobe lights and try various positionings for proper illumination.

However, it is easy to overdo studio lighting, especially if you’re a beginner. Remember that the goal is to keep it simple and natural. This article will teach you how to set up lighting for newborn photography. You’ll also learn about the specific lighting gear and style to use below.

Is Lighting Important for Newborn Photography?

Before we share tips on newborn photography lighting, we would first like to explain why it is important.

Proper illumination is essential to capture the beauty and delicate features of a newborn. Lighting also affects the mood and emotions expressed in a photo. So when taking photos of innocent babies, keep everything soft and natural.

Now, you may be thinking: if the goal is a natural look, why not use natural light from the sun instead?

Let us clarify that nothing’s wrong with using natural light. It provides soft illumination and minimizes harsh shadows to complement the subject. It is also cost-effective as you don’t need additional lighting equipment.

However, natural light can be unpredictable—one moment it’s there, the next it’s already gone. 

That is where studio lighting comes in. It gives you constant illumination and complete control over the mood you want to convey. These are especially important if you’re working for a client. A consistent lighting setup throughout your portfolio and gallery is a sign of professionalism among newborn photographers.

How to Achieve Best Lighting for Newborn Photography?

While easier to control than natural lighting, studio lighting still comes with its own set of challenges. Illuminating a baby is also difficult because they can suddenly move, cry, or even pee when you least expect it.

Below, we will share some tips on achieving the best lighting effects for newborn portraits.

Use the Right Lighting Equipment

Use the Right Lighting Equipment

Newborn photography requires only a simple lighting setup involving one or two studio lights. There’s no need to use multiple light sources and other extra gear that typically comes in a lighting kit.

Here are the pieces of equipment to use for a newborn photoshoot.

Continuous Lights

Continuous lights refer to studio lights that remain on continuously, hence the name. They provide constant illumination for the subject and are easy to control. As such, they allow you to see how the light will fall on the baby’s face when moving the light around.

These types of newborn photography lighting include an LED flash unit, incandescent, and fluorescent lamps. These are some great lightbulbs for indoor photography.

Strobe Lights

Strobe lights are another type of studio light. But unlike continuous lights, they do not stay on all the time. Instead, they connect to your camera via triggers and receivers (more on that later). So when you press the shutter button of your camera, strobe lighting automatically produces a flash. These powerful lights can freeze motion, giving you sharper photos of your newborn.

However, since strobe lighting doesn’t remain on, you wouldn’t know how it would affect the image. You have to use trial and error and start practicing to set up the light correctly.

Light Stands

You also have to buy light stands to support your lights, whether continuous or strobe.

This step is pretty straightforward. Just remember to purchase one that is durable enough to handle the weight of your equipment.


As their name suggests, light modifiers enable you to modify the light in terms of quality, direction, or intensity.

They are important in newborn photography lighting for several reasons. First, they reduce the studio light power and reduce harsh shadows on the baby’s head. They also redirect light to better enhance the features of the newborn. Plus, some of them have a white reflective fabric that can bounce light back onto the subject.

Examples of modifiers include softboxes, diffusers, reflectors, and snoots. 

Flash Triggers & Receivers

If you decide to use continuous light, skip this option, as you won’t need flash triggers and receivers.

But for those who have chosen a strobe, you’ll need to trigger the flash whenever you press the shutter button of your camera.

You can always use the sync cord that comes standard with most strobe lights. However, this cable is a trip hazard and a hassle to use when you constantly move around.

Invest in wireless triggers and receivers instead. The trigger transmitter connects to your camera and allows it to communicate with the lights. The receiver attaches to the studio light and hears the trigger from the camera.

Consider Newborn Photography Lighting Techniques

After buying the right lighting equipment, it’s time to learn the different types of techniques to use. These can help you manipulate and control light to achieve your desired effect.

Rembrandt Lighting

The Rembrandt lighting technique creates a dramatic lighting effect on your newborn portraits. It illuminates one side of the baby’s face completely while casting soft shadows on the other side. It leaves a triangle of light on the cheek and a shadow under the nose.

If you want to achieve this look, light the newborn baby at a 90-degree angle. Then, use a reflector or secondary light source on the opposite side to reduce harsh shadows. Adjust it until you see a triangle highlight on the cheek of the baby. 

Short Light

Short light is another dramatic lighting used in newborn photography. It illuminates the side of the face far from the camera. It results in more shadows and contrast, which makes the subject appear narrower and more slender. 

To achieve short lighting, place the main light 45 degrees to the subject’s side. You can also position it slightly behind the baby to illuminate the newborn’s face away from the camera. Soften the shadows with a reflector, white fabric, or another light.

Broad Lighting

Broad lighting is the opposite of short lighting. In this technique, the light falls on the broad side of the face, which is closer to the camera. It offers a brighter mood and makes the subject’s face appear larger. It is perfect if you want to highlight the baby’s chubby cheeks.

Position the newborn in front of the camera and angle the broad side of their face towards the light. You can add depth to the shot with a fill light.

Back Lighting

This newborn photography lighting technique involves placing the main light source behind the subject. It can be tricky in the hands of a new photographer, but the results could be worth it. It offers a dreamy look to your baby photos.

When shooting backlit images, keep the light source out of the frame. Also, remember to light your subject properly.

Soft Lighting

As its name suggests, soft lighting provides soft or diffused illumination. It reduces harsh shadows to convey a calm and peaceful mood.

You’ll need a diffuser to achieve soft lighting in your newborn photos. Remember to direct the light to the reflector instead of the subject.

Light Newborns from Above

Regardless of the lighting technique you want to use, make sure to light the subject from above instead of below. Doing so prevents the ghoul effect when you illuminate the baby’s face from below.

Ensure the light falls from the top of the head to the chin. With this light setup, you’ll achieve a loop lighting pattern that complements the subject’s features.

Create Visual Interest Through Shadows

Create Visual Interest Through Shadows

Shadows are just as important as light in a newborn photograph. They give you a sense of depth and dimension. At the same time, they help direct your attention to a specific part within the frame.

So, feel free to experiment with shadows when taking newborn photos. Use it to reveal or hide features. Or add dramatic contrast to your images. However, avoid leaving harsh shadows as they can make the scene too dark.

Keep Everything Else Neutral

Finally, pay attention to the other elements in the photo, besides the lighting. For instance, avoid placing vivid objects within the frame because the light may cast an undesirable effect on them. Consider wearing neutral-colored clothes when working close to the subject. Doing so can prevent the colors from seeping into the newborn, especially if it’s a striking shade.


Lighting is an essential part of newborn photography. It can enhance the overall look and mood of your pictures.

Use the proper lighting equipment and techniques to capture the newborn’s delicate features. You can also refer to our tips above to improve lighting for newborn photography.

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